Negotiating Your Limits with the Shadow Line
Chakrubs’ Shadow Line is meant to help us honor the “dark” side of our sexuality, the side that we sometimes hide from or suppress. Though intimidating at first, exploring these parts of the self will ultimately lead to more satisfying sexual encounters and encourage us to be more honest about our needs — both in and out of the bedroom.
If you’re curious about exploring the Shadow Line, but not sure where to start, negotiating limits with your partner beforehand can help ease nerves and ensure that you’re both on the same page. Though less common with “vanilla sex,” clear scene negotiation is a cornerstone of consent culture in BDSM and kink. Not only does it help weed out predatory partners, but it also ensures that well-intentioned, inexperienced people don’t hurt each other through miscommunications or assumptions.
Some people prefer to begin every session with a negotiation and others negotiate as needed, for example when a new toy is being introduced. At minimum, it’s a good idea to sit down with a new partner to establish your comfort level and create an environment where you both feel safe sharing your fantasies. It’s also helpful to talk about your current state of mind and any intentions before beginning a session.
To begin, figure out which role you’re comfortable playing and your expectations for those roles. If you’re the Dominant, the submissive might expect you to check in and make sure they’re not uncomfortable so as not to push them too far. A submissive’s responsibilities might include using a caution word to warn their Dominant when they’re reaching a limit.
Next, discuss your emotional and physical limits. For example, you might enjoy impact play such as spanking, but only consent to marks or bruises on certain places. Maybe you love to be spanked on your behind, but thighs are off limits. It’s also perfectly fine to not know! If you’re inexperienced with something, but curious to try, bring it up with your partner so that they can tread lightly. This would also be the point where you’d discuss any triggers, words, or role play scenarios you’re uncomfortable with. For example, perhaps you enjoy verbal humiliation, but refuse to be referred to as a “slut.”
It might seem obvious, but it’s also a good idea to discuss specific sexual contact. What protections will you be using and are either of you currently on birth control? Is vaginal sex an expectation for both parties? Which positions do you prefer and are any off limits? Do you both enjoy giving and receiving oral sex?
Finally, figure out a caution and safe word. A caution word is used when the submissive is approaching their limit to let the Dominant know to change their pace or try something different. Ideally, a safe word should never be used because the Dominant will be paying attention to the submissive’s reactions and won’t push them further than their agreed upon limits. While a caution word tells the Dominant to slow down or check in with their submissive, a safe word stops the scene entirely. The Dominant and submissive should then find a safe space to discuss what went wrong and comfort each other however necessary. A simple approach to choosing caution and safe words is to use traffic signals where yellow signals slow down and red means stop. If the submissive is gagged or otherwise unable to speak, you can signal your safe word through touch, for example a tap on the thigh to let the Dominant know you’re approaching a limit.
It might seem clinical, but negotiations can be sexy and fun! Think of it as a type of foreplay. Line up all of your toys on a surface and go down the list of what you might do with each one. The Talu is perfect for exploring sacred discipline and speech restriction. Cock rings can be used for bondage or orgasm control. Get creative and think outside of the box!
Here are a couple helpful negotiation guides to help get you started:
Feature Image by Alexandra Kacha