Smart Talk About BDSM Limits

Anybody who has been paying attention has by now abandoned the comfortable delusion that the tools and rituals of BDSM somehow immunize the BDSM community from episodes of relationship abuse. Jaime Grant has authored a short collection of questions and insights she’s developed (in part at least, the hard way) for spotting when a BDSM relationship is at risk of being an abusive one. I’m normally very skeptical of such articles (which are usually very fluffy and platitudinous) but this one earned my trust by expounding on limits, which are very tricky. It’s utterly essential to respect them, and yet there’s probably nobody in BDSM who hasn’t participated in an awesome experience where somebody pushed them (respectfully and with consent) or enjoyed having them pushed. So, tricky. Thus:

Are your limits REALLY respected?

Good sign: a great BDSM partner will listen to where your edges are and what you want to explore and find ways to carry you into that territory from whatever position they are in – top/bottom/switch. They will have heard all the ways you’ve talked about why this edge is interesting and possibly scary or difficult. They will play with that edge and really, really take you in. On the other side of the action, whether it’s gone well or whether you’ve decided this is not an edge you want to play with ever again – you will feel respected, loved and cared for.

Bad sign: a dangerous BDSM player is more likely to take you to this edge prematurely, to prove something about themselves. And once there, they may play out a set of acts or rituals that have worked for them before – and not be fully present to you or your experience. You will have a feeling that something’s off but perhaps be unable to put your finger on it, because there’s been lots of negotiation. You end up thinking the problem is you.

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