Limits are those boundaries that we set for ourselves because of physical, emotional, mental, social or psychological hesitations, morals or values we want to uphold and dislike for some things. For most submissives, we put together a rudimentary limits list as soon as we know what BDSM is and how scary some of the things you see are to you. But most of us have problems with really making the limit list a full picture of what your boundaries are and tend to stick with play activities.
And you'd be wrong to keep it in the dungeon. There is a huge variety of limits that you might want to consider if you are entering a D/s relationship that is more than bedroom play.
Being a novice submissive doesn't mean you can't be more specific with your boundaries and what you will accept and not in a relationship. If you've had any sort of relationship at all before finding D/s and BDSM you will have limitations, you just need to find the words for them.
1. You don't know your limits.
Brand new to BDSM? It can be intimidating when someone like myself says to go fill out a BDSM checklist to help you figure out your limits. So start with what you know. You know that you are interested in rope bondage and your fantasies have your partner holding you down and calling you dirty names. So list those things as some things you'd like to try.
Then think about the things in your life that you don't want. Do you want to get married eventually? Have kids? What were the problems in your past relationships that you'd like to make a point to set a limit so it doesn't happen again?
What are your preferences regarding safe sex, friends, alcohol, drugs? Health and body modification?
2. Your limits are a list of play restrictions.
You've poured through a BDSM checklist and feel that you've got a complete list of limits and boundaries to give a potential partner. But you are forgetting a very important point. The relationship isn't just play.
You need to know what you'd like in a relationship without D/s or BDSM. Do you want love? Affection? Romance? What about having children or control in parenting? Do you have a special sitcom addiction that you don't want messed with? How about help with smoking cessation or weight loss? Do you like to go clubbing and don't want someone telling you that you can't?
All of these things and more are a part of your whole package of limits. So if the BDSM checklist overwhelms you at first, start painting a picture of what you want and need in a relationship and set up those boundaries first.
3. Your limits are a carbon copy of someone else's.
You saw what you thought was an awesome list of limits from someone's profile and without really reading it through you copied and use it for your own list. But there is a huge flaw. It's not yours. Thinking about your limits and boundaries is work and it's mental work you need to do for yourself. Sure you will likely have the usual "kids, animals and dead people" on your list. Those are commonly a given. So go beyond that.
Do your own work when it comes to figuring out your boundaries. A BDSM checklist is only a start, as you are beginning to realize. We are all unique people and our limits will reflect that. I have a re-breathing fear and so some hoods are a soft limit and head bags are a hard limit. But I also have a soft limit on lectures for wrongdoing? Yeah, it has nothing to do with BDSM activities and yet I can't emotionally tolerate being lectured because of my childhood history.
Really think about how you live your life currently and find the boundaries you live within. Don't expect to have your limits list done in one sitting. It will develop over time.
4. Your limits are too vague or too firm.
I admit that I know hard limits are easier to list than soft limits or conditional limits. It's the knee-jerk reaction that screams, "there is no way you are sticking needles in my skin or using a baseball bat on my ass!" and that's okay. However, think about some things that might have conditions where they'd be okay. Take, for example, safe sex. You could make safe sex precautions as a soft limit under certain conditions like a negative STI test, long-standing relationship, monogamy or any other combination.
Another flaw in limits is that they are too vague. If you put "canes" on your limit list, what does that mean exactly? Sure, we all assume that it means you don't want them used on you. But what if you also panic at the mere sight of them, can't stand the sound they make so using them for that is a no too? But you assumed that just listed canes covered all that? Wrong. Don't make assumptions that someone could misinterpret. Be specific.
5. You have too few or none at all.
Yes, people can have no limits. Usually, these people are in committed relationships and have agreed that having limits is pointless to them because they know each other so well and communication is all they want to have between them.
You are not those people, not at first. So get busy and write up a limits list. In online communities, it's often a joke when someone says they have no limits that they are a novice, "no one has 'no limits'." We all start with some, even if that means a safe word. That's right, a limit can be the use of a safe word. Or that you will not have sex or play on the first date.
What I hope you've learned is that your limits list is a snapshot of the whole you and not just the parts that are hot, kinky and fun. What I want you to do right now is get your limits list out and review it. Take some time getting to know yourself and make sure that it's a fuller picture of what you want and need and what you won't do no matter how high pigs fly.