Can Bondage help you understand your sexual boundaries?

Can Bondage help you understand your sexual boundaries?

Written by: Liz Goldwyn

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Published on: November 17, 2022

Especially in heterosexual relationships, there is little or no discussion of sexual boundaries. Many of us women are so used to pleasing other people that we often do things out of guilt rather than desire. Many of us learned this as children: we were taught to hug people we didn’t really want to hug, to care about other people’s satisfaction over our own, and to prioritize doing well for our parents or teachers. And we carry that teaching into our adult friendships, relationships and sex life.

When I think back on my early sexual experiences – as I did for my latest book, Sex, health and consciousness-I realized that I had no innate concept of boundaries at all. It’s hard to speak up about what feels right to you (and what doesn’t) when you’re a teenager and you feel like you’re going to be judged for not doing something that everyone else seems to be doing . Or when the only communication from your partner is them wordlessly pushing your head down so you give them oral.

Maintaining our sexual boundaries is a constant practice that most of us are not trained in. But there are so many amazing people who teach professionally about building boundaries – especially mistresses of the ropes who work with bondage as a healing modality. Many of their clients are people reclaiming their bodies after trauma or assault. When you work with a professional, before anything else happens, you have a thorough discussion about what your boundaries look like and what form your experience can take. It can be a powerful tool for learning and talking about your boundaries.

Understand your limits

If you are into meditation or yoga, you may be familiar with the practice of staying present in your body. Bondage can be a useful tool in the same way. In bondage you must be present. You have to breathe. You need to understand where your edges are and be able to share them with your partner or GP. Many people don’t have practice naming their boundaries like that—or even knowing what their sexual boundaries are.

This is how it might look in practice: Pause and notice what you feel in your body and where. Where do you feel that discomfort, that fear or that shame? Do you feel it in your chest? Are you restricting your breathing? Do you feel it in your stomach? In your intestines?

Once you’ve identified what you’re feeling and where, examine it. Try asking yourself a question about where the feeling is coming from. Who am I trying to impress? Or: What am I trying to prove? We are our own worst critic. We constantly judge ourselves. If I’m in a situation and I think, oh my god, they’re going to think I’m so fat because I’ve never been tied up before, it raises the question of whether I feel comfortable in that situation. Am I overstepping my bounds to impress this person? Am I being honest with myself? Because if you don’t feel safe, you can’t let go and truly experience your own pleasure.

Communicate your boundaries

It’s hard to speak up for your boundaries when you feel insecure or when you feel like you’ll be judged for not doing something. And I see insecurities come up a lot: In my work around sex, 80 percent of the questions I get start with some form of “I know, I should have figured this out by now,” or “I feel it’s too late for me.”

The reality is that there is no guidebook given to us at an early age on how to deal with our sexuality or our bodies. We all have to accept that we are where we are. And that’s the exciting thing about sex, anyway: We’re never done learning about it. In the same way that you get to learn how to cook some fancy French food, can you come to sex excited about approaching something new? Can you experience being tied up for the first time with a beginner’s mind, rather than expecting to come out of the gate as a mistress of the ropes?

We haven’t learned to talk about sex. We have been taught that it is shameful and taboo, so most of us are not practiced in it. When you start talking about it, it’s like stepping into an ice bath for the first time; once you get started it gets a lot easier. And the more of a safe container you can create, the more you can let your freak flag fly.

In bondage, you discuss your limits beforehand. Because if you’re playing in a space where there are risks involved, you don’t want to push anyone past their limits. So you’re talking about the specifics of what you’re comfortable with and uncomfortable with: This is where I don’t want to be touched. I am interested in getting as close to my edge. I’m interested in my feet being tied, but I want my hands free. Or: I’m going to ask you to go a little harder, but if I say the word “yellow” it means stop.

The detailed conversation is a standard practice from the kink room that anyone can apply to their gender. And it’s done in good time, like when you’re out to eat or sitting with your coffee. It’s not five minutes before your partner is wrapping their headphone cord around your wrists.

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