In a forum I am on, someone posted up a very important reminder. While the idea of public displays – leading your submissive on a leash, public nudity, public humiliation, etc – can be a powerful fantasy, the reality can bring with it consequences. When these things are done in a place that is not open/welcoming to BDSM, this can lead to arrests. Arrests can lead to all sorts of problems in the future. When it comes to things like public nudity or public displays, this can include sex-offender registries. You may think to yourself “I don’t care about that.” You will if in the future you find yourself in a divorce with children an custody is in question. Or if you are moving into a new home, that you just paid a lot of money for, and your neighbors are picketing your house. Or you can’t get a job because where you work has or is within a certain distance of a day-care or school.
A submissive responded that s/he would happily to anything his/er D-type commanded, even if illegal, with the only provision being no harm to others.
Which means that legal harm to self is on the table and acceptable.
To me, that is not safe. It is not something I could allow for in a dynamic I was Dominant in. My submissive has to have a sense of her self, and her well-being. Not being harmed, not being made to do things that could get her arrested and have possibly life-long and negative social, economic, and even family ramifications for her – it is important to me that she have these as her non-negotiables.
Limit = Power
So, we set limits for lots of reasons. We set them for safety reasons. Legal reasons. We set them because of obligations we have outside the dynamic. We set them for philosophical, moral, ethical, and religious beliefs. We set them for health reasons. Sometimes we set them because we have a phobia of something, or are disturbed or afraid of something.
That last part I mentioned, being disturbed by or afraid of something – that is important.
Fear is not a bad thing. Fear is part of our survival instinct. Being disturbed by things is not bad either. That is also part of our survival and social mechanisms. When we set limits based on those things, we are doing two things. 1. We are acknowledging that fear/disturbance, and that it has a negative effect on us. 2. We are empowering ourselves to not allow it near our person.
Setting a limit for these things is not bad. It is wise. How hard or soft that limit is depends on you and your needs. Maybe you want to overcome the fear, so you set it as a soft or medium limit.
An example – I have a hard limit: no needle play. I do not like them. I spent my childhood with blood tests and shots. You can still see the craters on my inner arm. I used to look like I shot up heroine. To give you an idea, a nurse had to switch arms she took blood from because she realized that the vein normally used was in danger of collapse if it was punctured much more. Needles make me incredibly nervous, fearful sometimes, and when I get shots, I have to psyche myself carefully for them. This is not going to a limit that I will ever lift. I have no desire to. I need no more needles in my life.
Setting the limit empowers me. I can say “I can’t do this. If you need a Dom that can do this thing, that is not who I am, I’m sorry.” In this lifestyle, a partner has to be willing to respect that limit and not ask me to subject her to needle play. If she cannot, she has to move on. Where in no other place in my life I can definitively set this limit, I can here.
Your limits are your power. They are the control that you can place, even when you cannot place it in your vanilla life. You work in customer service, where people constantly talk to you like you are less than dirt, so humiliation just does not do anything for you. In fact, the idea of humiliation makes you seethe. In BDSM, you set that as a hard limit. You know that you have a place where when you say “You won’t talk to me this way” that the person has to respect that or move along. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Your limits are the power you retain. To me, the power you retain is part of the YOU is is giving me the power you decide to hand over to me. It is your ability to define yourself, your own well-being. They are your sense of self-awareness that makes your submission meaningful. By having these limits, these “no, you cannot command me to do this,” by being concerned about your safety, your well-being, and your future, you tell me as a potential dominant that you understand what you are handing over, what it means to you, and by extension, what it should mean to me.
I for my part, had better live up to that.