Limits: hard and soft, but always important

Author: Lynn
A to Z | Basics

What is a limit?

Limit literally describes a boundary in the BDSM context. A distinction is made between hard and soft limits, which exist on the side of the sub as well as on the side of the person playing above: They set the framework within which the game is played. For this reason, it is important, especially at the beginning of a gaming relationship, to talk early and openly not only about ideas and wishes, but also about individual limits.

Why is there a distinction between hard and soft limits?

Hard limits describe boundaries that are inviolable. In German you could speak of a taboo. Taboos or hard limits depend entirely on the person. What may seem like a harmless practice to one person may be an absolute no-go to another. A good example of this is shackles. If a hard limit is exceeded, the safeword signals immediate termination.

Soft limits are boundaries that can be gradually pushed in a relationship or experiences that have not yet been had and should therefore be approached carefully. This can include, for example, anal sex if one partner has no experience with it but is generally considering it.

How do I deal with the boundaries of my counterpart?

With hard limits, regardless of whether it is a top or bottom limit, there is only one adequate reaction: acceptance (see also: consensus). Hard boundaries are not discussed, and no attempt is made to convince or persuade the other person. If it is unavoidable for you that a certain practice is carried out, but it is a hard limit for your partner, you should better look for another teammate.

Soft limits signal a certain willingness on the part of the other person to try the experience, but they remind you to be particularly careful when doing so. It means entering new territory that requires a corresponding amount of responsibility and sensitivity.

Do only Bottoms have limits?

No. Of course, people playing top can also have taboos or limits and reject practices. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked. Nevertheless, a boundary must be respected.

Can limits shift?

Yes. Soft limits in particular shift over time. They serve to show your partner which experiences are new or should be tried out carefully. However, they are not completely taboo. These soft boundaries should be discussed again and again, but without trying to persuade the other person. How do you currently assess your limits? How do you feel about the pace of new experiences?

Hard limits can also shift. If pee seems taboo to a person at the beginning of their BDSM journey, it may one day be attractive. What is important here is that the person himself speaks about how the development appears to him. If your view has changed, you should let your partner know. However, without pressure or expectations.

Whether boundaries shift depends largely on trust and shared experiences. Only those who respect taboos can experience how boundaries are shifting. When you are given this trust, it is something very special.

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