Posts Tagged working with limits

Long Term Objectives

One of my responsibilities in my relationship with Joy is to guide our exploration of the many and varied paths of BDSM. For us, at least, BDSM is a journey rather than a destination, and we make progress from day to day and year to year. There are many, many different directions in which to go, and to assist in my navigation, I set short term and long term objectives for our exploration.

The short term objectives are easy—they might be based on a new toy I purchased that I want to try, or around the idea I imagined for our next adventure. Today, however, I wanted to talk more about the long term objectives. Long term objectives are not so easy.

Let’s specify that objectives, in this case, are different from relationship goals. I definitely do have relationship goals within the context of D/s, and though we haven’t really discussed it, I’m quite certain Joy has them as well. As an example, one of my D/s relationship goals would be for Joy to embrace, rather than fight against, her desire to submit. Another would be for me to get better at overcoming her resistance and making her submit when she does not wish to do so. Goals like these are strategic, and exist at the relationship level. For our purposes, however, an objective is more tactical. It is an activity or situation that I want us to experience together. And a long term objective is an activity or situation that is out of reach right now, but that I desire us to eventually attain.

I currently have two long term objectives that I’m working toward. I will not tell you what they are–Joy periodically reads this blog, and knowing where I am guiding us would likely prove detrimental to our progress. However, here are a couple of former long term objectives that we have already reached to serve as examples:

  • Be able to come in Joy’s mouth freely and expect her to swallow
  • Share Joy with another woman in a BDSM scene

In both these cases, when I initially broached the subject, Joy was unable/unwilling to go there. As a matter of fact, I believe her response to the first objective was something like, “It’s gross and I don’t do that” and the second was along the lines of “I could never have another person in our bedroom. And no matter what guys wish, we’re not all lesbians, you know?”

Joy’s reactions were indicators that these activities were too far outside her comfort zone to be immediately attainable. But I wanted them nonetheless. What to do?

Setting long term objectives has to do with the process of overcoming limits. I’ve written before about working with limits, about the power and the risk it entails, and I won’t repeat myself in detail here. Instead, here’s a metaphor that illustrates the process that I’ve found to be successful:

Imagine a stream you want to cross. The water is swift and dark, and you cannot see the bottom. However, you have determination, persistence and time on your side. Pick up a single stone and drop it in. The water swallows it immediately and it vanishes without a trace. Drop in another stone and then another. Drop enough stones and eventually they start to poke up above the surface. Keep on dropping stones and you will begin to build a bridge that will carry you to where you want to go.

The stream is the limit you are facing. The stones are “baby steps” toward your objective. Each time you take a baby step, you drop a stone in the water. Just as the stones pile up, the baby steps build one upon another. In the first example above, a baby step I employed was using Joy’s mouth but pulling out before orgasm and coming on her breasts. The next baby step in the series was to shift my target so that I came on her face. In the second example, a baby step was watching a video of one woman Dominating another. A second was to role play a scene with another woman in which Joy had to submit.

Each baby step works to expand your partner’s comfort zone ever-so-slightly in the direction you want to go. Each step takes your partner a tiny way towards your objective, and a tiny distance beyond their comfort zone. Repeat that baby step enough times, and eventually it will become accepted—your partner’s comfort zone expands to encompass it. Then it’s time to take another baby step. You may not notice any effect from an individual baby step, but they accumulate over time and eventually progress may be made.

Obviously one key to success with this approach is picking the right river! You will run out of stones and time if you try to build a bridge across the Mississippi using a stone-by-stone approach, but if you pick a smaller stream or creek, your chances for success are much improved. In the same way, picking an activity where your partner’s limit is not strong is more likely to succeed than picking one where the limit is severe. In the examples I cited above, I knew Joy had an interest–a hidden desire–to explore the directions I had chosen. That’s part of the reason why I selected them.

I suppose it’s perfectly possible to operate without any long-term objectives in a D/s relationship—I can see how that would work. However, I’m a planner, and I like to have something to work towards, so Joy and I always have at least one. And slowly, so slowly, we make progress against it.

As I said, I currently have two long term objectives I’m working against. We have had several breakthroughs along the way, and at this point, one of the two is nearing completion, I think. Oh, there are still hurdles to overcome, but I’m beginning to see a clear path to the final step, and I suspect that within the next four or five months, we’ll be there. I may regret saying this—we could easily backslide—but for now, prospects appear bright.

Assuming we are successful, I’ll share when we have reached our goal. Until then…

Enjoy yourself,

Jake

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Tell Me No

Just because I’m the Dominant doesn’t mean that Joy never says no to something I want to do. Of course she does! Everyone has limits, including Joy, and her use of “no” informs me that whatever action I’ve initiated has run up against one those limits. At one time, hitting a “no” used to discourage me. But no more… These days I hear “no” with a whole different outlook.

Some “no’s” are exactly what they seem—a flat rejection with no ifs, ands or buts. Joy, for instance, has a serious phobia around needles and anything that might draw blood. For us, any sort of piercing or edge play is completely off the table. It doesn’t matter whether or not I want it, because Joy cannot go there. This type of “no” is impermeable, and simply needs to be left alone. There are also “no’s” based on good sense—a suggestion to do something truly illegal, for instance, might trigger this kind of objection. Hopefully I am a wise enough Dominant to avoid this kind of thing on my own, but if not, Joy’s “no” should be firm and inviolable.

However, there’s another, more common type of “no”, and this type warrants far more scrutiny. This kind of “no” is said by the lips, but contradicted by the body’s physical response. This kind of “no” tells the story of a river bank of fear and inhibition being undercut by a strong current of desire. If I can strengthen that current, then eventually the bank will collapse. All I need is patience and persistence.

When I lead Joy into new territory and she tells me “no”, I watch carefully. If her body shows signs of physical arousal, that’s a very positive sign. And I listen! One might think that a powerful denial, one with a bit of an edge to it, would indicate that an area is completely out of bounds. However, one would be wrong. Joy often says “No!” loudest to the activities and situations she most desires.

My first realization of this phenomenon came back before we started playing with D/s, when I first suggested the idea of having anal sex. Joy’s response was clear and strong. She told me, “I could NEVER let you do that! I would not be able to respect myself afterwards!”

I knew this was bologna. As I listened to her I was thinking, “But I know that you want it! I can see how you react when I put my finger in your behind, how excited you get, how much easier it is for you to come when your bottom is full.”

A “no” must be respected—I backed off. I was discouraged, but wise enough to know not to give up entirely. And this was the right thing to do. A few months later in the throes of passion, Joy confessed that she’d been thinking about my suggestion ever since, and she wanted to try it. Try it we did, and these days anal sex has become one of her favorite things.
This pattern has been repeated several times. It was repeated with bondage. It was repeated with spanking. It was repeated with sex with another woman. And it is in the midst of being repeated with several other activities right now, each of which is part way through its eventual evolution from forbidden to permissible to desirable. Time and the patience to accept incremental progress enable the process to happen. When the evolution is complete, the internal struggle within Joy is resolved, and she is able to come to terms with the formerly-unacceptable act that she so secretly desired.

The unresolved areas of conflict that lie behind these “no’s”, the places where Joy’s desire is at odds with her inhibition, serve as wells of power for our Dominant/submissive relationship. I tap them frequently and they lend their energy to our encounters. Oh, I don’t use them all the time—that would be too much of a good thing. But several times a month I leverage one or the other of the limits we are working on, and the touch of adrenaline they add is sweet and strong.

Rather than being discouraged when Joy says “no” to something, I take it as a positive. In fact, I use her “no’s” as a sort of virtual map of BDSM, each one marking a fertile area of exploration. Oh, if it becomes clear that it is one of those flat rejections I mentioned above, I’ll mark off the territory as inaccessible. However, this is rare. Most of the time when she says “no” to some specific scenario or action, I think to myself, “Then that is exactly what I am going to eventually make you do.” I don’t have one hundred percent success with this, but my track record is pretty good, and I can’t think of anything I’ve truly given up on yet.

Submissive readers, fair warning! Sometimes when you tell us “no”, we Dominants hear a different message.

Enjoy yourself,

Jake

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Magic

”I don’t like to be tied up.”

Every once in awhile in my relationship with Joy, I get to work magic. I know you probably don’t believe in magic, but in this case, that’s what it feels like. I get to make an obstacle, something that’s been blocking our progress, vanish, and through some sort of BDSM theory of relativity, its disappearance creates a massive burst of excitement that burns for Joy and I like fire in the darkness. It may not require a wand or a book of spells, but it’s magic nonetheless.

Like all good acts of sorcery, this requires lengthy preparation. In fact, the best way I can think to describe the process is to liken it to planting a flower. Growing something from seed is magic of a kind, and to do so successfully takes considerable time and effort. First I must prepare the soil, making sure the seed bed is fertile. Then I carefully choose and place a magical seed, covering it lightly and leaving it there hidden in the warm, dark soil. Over time I must carefully water and nourish it, watching over it to help it grow. If I have chosen wisely and do a good job of taking care of it, the seed will sprout and I can force it to bloom. And in the act of flowering, it will imbue Joy and I with its power, transporting us to a new plateau of Dominance and submission, granting us extraordinary feelings of arousal and excitement, and providing us with some of the best sex of our lives.

”I’m sorry, I can’t make you come in my mouth. It’s gross! I don’t like it.”

Naturally, I’m not really talking about working spells or even gardening here. Instead, I’m talking about those wonderful, enchanted moments when a submissive, despite what they have told their partner and despite what they have told themselves, discovers that they can and will, in fact, do something they said they never would. And if the Dominant partner did a good job of selecting the proper magic seed to plant, the submissive finds that not only can they do it, and not only will they do it, but that they actually want to do it. In fact, they often realize that they secretly desired to do it all along.

To a large extent, this is a reference to the process of overcoming limits. Limits are a meaty topic and one I’ve written about before, so I’m going to refer you to my previous posts for definitions and more description if you want to read about them. For today, suffice it to say that there are many types of limits, and in general, I’m focused more on soft limits in this post (though limits have a way of changing over time, and what was once hard can sometimes become soft) as they are more malleable and easier to work with.

”Oh, I could never do that! You’d never respect me again if I let you into my ass!”

Working with limits is dangerous and touchy territory. Proceeding slowly, watching your partner for caution signs and taking satisfaction in incremental progress are definitely in order here! Be willing to take a step back now to obtain two steps forward later. And remember the following:

  • We practice only consensual BDSM. Forcing your partner to do something they truly do not want to do is not permissible—don’t do it!
  • Trust is paramount here! Betraying your partner’s trust, even in a minor way, will lead to failure. Mean what you say and say what you mean when working with a limit, and show understanding and patience rather than frustration.
  • ”Baby steps.” Say it with me! “Baby steps!” Remember the flower metaphor I used above. It will almost certainly take months for whatever flower you plant to bloom, and it may well take years. It’s also possible you selected the wrong seed and it will never flower. But taking baby steps and being patient gives you the best chance for success.

”The thing I’m afraid of is being tied spread-eagled to the bed. I’d be too helpless!”

Planting one of these magic seeds is relatively easy—it can be as simple as mentioning the action or situation you desire, though it helps if you bring it up in a situation when your partner is receptive to hearing about it. However, deciding on what seed to plant presents one of the biggest challenges for the Dominant partner. Partly that decision is governed by what you, as the Dominant, want. If you’re not interested in pony play, why plant a seed for it? But to a great extent it’s governed by the submissive partner as well, and that presents a challenge. How can you tell what limits might prove to be overcome-able?

Until science develops that mind-reading device I’ve been waiting for, I’m afraid my best advice is the following:

  • Plant more than one seed. That way if you guess wrong on one, you have others growing away unseen underground. Another advantage to this is that the seeds grow individually and at different rates, so when one blooms, another may already be half-way to maturity.
  • Listen to your partner when you bring up the act or situation you are interested in, but listen with your eyes as well as your ears. How do they react? Was there any sign of interest despite what their words said? Do they react differently to the idea when they are in the throes of passion (and therefore ruled by their desire) then when they are fully clothed and sitting in the kitchen?
  • Remember the line I’m about to mis-quote from Shakespeare—“Methinks he doth protest too much.” My experience with Joy has been that the acts she immediately declares out of bounds sometimes prove the most fruitful to focus on, especially if her actions betray interest and belie her words.
  • Use any external knowledge you have about your partner to help make a determination. For instance, Joy hates the sight of blood in all situations, and anything that triggers that association for her immediately turns her off. Because of this, we’ll never pursue any sort of edge-play. She has a hard limit there, and any seeds sown around this topic would be futile.

”I could never do that with another woman!”

Once the seed has been planted, leave it alone for awhile. Remember too much water kills a plant just as surely as too little. If you bring up the act you desire day after day, or even week after week, you’ll create a feeling of pressure that will be counterproductive. Plant your magic seed and let it be. Come back after a month or two and check gingerly to see if it needs water. Take your very first baby step towards it and see what happens. Use your partner’s reaction to gauge when the ground needs moisture, but err on the side of too little rather than too much. With luck, patience and perseverance, you’ll begin to see signs of sprouting.

How do you water the seed you planted? That very much depends on your partner, the act or situation you are striving for, and you. In other words, I can’t tell you what you should do. However, in general, I’ve found that approaching your desired activity slowly, leveraging fantasy to help lead toward reality, and using your partner’s own hidden desires to assist you all can play a key role.

There’s much more that could be said on this topic, but I’ve probably droned on long enough for today. As a final note, l wanted to point out that all of the italicized quotes that have appeared in this post are things that Joy at one time or another said to me. All of them represented limits that she defined in our relationship at some point. All of them have since been overcome. And while I took credit above for being the one to work these acts of magic, the reality is that I only instigated them. Joy did the really hard work herself, and we only succeeded where we did because she wanted us to.

Enjoy yourself,

Jake

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Art of Performance

As you may know from previous posts, my wife has a limit around exhibitionism. Or to be more accurate, perhaps what she has is a limit around being observed and judged.

The root cause of this, per Joy, is lack of self confidence. When Joy wears lingerie, she worries that it’s a bad color or it doesn’t fit right. When she is naked, she worries that her breasts are too big (or too small—the worry can vary from one day to the next). When she is performing fellatio, she worries that her makeup may be smudged or her hair’s a mess. In other words, Joy can find angst around just about any sexual situation, because she might be less-than-perfect, and that’s not good enough.

The consequences of this are far-reaching. One is the above-mentioned fear of exhibitionism. After all, what if she exhibits herself and someone doesn’t approve of what they see? Another is her long-standing preference for low-light conditions when having sex, because bright lights might expose hidden flaws. It took me several years of work to overcome that. Another is her concern about being watched when she is in the throes of passion. Not watched by someone else, mind you, but watched by me when we are in bed together. She doesn’t like to feel like she is performing, you see, because what if the performance isn’t good enough?

While it might sound as though this limit is rather debilitating to our sex life, the reality is that it’s a source of much excitement for both of us (okay, frustration sometimes as well, but mostly excitement). The reason for this is that, while Joy is afraid of being observed, judged, and found wanting—the driver for the limit—she also very much wants to be observed and found highly desirable.

In other words, there is a constant battle between fear and desire that takes place within my wife, and this makes this limit an excellent prospect to be worked with. As with any limit, I have to tread gingerly, but as long as I’m careful, there’s much progress that can be made. And because we are working so closely to the edge of Joy’s comfort zone, there’s a lot of energy and excitement that we can engage.

Since we incorporated BDSM into our relationship, this limit has shifted outward many times. Where once Joy was uncomfortable even wearing lacey undies, now she can often wear crotchless leather panties and an open-tip bra into the playroom with aplomb. However, note that word “often” in the sentence I just wrote. There are other times when her fear returns, and she’ll feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, even though she wore the exact same outfit the week before without a qualm. I’m not certain what causes this escalation in her fears—she knows I find her attractive, and any judgment I pass upon her comes out in her favor every time. The good news is that over time, these escalations seem to occur less frequently and to be less severe.

I’ve taken many different approaches to working with the limit, some successful, and others less so. For instance, we’ve had several enjoyable dates in which Joy has dressed relatively conservatively on the outside, but highly non-conservatively beneath her skirt and top. (Remember those crotchless leather panties? That’s where we started, and we’ve gone much farther than that since then.) This has proven very successful because it allowed Joy to express her inner need to be desired while camouflaging herself behind a veneer of nondescriptness. On the other hand, scenes in which we role-play performing in front of an audience have been much less successful—Joy can make it through the scenario, which is progress, but she still feels uncomfortable to the point that it prevents her from enjoying herself.

And it’s the feeling of “performing” that we’re struggling with a bit right now. Joy doesn’t like to feel that I’m observing her during an adventure. She wants me to be participating in the activity, to be lost in excitement and action, so that I can’t study her. Often that’s fine—there are few things better than to be lost in excitement and action with Joy. However, sometimes, studying her is exactly what I want to do. I want Joy to perform while I observe. I want her to be helpless to prevent her body from reacting to the stimuli I provide, to be so taken by pleasure and excitement that her orgasm overpowers any misgivings she may have. Lately I’ve been successful at that, but afterwards, after the excitement has had a chance to dissipate, Joy’s feelings of discomfort return. She’s afraid that she looks foolish or ugly when she climaxes, and she’s embarrassed that I observed her.

So, we’re working through this. Hopefully my assurances that she’s beautiful, that I love the way she comes, and that bringing her to orgasm in this way gives me great excitement all sink in. And hopefully patience, practice, trust and a gradual approach will allow us to continue to make progress.

Enjoy Yourself,

Jake

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Working with Limits – Part Three

In my first post on this topic, I defined the concept of a “limit” and covered recognizing when you run into one. In my second post, I talked about the potential causes of limits and separated them into classes based on cause. In this third and final post, I plan to discuss how to work with a limit if you and your partner choose to do so.

To recap, when a limit is encountered, the Dominant/submissive couple must make a decision. They may choose to accept the limit, and then refrain from future activity that might run up against it. By doing so, they close off the BDSM “track” that the activity lies on to further exploration. Alternatively, they may choose to work with the limit, with the goal being one or both of the following:

  1. Extend, mitigate or remove the limit to enable future progress along a track
  2. Leverage the power of the limit to add energy and excitement to BDSM sessions and recharge the D/s battery within their relationship

The ability to work with the limit is greatly influenced by the limit’s cause. Limits caused by adherence to conventionality (Limits of Convention) or lack of accurate information (Limits of Ignorance) are relatively easy and often highly rewarding to work with. Limits due dislike of a particular type of activity (Limits of Preference) are less easy to work with, and unlikely to bring many rewards. Limits due to rational concerns (Rational Limits) regarding an activity are usually not malleable and are best accepted. And limits based on irrational fears such as phobias (Irrational Limits) should be accepted and left alone.

When you and your partner discover a limit during a BDSM adventure, it is best to back away from it and proceed in a different direction for the remainder of the adventure. Once the adventure is over and a little time has passed, however, you should talk about the limit with the goal being to decide whether to accept it or to work with it. Part of the conversation should be to try to understand the cause of the limit, so that you can classify it. However, as mentioned in the last post, it’s not always easy to determine the cause!

I recognize that we are talking about a D/s relationship, but true limits are serious business. Both partners should participate in the decision on how to proceed. Inputs into the decision should include the cause and classification of the limit (as best it can be determined), the desire of each partner to include (or not include) the limited track in their BDSM repertoire, and the overall strength of the relationship (as testing limits can sometimes place a strain on relationship bonds). If there is disagreement about what to do, one possible compromise is to decide to accept the limit temporarily, but revisit this decision after time passes.

If the decision to work with the limit is made, here are some guidelines and suggestions to follow that may help you to be successful. Please note that success is by no means guaranteed, and if you are not successful, you may need to reconsider your decision and instead accept the limit as-is.

  • Define the boundaries of the limit – What activity actually triggers the limit? Are there small modifications to the limited activity that might make it more acceptable? In the example I used in my first post, Joanne had a limit around gags. Is it all gags? What about open-mouthed gags that don’t interfere with breathing? What about a simple cleave gag? Boundary determination may be most effectively done through conversation.
  • Don’t highlight what you’re doing – There is no need to call it out every time an activity is done to work with a limit. In fact, it’s counter-productive to do so. Subtlety counts for a lot here. Joanne’s partner, Stan, shouldn’t point out gags to her every time he has the opportunity or ask her frequently whether she still dislikes them. Doing so will annoy or stress her and only increase resistance.
  • Leverage the power of fantasy – Especially when working with a limit of convention, but even when working with other types of limits, fantasy can help make the limited activity more appealing. If Joanne’s objection to gags is because it makes the bondage scenario seem too extreme to her, then it may help to watch a movie or read a book in which someone is gagged in a sensual situation. If Joanne sees someone else, even in a film, wearing a gag and enjoying being ravished, it may help the idea to become more acceptable to her. Role-playing a scenario where Joanne is gagged (hostage during a bank robbery, perhaps?) might also be an idea, even if the gag is imaginary.
  • Take incremental steps – I preach this over and over, but it’s especially important when working with limits. Approach the limit slowly, one baby step at a time. Stan could start with browsing through a BDSM catalogue with Joanne so that she sees pictures of models with gags in their mouths. Later he could employ the movie idea mentioned above, and perhaps repeat it with another video a few weeks later. He could ask her to gag him if the relationship supported switching roles. And assuming these were relatively well-received, he could then perhaps attempt using a simple handkerchief as a cleave gag and tie it loosely around Joanne’s head, so that she could easily work it out of her mouth if she felt she needed to.
  • Leverage the power of feeling helpless – One often-overlooked beauty of bondage is that the bound partner can luxuriate in a perception of helplessness, which obviates them from having to feel guilty. This is especially helpful when dealing with a Limit of Convention, as the limit-holder can tell themselves that they can’t help what they are doing, even though it is beyond what they had considered acceptable behavior. It is important to be very sensitive to your partner if employing this technique, however. It’s one thing to take your partner beyond their comfort zone when they secretly desire (but are afraid of) it, and another to force them to do something they do not want to do. In the case of Stan and Joanne, Stan might find it useful to bind Joanne before trying out the loose cleave gag we described above, as it might help remove her guilt and simply enjoy the feeling of “being bad”. However, he needs to be certain that she truly is enjoying it.
  • Let experience work its magic – Over time, people change, and as they gain experience with other tracks through the wilderness of BDSM, what once was fearsome may become less so. If all else fails, accept the limit for now, and work around it. In Stan’s case, he could forego gags for Joanne, and pursue other types of bondage. He could explore cuffs and spreader bars, blindfolds and chastity belts. He could lead her down the path of pain into spankings and floggings, or move deeper into domination and submission. And in a year, after many shared experiences and much joy and excitement, he might find that Joanne’s limit has shifted all on its own.
  • There are many other techniques for working with limits, and I bet that if you think about it, you can come up with ideas of your own. Hopefully the thoughts I’ve shared help to prepare you for dealing with limits when they inevitably arise. As long as you recognize them, treat them with respect, and work together with your partner to decide how to treat them, you should do just fine.

    Enjoy Yourself!

    Jake

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