Not too long ago I posted this article: Finding Your Level in Kink, and I think a lot of that is relevant to this conversation if you’d like to check it out. I’ll try not to repeat too much of it here, but it focused a bit on gatekeeping and people who like to bar the door to those who enjoy milder, or different play.
Sometimes those people can be you… and the insecurities and fears in your own mind.
So, this time I’d like to focus a bit more on the internal fears and worries that someone who is interested in the scene might have.
“Can I still be part of the scene if I have a lot of triggers and limits?” This question came from an email through the blog recently, which put it back in my mind, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen people worried about this.
I guess you could call it a form of Imposter Syndrome. As a writer this is something I deal with quite a lot, and I can tell you the feeling is very similar. If you don’t know what that is, here is a brief definition: Impostor syndrome is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.
In this case it’s not so much about skills or talents, but the last part. It’s more about how much you can take. How much you enjoy. How much of you is really kinky if you only indulge in a few things—but it’s still the same feeling.
These doubts can get people into trouble when they are new in the scene because they think there is a threshold, they have to reach in order to ‘count’. Their subconscious fills up with questions like:
Am I really a sub if I can’t handle the idea of being punished?
Am I a submissive if I can’t give up all control to a Dom?
Will people think I’m a wimp and don’t belong here if I safeword?
Am I a Dom if I only enjoy bossing my lover around in the bedroom but want us to be equals outside of it?
Am I a Dom if on rare occasions I let my partner top me?
(Because yes, Doms are afflicted with these fears and doubts too.)
Some people ask these questions and then back away and never try it out. They enjoy the fiction and leave it at that. Which is a perfectly fine choice. Not everyone wants to experience these things in real life.)
Other people dive in headfirst, trying as many things as possible as fast as they can. This is also fine, except that some eventually realize they were in way over their head and have regrets.
Those subs/bottoms who go the latter route, will also find themselves struggling with using safewords or setting limits. Because if they call ‘red’ then they have failed. They aren’t the perfect playmate if they can’t handle everything the Top dishes out. People might realize they’re wimps if they ask to stop.
I once knew a girl who, for years, called herself a pain slut. She was proud of never using her safeword. Proud of being able to take whatever the Dom gave. One day she realized… she wasn’t having fun anymore.
She was dreading playing because it was always too much. It had become a competition. For her to survive without stopping the scene. For the Tops to be the first to make her safeword.
The good thing that came from it was she finally learned to set limits, to express what she actually wanted from a scene. And in general, while she occasionally enjoyed harsher scenes, mostly what she wanted was fairly mild things like over-the-knee spanking and a little domination. But she went through a lot of unnecessary pain before she found out who she was.
So the ones who doubt their place and decide never to step through the door, and the ones who doubt their place, so they bury those doubts under bravado and rush in… can both be helped by taking slow easy steps into the scene.
Research. Explore. Find trusted people, who have been vetted by more experienced players, to learn from. The fears don’t always go away immediately. Doubts can resurface, but if you take your time and learn as you go, it can help.
In our minds we have an image of what someone into BDSM is like. Mostly it’s stereotypical with the black leather and the whips. Something… hardcore and spiked. For people who enjoy milder kinks and play like bedroom domination, or spanking, or even just a little bit of bondage, there can be this idea that they don’t fit. They don’t belong.
“Oh… I’m not really into BDSM I just like to be spanked and tied up.” Yes, I’ve really heard this, multiple times. There is often a disconnect between what people picture in their minds, and the reality of BDSM because of the stereotypical ideas.
But if you look around and learn, you’ll see that the kink world covers every possible spectrum of intensity. We have spouses who are Dominant in the world, and when they come home, they shed that responsibility at the door and become groveling slaves who want nothing more than to be used as footstools.
We have couples that are complete equals in all decisions, but when they go to the bedroom, they take turns dominating each other. We have women who want to be a traditional housewife complete with domestic discipline from hubby when dinner is late. We have gender fluid people who switch roles depending on what gender they are feeling at the moment.
Oh, look, there’s a gay Dom with two female subs because none of them want sex in the mix. There are Dominatrixes with whips in black rubber suits who demand worship, and submissives who want to be used as toilets and degraded in every way possible.
Brats who run around with confetti and Littles who just want to be cuddled and told bedtime stories are there too. It’s all there.
Believe me… if you take your time, you’ll find your place to belong. That is the best thing about the scene, everyone can find a place here.
But first you have to get past your own doubts and insecurities. There is no kink test at the door that you have to pass to get in, but there is sometimes an inner voice telling you that you don’t belong and people will realize that and make fun of you.
Now, to return to the question of limits and triggers… if you have a narrow window of interest, or triggers that could come up in a scene then your goal is communication. Lots of it.
Punishment is a common trigger for people so let’s use that as an example.
If punishment makes you panic, then you need to be upfront about that, so a teasing comment like “You’re a bad girl and need a good hard spanking!” doesn’t pop up and cause you to freeze on the verge of running.
If you know you’re scared of punishment but think you might want to try a pretend punishment scene, be clear and exact. Sometimes you don’t know what your limits and triggers are until you reach them.
So start with what you do know and be as detailed as you can. And then explore carefully—but always warn your partner if you think a trigger is possible. Believe me they would rather know so that if it does happen, they don’t blame themselves.
“I like the idea of being spanked, but I don’t think I would like it to be too hard or with an implement, and punishment is a trigger.” This is simple and to the point.
From there you can explore and see if maybe some implements are okay, but some aren’t. Maybe a few hard swats are fine, as long as it’s not too much all at once.
Maybe pretend punishment is totally hot, and you just need to know you aren’t really in trouble when you start off. There are lots of ways to explore the BDSM world safely while policing your own triggers. And if you are clear in your communication, you might find someone whose interests exactly match yours.
Not all Doms want to punish. Not all Doms want to beat your butt with a paddle until you’re black and blue. There are plenty who just enjoy giving a nice hand spanking. There are even Doms who don’t like to cause pain at all but prefer mental domination.
So, whatever your triggers and limits are, there are people out there who will be happy to play within those boundaries. You just need to make sure they know what those are.
And it goes without saying that anyone who isn’t willing to sit down and discuss limits up front, is not someone you should play with. Don’t compromise your safety to please someone else’s idea of how you should play. Those inner fears will try to trick you by saying that if you don’t give in to your partner you’ll disappoint them, but that shouldn’t be true.
As long as you’re mindful of what things can trigger you, there is no reason why you can’t have a satisfying experience within the BDSM community. And please, don’t think you’re alone. Not to be too blunt but there are plenty of people in the scene who are dealing with their own issues and traumas.
Sometimes… exterior pain can help you cope with things that have hurt you in the past. People who have been broken are drawn to BDSM. Only you can decide if you want to step onto that path, but if you do… there will be some corner where you will fit.
One last note… no matter how well you try to police your triggers, things will come up on occasion. It’s unavoidable, especially when you are skirting the edges of things that scare you. It’s not pleasant but it doesn’t have to ‘ruin everything’.
Work through the moment and then when you’re calmer try to deconstruct what happened and why.
It will help you in the long run to know what went wrong, and it will help the Top too, because in general when a bottom gets triggered during a scene the Top ends up feeling awful about it. It can help to understand that it wasn’t ‘them’ it was old baggage from a prior trauma.
I will say that while some people play without safewords, which is their choice as a consenting adult, I strongly advise against this if you have a lot of triggers and limits.
The Top should already know this about you, so they can be watching you closely for any signs of distress, but having the safeword can help you feel more in control. And it gives an extra layer of protection.