Pretty Tied Up: How do I set personal limitations?


Dear Mr. Bryan:

What are “limits” when talking about BDSM? I’m open to trying it with my ever-persistent girlfriend but I don’t know anything about it. She keeps telling me, “Don’t worry, we’ll both have limits that we will follow.”

–“Limited” Melissa

Dear Limited:

Your girlfriend is right, there are limits to BSM. In fact, “hard limits” and “soft limits” are terms used in this sexual sub-genre.

First and foremost, you need to decide what your hard limits and soft limits are. Limits are simply that — how far you’re willing to go before you reach your limit.

Hard limits are things you are never willing to do and never willing to compromise on.

They are usually based on an individual’s moral or religious beliefs. Some examples: nothing with life-threatening consequences, nothing with family members.

Sometimes hard limits are related to extreme personal preferences, like nothing with blood or fecal matter.

Once these limits are laid out, and it’s understood they’re respected by your partner(s), they typically aren’t talked about again.

That brings us to soft limits. These are existing limits that can, in the right situation, be negotiated.

Soft limits are things you’re not necessarily in to, but you may be open to once you try it.

Examples: I’ve never tried anal but I am willing to experiment, or choking seems scary but let’s start off lightly and see how it goes.

With more confidence, communication and experience, soft limits become sexual acts that one can be more open about exploring. However, they are off limits for now or until the needs of comfort and trust are met.

Soft limits might change, but it’s unlikely that hard limits will. No one should ever expect you to explore any “limits” unless you’re comfortable doing so.

So, Melissa, write out a list of your limits (both soft and hard) and get on with having a Pretty Tied Up kind of time. Most important of all, enjoy!


Dear Mr. Bryan:

My best friend says that when he can’t find a woman to be with, he uses autoerotic asphyxiation to get his sex kicks. I tried and failed, mostly out of fear of harming myself. I’ve heard that people die from this. I want to try it, but is there a safe way to do it? If so, how?

–Richard Hurtz

Dear Dick:

The simple answer is NO. You’re right to be fearful of autoerotic asphyxiation. It’s extremely dangerous and only suited for those willing to put their life at risk for a few moments of sexual pleasure.

For those who don’t know, autoerotic asphyxiation is asphyxia that results from intentionally limiting the oxygen supply to the brain while masturbating, in an attempt to heighten sexual pleasure. It involves strangling oneself, often by hanging.

My advice: Don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk.

Assuming you’re a college student and therefore not hip to taking advice, please do it with or around a trusted partner or friend.

Don’t use drugs or alcohol before or during the act, as this can make your sex act that much more dangerous. And, of course, don’t tie your belt or rope too tight.

Some deaths by asphyxiation occur simply because the victim made escape too difficult. Sad but true, although I can think of worse ways to go.

If none of my advice appeals to you, make like David Carradine and have a swingin’ good time.


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