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"Therein lies a clue to good limits. Seeking information from more experienced Leather folks will help to insure that your limits are good ones. Don't be afraid to ask. We're always ready to give opinions. "

by Jack Rinella

I always get a kick out of guys who tell me they have no limits. Everyone has limits, even those fools who think they don't.

On the other hand, I tend to avoid those Leather folk who have limits to every thing imaginable. Sorry, Honey, or whatever your name is, your paranoia is getting in the way of having fun.

The one exception to my no-limit laughing is when it comes to a real slave with a real Master. I'm delusional enough to think that slaves ought not to have any limits, at least that's what I tell Patrick from the privacy of my bed. But Patrick can afford to be limitless on the sole condition that his Master respects his own (meaning the Master's) limits. After all, in this case the limits of the one safe-guard the other.

I sometimes think I don't have any limits. It's probably some macho-control thing in my subconscious. I do have them, of course. I have lots of them. Many are health-related, such as the safer sex things. Some are simply derived from common sense, others from experience.

Some are personal, based simply on preference, while others are rooted in morals, laws, or, frankly, just the desire to keep my good reputation.

The health-related ones are easily derived from a talk with your doctor or a visit to a place like Howard Brown or the Test Positive Awareness Network. It's mostly a matter of research, though there are some real gray areas where no amount of scientific investigation is going to give you one of those nice, clear-cut, black and white answers.

Life is like that, you know. And life's ambiguities creep into limits as much as they do into the stock market and Chicago weather.

So first off, don't fool yourself into thinking you have all the answers. 'Cause if you do, you'll find yourself wrong more than once. On the other hand, it doesn't help to be so anal-retentive, paranoid, and closed-minded that you're all bent out of shape. This is life. This is the way it is. Doing your best is always good enough.

There is, unfortunately, no such thing as a safe bet. So set your limits to ones that are realistic, healthy, and commonly accepted among Leather folk of good repute.

Therein lies a clue to good limits. Seeking information from more experienced Leather folks will help to insure that your limits are good ones. Don't be afraid to ask. We're always ready to give opinions.

Which, of course, leads to the next idea. Ask. Before you get out the door with a prospective date, find out what their limits are. Just knowing whether they've even bothered to think about them holds an indication of whether or not you want to play with them.

A person who doesn't know his or her limits probably doesn't have much Leather experience. Now there's nothing wrong with that, as novices are quite often lots of fun, but at least you'll know that they are novices and you'll be able to plan and proceed accordingly.

Chances are good that they're not ready of a night of blood sports, raunch, or scat. Here it's always best to find someone whose limits match yours. That makes for the best sex and the best SM.

Do you know what your limits are? Have you given thought to what is safe sex, to how much pain you can endure, to how much bondage (and for how long) you want, or exactly which fetishes you will bring out a resounding "No?"

Good Leather sex is based on planning, on reflection, on having the right information before you need it.

And limits go both ways.

Early on I was surprised to find out that I had limits when it comes to giving pain. Now the receiving side of the equation is pretty easy to understand, but since there is no pain on the giving side, it's a little harder. For me it meant over-coming some feelings I had about sadism and about accepting the fact that what I was doing was OK.

You see, just because my partner may want to go somewhere doesn't mean that I can, or want, to take him there. In this case it's up to me to say no.

That is an important idea. Not only are we free to say no, we probably should say no whenever we feel like it. There is nothing wrong with having limits. It doesn't make you any less of a person, a partner, or a member of the Leather world.

The operative word in the last paragraph is "feel." Sometimes it's not a bad idea to go by one's gut instincts. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. Better have missed one experience than to have a bad one.

The limits that have something to do with health or preference are probably easily derived and understood. Other limits have to be more thought out, though for most of us that's not a big problem. After all, most of us know whether or not we want to be flogged to blood or fisted to the elbow.

Limits can be learned. When we're new to the scene it's difficult to know what we like or don't. Unfortunately we usually have pretty poor imaginations and can't see ourselves ever doing such and such. My philosophy has always been to try something at least once. Having the experience of it is the best indication of whether I want to do it again or not.

And if you find yourself in a situation that pushes you too far, you can always just say "Stop."

Most people aren't like me, as if that's something that's not obvious. So they start with great caution and only over time to their limits change.

It's strange to think that now my limits have to do more with avoiding boring situations rather than dangerous ones. That's mostly because there really are few actually dangerous things in the Leather world. At least our world is no more dangerous than that of any other culture.

Case in point: Dahmer didn't pick up Leatherfolk for dinner. He picked up men who were drunk enough to ride a bus to Milwaukee with him.

Which brings me to one of my real limits: alcohol. Sex and drinking don't mix. If your prospective partner is drunk, find another date. And likewise, if you're under the influence, go home alone, in a cab.

Limits, you see, are mostly common sense and preference. They're relative, too, since how far you're going to go depends a great deal on whom you're with. Trust, after all, can lower your limits pretty quickly.

Just make sure you can live with yourself and your conscience the next morning.

Copyright 2000 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact

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