Being slapped in the face used to be one of my hard limits. I work hard for my skin to glow the way it does, and who has time for other people’s skin oils touching you, let alone marks? And what if someone saw it? I’m not trying to explain or justify my sex life to my colleagues (says the sex columnist). I was just fine with marks anywhere else on my body — but not on my face. Even the thought of it stressed me out. So nope, never, not gonna happen.
And then… Alex and I were playing together. I was being a brat and making her work at her domination. I kept teasing, “Is that all you’ve got?” I laughed in her face. I squirmed in my restraints. It was fun — we were playing with each other and our power dynamic and I was loving every moment. Right in the middle of things, she told me that I deserved to be slapped and I enthusiastically agreed.
The thought of being slapped used to fill me with fear. What if it hurt too much and I started to cry in the middle of sex? What if I hated it but couldn’t tell my partner? I didn’t want something to happen during sex that might turn me off from having any kind of sex ever again. But the thing about limits is that while some of them can be hard and fixed, sometimes even those ones can change.
Often, I kinkshame myself. Some of my limits have more to do with other people and what they’ve said than with me and the way I want to have sex. People don’t often think about how much their offhanded comments about sex can penetrate a person’s mind. I didn’t want to be slapped in the face because I didn’t want to deal with other people’s opinions of me and the way I have sex. Being slapped meant that there might be a mark, and if other people saw it, they might have questions. I was uncomfortable with the thought of having to answer questions about my sex life; how do you, say, explain to someone you only know in a professional context that you wanted your bruises?
However, by centering other people’s questions and opinions around a potential bruise, I was bringing other people into my bedroom and allowing them to determine my desires. The only people who belong in the bedroom with me during sex are the people I’m having sex with. Being in the moment is what makes sex exciting for me, and I can’t be in the moment if I’m wondering what Jan is going to think about my new marks.
Sex doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but what if during the act, it did? What if all I focused on during sex was consent and pleasure? What if I stopped thinking about what other people thought about the sex I was having and just thought about what I wanted from our sex? How might it become more authentic and enjoyable for me and my partner?
Thinking about kink and sex as a vacuum, at least in the moment, helps me when my inclination is to bring all of society into bed with me and my partner(s). When I really focus on my desires, limits change and shift because in the moment, sometimes you want something that you didn’t know you wanted before. If I’m only focused on my partner and our enjoyment of the experience, limits, even those I may have thought of as hard limits, can and do change.
But change doesn’t mean there can’t or shouldn’t be conversation. Alex didn’t just slap me in the face, and if she had, I probably would’ve immediately used my safeword and stopped our play. The way she brought it up gave me the opportunity to say no, or yes. It doesn’t always work that way — sometimes you need to talk things through totally separate from the act — but once in a while, at least for me, you need the experience to realize that you want to test a limit. That moment changed my feelings about getting slapped, but it wasn’t until I gave enthusiastic consent that she actually slapped me.
What I’m getting at is that in thinking critically about sex and kink, it’s important that we don’t just think critically about how our sexual activity functions within a greater society, but that we think about how it feels in our bodies and minds. For me, limits are often societally driven — this isn’t everyone’s truth, just mine — and thinking about them that way has made me more willing to try new things with partners I trust. When I let Alex slap me, I didn’t think about the worksheets I’ve got filled out about things I’m willing and not willing to try, I just felt excited. I let my excitement drive my decisions and it completely shifted the things that I thought I was into. Y’all sex is so much fun when it’s new and always changing. It’s fun when you let it be whatever it wants to be between you and your partner(s). I’m not going to let society kinkshame me into having boring sex and neither should you.
Editor’s note: Kinkshaming will not be tolerated in the comments.