Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Limits Versus Social Restrictions


One of the replies to a post about Ruthless Obedience included a mention of limits and hard limits. Because I am an advocate of plain language and clear communication, I thought I would share the concept of limits versus social restrictions.

A limit is something inviolate. It can be a restriction on action because of health, emotion, or other criteria. The key here is that limits are not meant the be broken or pushed. Dictionary.com defines a limit as "the final, utmost, or furthest boundary or point as to extent, amount, continuance, procedure." Limits in the leather community are those things which will cause irreparable harm to the person.

In contrast to a limit, a social restriction is something you might not prefer, but will not cause you irreparable damage.

Social restrictions allow me a place to play...to exert dominance...to push you past where you believed you could go. I must be willing to be there to clean up any messes I might make when dealing with social restrictions. I also expect a servant to talk to me about his or her feelings and reactions to these activities.

Making the distinction between limits and social restrictions allows both dominants and submissives to have a clearer idea of where the boundaries lay. I can say to someone that my limits are, "Don't mess with my family or my career," and while that sounds very broad, it actually allows for some very specific restrictions. If an activity will affect my ability to work or cause uncomfortable discussions with my mother, it must be included in the limit. Using a broad-based limit statement like this, also allows some leeway. For example, if I've scheduled vacation from work or will not be seeing my family for some time, then those activities which might have been covered by the limit previously can be added back into the repertoire temporarily.

I always caution new dominants and submissives (Yes, I believe dominants should have to be able to clearly state their limits, too) to carefully consider what they list as their limits as their limits tend to say much more about their thoughts of others than whether they have carefully considered their own limits. For example, if you tell someone your limits are, "No children, no animals, and no dead people," do you realize you've just told the person to whom you are speaking that you think they might be a pedophile and necrophiliac with bestiality tendencies?

In the end, I believe that taking the time to carefully consider your limits and social restrictions will give you and the ones with whom you engage in a power exchange room to grow and play. You must be willing to put in the time and effort though, rather than looking for filler limits just so you have something to say when someone asks what your limits are.

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