I know how you feel right now. You’ve discovered this thing called BDSM in some fashion or another and it pulls you in to get it a try. But as you search through countless websites, Amazon BDSM book lists and the sheer number of opinions on BDSM you realize this barrage of information is going to be the most difficult part of self-discovery. How are you to learn what you like and dislike, your preferences and those limits everyone keeps talking about! I admit I almost tossed in the towel when I first started exploring submission and kinky sex. I didn’t have nearly as many resources as you do today and the resources I had were mostly during the era of the personal homepage so they were one person’s opinion and the posts were often written as if D/s was some magical relationship that normal people couldn’t explore. The good news about all the information available today is that you can get exactly what you need from it to learn about BDSM at your own pace and to help you figure out what you want to explore and how to do so.
Learning what you might like or dislike is a challenge, but not one you can’t face with the right tools. Sure, you may talk to people that will likely ask you what your limits are – especially if you talk about kinky sex. They probably forgot the feeling of confusion they first had when they didn’t know either. I know I was scared to death that when asked what my limits were or what I liked and didn’t like I couldn’t answer them. I just didn’t know! Would that make me an outcast? How can I belong if I don’t know word one about what I might like?
Well, let me tell you that you can figure out a few things that will help you on the road to knowing what your limits are. I’m going to cover what types of limits there are and then three ways you can begin to figure out what your own limits are. It will require you to do some homework so be prepared to learn more about yourself and the world of BDSM than you ever thought possible. It will be a great adventure. Are you ready?
What are Limits?
When I talk about limits, what I mean are the personal boundaries you have in place based on personal preferences, fears, and moral or social beliefs. When you plan to add kink in some form to your sexual activities list, you will want to make sure you know what you will and won’t do. To be frank, there is a huge list of activities related to BDSM and you can be sure that there will be things you aren’t interested in, refuse to do all together or will only do in special circumstances. These limits are those lines we just won’t cross. Everyone has them so don’t feel like your list is some billboard of how non-kinky you are. But, you do need to figure out some of what’s on that list before you start exploring or you could wind up in a situation that goes against any of your desires, and who would want that?
There are three types of limits that you should concern yourself with as you think about your kinky interests; soft limits, hard limits, and triggers.
Soft limits are actions or activities that you do not wish to do but are willing to explore under the right circumstances with the right person. Soft limits are meant to be explored.
Hard limits are actions or activities you will not do under any circumstances; based on fear or moral issues
Triggers are involuntary social, mental or physical responses that you can not control, or may even know about until they happen. Often triggers exist when abuse or trauma has happened to the individual and your mind will program a fight or flight response when that trigger is activated.
If you’d like to explore the basics of limits further, check out the following posts on Submissive Guide:
Three Ways To Learn Your Limits
I promised you up there in the title that I was going to give you three ways to discover your limits while you are still new to BDSM and it’s about time I do so. I suggest you do a combination of the below ways to really work out a good starting list of limits and expect that they will shift and change as you grow in your exploration of BDSM.
A checklist is often a personal curated, extensive list of BDSM activities that one might explore. Many of the lists online do their best to cover every single thing and it can be overwhelming; especially if you do not know half the activities that are listed! It is a great start though so go pick yourself up one if you don’t already.
Upon looking at any of these checklists you’ll see a few things in common. A ranking system so that you can rank your interest in each activity for giving and receiving. Don’t assume that just because you have an interest in submission that everything on the checklist will be from the receiving end! Be as honest as possible with yourself as you rank them. Make a note on each item if you’ve tried it before. If you don’t know what a word means or how an activity works, either look it up or note on it that you don’t know what it is.
As you go through the checklist, you’ll begin to see what you might have some limits, whether they be soft or hard ones. Mark those in some way also if the checklist doesn’t provide that designation. Your limits are beginning to define themselves.
Another, less homework styled way you can work out what your limits might be is through introspection. If you are inclined to journaling or prefer to write your thoughts down on paper then this bit of mental work might just help you more than staring at a long list of someone else’s idea of BDSM.
On a sheet of paper or in your journal, start brainstorming or mind-mapping what BDSM means to you as far as what activities exist. Use what you know or think you know about kinky sex to fill this out. There’s no reason to go hunting for things you aren’t even aware of to do this. Stick with what drew you to kinky sex or BDSM to begin with. Was it bondage, blindfolds, submitting to your partner? Or perhaps spanking, pinching and scratching during sex? Whatever ideas you have get them on the page. Then go back and rate them by the level of interest you have in them and whether you’ve tried them or not. Don’t overlook things you’ve read about BDSM and being kinky that you have a negative gut reaction to. That’s likely to help form your limits.
Keep a Dream Diary
Often, what drives us to explore is our fantasies and what better way for our minds to explore them safely than in our dreams? If you keep a dream diary you can pull thoughts and ideas from it as far as what you might be into and what you might not be into. Remember, what happens in your dreams or fantasies may not go the same way in real life so keep your head out of the clouds when trying to figure out how far you are willing to go on certain activities. It’s great to have fantasies, but realizing that some need to remain so will make it easier on you as you explore.
Trial and Error
I admit that this option maybe the hardest to do, especially if you are currently without a partner to explore with. But, all the same, it’s a great way to dip your toes in the water and still learn what you may or may not like and let’s face it, will eventually be the only way you’ll know for sure if your introspection or checklist are complete and thorough.
The good news is that some of the kinky things you can do can be tested solo. Now it won’t quite be the same, but tastes are where it’s at right now. For example, if you are interested in spanking, try giving yourself a little spanking. You can even up the intensity with a wooden spoon or the back of a brush. You control the impact so you will likely pull your swings a bit, but this is for kinky science so give it a go!
Another way you can explore safely without a partner is through your local BDSM community’s hosted parties. Parties are private events where people can play in a dungeon space with others, try out equipment that may be impossible to get at home and to enjoy the aspects of exhibitionism and voyeurism. There are often Dominants and submissives at these events that are looking for what is often called, “pick-up play”. This is similar to a one-night stand, where you are looking to play with someone that you fancy without all the strings (and often in the case of parties, no sex) attached. What a party can afford you is more eyes on what’s going on so they can spot dangers and also, regular members will be able to point you to people that can help you experience what you are interested in safely with someone that knows what they are doing. Trying out things at a party isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great option if you feel you can do that and have found the local community already.
In whatever capacity you begin to learn what your likes, dislikes, and limits are take the time to understand them and how they make you a unique individual in the BDSM scene. You don’t have to be like everyone else and once you know exactly what you are and are not willing to try it will make finding a partner if you don’t have one already, so much easier.
Oh, and finally, keep your checklist (or whatever method you have for limits) updated. Your preferences can and do change with time so re-evaluating your checklist is a healthy and positive practice to get into. I update mine every 6 months or so. And yes, after all these years I still find myself changing and tweaking things!
Enjoy the journey.