Monday, August 18, 2008

Recap: MBS Sunday Brunch for August 17

Our question this week came from Greenwoman. She asked about limits possibly being a barrier to submission. Here are your thoughts.

Abby: Having my own blog has allowed me to sort out these types of issues, and the question of limits and barriers is one I have certainly struggled with over the years.

I have finally landed at a place where I don't have set limits, but that is after fifteen years of experimenting and getting to know myself. I don't think limits should ever be up to the partner. That may sound denying at first, or topping from below, but I really do believe that what we experience is personal. We may be willing to experience more with one partner rather than another, but ultimately, these are our bodies and no one else's. That goes for tops as well as bottoms. You should never be made to inflict more pain than you are willing to cause, just as bottoms should never have to bear more than they are willing to receive.

Full submission is giving everything one has. If I only have 12 strokes in me, then my partner taking 24 is inappropriate, unless I have signaled that after 12, I'm ready for more. If I have 48 in me, and only 12 are taken, I'm going to be left feeling unfulfilled. But what if my partner isn't up for inflicting that much punishment?

It's a known fact that people sometimes fake orgasm, out of exhaustion or kindness or some other personal reason. Sometimes, you might have a great experience, but you're just not going to come. Corporal punishment is no different. Sometimes, you might not be able to give or receive everything you want, but you have to make do with what is there. If you're in a partnership, that's more important than personal fulfillment. And personal limits are more important than the partnership. It's all about knowing what is right for you and your partner, and being willing to give and receive accordingly.

For newbies, I would recommend never being afraid of one's own limits. I used to even avoid fiction concerning the cane, and if you know me now, you know it's my favorite implement. That's after years of exploration. We do this because we love it, and because we love those with whom we do it. Pushing our limits is fun. Breaking them before we're ready can be devastating. So explore, slowly and steadily, and if my own experience is anything to go on, your partner will grow with you.

Anon #1: I tend to be someone who avoids taking unnecessary risk. Therefore, I avoid anything other than the hand. Such implements were used on me in a less than appropriate manner when I was a very young child. Because of this, I am afraid of the belt or anything other than the hand. It’s a bit like the saying "Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me."

There are even limits on what I will allow with the hand. After one boyfriend left bruises on me with his hand, I decided that I will only allow it so hard and no harder. I am afraid to push that limit for fear it could turn abusive, even though I love my husband dearly. I understand things are different with one partner than with another. But some things are hard to get over, like three abusive boyfriends before I got married. I love and trust hubby, but still there is only so far I allow him to go. I know now never to push the limits.

Mary: I think limits are healthy. I love the way Abby talked about submission as giving all that you have. I have also found that as trust has been allowed to grow, things I once feared are now actually craved. I think it is about exploration. When one of us presents an idea, we allow the other time to mull it over (we are both a bit cerebral that way). Sometimes, fears and concerns are discussed. Sometimes, I have provided a tiny opening, or he has threatened to use something if I don't change my actions (thus giving me a chance to NOT go there – it’s very effective at times). But having the idea out there starts to build curiosity. Eventually, I might indicate a circumstance where something would be okay. Then, the magic is that whenever anything is new, it is introduced so gently and in small bits. We don't worry about "topping" as although discipline and play are part of the relationship. The decision about what action is disciplined and what punishment/or play is okay is decided with mutual respect and each honoring each other's limits as well as exploring each other's desires.

Anon #2: There are many kinds of limits including physical, mental, and emotional limits. My former top accused, convicted, and scheduled me for punishment for something I did not do. He didn’t even bother to ask me if I had done it. If it had been the first time, I might have been able to forgive. But it was not. If it had been for something silly, it would have been OK. But it was not. I had been willing to go far outside of my comfort zone to please her. I wanted to make it work. She found my limit, insisted that I go farther, and then we were no more.

PM Duo: I think of limits more as yield signs. For us, they are a place where we stop and talk about how we think extending the limit will feel and how we want to handle it if it doesn't work for one of us.

What we've decided is that it definitely has to stop at the place where one partner is uncomfortable. Over a nine year span, we've tried a lot of different things and pushed our limits pretty regularly. We've found there are things that I like that he is simply not comfortable doing and vice-versa.

One good example is bondage. He brought it up and I was in favor of it though a little nervous. We talked about it for a couple of weeks before deciding to try it. Now, mind you, this was pretty mild bondage, he used scarves tied very loosely. For the first couple of minutes, I kind of enjoyed it and then, for some reason, I just freaked out and became hysterical. He immediately took them off and comforted me. I'm still not sure why it affected me so strongly.

In the physical aspect of our relationship, I'm definitely submissive and willing to let him do pretty much anything he wants, but this was something I just couldn't handle. Later, when we discussed it, he admitted that he had really enjoyed it (up until I became hysterical), but neither one of us was willing to do something again that so clearly upset me.

Neither one of us think I am any less submissive because I'm unwilling to be tied up. It's a limit that we tried to transcend, but it didn't work and we both respect that.

Daisy: No one can give more than their all. And no loving partner would want or expect more than that.

There is nothing wrong with gently pushing/testing the limits of a partner, as long as both have the confidence and trust in each other to say, "that’s enough," and knowing it will not cause resentment. I do not feel that having a point beyond which you cannot go is a barrier to full submission at all. There are many reasons why this may be the case. Pushing beyond limits could damage the relationship if either partner is unable to go there and feels pressured. Use intuition, instinct, sensitivity, and intimate knowledge of your partner’s needs, and with good communication, you can't go far wrong.

Dr. Ken: There are limits, and then there are hard limits. You can push the limits a little bit – I think most spankees expect it, to a small extent – but a hard limit you do not break, you do not go beyond, and you do not push. Everyone has hard limits. There are things they will not do. There are points you just don't exceed. And if your partner is any kind of a partner at all, they know and accept that and don't try to force the issue.

The question states, "However, in a trusting relationship, limits can seem as though they are barriers to full submission." I totally disagree with that sentence. Someone's limits were probably in place long before they entered into a trusting relationship, and once in a relationship, you trust the other person will respect your limits. Trying to force someone to go beyond what they're willing to take starts becoming abusive, IMO...

Hermione: I agree with Daisy. There is nothing wrong with pushing the limits of either partner if you are in a trusting relationship. Trust is the key to it. And as Dr. Ken said, spankees expect their limits to be pushed a certain amount.

I also disagree that limits are a barrier to full submission. I fully submit to my husband, regardless of which end of the scale we are playing at in terms of either his or my limits. The more each of us pushes our own personal limits, the farther we can comfortably go. As Mary said, it's about exploration. Ron has gone far beyond what was once the limit of how hard he would play, and he has taken me past anything I have previously experienced. But it took time and patience to get there.

Limits can and do change over time, although they don't have to if it isn't right for you. It's all about the journey, not the destination.

Paul: I think that the answer, from the Top’s point of view, lies in the ability to read one’s partner. Of course, limits must be respected on both sides.

Where love, trust and communication exist, problems shouldn't arise.

Greenwoman: This question has dangled in my consciousness for years now. It’s a part of my ongoing internal inquiry as a submissive. So it felt interesting to me to share it with the community when it rose in me again recently... leading to some big decisions for me.

In reading today, I have related to most everyone in one aspect or another. I think that my overall viewpoint is like Abby's. I think it needful to stop when I'm well cooked, and not before or after. Frankly, that does vary from day to day.

And my other overall remark echoes Dr. Ken and Paul's viewpoints. Hard limits have to be respected by all concerned, as they are a matter of essential trust.

Part of the reason this question is of interest to me is, like the first anonymous commenter, I experienced abuse as a girl. There are some types of play that are a serious stretch or that are absolutely hard limits for me when they might otherwise not be. So, my answer has always been to stop while I'm whole.

Him: In my mind, limits are fluid, ill-defined things. They seem (for me) to change from day to day.

On the bottom, I've rarely had my limits pushed. I can think of only one occasion where it had gotten close to a danger zone, and the entire time She had been very careful to stay in tune with me.

Limits are harder when I'm on the top. It's fun to push them, to keep gently pressing Her past the point where she wants to stop. I can tell when it's time to stop, but actually stopping is quite an act of will!

Are limits an obstacle to submission? I don't think so, and that's what counts for me. I don't think there's a single gold standard definition on submission... which is part of the beauty of it.

RPT: Before any limits get pushed, the participants should talk about it. We know where the limits are, and sometimes, it's nice to be pushed. So a talk about how and when and where is the prologue to the play. Then, afterwards, we discuss how it worked out.

But effective communication is the secret to a good relationship, whatever the style, vanilla or kinky.

Dragon Mage: From my point of view (as the dominant partner), limits are not barriers to full submission. When we began to explore BDSM, Luvbunny had several limits that have since been expanded. She still has a few that remain and she has at least one that we tried to stretch. She wanted to move past it very badly as it was something that I wanted, but she simply is not able to go past that limit (as Greenwoman and others posted, this limit is related to abuse when she was a child).

It is certainly possibly to not push far enough, and also to push too far. I don't think there is an easy or simple answer regarding when pushing limits should stop. With some limits, we stop sooner than others.

Elle: If you love and trust someone, you respect their limits. In the past, I have had issues with men who clearly didn't love me or who I really shouldn't have trusted. These incidents left me severely bruised or bleeding and generally went far beyond the kinky fun that I'm interested in.

I'm not someone who enjoys anything too extreme. My kink is about sensual and sexual pleasure and not discipline or serious pain. Limits are fluid (as has already been said) and mine do change. But, in general, I would say compatibility and mutual trust remove the need for specified limits as such. If you and your partner are in tune with each other, you can communicate your needs (even if they vary from time to time) without having explicit barriers.

I find it's different every single time, and that's as it should be. If I ever start finding sex boring, I'll know it's the end of it all.

Maryann: Thanks for the topic. All the responses are very helpful to a newbie like me.

I started with Bonnie's blog in my spanking education and assumed I'd be a lot like her ~ submissive sexually and for spanking play, but not for discipline/punishment. In just a few short months, that is already changing a little. I followed a series of posts by Mike on Spanked Hubby" about the benefits of loving discipline and began to get more comfortable with the idea. Now we are slowly moving the game a little deeper.

Like so many who have already posted, I like to have my limits stretched. But Max would not allow me to go too far too fast. That is the wonderful thing about having such a responsible, loving Top! He sets the limits and holds me back most of the time. So, when does push a limit of mine, I pretty much trust him to know what is good for me.

I'm as submissive to Max as he and I want right now, so I guess that is the only limit that counts.

M.Yu: Excellent discussion. Please accept this award from a humble admirer.

Wow. Thank you, M.Yu!

Lucy: There are some limits that, given the right timing, I will push. I think most limits can be pushed a little, but there are some that I have for a reason. I know that certain things are beyond my ability to tolerate and will ultimately cause strife between me and my Top. To me, it's doesn't show a lack of submission to acknowledge that you are human and can only be pushed so far before you snap.

Naomi: I think there are definitely limits, but it is important that you both know them! I don't think anyone should get in a serious 'spanking' relationship where trust and knowledge of one another isn't developed all the way.

It is important for the spanker to KNOW the limits of the person he's spanking. Scott and I use a safeword, and there are times where I call it. Before he'll stop completely, he questions me. Usually he'll stop, but we always continue the spanking later. I don't feel less submissive, and I don't think it makes anyone less submissive.

I think that if you truly trust the person who is spanking you, your limits are a bit more than what they would be if it were someone that you DIDN'T trust. If you trust someone completely, you will know, even when it seems to be too much, that they won't do more than you can handle.

Terpsichore: Being new to this, I find everyone's comments and sharing to be very helpful and thought provoking. Much of what has been said speaks to me, such as mutual trust and respect, giving all that you have, listening to one another, exploring slowly and steadily to find one's and one's partner's limits, knowing your partner well enough to know when to push and when not to, and it being about the journey. There are a lot of great thoughts. I am afraid I have not much to add, but thank you. :-)

K: I'm sure I have limits, but they are not clearly defined yet. We are still exploring and experimenting and learning what we like or don't like. I haven't had any limits pushed. If anything, I may have pushed my hubby's limits by asking for more than he was comfortable with. He's discovered he likes spanking me hard, though we probably don't play nearly as hard as some couples do. I think I may have created a monster, but one I'm thoroughly enjoying.

Submission isn't really something we have much experience with. I've given my submission verbally, but Hubby is only just starting to embrace the idea and explore what he can do with it. I don't think discovering my limits will diminish my submission.

Bonnie: I choose to frame the issue a bit differently. I believe that submission is a precious gift. A gracious recipient will accept it as such. No gift encompasses all things in the world. Rather, this gift comes with a few sensible boundaries. The dominant may sometimes desire to extend those boundaries, and with prior consent, may do so. With mutual understanding and effective communication, endless adventures are available.

Thank you all for making this a fascinating brunch topic. I really enjoyed reading the many various perspectives. I hope you'll stop again next week!

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