In the world of BDSM, hard limits are the things that you absolutely will not do. Hard limits vary from person to person. For instance, I’ve mentioned before that choking is a hard limit of mine. I refuse to engage in any kind of sexual asphyxiation activities, though for many others these are some of their favorite activities. In contrast, I love anal sex and am happy to engage in it, both giving and receiving. For the majority of women, anal sex is a hard limit.
When a former partner of mine violated my hard limits in multiple kinky ways, I was initially in shock. I didn’t understand how this man I trusted could do these things to me. He was a loving person toward me, so what was causing him to treat me with so little respect? When I asked him, he couldn’t explain it to me. I have since theorized that he has a fetish of violating women’s hard limits that stems back to his incredibly toxic relationship with his mother who violated his limits repeatedly. Perhaps his subconscious is taking it out on the women he dates since he doesn’t see a therapist to work on his major issues with his mother. Regardless of why he did it, though, this past partner violated my limits, and he knew what he had done was wrong in the aftermath.
The bottom line is that violating hard limits is sexual abuse. This is not something I’ve often seen explicitly expressed in the writing around hard limits that I’ve read. I’m sure it’s in part because the BDSM community is loath to associate anything they do with abuse. The vanilla world already struggles to understand how kinky people can enjoy things like spanking and bondage and how those things can be consensual and enjoyable.
Yet violation of hard limits is something that can happen in vanilla sex as well as kinky sex. The violations that this partner did to me were well within the kinky range, but I have had another past partner who violated my limits in very vanilla ways. When I told that man no, he would try the forbidden activity anyway because he didn’t really respect my feelings about it. He didn’t see why that activity was a problem for me, and his narcissism kept him from caring when his orgasm was his ultimate goal at that point.
Whether it’s done in a kinky situation or a vanilla one, violating someone’s hard limits is absolutely not ok. No means no. Yes means yes, and a yes should be given enthusiastically—a “fuck yes!” to any mutually agreed upon activity. When a partner crosses those limits, sexual abuse happens. Sexual abuse is NEVER ok. It doesn’t matter what the sexual abuse looks like. It’s a very clear violation of that person’s rights.
If a partner ever violates your hard limits, talk about it with the partner if it was a minor violation that might have come from a miscommunication. We’re all human, and mistakes do happen in the passion of the moment in sexual acts. However, if violations happen repeatedly, that’s not an accident. That’s sexual abuse. At that point, it’s time to leave the relationship if it is just a casual dating one. If it’s a marriage or committed relationship, a therapist is mandated at that point if you don’t choose to end things without further outside help. Regardless, drastic action needs to happen because sexual abuse is never ok.
I pray often for the new partner of the man who repeatedly violated my kinky limits. He says he has learned from what he did to me and has changed. Those are famous last words. Sometimes they are true. Often they are not. However, his new partner is very young—barely legal—and I know she isn’t going to have the strength to leave him if he starts sexually abusing her the way he did to me. I didn’t have the strength to leave the man who would sexually abuse me within the context of our consensual sexual relationship when I was her age. I didn’t even understand that what he was doing was abuse. Now, I’m clear on it, and no man will treat me that way again.