Pushing the Limits

By on March 17, 2010

Dear Patrick
Is it normal for someone to play at heavier and heavier levels as they are in the scene? I find myself doing things that I wouldn’t have thought possible in the beginning. Sometimes it scares me a little, or I feel ashamed the next day. I don’t know if that is just old conditioning or if I should really be concerned. Where is the line? How do I know if I have already crossed it?
Sensation Slut

Dear Sensation Slut
It’s common in the heat of the moment to agree to do things that turn you on which you might regret the next day. You might also be experiencing normal fatigue after a big night out—a sort of hangover, if you will—and allowing that fatigue to lead you into some negative places. I’m not sure exactly what kind of play you do. Whether the play is physically intense or emotionally risky or both, it usually takes much less time to do the sexual activity than it does to recover from it and get your energy back up to normal levels.

Put your limits down in writing. Write what you are always willing to do, what is sometimes possible or negotiable, and what is off-limits. Also describe the three things you need to have happen in order for a scene to be satisfying. Then write an account or a list of what you did in your last problematic scene. Compare the two and see how far you went across your own lines. Do this when you are in a good mood. I’d like to take this one step further, and have you describe what you did that you are now questioning. Did you let some flagellation go on for too long, or did you agree to the use of an implement that creates more pain or bruising? Did you allow certain kinds of verbal play or fantasy to go on that you wonder about now?

You can get some useful information out of this exercise. Either you need to change your stated limits to accommodate your new style of play, or you need to reassert them. Talk to the person(s) who top you and ask for a scene that falls strictly within those limits. Tell them that’s where you want them to stop even if you ask for something else. Then see how you feel that evening and the day after. Are you glad you listened to the boundaries you set, or are you frustrated?

You asked if newcomers tend to play more heavily. I have seen that happen over time. But I’ve also seen people who find their level and pretty much stick with that. In the physical aftermath of a scene, have you ever needed medical attention—or wished you could get care, but were afraid to go to a doctor? Are you playing with people you dislike or don’t respect? Even if nothing life-threatening has happened so far, are you playing in situations where you could be in real danger? Are you fulfilling your sexual desires while respecting your own worth? Is the play making you feel better about yourself, or worse?

If you conclude that you are suffering from guilt from the past, a kink-aware therapist or some long talks with friends might help to exorcise that baggage. If you aren’t happy with the play, yet find yourself repeatedly doing things that aren’t good for you, you’ve got a problem with being sexually compulsive. In that case, feel free to write me back, and we can search for some resources.

You may simply be a heavy masochist or other type of bottom who is stretching, developing, and not getting enough aftercare or self-care.

Patrick Califia is a therapist in private practice in Northern California. His practice includes internet consultations as well as face-to-face psychotherapy. He is a prolific author who has published widely about BDSM and sexual politics. Patrick’s books include Macho Sluts, Sensuous Magic, and Public Sex: The Politics of Radical Sex.

This column is not intended to offer medical or legal advice. It is for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you need medical or legal advice, see a doctor or lawyer!

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