What are hard limits and safe words? Do you and your partner have hard limits and use safe words while having sex? Here’s everything you need to know about hard limits and safe words. Communication in power exchange is important due to what is at stake for the participants. According to Edwards, Rehman & Byers (2022), communication keeps things safe, sane, and consensual for everyone involved in a relationship. This article will cover the topics of hard limits and safe words to understand your responsibilities concerning kink. Knowing Your Dominant or Submissive Limits In power exchange, a submissive has power, and a dominant has the control granted by the submissive. The only way to clarify what’s acceptable and what’s not is to set limits. Holt (2015) stated that limits are things that the other party must respect, no matter how insignificant they sound. A good example of a limit is when a submissive does not like being kissed on a certain area of her body because of past bad memories. Whenever you start a new kink journey with someone, you need to discuss limits to be aware of the boundaries. Nobody can expect someone to know limits that haven’t been communicated. Types of Limits Limits come in different forms. Understanding these limits helps foster ongoing communication between you and your partner. Mostly, limits fall under two categories. Hard Limits Airaksinen (2018) explained that a hard limit is an action or activity that you must not do under any circumstance. This is usually based on fear or moral issues. Anytime someone has a phobia, it is considered a hard limit. If someone is of a religious conviction that views homosexuality as immoral, that is a hard limit. A dominant should always respect a submissive’s hard limits. Hard limits are not to be tested or explored. If someone has too many different hard limits, then the dominant and submissive need to discuss what each person’s definition of a hard limit is. Sometimes an individual may decide that something is a hard limit even if they have never tried the activity, simply because they think they wouldn’t enjoy it. Hard limits are formed by experience, not by ignorance. Soft Limits According to Vera (2021), a soft limit is usually considered a no but may change under some circumstances. It may be something someone is not comfortable trying but might consider doing for the right person. It might also be something that someone dislikes but might get into the mood once in a while. For instance, fisting, you may or may not have tried it before, but you don’t think you would enjoy it, and you are afraid you may get injured. This is a soft limit with the right person, under the right circumstances, and of course, if your partner has small hands, you might want to try fisting. Soft limits can be explored, tried, and stretched. When there is trust between a dominant and a submissive, soft limits can be used to expand the trust and explore boundaries. Exploration should be done slowly and respectfully at all times. A dominant must always remember that there is a reason why a submissive has listed a certain activity as a limit and must work with the submissive to overcome fears. Fluid Limits Limits do change over time. Discussing limits and never looking back is not the best way to manage a relationship. Some of the things people are unwilling to try may become some of their favorite kinks. Someone may suddenly tell you that a hard limit is now a soft limit or no longer a limit. Surprisingly, your partner could declare that something that was once okay is no longer okay. It’s important to understand and respect your partner’s limits. It is important to make sure you are always up to speed on where the boundaries lie in your relationship. If your partner has a new limit, it’s important to realize that the action is no longer acceptable. The best way to protect yourself and your partner is by implementing the use of safe words. Safe words can help when exploring new activities or communicating when the intensity of activity has become uncomfortable. Safe Words A safeword is a way to put across your needs during a scene without impacting the mood. According to Schori, Jackowski & Schön (2021), safe words can be used to end an activity. You can have as many safe words as possible, and both parties can call them out. Moreover, safewords are for all roles. Below are examples of safe word systems. Spotlight System This one is the most regular safe word system. Green means go, red means stop, and yellow means caution. This may come off as too simple for some people, or the words may be hard to avoid during foreplay, and it may end up confusing. Nevertheless, it is a very clear system. Tired Safe Wording Some people enjoy communicating some emotions using safe words. You can have as many safewords as you desire or need to have for your dynamic. Server-wide Safe Wording There are server-wide safe words available for use on may kink servers when dealing with a new partner in a public scene or when you have several submissives involved and cannot seem to remember each person’s safe words. Server-wide safe wording is recommended to simplify things. Limits are important aspects to consider in the kink life, just as the kinks themselves. Limits can be as simple or as strange as a person’s kink. It’s wrong to kink shame, and limits need to be held in the same regard. Always respect your partner’s limits. A limit is a no, and there’s no question about that. Conclusion Communication is important so that a submissive and dominant are on the same page. It is also the responsibility of a submissive to communicate limits or safe words when needed. Submissives have the power, and they need to set clear boundaries so that the dominants can respect those limitations. References Airaksinen, T. (2018). The language of pain: A philosophical study of BDSM. Sage open, 8(2), 2158244018771730. Edwards, J., Rehman, U. S., & Byers, E. S. (2022). Perceived barriers and rewards to sexual consent communication: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 02654075221080744. Holt, K. (2015). Negotiating limits: Boundary management in the Bondage/Discipline/Sadomasochism (BDSM) community. City University of New York. Schori, A., Jackowski, C., & Schön, C. A. (2021). How safe is BDSM? A literature review on fatal outcome in BDSM play. International journal of legal medicine, 1-9.Vera, A. (2021). Show Me the Ropes: Common Kink Community Practices. In The Routledge International Handbook of Social Work and Sexualities (pp. 458-467). Routledge.