How far would you go? #limits #BDSM #submission
Guest Post by Lisabet Sarai
This month, our group topic is “Pushing Limits”. This theme could be addressed from a wide variety of perspectives: pushing one’s limits as an author, by trying new genres or formats; pushing one’s physical limits (I’m thinking of KD’s and Ashe’s pole dancing classes); pushing the limits of society’s acceptance for erotica. However, as I’m first up, I decided to take the more obvious route and discuss the topic as it applies to dominance and submission.
Although I have a reputation for publishing hot BDSM erotica, I have only modest real-world experience. I’ve been involved in one D/s relationship which was quite serious and intense but which lasted, in its active phase, only about two years. Furthermore, during that entire period my Master and I lived in different cities, and early on, on different coasts. So, the amount of time we actually spent together “in scene” probably totals no more than a month or two. Nevertheless, that was enough to profoundly influence my sexuality, my world view, indeed my life. Lisabet Sarai very likely would not have existed if not for GCS, to whom many of my books are dedicated.
Regular readers of the Grip will know, from my frequent posts about him and that relationship, how strongly connected to him I still feel, even forty years later and more physically distant than ever.
Anyway, in the context of BDSM, “limits” are actions that the submissive identifies as things she cannot or will not do, circumstances that make her so uncomfortable that she rules them out of the BDSM interaction. (I’m going to use the female pronoun for the sub here, though I remind readers that there are plenty of femdom relationships, not to mention M/m and F/f. Furthermore, most of my observations below come from a submissive perspective, which reflects my own preferred role.)
A responsible dominant tries to elicit a statement of limits before starting any BDSM activity, and will generally respect them, not stepping over those lines in the sand. Experienced tops can often deduce a sub’s limits even when she can’t articulate them, by observing her reactions to actions or descriptions.
Part of the thrill of BDSM, however, comes from its unpredictability. If you know exactly what your Master is going to do, a scene can lose its intensity. In addition, a sub gets at least some of her pleasure from the knowledge that she’s satisfying the Master’s desires rather than just her own. What if she’s scared of the idea of getting caned, while her Dom is itching to find a nice, flexible rattan rod and turn her butt bright red? Though he might choose to respect her limits at the expense of his own fantasies, she can’t help but be aware of his disappointment and feel as though she’s failed in her devotion to him.
Hence the idea of “pushing limits” — encouraging the sub to go beyond her initially stated constraints, to engage in new, usually more extreme or scary, activities or scenarios. This might sound like a violation of the “safe, sane and consensual” norms of BDSM, but in fact when managed carefully, pushing a sub’s limits can produce a more arousing and intense experience for both parties in the exchange.
Why? The Dom gets what he wants: more complete power over the submissive, as well as (perhaps) some sadistic pleasure from inflicting more pain or discomfort than he’d previously dared. The sub gets what she wants: the deep conviction that she has pleased her Master as well as pride in her own courage. Most important, however, pushing limits within a BDSM relationship builds trust. The sub learns that she can trust her dom to take care of her, to lead her through the fear to the pleasure beyond. The dom learns that he can trust himself to push his sub just far enough to experience the benefits, but not so far as to cause trauma.
So, what about me? When I began my all-too-brief, incandescent relationship with GCS, I knew next to nothing about BDSM. I’d entertained myself with kidnap fantasies growing up, but I’d never thought of myself as the slave type. The concept of limits didn’t apply. He tempted me to step out onto the high wire of power exchange and I followed eagerly, scarcely looking down.
At his invitation, I plunged into the murky depths of kinky lust. He gave me reading assignments, The Story of O and Anne Rice’s Beauty series. I devoured them, hungry for more. Whatever he suggested, I was willing to try. Indeed, I even took the initiative, searching out a riding tack store to purchase a genuine riding crop so he could use it on me.
When we were apart, he’d quiz me about my reactions to various ideas, or send me images for my comments. He wrote in a letter once, “It never occurred to me that you’d refuse me.” As arrogant as that sounds (and that arrogance thrilled me), it was more or less true.
I understand now that I do have some hard limits: choking or asphyxiation, punching or being hit with a blunt object, extreme sensory deprivation, being fucked in the pussy by an object that has been in my ass. I don’t like the idea of being gagged. Needle play scares me, though I can’t say I’d never do it. But he and I never got to that point. We were still in the breathless, experimental stage—he probably marveling that he’d found such a willing partner, me overwhelmed by the emotional impact of surrender—when we officially broke up. I married a lovely, horny, but definitely vanilla guy. He found another sub, at least for a while. We never really got to the stage of pushing limits.
My memories and feelings for him fueled my first novel and have had an enduring influence on most of my stories since. As I continued to write erotica, I found myself using my tales to explore alternative worlds in which we’d stayed together. What would it have been like, to live together, perhaps to marry? How would our kinky games have evolved? How do you keep the thrill of BDSM alive when your relationship includes all the real-world stuff: work, finances, family, illness, children, aging? Can you continue indefinitely to push limits into more extreme activities? How do you know when to stop? And if you do stop, if you draw lines you know neither of you dare cross, will the magic evaporate?
Many of my stories are explicitly about pushing limits, or at least exploring new territory. In “Just a Spanking”, for instance, the dominant asks, “Could you come from just a spanking?” The couple proceeds to answer this question. In “Body Electric”, my heroine succumbs to a charismatic nerd of a Dom very much like my own Master, who proceeds to demonstrate his experimental electrical apparatus, to her mingled terror and excitement. In “Muse”, an author of erotic romance finally meets the brutal and demanding dominant of whom she’s dreamed, but never dared write.
One of my most emotional stories of this type is “Limits: A Love Story”, about a long-established D/s couple who decide to advance to his cutting his initials into her flesh. That story begins:
He’s the sadist in our relationship. But I’m the one who’s more extreme.
This succinctly captures my fears about myself. Do I really have limits? Would I know when to stop? Would he? And if he did, would I be disappointed?
Fortunately, or not, I’ll probably never know. But I continue to speculate on expanding limits in my tales of erotic power exchange, a legacy of that long-ago love.
Footnote by Larry Archer
Thanks, Lisabet, for that look into the world of BDSM, which is a variety of often erotic practices or roleplaying involving bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadomasochism, and other related interpersonal dynamics.
Lisabet is a fantastic author of erotica, especially from a woman’s perspective and I encourage you to check out her web site, LisabetSarai.com. If you’ve read any of my stories, you will know that I often write about the adventures of Foxy and Larry in Sin City.
Foxy and Larry are two swingers, who own the hottest strip club in Las Vegas, The Fox’s Den. Foxy and Larry’s antics in my stories gave Lisabet an idea to create her own series somewhat based upon the Den and their lives.
She has now published the third story, Sin City Sweethearts, which I encourage you to read. She has another blog post on LarryArcher.blog about her series.
This blog post, How Far Would You Go, was originally published on Oh, Get a Grip. Lisabet and nine other authors do a round robin series of posts every month, which revolve around the world of erotica and writing.
As a casual observer, I find a lot of this scene to be interesting and the amateur psychologist in me is asking why do these people enjoy this? My usual job is to hold my wife’s whip or take movies, when we get involved in BDSM at a party.
In the Lifestyle, we know a number of couples who enjoy dominance to various degrees. Wifey has several slaves that she punishes for their transgressions, especially when she dons her thigh high leather boots and leather bustier.
For her, it all started for real when she wore a Dominatrix outfit at a swinger’s convention costume ball in Chicago. As a model, she has this uncanny ability to throw herself into a scene like an actress. Plus, as a natural exhibitionist, she loves being “on stage.”
We had brought three couples with us to the dance and one couple, the husband is a police sergeant. He was in love, from the minute he saw her in her dog collar, black leather bustier, with the quarter-cup bra top that showed off her boobs and black thong. But the piece de resistance was those leather thigh-high black boots with the spike heels.
Foxy is almost six foot and in those heels, she towered over everyone which just added to the atmosphere of total domination. I am never ceased to be amazed at some of the things I’ve seen at swinger’s parties but the guys and girls throwing themselves at her feet was a revelation.
Our cop friend instantly became her slave. Thankfully, Foxy had brought a big dog collar and leash as a prop, which she promptly strapped him in and led him around like the dog he was. That was a real hoot to see him on his knees worshipping her boots and pledging total loyalty.
He had been a cop for many years and was a big strong take charge kind of guy. Someone right out of Chicago PD or Law and Order. To see him groveling on the floor was exciting for me also as I realized that he had the need to be controlled by someone else. Thinking about it, it dawned on me that Alpha people need to give up the responsibility to control a scene sometimes and just let someone else take up the reins.
At the dance, we met a Professor of Psychology who lived a Dom/sub life with his drop-dead gorgeous wife. I for one was instantly in love. In those rare moments when I wasn’t drinking in her beauty, I was having deep conversations with her hubby. He was explaining his theories on why people get into BDSM relationships and I was completely enthralled.
Our cop friend now loves to have Foxy dress up and punish him. While flogging him, she will often dig a spike heel into his back or some other more sensitive part of his anatomy, such as his cock or balls. He loves it but it makes me cringe to watch sometimes.
It’s taught me to sleep with one eye open to watch out for my wife getting a wild hair and beating me in the middle of the night!
As we travel through life, we need to be open to new experiences and not be afraid to try new things. While getting flogged is not high on my bucket list, it certainly seems to turn a lot of people’s crank and is a great spectator sport.