Hard Limits & Safe Words
Telling your partner about your fantasies can be one (nerve-wracking) thing, but actually deciding to go for it is another. Exploring BDSM with a partner you trust can be sexy and fulfilling, but before you run to the bedroom with whip and handcuffs in hand, we have a quick list of to do’s before you do it.
Write Things Down Before You Write them Off
It needn’t be as formal as the contract in 50 Shades of Grey, but is extremely valuable for each partner to take the time to list out some specific kinks that they are interested in, are definitely not interested in, or have heard of but are unsure what they entail.
It can be simplistic, because it’s for starting a conversation. So if you write down ‘spanking’ for example, that could mean, ‘being spanked or ‘spanking you or ‘spanking with a hand but not another object,’ and you can specify from there. If you both do this independently it can make of you both feel more comfortable putting down suggestions without worrying the other person will think it’s too out there.
Hard & Soft
Beside each term, check a box for yes, no, or maybe (and be honest, this is about your pleasure and shouldn’t be influenced by how you think it will be perceived.) This crucial step is how you communicate your ‘soft limits’ and ‘hard limits.’ A soft limit is a something that you might be ok with, but with specific conditions or only in specific situations. A hard limit is something that you or your partner absolutely does not want to happen, and needs to be respected.
As a note, hard and soft limits are not just for a submissive partner to agree on. There are stereotypes about what Doms (and subs) are like and what they enjoy, but in reality they can be quite different. Dominant partner may, for example, not be comfortable using certain words during dirty talk to humiliate the submissive partner―this hard limit needs to be respected as much as a submissive partner’s.
A Little More Understanding
You can truly put anything on your list (the more the better) including things that may seem ‘out there’ because you’ll truly be preparing each other for more scenarios, but be prepared to be understanding and non-dismissive if your partner expresses genuine interest. Think about how much trust they put in you to not be judgmental in discussing their deepest desires, and helping fulfill them if you both agree. Also be understanding if your partner just isn’t comfortable performing certain acts. If you’re suggesting something they’ve never considered, they may be comfortable trying it and decide they don’t like it, or they may decide they’re ok doing it sometimes for your pleasure. Or maybe not at all.
In any case, trying to guilt-trip your partner is going to make anyone more enthusiastic about doing something they may not be personally into. Not everyone is going to be into your ideal role play. You can make a decision about whether it’s a requirement for sexual compatibility, but deciding that means that you are going to have to find someone who is willing and enthusiastic about participating. And trust us; there are a lot of websites devoted to finding people interested in every kink under the sun.
One Little Word
‘Picking a safe word’ is the kink step most people have heard of, so it doesn’t bear too much explanation. Decide on a word that’s easy to say and not something that’s likely to come up during the normal course of play (like ’whip’). You can pick different words to slow down or stop the play.
If you are incorporating something that limits one partner’s ability to speak (like a ball gag) you should decide on a non-verbal cue as your safe word, like a tap.
Put it to Good Use
The point of a safe word is to make you feel safe, so if you feel like you’re going to disappoint your partner by using a safe word, or if your partner gets angry when you use it, then it’s not a safe word is it? Trust in BDSM is crucial, and you need to be able to trust your partner to respect your need to slow down or stop, and they need to be able to trust you to let them know when you’ve had enough.
You’ve had that fun, sexy, and maybe a little silly conversation with each other, you’ve got whip in hand and you’re ready to race to the bedroom…but don’t throw out that list!
Keep it around and revisit it with your partner. While full restraints started as a ‘hard no’ maybe after time it will become a ‘maybe’ (or vice versa). Maybe one of you has recently been turned on by thoughts of an act that was never on the sheet. Don’t forget that this list serves not only to facilitate conversation about both your desires, but also as a sexy ‘to do’ list for both of you to look forward to checking!
Katy Thorn is a post-grad writer with a passion for writing about sex, sexuality, and all things rated R. She received her degree in Women’s Studies with a focus in Intersectionality at the University of California, Berkeley (Go Bears!). She has a cat named Yoko, drinks too much black coffee, and hates writing bios.