Reader Letter: Second Thoughts After Pushing A Limit

We have our second ever reader letter! SecondThoughts is brave enough to share their experience with exploring limits and what can go wrong.

Hi Miss Pearl,
First off, long time lurker, first time poster. Me and my play partner, are both newish to BDSM. We were discussing for something trying to push one of my limits. but when came to try it I started having second thoughts. For a number of reasons, I didn’t say anything and while everything turned out fine, it still left me feeling uncomfortable that I hadn’t said anything.


To get to the question. Is there anyway you recommend, for telling your dom that you may be having second thoughts or that you need more time to be mentally ready. Without completely breaking the mood or pulling out your safeword? I know honesty is the best policy, just wanted to get the opinion of a more seasoned person. Thank you for reading,


Hi SecondThoughts!

It’s always a challenge when you’re on the fence about something- especially with the pressure to expand limits and boundaries ( is particularly guilty of this one, trying to get extra oomph from declarations like ‘limits are mostly mental’). But your limits are part of your ability to consent. People who are incapably of saying no can’t say yes.

For those of you who are completely new to kink, a limit is a “nope, no way, can’t do it” act or behaviour. It can range from the sensible (no children, pretty much everyone’s default limit) to the highly specific (no face slapping!). Some people further break down limits into hard limits and soft limits. The former means something that will never, ever happen and the latter means that the person might be open to doing it, in a long term, supportive situation where they feel safe.

Limits exist for lots of reasons. Maybe you have a medical problem that makes it impractical to do a particular thing like prolonged bondage, an allergy or a phobia. Maybe something is particularly sensitive. Sometimes it’s something the person just isn’t comfortable with, no complicated explanation needed. Some people enjoy the idea of playing “without limits” or feel that their limits interfere with their ability to submit. There’s a word or someone who is literally down for being murdered, and that’s not romantic and trusting. In practice the ‘no limits’ crew get away with it basically by relying on the dom to have the limits. Playing with the fear ‘what if s/he goes too far?!” is not my thing, although a lot harder to do in F/m anyway- especially if you are emotionally healthy with each other.

Less talked about, but just as valid, are a dom’s limits. My hard limits are kids, pets, permanent harm and things that could give you e-coli. Amputations and breaking laws are both things I have zero interest in doing or dealing with. I also have a bunch of things that I might do, but are decidedly edge play for me- for example decorative, lasting body mods. At this juncture I won’t have anyone branded/inked even if they ask nicely, but maybe with the right person who was already demonstrably into personal adornment and to whom I knew it was a long, healthy relationship, I might. I won’t take a single tail to someone either, but I might if I knew I wouldn’t put their or my eye out in the process.

From the context, SecondThoughts was trying to explore a soft limit and discovered that, during and after trying it out this clearly wasn’t something that worked for them. So, what to do? There’s a lot of pressure there on the sub- nobody likes feeling like you’re wishy washy, and even if your dom is very easy going, if you’re into obedience it can be emotionally hard for you to cry off mid-scene.

Sometimes things just don’t work out right in the moment and it’s not anyone failing, just not the right thing for that second. Many people use a multi-step safeword system for this reason. That’s the stoplight system red for ‘stop right now!’ and yellow or amber for ‘caution!’. You can discuss with your dom how best they want you to communicate when you’re just not feeling it. No reasonable dom wants to do genuine trauma to their partner so, while I usually don’t speak in ‘shoulds’, your dom should be understanding about this situation.

Psychologically speaking though,  it can also be easy to have pride in your ability to endure, so it can feel like you are failing when you admit that something is a bit much for you.  Things like pain thresholds can feel extremely competitive for people- with the perpetual war between “heavy” players and “soft” players. The counterpoint to feeling like what the dom says has to go regardless of your recovery after is that dominants are not telepathic.

On of humanity’s greatest strengths is our knack for communication- it extends from being able to function  between fundamentally different people who speak different languages, to being able to empathize outside of your species and guess what a dog is feeling or when a plant needs extra attention. However- even if you are hardcore into people as property, if you want to own someone, if your sub is a person that means one of the biggest gifts they can give you is their perspective.

Some of the tricks people use include asking the sub to keep a shared journal, or making a post-scene discussion part of aftercare. In an ideal world everyone would just be able to talk about stuff, but remember that there’s no shame in developing special rituals to make it easier to discuss things.

Now if you want a little more reading on the mechanics and function of safewords, I also recommend this post from Clarisse Thorn, who talks about Safewords and Check-Ins.

Just remember, accidents happen. It’s not just avoiding mistakes that is important, but how you handle things after something does go wrong.