6 Ways to Determine Your Limits in BDSM

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In the last article, we spoke about hard limits vs soft limits and what limits are. Today, we will
look at 6 ways to determine your limits in BDSM. These methods can be used to determine both
your hard and soft limits (or limits in general, if you choose not to draw a line between the two).

1) The easiest and most obvious method to determine limits is to think of the things that make

you say NO!!! Things that cause that visceral reaction of revolution or horror.
For some people, that may be playing with bodily waste, clowns, spiders, blood, etc. There are
many things that make us want to hide our eyes or grab the brain bleach. Those things make
good hard limits.
You may not think it’s needed, but trust me, for everything out there that makes most of us recoil
in disgust, there is someone who loves it (speaking as one of those people who love some
pretty strange things).
2) The next most obvious thing is to think of the things that would cause you emotional or
psychological distress. If it’s going to cause you genuine harm, its probably not something you
want to be doing.
3) By the same token, if you have physical limitations, activities that will aggravate those or
cause you harm should also be considered limits. A person with bad knees may make kneeling
a hard limit, as a common example.
If you aren’t sure what qualifies as a kink (answer: pretty much anything you can think of), you
may want to take a look at a BDSM checklist. These are great for determining not only the
things you want to do but also the things you don’t want to do.

4) Think about the things that you would do with a romantic or long-term partner vs a casual
play partner. Would you choose to engage in casual play? Do you want to play with others
outside of a relationship? If so, talking to your partner about the rules regarding that play is
important and will help determine some of your limits.
No sexual play outside of a romantic relationship is a common limit. Keeping certain activities for
one partner is another common approach.
5) If you are having a hard time envisioning what some of these kinks are from just reading
about them, get out and observe some kinky play. I generally suggest people go to a play party
to do this but checking out pictures online works too. I will caution that porn is a mixed bag –
while some of the activities depicted may be regular kinks, they are often done badly or
exaggerated for effect.

I remember watching the first 50 Shades movie, at the end, when Mr. Grey hit Ana with the belt
– I literally called out “that’s not the noise that belt would make!” Hollywood (and porn producers)
will take liberties to ‘enhance’ things for a movie, so keep that in mind.
6) Finally, the only way you will know whether you like some things or not is to try them. I don’t
mean that you should try the stuff you eliminated with #1 or #2 above, but if you aren’t sure
about something, you may need to try it to know. Other things may be super hot in your head
when you fantasize about it but may not feel good at all when you try them in real life. Trying
those things with a trusted partner is often the only way you will know.
I do advise people to try things twice. The first time might be an incompatible or inexperienced
partner. You may be overwhelmed with nerves and not be able to enjoy the experience. For
some activities, like sounding, people find the first time isn’t great, but when they try again,
knowing it won’t hurt and knowing what sensations to expect (it’s a very odd sensation), they
can relax and enjoy it.
So there are six different methods to help determine your limits in BDSM. These aren’t the only
ways, and you may not want to use all of them. The great thing about kink is that you get to
make it into the experience that works for you. If you think one of these things doesn’t apply,
skip it. If you have another method to figure out limits, use it – and share it in the comments! I’m
always interested in hearing other approaches to things.

By:

Morgan Thorne has been practising BDSM all her adult life. She got an introduction to kink through the Queer community in the early 1990’s and knew she had found ‘her people’.

Morgan has also spent nearly a decade working as a Professional Dominant, which has allowed her to expand her skills as both a Top and a Dominant. Morgan has been offering workshops, lectures and BDSM training for a number of years as well. She has a successful Youtube channel where she educates about D/s relationships, BDSM basics and various kinky skills.

In January 2017, Morgan Thorne released her debut book, “A Guide to Classic Discipline”. This will be followed up in Nov/Dec 2017 with “Medical Aseptic Technique for BDSM Play”. Expect more great books from Morgan Thorne in 2018!

Morgan identifies as both a Sadist and a Dominant. She enjoys playing with a variety of people of all orientations/genders/identities. BDSM is an integral part of her personal, romantic relationships. Morgan is both asexual and pan-romantic.

Prior to her work as a Professional Dominant, Morgan worked in health care. This has allowed her to gain a more thorough understanding of health and safety concerns in kink. She retired due to an injury that lead to chronic pain and disability. It also drove her interest in medical play, as a way to continue to use the skills she learned in health care and to find comfort in the loss of a much-loved career.

Morgan has been active in various forms of activism, including LGBTQIA rights and sex worker rights. She is a strong advocate for equality and the human rights of all people.

Comments

  1. masodreamer says:

    I so enjoyed your article! I do have one question though. I have heard that limits change over time. With this being said, are there signs that a hard limit is now becoming soft limit?

    • Sorry for the delay, migraines suck!

      That’s going to be really individual. You may find yourself thinking about an activity more, even fantasizing about it. You may see someone else doing it – in person or in a photo/video – and think “that doesn’t look so bad!”. It could look completely different than these examples.

      If you find yourself wanting to explore something that previously was a hard limit, its best to do a bit of introspection, think about if it’s better off left as a fantasy, even if it’s just for now. If you have a trusted partner that you can explore with, talk it over with them. Just make sure you have a backup plan if things don’t go well. I’m a big fan of being prepared for the worst case scenario, then I can be happy when I don’t need it!

  2. tearsntails says:

    I loved this article! Reading this will really help me in the future.

  3. polygon says:

    Is it possible when you have multiple partners to ask your partners to have certain limits due to your own concerns or is that selfish?

    • It depends.

      I won’t leave you with just that, but it’s really the best answer I can give! Why do you want to impose those limits on your partner? How would you feel if they imposed those limits on you?

      If you’re doing it for personal safety, I think that’s reasonable. I would also hope that it’s a mutually discussed and agreed on boundary, not one person imposing on another. For instance, insisting on safer sex practices like barriers for sexual encounters is a reasonable thing to ask for and most people would readily agree. If they don’t agree, you have a choice, ignore your own boundary, don’t have sex with them or end the relationship.

      Now, if you want to impose something that arises from your own insecurities, you’re on less solid ground. If I say to my partner, “no blondes” because I am still upset about my high school boyfriend who obsessed over Pamela Anderson, is that reasonable? Probably not. However, if we are new to an open relationship and I say, can you avoid blondes for the first bit, just until I feel a bit more comfortable with our situation? It’s still pretty unreasonable, but they may agree because there is a time limit. Or they may say “nope, I want the freedom to date all the blondes I want, see ya!”

      It’s a risk we take when imposing limits on our partners. They may not want to agree. It leaves us in a position where they can
      * agree
      * agree but play “tit for tat” and want to impose their own stuff on us
      * agree but resent us
      * agree and ignore the boundary behind our backs
      * not agree and have a fight
      * not agree and leave

      So think about what you want to ask of your partner. Would you resent it if it was asked of you? Are you asking because you feel insecure? If so, is there a better way of dealing with it?

      It’s hard. It’s also super common for couples (or people in general) who are just starting to explore polyamory or open relationships to have lots of rules and quickly find that they are too restrictive. If that’s where you’re at, revisiting things regularly and having honest conversations (easier said than done, I know) are key. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you can always change it.

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