Negotiation and Limits


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ASK THE THERAPIST

April 1998

by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1998 by William A. Henkin

<Q> I'm a submissive male, fairly new to Janus. A couple of months ago I met a Mistress who recently agreed to let me serve her. Since I've never done anything like this before, what precautions should I take as her slave? For instance, should I be concerned about sexually transmitted diseases? And how do I establish physical and psychological limits where she wants to control me?

<A> Whenever you enter into a sexual relationship with a new person it's useful to have some discussions about what each of you wants, needs, and expects from the partnership. A usual conversation of this sort would include but not be limited to your questions: telling each other how you will protect yourselves against sexually transmitted diseases, and what limits you feel you must place on your activities. In a heterosexual situation protection against sexually transmitted diseases generally means, at least, the use of a latex barrier (condom, dental dam, glove, finger cot) between any opening in your body (mouth, penis, anus) and any opening in hers (mouth, vulva, anus); remember that a cut or open sore is also a body opening that should be covered during contact with another person's body openings, and so are the eyes and nose; although these organs are not generally used in sexual touching, they certainly can come in contact with body fluids such as ejaculate and vaginal secretions. Protection also means keeping all sex toys clean and in good repair, and using barriers with any insertable aids such as dildoes if they are used in more than one person or more than one body opening of the same person.

A discussion about limits is particularly important if your sexuality concerns power dynamics, as a relationship between a Mistress and a slave certainly will, because your limits include the extent to which you are willing or able to allow your Mistress to control you, whether physically or psychologically, and the extent to which your Mistress is willing to control you. DS fantasies often ride on the belief that the top will take control of the bottom's every function, and the bottom will give it up. DS reality is that everyone has a life to run, and that running one's own life precludes running someone else's all the time and all the way.

A limit is a point beyond which you are too uncomfortable to proceed. Many people who bottom in SM relationships have limits about the amount of pain they can tolerate, or whether they are willing to be bruised or otherwise marked in their play. Some people have limits about specific behaviors, such as being cut or pierced, or playing with urine or feces. Some people find being sexual in the presence of outside observers – or being overtly sexual at all – to be a limit. Some novices even find playing outside the realm of their fantasies is a limit that takes some work to get beyond. And limits are not just for bottoms: tops have limits too. Only you can determine your own limits, and only your Mistress can determine hers.

Incidentally, in discussing limits you will do well to ask your Mistress about the extent of the sexual relationship she envisions with you. Overt sexual release is not always part of an SM scene or an SM relationship; even if it will be part of yours, you and she could have very different notions of how sexual you will be, as well as of how you will be sexual. Your concern about sexually transmitted diseases is well placed if you are going to have some kinds of sexual contact with another person, but this is really not an assumption a slave can make before negotiations.


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