We all have wants, needs and desires, just as we all have boundaries, levels of comfort. and what I like to call the fuck off zone.
Here I want to go through the concept of limits. There are dozens of ways to approach ones’ limits, just Goggle “BDSM limits” to check out how others have done it. Again, there is nothing in this that is a ‘you must do’. This isn’t a one size fits all solution & probably won’t make much sense to those who see sex and relationships differently to what I do. I’m coming into this as an individual who sees intimate relationships as an erotic space for meeting the needs of myself and my partner. It’s a mutually satisfying, healthy space. I also see limits in term of ours and not mine and his. It’s our relationship, our sex life and it’s our responsibility to come into this honestly and with the intention of creating a safe sex life that works for both of us.
While we all do things in our own way, I think there are a few common truths that can be accepted as just being the way that things need to be in order for them to work. And if there was one thing, one question that I think needs to be at the centre of our sex lives it would be this:
If you don’t know what is okay you cannot possibly know what isn’t. How can you have unwanted without wanted?
It might seem strange starting a post about limits looking at what is rather than what isn’t, but the process of recognising and setting out the limits of our relationships has to being with recognising and setting out what is needed from the relationship. Both of you have to know and understand not only what you need from your partner but what your partner needs from you.
I don’t think it’s possible to see limits outside of needs. How can you say no if there is no yes? This reframing enables us to bring consent into a positive model based on the ‘yes’ rather than something that is centred on just a ‘no’.
What I’ve put here may seem simplistic, and in many ways it is. I had a job a few years back where I had to teach budgeting to teenagers. I had to come up with a really simplistic way to convey not only the importance of budgeting but the practical ways of how to budget I came up with a way that used different coloured envelopes in order to demonstrate a way to spend money based on importance and need. I’ve taken the idea of colours and turned them from envelopes into boxes – metaphorical boxes.
I’m a very visual learner and need to see what I’m playing with (sorry about that bad pun), I have to be able to see the differences in ideas and where things fit in the big picture. Something like this allows me to see and separate wanted from unwanted. It gave me a way to bring in what he wanted and didn’t want so that I could see what lined up and those things that I’m not quite sure about and need a little more thinking or talking about.
And finally, it gives me something at the end that is easy to read at a glance. I can see the results of the conversations about what is and isn’t needed in our relationship.
Keep in mind that for this to work these boxes need to be realistic and fluid. They will change as the relationship evolves. What ends up in the green box can be moved into the red, and vice versa. New ideas and needs can be added at anytime.
The reason I feel this way of contextualising and seeing limits is so important is this. Consent is free agreement. For something to go into the green box both people have to freely agree to it. Until that point of free agreement is reached it does not go into the green box – it is, a limit. It’s a way of seeing the needs, desires and boundaries of yourself and your partner clearly. It enables you both to acknowledge each other’s needs – including the ones you don’t like. It allows you to really understand what the words you are both using really mean. It’s all well and good to say “I want pain play” or to tick a box on a downloaded checklist but what does that really mean? Are you both on the same page when it comes to what exactly pain play is and how it will fit into your kink play? Words really are just letters that are ordered in a way that we are able to recognise until we add meaning to them.
As always this is just one way of seeing the complexity of need in sexual relationships. I don’t want this to be seen as the only way or the must do way. Ignore it completely, laugh at it and stick with what you’ve done, take something but leave everything else. Use this however you need to in order to have to tools you need to create the safe, nurturing, healthy, functioning relationships and sex life you need to be you.
The place to start is with me. Call it the me box.
In this box i want you to put all the things you know you can do, you have done, you want to do and that you like the idea of.
I want you to name it. Don’t just put a word that you’ve heard or read about. Name the action that you want to try or the need you have in a way that means something to you.
I want you to describe it. Describe exactly what this word is and how you see this working for you.
I want you to put a boundary about it. Where does this action/need begin and end? How do you know if it’s working or not? How are you going to know when to stop, rethink or remove it entirely?
This could include things like
Monogamy or polyamory
Language – will the submissive call their dominant sir? Is the words slut and bitch okay to use?
Physical needs – what is it that you need in order to become sexually aroused or orgasm?
Giving – what is it that you are prepared to give to the other person?
Love – do you need romantic love to be able to submit to another?
Control – do you need to feel control just in the bedroom? Are you looking to expand this into other areas of life?
The second box is the you box – it’s all about the other person.
In this box the other person puts all of the things that want to do, thinks they might like or has done. Same rules apply as for the purple box.
Define the boundary
The third box is the red box or what I call the fuck off box (seriously this is what it’s called here!)I often say “I’m putting that one in the fuck off box” when he decides to show me things that make me want to run away and hide).
In this box I want you to put all the things that are a no, the things that are no go areas.
Again name it, describe it and define the boundary. But I also want you to be confident enough to be able to place something in here without justifying it. We can say no, just no, without feeling like we have to defend that decision. Some things are just not for us and that’s okay.
But please do not fill this with things like ‘taking off my limbs’ or murder. If you have to define the rape of children as a limit with a potential sex partner then you should stop now, turn around and walk away! Genuine communication is realistic and focused. It’s about two human coming together to create something that works for them. Leave the over the top romanticism and tall tales of worst case scenario for the fiction writers.
This can also include things that could turn into a maybe but aren’t there right now. I don’t like using the idea of “soft” and “hard” limits. Something is either agreed to or it isn’t. Remember what is in here today can be put into the green box tomorrow.
This could include things like:
Physical limitations – as obvious as they might be, it can help to still write them down. I can’t wear heels (one too many broken ankles) but he loves high heels especially ballet boots. So heels one of my limits.
Monogamy or polyamory – is a non-monogamous relationship a no go for you?
Sex – Is anal sex something that you just won’t consider?
Pain threshold – do you know where that limit is? Where pain jumps from pleasure to distress? Do you know which implement just doesn’t work for you?
Language – is calling you a slut just off the table?
The next box is the green box. It’s the us box. It’s also the tricky one.
What I want you to do is sit down with your partner and go through both the me and you boxes. I want you to add into this green box all of the things out of the me and you box that you can both agree belong in your relationship. Nothing that is not agreed upon by the both of you is allowed in the green box.
This is where negotiation comes into it.
Negotiation is a process of communication that is goal orientated. In order to meet the goal (filling the green box with all the awesome kinky stuff that’s going to happen) you are going to have to talk about what is in the me and you boxes!
Negotiation is complex and there are many ideas and theories as to what makes someone good at negotiation or what makes negotiation a success. Here are a few tips to help get things moving.
Commonality – you both want the same thing. Remember that goal and let that be the common meeting point when things get a bit heated.
Discussion – this is a conversation. It’s not a debate, you are not trying to persuade each other to see things your way. You are discussing the green box; what’s going in there, how it could work and what it is you need to do in order to get things in the green box.
Acknowledge conflict (when it arises) – some things are going to get into the green box pretty fast. For you to even be at this point in a relationship there has to be common ground, something that brought you together. But there are often things that need a little bit more work. Conflict is going to come up and when it does you need to acknowledge that this (whatever this is) is causing a problem. Put it aside for now and come back to it later.
Identify points of compromise – now I know some people see compromise as a no go (especially dominants for some reason). Remember this is all about the green box; the thing that you want the most. Why else would you be doing this if you didn’t want what’s going to end up in the green box? See compromise as giving what you are prepared to in order to get what you want more. This doesn’t mean you give in or give up. It doesn’t mean that the other person can control or coerce. Every decision made has to come from a place of free will and end in free agreement.
And finally, the maybe box
In this box you put in anything that is left over from the me and you box, the stuff that didn’t make it into the green and red. What is in this maybe box cannot be moved into the green box without both of you agreeing to it. If you find there is something which you just cannot come to agreement about, or there are things that need a bit more time to discuss, put it in here.
What is in here are just the things that need a bit more discussion. Maybe you need to rethink how it’s going to fit into your relationship. Maybe one person doesn’t quite understand what the other is trying to describe. Maybe this is something that one wants but the other isn’t quite ready to try it yet. Maybe there needs to be a little bit more talk about the boundaries.
The things in the maybe box are not limits; as in not going to happen, but they aren’t the things that are okay –yet. Sometimes it can take a bit for you to get your head around an idea, or work out how something is actually going to work. Sometimes the conflict is becoming the talking point and not the idea itself. And sometimes you just need to come back to something.
Like I said this seems really simple, and it is. It’s a way of taking something that can be quite overwhelming – like talking about your sexual desires and how an intimate relationship is going to work, and breaking it down into smaller pieces. Something like this allows both of you to have the space to figure out your own wants and do not wants and then to be able to come together set the start of what will hopefully a mutually satisfying intimate relationship. By taking mine and yours and making them ours the boundaries of a relationship fit and allow for a much safer erotic space
This is free agreement. This is consent. This just makes sense!