Pushing Boundaries Without Breaking Limits

I’ve taken a little snip from a thread on Fetlife that encapsulates a common viewpoint of Domination that I think contains both myth and jargon:

… its important to realize that we also have to push boundaries to help a sub grow. Otherwise you stay in your little box and never get outside it. That doesn’t mean we ignore limits – but it does mean we expand outside your “comfort zone” …

What does this mean exactly?


The whole idea that a Dom’s role is to “help a sub grow” is flawed in so many ways. In a D/s relationship between two healthy adult people, it’s really hard to find a logic in it.

Certainly, I think in any healthy relationship (regardless of the dynamic) there is a place for supporting your partner and providing strength and momentum for their goals and dreams. And often in D/s there is a place for a Dominant making clear what they want and how they like things done (which might be labelled “training”). I think you could “gamify” all that, if that helped you to provide context for your dynamic and made you both feel good, but that’s very different to saying it’s an important role of the Dom to guide the growth of their submissive.

Many people get into D/s relationships because they want their “boundaries” pushed. They hope they’ll be able to release inhibitions and have new, exciting, sexy experiences. They hope their partner will help them be the version of the self they would like to be. But, it’s very important when saying this that we are both on the same page about how we define “boundaries”, because I am using the word in a different way to “limits”, and if you see the two things as being the same then we are on a fast track to consent violation. By my definition, they’re not limits at all, just self-imposed limitations that that person would actually like to break through.


The mind of man stretched in a new direction never regains it’s former condition.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes

When you talk about pushing limits, you’re flirting with consent violation, and even in a CNC relationship you are considering crossing lines that your partner has drawn for a reason. When someone says they have a hard limit, they are asking you not to cross that line, and when they say they have a soft limit they are reserving the right to negotiate that thing (and perhaps say no) at the time you approach it. To consider either of those areas to be your playground puts you in danger of breaking trust (and perhaps breaking more than that).

I am defining “boundaries” in a different way.  Not so much in the sense that you might say “I have drawn my boundaries here” (that would be “limits”), but in the sense of the edge of our experience or abilities. The furthest we have been. Like the boundaries of a map. In this sense, we are saying that if someone else knows more about something or can expose us to that thing in a way that we might enjoy or understand it better, then we are open to that experience. These are areas where we have boundaries, some of which we may not even recognize we have, but when we come to them we have the feeling that stretching them would be a good thing for us.

It would be very dangerous to misinterpret what someone calls boundaries when they mean (hard or soft) “limits” with what someone calls boundaries when they mean “extent of my experience”. They’re very different concepts. When someone says they “want their boundaries pushed” they are nearly always talking about the latter. If you make the mistake of trying to stretch the boundaries of a submissive into areas that are their limits, especially their hard limits, you run the very real risk that whatever trust they have built with you will be damaged or totally lost.

How does a Dom know which boundaries to push? Excellent communication within your relationship, and enthusiastic ongoing consent.


• Deviance & Desire – Submissive Worksheet: Needs & Wants (long)
• Deviance & Desire – I Wanna Push Your Limits
• Sacred Liminality – Limits vs Boundaries: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?
• Charlie Glickman – What Does Pushing Boundaries in BDSM Mean?
• Kinkly – Definition: What Does Pushing Limits Mean?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *