My goal for a BDSM or bondage adventure is always the same–I want to take Joy just beyond her zone of comfort, so that we pass out of the realm of the familiar and venture ever so slightly into unfamiliar territory. I don’t always succeed in doing this, but when I do, I believe it gives Joy (and through her, me) the maximum amount of excitement and sheer fun attainable. If I don’t go far enough, and we never exceed Joy’s comfort zone, it’s almost always fun nonetheless, but the excitement level is not quite the same. But that’s better than what happens when I go too far. When I take Joy too far past the outer limit of her comfort zone, the fun stops abruptly for both of us.
That’s obviously a bad outcome, and one you want to avoid. But how do you know when you’ve gone far enough? And how do you know when you’re about to go too far?
This last question in particular is a tough one, and I’ve personally screwed up the answer more than once. As an example, lately Joy and I have been experimenting with using pain to heighten sexual excitement. During a session a couple weeks ago, I had attached a pair of nipple clamps and tightened them nicely. A few minutes later I tightened them another notch. I had Joy bent over so that the chain that connects the two clamps hung downward between her two breasts. To this point, all was okay (though I should have recognized some warning signs already), but when I attached weights to the chain I took the step too far. Joy called out her safe word and we had to retreat and regroup.
It’s generally pretty easy to tell when you’ve already gone too far. For instance, if your submissive partner breaks out their safe word, it’s a safe assumption that you’ve exceeded their threshold. If there is resentment, anger, fear or sadness after the scene is over, you’ve almost certainly gone too far. But all of these indications only show up after it’s too late! How can one tell before taking that one extra step that causes all the trouble?
My answer, unfortunately, is that this is art rather than science, and one can never tell exactly the point at which one needs to stop. This is because comfort zones change and expand over time, and because they vary between individuals and even based on mood and/or level of arousal. However, there are a number of measures you can take to at least limit the risk that you’ll go too far:
- Know your submissive partner’s limits and treat them with respect. If you are approaching a limit, tread lightly and with great care, and err on the side of caution.
- Take one (and only one!) step at a time. To illustrate, if your partner’s only experience with corporal punishment is the solitary light hand spanking you gave them last night, don’t break out the cane or single tail whip tonight. Instead, go slowly, step by step, down the spanking path, perhaps increasing the duration and intensity of the bare hand spanking, varying the spanking position, or possibly adding a leather paddle. Savor the journey, and let your partner’s comfort zone expand gradually to allow further progress. In the end, if you follow this approach, you’ll lead them to where you want to go.
- Watch for tell-tale signs of maximum excitement. Hopefully you know your partner well and are familiar with their physical symptoms of extreme arousal. With Joy, for instance, the most obvious is nipples–when they are at their most erect, especially if coupled with a pink flush in her chest and deep or rapid breathing, I know she’s at her peak. If you manage to reach this level with your partner, you have succeeded for the night–venturing further isn’t necessary. However, if you find you just can’t resist, proceed only in tiny, little incremental steps and with great caution. While extreme arousal can allow for progress, especially around a limit, it’s also a warning that you’ve gone just about far enough. Don’t ruin the experience for both of you!
- Watch as well for tell-tale signs that your partner is not having fun. If you discern that they are not, back off a little and see if you can get back to a happier place. This is what I missed during the nipple weight incident with Joy–she wasn’t really enjoying the experience of having the nipple clamps on so tightly in the first place, and I should have noticed this before exacerbating the situation.
Understand that, even if you do your best to follow these suggestions, chances are very good that you’ll end up going too far one day anyway. If this happens, you should immediately stop your activities and take care of your partner. Take a break, offer them comfort, apologize if appropriate (yes, the dominant partner can and should apologize to their submissive partner if they do something wrong), and talk about what happened. If the transgression was relatively minor, you may both decide to pick things back up again during that same session. And if not, then stop for the evening and let a little time pass. Then talk again about the experience and see if you can tell exactly what went wrong and which particular step you took to cross the boundary from exciting to scary or unpleasant.
It’s possible that even though you misstepped during a session, you’ve piqued your partner’s curiosity and allowed their zone of comfort to expand despite the unhappy experience. Though Joy and I had to cease and desist all activity the night of the nipple weight incident, a couple days ago she asked about the clamps and what I’d done to make them hurt that way (always a sign that she’s been thinking), and then when I brought them out last night so that she knew I was going to use them, her level of arousal immediately skyrocketed. You may have gone too far one night, but time and your partner’s libido are powerful allies, and if you travel the same path on future nights, going slow and one step at a time, you may yet succeed in reaching your desired destination.