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Using Checklists to Figure Out Your Kinky Limits

When John Brownstone asks me to do something I really don't want to do, I'll jokingly yell, "Red! Red! Red-dy, red-red!" (Red is my safeword, y'all.) He knows it means I don't want to do it, and I really mean it.

Sometimes it's a joke. And sometimes, we're referencing something in our vanilla life.

Do I want to rake leaves? Red.

Do I want to drive to a busy international airport without him? Red.

Do I want to walk into a crowd of strangers and randomly introduce myself? Red, red, red-dy, red-red.

Conversations about our limits (both hard and soft) permeate our entire life. He knows if I throw a safeword out, even in a vanilla conversation, that I'm serious about not wanting to do something. Sure, we joke and laugh about it, (and I might still do that vanilla thing later) but it's a form of communication that works well for us. In one word, he knows how I feel about it.

The first thing, though, is to know your own limits and how far you're willing to go. I think that's probably a good lesson for life in general, but let's stick with the kinky side of things for right now.

Soft vs Hard Limits

We, as kinksters, focus on hard limits a lot. What squicks us out. What gives us the bad shivers. What sounds so gross, disgusting, and horrible that we (kind of, sort of) wonder what might be wrong with people who do like it. No judgement, y'all, but I admit I've wondered. And there's a reason we focus on them - making someone do something they desperately don't want to do is a violation and it shows a lack of consent (or even an understanding of the importance of consent).

But that's not the only conversation you should have about limits. You need to talk about soft limits, too. Soft limits, from my perspective, are the things I'm unsure of but I'll try at least once. I reserve the right to make it a hard limit if it really bothers me. Of course, John Brownstone has that right too.

I might say, "Daddy, I think we should have sex while hanging upside down from ceiling like bats. Oh, and let's use fake blood, too!"

When I throw out a wild idea, he'll usually say something like, "Let me think about it" or "We'll see." Sometimes I get a "Sure, why not?" kind of response. But if he we do it, and he doesn't like it, we don't do it again. Note: I wouldn't suggest fucking on the ceiling - I don't like heights. The limits thing goes both ways in D/s.

Trying to Figure Out What You (Might) Like

How do you know what you like (or hate) if you don't know what's out there and available to choose from? You don't know what you don't know, right? Over the years, I've learned about new things in two ways (three if you count reading erotica and blogs):

Watch porn or perv on Tumblr. This is a great way to see what something looks like and decide if you might be interested. The downside to this method is that you'll only see a fraction of the kinks and fetishes out there, and you might not know what something is called. That makes researching it harder later on.

Use a checklist. This is a popular method for kinksters, especially if one of you is new to the lifestyle and other has some experience. I think that's because if you're both newbies, you might not know checklists are even a thing (but now you do!). When I started in D/s, it was with a checklist. I highly recommend them.

Good checklists have a few things in common:

  • They list dozens of activities - not all of them sexual.
  • They give you a range of options in your answers like "I don't know, but I'm curious" all the way up to "Hell no!"
  • They can be used as conversation starters for what you think you'll like.
  • You can use them for your kinky fuckery adventure checklist (or a kinky bucket list) so you don't have to remember what you want to try. It's right there in black and white.
  • They're good for researching and learning. You'll have the names of activities for your Google search to learn more.

Where to Find a Checklist

Do a quick Google search of "BDSM checklists" and you'll get a bunch of options. Or, you can use the two I've found for you.

A Submissive's Initiative is a very good website to use as a learning tool. The Latches checklist looks a lot like the checklist I used several years ago (it might be).

If you're like me, what will probably blow your mind isn't that checklists are a thing. It makes sense if you think about it. It's the sheer number of kinks and fetishes that you could potentially incorporate into your D/s relationship. Expect your checklist to take more than a few minutes to complete.

How to Use a Checklist

There are no right or wrong answers on a checklist, although I can imagine an eager submissive worrying he or she will answer incorrectly. You most likely won't match every answer with your partner - and that's okay. Do not freak out about it.

When I did my first checklist, we purposely didn't do it together. That way I couldn't be influenced by his answers. I think that's a good way to handle it. Yes, there will be things you don't recognize on the list, so just put a question mark by them.

Later, when you've both finished, swap lists so you can see what the other person answered. Anything that got a question mark needs to be researched (or explained by your partner if they know). The rest, you talk about.

Checklists are a no-judgement kind of thing. It's okay to not know about something. And it's okay to hate some things your partner likes (or the other way around). Your checklist should be used to discover what you both like and to try new things together.

Trying Out New Things

I could probably write several hundred words about trying new kinky fun in your D/s relationship, but let me leave you, instead with a few tips. Because I'm sure, after you go over your checklist, you'll be ready to jump in with both feet.

  • Start slow. Try the easy stuff first and see how you like it.
  • Do your research and learn from people who know what they're doing before trying anything that involves pain, bondage, or anything that could cause real harm.
  • Try something more than once before making it a hard limit (unless you hate it so much even the idea of it makes you want to gag). It might have been a bad moment or there might be another way to approach the scene that works better for you.
  • Everything is on a spectrum from light to hard. Don't ever feel bad if you only like the "light" side of kinky activities.
  • Go back over (or re-do) your checklist every few months or once a year. You'll be surprised at how much you've changed in that time.

This kinky thing we do is about exploring our desires and who we are as individuals and in relationships. It helps to have an idea of what you like, what you hate, and what you're willing to try (at least once). Checklists don't just help you figure out your hard limits - they help you grow as a kinkster.

Want to continue the conversation about limits and checklists? Tune into the Loving BDSM podcast on Friday, November 11, 2016 (episode 62) where the topic will be boundaries and limits.

About the author

Kayla Lords

I am an erotic author, sex blogger, podcaster, freelance writer, and an opinionated marketer. I'm also a masochistic babygirl submissive with an amazing and sadistic Daddy Dom. Welcome to my kinky corner of the internet!

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