When a Boundary is Crossed in Your D/s Dynamic
Let's get one thing out of the way first:
Crossing a Boundary Isn't Always Clear
The thing about kink and human relationships is that they can get messy - and quickly. Human emotions are complicated and constantly changing. Discussing sex and desire can be difficult with a partner - even with open communication. Sexual desires - and arousal - don't always match up with an actual, realistic interest in doing a thing - or even a concrete understanding what the real thing will feel like.
And of course, many people are raised to be "polite" - even if that means gently pushing past what is comfortable for themselves in the interest of pleasing someone else.
All of this comes together to make boundaries - as important as they are - something that may not be as simple to respect as we think they will be when we find ourselves approaching that boundary during play.
There are a lot of ways that can play out.
When you're hot and bothered, the activities on the other side of that boundary may sound hot - even if your logical brain knows you'll regret it later.
When you're deep into a scene and everything is going amazingly, you may not feel comfortable speaking up for fear of destroying the entire scene.
A previous discussion about a willingness to try things on the other side of that boundary might have led to a misunderstanding - even though no one is trying to cross a boundary.
I bring all of this up for a very important point: crossing a boundary doesn't have to be a malicious, red-flag-inducing act. Sometimes it happens with the best of intentions. A mixture of factors can come together to make boundary crossing a very real possibility at some point in your kink journey.
But yes, boundaries can be crossed with malicious intent, and if that's the case, please check your relationship for other red flags and proceed accordingly. (It might be time to end that relationship!)
But for many kinksters, crossing a boundary is a rocky, uncomfortable road that may happen without harmful intent. And when that happens, let's talk about how to move forward:
First, Talk About It
As soon as you're comfortable having a discussion about the experience, both you and your partner should sit down and talk about what happened. Depending on how the scene went, your partner may not even be aware that something has happened that made you uncomfortable!
This is not the time to assign blame - honestly, there is never really a great time to assign "blame". Blame can lead to resentment, and if this boundary crossing wasn't made with ill-intent, argumentative, blame-focused arguments are more likely to lead to frustration within your dynamic – and some lingering resentment.
Instead, this is the time to stick to the facts. You don't need to share your deep thoughts - or come up with a plan for the future.
This may look something like this:
"Hey, when we did that thing the other night, I really wasn't comfortable with it. I'm still a little upset that it happened in the first place, but I don't think we did it while assuming it would make me uncomfortable. I'm still comfortable in our relationship, and I'd like to continue our dynamic. Can you give me a week or two to think on things before we have a full conversation about it?"
Your partner may have some questions about what happened, and you can provide facts. But resist the urge to dive deep into everything right now. It's all raw, and with all of the emotions running through you right now, tensions can make this conversation an unproductive, angry one.
So, give your partner enough information that they feel secure in your relationship and their standing (notice how we mentioned that we don't want to end the dynamic in the example above?), but also let them know that something is up, you'll need to talk about it, and you need some time.
I want to be clear: either partner can initiate this conversation. If you feel uncomfortable with something that happened - whether you're the top or the bottom, the person who did the action or not, the person with the boundary or not, you can (and should!) follow these steps.
Take Some Time to Process
After your initial conversation, there is going to be a lot of emotions going on inside of you. You might feel guilt over some responsibility you feel. You might feel discomfort over causing mental or physical pain to your partner - or you might feel discomfort over the fact that your partner caused that to you. You might feel terrible for not using a safeword - or for letting the scene go to a point that required a safeword to begin with. You might feel something else entirely.
There are a whole lot of emotions that pop up when something like this happens.
And it's easy for me to tell you to "process" - but the word "process" doesn't necessarily encapsulate the emotions you might run through. You might want to throw things. You might want to hide under your blankets. You might want to end the relationship purely out of shame.
There's a lot of stuff that's going to pop up. As you go through this, please take care of yourself. Use your self-care practices to your advantage. Talk to a professional if you need to. Cry. Throw yourself into some strenuous activities to work out your frustration. Throw yourself into meditative, repetitive activities to give your brain a break. Be patient with yourself, and avoid adding too much stress to your plate if you can help it.
If you and your partner are communicating, physically seeing each other, or playing, try to keep your scenes and activities well within your comfort level. Stick to the cuddles, activities, and kinks that are everyday, tried-and-true comfort favorites.
Take the time you need to process. This will be different for every person. To respect your partner's feelings, make sure you check in and keep them updated if you need longer than you originally quoted them.
Talk About It Again - and Share Your Feelings
When you're both ready (and it's possible the other person may need more time!), you can both come back together to discuss what happened in detail.
Avoid assigning blame. Even if there's direct responsibility involved, playing the blame game is likely to put someone on the defensive. This can make it even harder to have an honest discussion about what happened.
Instead, you're both here to talk about what happened - and how you feel about what happened. What feelings have you been feeling over the last week that you're comfortable sharing with your partner? Try to view this conversation as a collaborative approach to what happened – not an “I did, you did” view.
Statements like this can help:
- "Over the last week, I've been feeling a lot of _________ because we ___________"
- "I really like the idea of ______, but I'm _______"
- "In our scene, in that moment, it felt ______, but now that we're not in the middle of play, I feel ________"
- "I felt some discomfort when we ______ "
- "I felt ____ when we ________...."
This exact conversation will look different for every dynamic - and will even look different if you're a duo versus a group. It's all about ensuring each person feels heard, learns how the other people felt, and is open and honest about what happened.
While we're avoiding assigning blame, this conversation may prompt one (or more than one!) person to apologize. Very few crossed boundaries happen in a vacuum, and it's possible that particular steps within your scene caused the boundary to be crossed - even if neither of you saw it coming.
For example, loud music may have sounded (and felt!) amazing for everyone at the time, but it wasn't until this conversation that you both realize that it may have contributed to a boundary being crossed.
Apologies are normal (and encouraged!) if they feel right. In the end, though, this conversation is about making sure everyone involved in the scene feels like they've been heard, understood, and supported through what has happened. We'll worry about the next steps in a future conversation.
Remember: even if you're playing casually without any expectation of commitment, open and honest communication - and your mental feeling of safety! - are not optional. If your partner refuses to have this conversation, consider whether this is a healthy relationship for you.
Give It Time
Depending on how the second conversation went, you both may want to take a bit more time. Dredging up what happened, and making it fresh again, can bring up a lot of the original emotions - and that can feel really draining!
It's optional, but you both may want to spend a few more days letting the emotions settle before having the mental energy to tackle how you both will work together to change things going forward.
Come Up With a Plan to Avoid This Happening in the Future
Now that some of the most intense emotions have been sat with, thought through, and talked through, it's time to move onto the logistical side of things.
What happened, and how can we keep it from happening again?
Explore all of the factors that went into the scene that may have been out of the ordinary.
- Was it later - or earlier - than you usually play?
- Was there louder music than usual?
- Was alcohol - or drugs - involved?
- Was someone feeling sick or less-than their usual selves?
- Were you in a new location?
- Was there more stress going on than usual?
- Was someone observing your scene?
- Was one of you distracted or multitasking?
- Was it harder to communicate for some reason - like music or gagging?
- Were you trying to meet some "goal" or "training regiment" that was new?
- Were you trying a new toy or new activity?
- Had a previous conversation left some ambiguity around the boundary?
Remember: everyone gets a say in this conversation. It's near-impossible to know what was going on in someone else's head until you hear it directly from them. It may turn out that they were trying to impress you for your birthday - while you were entirely unaware of that fact!
With all of those answers in mind, come up with a gameplan to avoid this happening again in the future. Your gameplan will be unique to the circumstance - and your relationship - but some potential ideas may include:
- The top checking in more often - and receiving verbal or physical confirmation from the bottom before letting the scene continue.
- Setting new boundaries or limitations that are further away from the activity that was uncomfortable.
- Avoiding any activities in the near future that are adjacent to the activity that was uncomfortable.
- An agreement to only do online play over video calls in the future to ensure everyone is always on the same page.
- Setting up faux scenes with the expectation that the bottom will use their safeword to help them get comfortable disrupting a scene.
- Changing where your scene takes place – like removing music, play parties, or scenes in the kitchen
- Changing your pre-scene negotiation to only do activities on an "allowed" list - versus allowing all activities aside from where boundaries are set.
- An agreement to only do online play during times where you both can dedicate, 100%, with no multitasking involved.
Remember: there's no reason either of you need to jump into kink - or anything near the activity that caused discomfort - anytime soon.
Give your minds, bodies, and relationship some time to heal and repair.
This has happened to hundreds of thousands of kink couples, and they've gotten through it. With time, patience, communication, and a willingness to make it work, you can too.
Mistress Kay lives in the world of sexuality and kink. With a house that's quickly running out of space for things that aren't sex books and sex toys, she spends what free time she has writing femdom help articles (https://kinky-world.net/category/bdsm-advice/femdom-advice/), trying the latest and greatest in sex toys, and exploring the sexual universe with her partners. She can be reached at Kinky World (https://kinky-world.net/).