A ‘hard limit’ in kink-speak is a limit that you have set that is non-negotiable, something that is off the table that you do not consent to. We all have hard limits (beware anyone, in any role, who says they don’t!). It’s essential that hard limits be discussed, understood and respected. Being authentic about your wants, needs, and boundaries is an essential part of ethical kink.
Your reasons are reason enough
Hard limits should be respected, no questions asked. You should never have to explain or justify your hard limits. A partner may be interested in understanding them and may ask about a particular boundary, but you are not required to explain yourself. No is a full sentence!
Personally, I have many hard limits, but spitting in my mouth is one that I always bring up vehemently because I feel really strongly about it. I can’t explain why, especially since with the right person, in the right scene, other spitting can be hot. But I’m never going to be okay with someone spitting in my mouth and I don’t have to justify that. No kink-shaming intended, it’s just really not for me!
Not all limits have to be hard
Soft limits also exist, they are the things you’re curious about or you want to try under the right circumstances, ie: if your hard limits are “no”, then soft limits are “maybe”. Soft limits should be respected just as much as hard limits, and again, they don’t need to be justified, but all limits should be discussed.
Common is not the same as universal
Like most kinksters I have a fairly long list of hard limits, a lot of which is made up of common limits (that are still worth mentioning to a scene partner). Just because a limit (or permission) is common does not mean it is universal. Always ask if you are unsure. There is no room for assumptions in kink. Just because something is or isn’t on your list of hard limits doesn’t mean it’s the same for someone else.
Coercion is not consent
We should all be pursuing enthusiastic ongoing consent from our partners. It’s important to remember that coercing, bullying, teasing or guilting someone into doing something is not okay. If your partner has a hard limit on a kink you love and want to do, that’s too bad. A lot of folks prescribe to the GGG (“good, giving, and game.” Think “good in bed,” “giving of equal time and equal pleasure,” and “game for anything—within reason.”) philosophy when it comes to sex and relationships. This is a great attitude if it works for you, but you’re no less of a lover if you have limits (note the exception “within reason”). In fact, many kinksters would agree that it’s a major red flag if someone claims not to have any limits. Just imagine what that might look like and how dangerous that could be.
Limits keep all of us safe
Kink can get dangerous, and some folks take it literally to the point of life and death. For others the danger or risk is more psychological and emotional. All the more reason to communicate your stance and express your limitations. Whether you’re into the hard stuff or not, safety, in all forms, should always be a priority. There are 3 common safety concepts that kinksters tend to adopt., but the language is always evolving. Which one you use is up to you.
SSC aka Safe, Sane, Consensual
This is considered a somewhat old-school term (some would argue it’s out of date). SSC sets the expectation that safety (what does that actually mean?) has been considered, the ‘sanity’ or mental/emotional condition of the people involved has been considered, and consent is being honoured. For many, this is not specific enough, and therefore other acronyms have evolved from the SSC concept.
RACK aka Risk Aware Consensual Kink
This term takes things a bit further by acknowledging awareness of the inherent risk involved in kink. How much risk you take by participating in a particular kink is dependent on many factors, but if you practice RACK, you are committed to awareness and assessment of risk.
PRICK aka Personally Responsible Informed Consensual Kink
For those who want even more clarity and accountability in their kink play, PRICK puts specific responsibility on each person to be informed about all aspects of the experience.
It’s okay to have limits on who you play with, and how, based on their approach to safety and consent. If the principles of PRICK are important to you, getting kinky with someone who barely acknowledges SSC might raise some red flags. That’s okay! Ask them questions, share your point of view and make an informed decision.
Revisit your list from time to time
Kink is a fluid concept that can change over time. It’s normal for your tastes to change and evolve, and it’s normal to be curious. What was once a hard limit might become a favourite activity, and something that used to turn you on may now be a hard limit. These are your limitations and yours alone, do what feels right and always honour your gut/intuition.
My current list of hard limits looks like this:
- no minors (this should be on everyone’s hard limit list, kink is not for kids)
- no drugs or alcohol (either party)
- no “non consent” or rape play
- no race play
- no cuckolding
- no beastiality/animals
- no vomit, faeces, or blood
- no permanent marks
- no spitting in mouths
- no pissing in mouths
- no actual asphyxiation (choke play is fine but no air restriction)
- no dunking/waterboarding
- no tickling
- no erotic hypnosis
If I got even more specific and granular I’m sure there would be more items, but this list is an umbrella of things that I’m not even willing to entertain, even if my partner(s) really want to do any of the above. Remember: having limits, saying no, and not budging does not make you a kink-shamer. You can say no thanks for yourself without judging or denigrating someone else’s decisions.
Your kinks are yours, and so are your limits. Learning to share and hold the line on your boundaries can be hard work but it’s an essential responsibility as a kinkster.
Stay tuned for more how-to articles on communication and negotiation in kink. In the meantime, check out the other kink-focused pieces I’ve written.