In the BDSM world, limits refer to activities that a partner feels strongly about, and to which special attention must be paid.
Before a BDSM scene, it is common to perform a negotiation to outline what will and will not happen during the play session. During this time, all participants outline what they desire and what they will not tolerate. This is the time to discuss limits.
Popular variants include:
- Hard Limit - something that must not be done. Violating a hard limit is often considered just cause for ending a scene or even a relationship. Examples include “scat is a hard limit for me” or “I have a back injury, so striking on the back is a hard limit”
- Soft Limit - something that someone will do only in special circumstances or when highly aroused/prepared. Example - “I will only do anal sex with a very experienced partner”
- "Must" limit - something that a person will not do the scene without. Examples include “lots of hair pulling is a must-limit for me” or “If you`re going to flog me, I`ll need lots of aftercare”
- Time limit - an amount of time after which play ceases.
- No Limits - the Dominant may do anything he/she cares to with the submissive. This is usually a sign of an inexperienced player who does not yet know what their limits are and can be very dangerous. In reality, even the most hardened and experienced players have limits (consider being thrown under a train, for fun). 'No limits' play is more the stuff of porn and thriller movies than in actual, real-life BDSM scenes. When in a long-term relationship with a known and fully-trusted partner, it can be safe to rely on your knowledge of the partner to keep to safe limits; this is also sometimes used as a term for TPE or Total Power Exchange. It can be said that there are two possible problems with claiming you're a no-limits submissive: 1) You won't be taken seriously, or 2) You will.
Sometimes people on profiles will say something like 'I have the usual limits'. What they mean by this can vary but they mostly likely mean that they have hard limits on coprophagia, anything to do with children and bloodplay. They are likely to be wary of most forms of edgeplay.
References and further reading
- Gloria G. Brame, William D. Brame, and Jon Jacobs. Different Loving: An Exploration of the World of Sexual Dominance and Submission. New York: Villard Books, 1993. ISBN 0-679-40873-8.
- Philip Miller and Molly Devon, Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism. Mystic Rose Books, 1995. ISBN 0964596008.
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