Every day each of us classifies things based upon our unique set of experiences. The majority of these classifications are generally accepted by other human beings but, based upon our experiences, there may be some grey areas. For example, a chair is a chair…but what if someone uses the chair as a table – then is it a chair or a table?
There are many benefits to classifying items in our world and they are easy to figure out so I will not dwell much on the benefits. Classification, in context of one’s limits in a scene, is important because it helps to efficiently communicate what is (not) acceptable with a play partner. Each person will have his own perspective on what these limits mean because we each have different experiences which we use to put these limits into context. Our different perspectives may lead us to misunderstand or miscommunicate each other’s limits.
Limits are great because they help one to feel less vulnerable physically and emotionally. They are generally set so certain things are not done in a scene. Some limits are set to protect us from physical harm and some are set to prevent us from being pushed over a psychological ledge that we do not wish to be near. In my opinion, many inexperienced subs go about setting limits in an inefficient manner. This inefficiency occurs when their limits are defined in too broad (or narrow) of terms. Maximizing the efficiency of the limits means having them focused so they only limit what should be limited.
Let’s take two real world examples I have encountered:
- Situation #1 – When I inquired about a sub’s limits I received a list that included most of the common limits (permanent marks, public play, etc.) but one thing really stuck out to me. I was surprised to see “handcuffs” listed as a limit so I asked a few follow-up questions. It was an area of concern for me because it signaled to me that he may have issues with being restrained although that would not have been consistent with our conversations. It turned out that he had a run-in with police and he was arrested a few years back. He was all about being restrained, he just did not want to use handcuffs. It also signaled to me that I should probably forgo using my SWAT uniform with him.
- Situation #2 – This sub was new to bondage and had cages listed among his limits so I asked some clarifying questions. The sub shared that he was claustrophobic and concerned that being caged would trigger a panic attack. In this situation the issue was not necessarily the cage – it was his claustrophobia. I suspect just about any position a sub is restrained in could result in the anxiety associated with claustrophobia which is why it is important for the Dom to be cognizant of the situation.
When setting your limits I have a few suggestions:
- Start by listing out the things that come to mind when you initially are creating your list of limits. After doing your initial brainstorming take a look at profiles on sites such as Recon and add any additional limits you may have initially missed.
- After you create your initial list start asking yourself questions. Why is each item listed? Is what you want to avoid what is listed or is it just correlated with what you are looking to avoid? If you are a claustrophobic sub then, at minimum, you should communicate that to the Dom instead of trying to include every possible situation to avoid on the list of limits.
- Communicate your limits. You can list them out and put them in your profile but I also suggest taking the step of having a conversation with your play partner about your limits.
- Over time reevaluate your limits as they will change, just like your tastes do. For the items that are on the fringe, or may be a soft limit, have conversations with people that are experienced and knowledgeable. When the time is right explore those limits with a play partner you trust.
When you encounter a play partner with vague, unusual, or incomplete limits I recommend you ask questions. Asking targeted questions of your play partner should help you get at the reasoning behind the limit. If something that was not listed may be borderline OK based upon the given limits – ask some additional questions. Why is the limit listed? What experience does the person have with the limit? It is amazing what we can learn asking a few questions.