BDSM Basics

Identifying and Respecting Hard and Soft Limits Within BDSM

August 31, 2019

I have referred to limits multiple times throughout my writings, and the time has come that limits get their own article. First of all, I know that the term “limit” can sound like the biggest boner killer. If you are one of those people who think that limits ruin a good potential session, I invite you to try to gain a new perspective on the situation. Think of them as boundaries or borders. I know that both words mean the same thing, but hear me out. When you hear the word “limit,” you tend to think of only one finite end; such as in the statement “I hit my daily limit on calorie intake.” However, when you think of the word border or boundary, you tend to think instead of all that can be within that boundary line. Such as when you are talking about the edges of your property line.

Boundaries Provide Structure

Moving forward with the analogy of the land you live on, let’s pretend you are an agoraphobic introvert who prefers staying indoors. Think about your house as an area of continuous consent. Within your home, only the activities that you have given informed consent to occur will occur. Everything that happens in your house is something that you have a thorough understanding of and that you enjoy. The walls of the house represent your limits, and the different rooms represent the different fetishes that you engage in regularly. There is plenty to do inside your home, as it is full of the things that you know well. But, everyone tends to get bored eventually and want’s to take a little stroll outside. You can see your yard out through the windows. While it is fun in your house, you start to get curious about things outside. Your soft limits are in the yard. You might go outside and play around for a little while. But, you are much more cautious about who you go outside with and what you do out there. You find that you are much more comfortable within the walls of your house, but the yard isn’t so bad! When you venture outside, you notice that at the end of your property line is a fence. Beyond the wall is nothing but darkness, the light doesn’t even extend that far. Outside of that fence are scary monsters and untold horrors. That fence is made up of your hard limits, and everything outside of that fence cannot cross into your property. You never cross the wall, and you even ensure that you don’t walk too close to it. Guests at your house are well aware of the fence, and they also avoid it. The guests also respect that you would prefer to stay in the house. But you are willing to venture into the yard if the situation calls for it. Or if you are in the mood for an adventure that day. Anything within your yard can either be left in the yard, brought in the house, or even tossed over the fence. It’s your property, and it is all up to you. You can also allow something to come back into your yard once it has been thrown over the fence; no decision is permanent. You might see a “monster” outside of the fence, and you might see that it was never a monster at all! You are the only one that can decide what is allowed within your fence or within the walls of your house. Without the walls of your house and the fence around your yard, you would be living in constant chaos. However, with these boundaries built by hard and soft limits, there is peace and comfort in your life.

Soft and Hard Limits Defined

A soft limit can generally be defined as something you are curious about trying. It is not something that you engage in regularly, and you are probably far choosier about who you participate in the activity with. A soft limit is an activity that requires extra consent if you are going to attempt to engage in that type of play. A soft limit may also refer to the furthest limit that you will allow yourself to go within a specific fetish. If you hear about someone “pushing the limit” within BDSM, they are usually referring to someone playing with soft limits. Using feminization as an example, wearing women’s clothing in public might be a soft limit of a man, and being anally penetrated could be a hard limit.

A hard limit is something that is never to be done under any circumstances. Once someone outlines a limit, it is to be respected by all members of the community. If someone is known to push someone past their hard limits, they are usually ostracised from the community. Anybody who does not respect hard boundaries is an abuser, and you should never play with someone who disregards limits or is seeking a partner who has none. Using feminization as an example again, being anally penetrated could be a soft limit, and wearing women’s clothing in public could be a hard limit.

Soft and hard limits are incredibly personal, and the community expects the soft and hard limits of others to be respected whether or not others understand them or agree with them. It is also important to note that both dom(me)s and subs alike should have lists of soft and hard limits that they should regularly be updating.

Having No Limits

You may have come across a sub or dom(me) that states they have “no limits” or that “anything goes.” This honestly makes my blood boil no matter the role of who said it. Someone who says they have no limits is usually saying, “I have no idea where I am or what I am doing!” Remember the analogy of the lovely and organized house and yard with the fence around it? Now imagine a person who lives in a dump. Not a dirty house, an actual just pile of random unorganized nonsense. They don’t live in a house at all! They live in the community dump where they are just surrounded by a bunch of garbage other people left there. Who’s home are you going to want to visit? The person with “no limits” more than likely has just not taken the time to analyze themselves and clean up their “property.” They are relying on other people to take the time to figure out what they may or may not enjoy. The garbage represents little bits of random BDSM words and scenarios they have heard of. I hate to tell you this, but just because someone jacked off to bondage porn one time does not mean they are ready to be hung from the ceiling by hooks. This may come as a shock to you, but BDSM porn is NOT a resource for BDSM knowledge. It may help you determine whether or not a fetish interests you, but it is not an educational resource.

While people entering the scene may think that having “no limits” will make you a better sub or dom(me), the reality is the exact opposite. If a sub approaches me and says he/she has no limits, there are only one of two things that will happen. The first option is that I refuse the session and encourage them to do their research on BDSM or attempt to educate them myself (hence this blog). The other option is that I engage in the most softcore version of the fetish that I can come up with because I do not trust that this person has any idea what is going on. Especially when it comes to physical play if someone says that they have no limits, that means that they must be completely unaware of the risks. The flip side of that, however, is that they are aware of the risks, but don’t have enough self-respect to outline limits with a new play partner. This could also be a situation where someone is using BDSM as an excuse for unhealthy self-abuse. However, that is a topic to leave for its own article.

The fact of the matter is someone who claims to have “no limits” is considered to be a risky play partner. They are putting themselves at risk for abuse, or advertising that they have no problem abusing others. Either way, it’s repulsive to most people in the community. This is not what BDSM is all about! It takes time to build your kinky foundation, and without it, you won’t be successful. The good news is that learning about yourself is fun! Other play partners can help you explore along the way, but you must lay the foundation on your own. I am talented, but I am not a mind reader. If you know someone who is, introduce me to them. There are some things that I know most people consider a hard limit, such as leaving permanent marks on the skin. However, I don’t know what you have experienced in your past. I don’t know if there are any triggers you have that could come into play during a session. Nobody knows these things except for you! Withholding this information from others, or choosing to ignore your own limits is unhealthy for everyone involved. No dom(me) wants to reduce their sub to a blubbering sobbing mess on the floor because they pushed them past a limit they were unaware of. It is not the intention of the top to actually hurt you, they intend to pull you through a particular fantasy. While the emotions invoked by that fantasy may include fear or shame, they are supposed to be felt in good fun! Very few things can prevent or stop a session as quickly as miscommunication about limits.

Limitless Possibilities

Once you have outlined all of your soft and hard limits and reviewed your partner’s, that is when the fun begins. There are “limitless” possibilities, as now there is a baseline of trust. Trust and communication are essential to BDSM play, and really all relationships, in my opinion. If you approach a Dom(me) or sub with a clear outline of what you will and will not do, you will have far more successful encounters. The time from the initial introduction to the session is more streamlined, and the scene is far more likely to occur. You will also find it much easier to explore once you have mapped out your limits between soft and hard. Please don’t ever consider your limits to be holding you back. Think of them as a resume to help you find the right partner. Because no matter who you are or what fetishes you enjoy, most of the other people you meet won’t be the right partner for you. Having fewer limits only makes it more likely that you will link up with someone who is completely incompatible with you. Limits don’t hold people back in the community, they help make sure you find the right partner for you.

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