Limits, Boundaries, and Why You Don’t Just Do What I Say

I mentioned briefly in Submission and Respect the need for Dominant and submissive both to respect limits. I wanted to touch on that just a little bit more.

A great question was asked on a forum: Should an s-type do whatever the D-type wants, if pleasing the D-type makes the s-type happy?

I Said No

The reason I answered no is because the question is, to me, the D-type flip of the “I have no limits” statement from a submissive.

“Whatever” leaves a lot of space for a lot of things, and not all of them are nice. If the answer to the question is yes, does that mean, then, that I can …

  • Command my s-type to stab him/herself in the leg with a knife?
  • Tell my submissive to cut off his/her big toe and pickle it for me?
  • Go to a club and tell my submissive that he/she must go up to everyone and lick their shoes? No asking. He/she has to just do it.

But Holle, you say, those are not safe activities. That can cause real harm to the s-type. The last one – other people may not be consenting to the activity. What if someone decides to kick the submissive or harm them? What if they are arrested for harassment?

To which I say, I am a sadist. I enjoy inflicting pain on people, but even better if the person has to inflict it upon themselves. As to the last, how deliciously humiliating would it be to watch him/her so humiliated …

Now Holle, you say, you know better. We’re talking about things that would be outside of a limit and outside the realm of BDSM. Safety and Consent are cornerstones of the lifestyle. You say that all the time.

And I don’t disagree with you, hence my answer being “No”.

There is what I call a fantasy ideal – that you can look at someone and say “I want you to do whatever I say” and they will say yes. No caveats. No “buts”. Just “yes”. It’s delicious if they hesitate just ever so slightly before answering, of course. They have to feel that little twinge of doubt and wonder.

It has to scare them and excite them.

The fantasy exists for both participants, the D-type and the s-type. This is just a fantasy. If – and I use a big “if” here – if it does happen, it happens between two people who already know and understand each other in very deep and personal ways. That is the only way that something like that could work.

That is not really the fantasy, though. In the fantasy, you don’t spend many, many years getting to know the person before taking that leap of faith. You do it after a few months, a few days. Maybe a few minutes. You’re the new worshiper in the pews getting up to say Hallelujah and offer yourself up to your new goddess.

That is not – or at least should not – be reality. It is certainly not BDSM.

To declare that you have no limits is to not know yourself. You have them. You may not want to admit them. You may not know them or understand them.

Make no mistake. You have them. Otherwise, you would very likely not be alive. Limits are part of our survival instinct. They go beyond merely the “I won’t do this because it could kill me” idea of staying alive, however. They take into account how you were raised, your experiences, your preferences, and your subconscious triggers. You have limits for a reason. Even the ones you want to push and break exist because something happened to put them there. It may be something that you want to overcome.

Good.

They still exist. You still have to recognize them, and you still have to admit them to your D-type.

Why are you using D-type/s-type?

While the Dominant/submissive dynamic is a ongoing negotiation of limits and power exchange, it is not the only dynamic in BDSM that uses and recognizes limits. If you are not into power exchange, but enjoy scenes as a sadist or a masochist, giving or receiving pain in different forms – you have limits. The sadist has limits of the type of pain she will inflict. The masochist has limits to the type and level of pain he will receive.

Even total power exchange relationships, the Master/slave dynamics, have limits. Master and slave will negotiate when the scene takes place. Is it 24/7 or a weekend servitude? What are the terms of service? A house slave? A sexual slave? Both? Perhaps the Master has a service slave to assist in SM sessions with another masochist, or in a D/s scene where the slave either assists the Dominant in disciplining a submissive or serves both the Dominant and submissive in varying capacities of equality. Whatever service you can think of, you can create a dynamic to have a slave for it. That slave, once the scene begins, gives up all power within the limits of the negotiated scene. Typically, the negotiation happens once. When a scene is to happen, it is understood what limits are in place, and that the Master’s word is law within those limits. Unless something extraordinary has taken place, there are no further negotiations between scenes. There may not even be a safe word (depending on the type of play, in my personal opinion).

So, limits happen, even in TPE dynamics. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either inexperienced, uneducated, or dangerous.

But I Really Have No Limits

Again, you do.

I harp on it because I see this every day.

A discussion will happen about limits. I will share my piece. Others will share theirs. The experienced, long-time lifestylers will chime in, typically with how yes, limits happen. Limits are important. You can negotiate within your dynamic how you want to treat them, but they are a reality. And still someone will come in and announce that they have no limits. Or yes, whatever the Dominant says goes. No caveats.

If you say that you have no limits, then I ask you, what are you giving me?

In a power exchange, you are handing power over to me. If you have no limits, then what are you handing over? If you have no limits, then why can’t I just do whatever to you, without the need for negotiation and contract? You have no limits, so I can walk up to you and begin flogging you. I found my leather strap. I could use it on you as well.

It’s not a pleasant leather strap. It is thick, stiff, and forked. It hurts. Depending on how much pain you actually like, it is not necessarily a good hurt.

But you have no limits, so what do I care? I can beat you with it.

And we’re back full circle to the discussion. You understand now, I hope, why you have limits.

You have them for your safety. You have them for your sanity. Remember, they formed for a reason, even if you are not aware of them.

You have them so that you have power. Those limits are the “no” you say to people who want to do “whatever” to you. And when you hand power to me, you tell me what of those limits I get to bypass automatically, what power you give up to me.

And then you tell me the rest of your limits. You tell me if the are hard limits, non-negotiable will-never-happen things. You tell me if you want to push them, and when.

And I graciously accept that power from you, and we begin our journey into my acceptance of your submission to me and your acceptance of my dominance over you.

What If I Don’t Know My Limits?

That is a better question that simply stating you have none.

Saying you have no limits shows that you are either reckless or you do not know yourself.

Admitting that you do not know your limits shows that you are trying to explore yourself. Not knowing your limits is okay, if you understand that you do not know them. Dominants have ways to help you explore and find them.

Safely.

Sanely.

Consensually.

I recommend two steps to exploring and finding limits if you do not know them. These are not the only things you will do. These are … the basis point for this type of dynamic:

  • Set up soft limits for yourself. These will be artificial limits, which is fine. As you push those limits, you will get insight into just how far you can go. When the limit is pushed, negotiate afterward your new limit. Do this until you find yourself close enough to your true limit to set it. This takes a lot of patience from both submissive and Dominant.
  • Use the Stop Light Safe Word System. It may be trademarked. I don’t know. The Stop Light System is simple. The Dominant checks on you throughout the session. You respond Green if all is good and you can keep on. You respond Yellow if you are close to the limit, but not yet breaching it. You call Red if you are close enough to the limit that it is in danger of being broken.

Most important of all, honor your partner’s limits. Know and recognize what limits your Dominant or submissive has, and respect them. This means that you do not ask your submissive do to something that they have stated is a hard limit. If you are a masochist, you do not ask for a type of pain play that your Sadist has told you will not happen.

And be prepared. Exploring limits is a good thing. When you find them, you may find that you and your partner are no longer compatible. How did that happen? Because not knowing your limits meant that you did not know yourself. Yes, it is good to explore and find yourself. Understand, though, that when you know yourself, you can easily find that what you want and need, does not work with the person you have been working with.

Knowing yourself, means that you know what to look for in a partner.

 

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