I'm going to look at boundaries and edges over the next few weeks, because they keep coming up over and over and over again in a variety of different guises, in all kinds of kinky discussions I've been having lately. Whatever else BDSM and alternative lifestyes are "about" they involves people and their experiences, and it involves a lot of edges. Take polyamory. That's about the edges of relationships, the edges of traditional expectations about relationships, the edges of feelings. Take kink. It's about the edges of physical and emotional experiences, the boundaries between risk and thrill, between pain and pleasure, between consent and non-consent.
We live life on the edge, baby. But what does that mean, and how far can we go with it all?
Before I get into the ins and outs of submission, dominance, switching and all that jazz, I'm going to tackle the broader picture. The space that we have for ourselves, as people and for ourselves as kinksters is marked by where we place our boundaries. Think of it like the territory of where we live. The outlying regions mark uncharted areas. Places we haven't been yet are the fuzzy edges - we might fill in the blanks pretty soon. Places that we don't want to go to are harder edges - but that said, we still might go there. Edges are important therefore because we are the stuff inside them. If we don't understand our edges - what they are, why they are there, what might cause them to move, we don't really understand ourselves.
I have a number of "favourite questions" that I ask quite a lot: who are you and what do you want? Which makes me sound a bit like the special magic aliens from a certain sci fi show. They are big questions, serious questions and actually hard to answer with any degree of finality.
So if we can't really answer the questions, then what is the point of asking? Well, even if you can never, ever come to a definitive, final response, you can at least work out where you are right now. After all, we are works-in-progress, as is our kink. What we can say, if we have a good think about it, is who we are now. What we want now. If you don't know who you are, or what you want, then you will struggle to get it. Simple, really.
Me, I like getting what I want. And I like knowing who I am. So this is all a bit of an experiment in how I think. There are other ways of living life. There are other blogs. This one is mine.
Now, the method. This sort of thing can easily slide into naval gazing so an element of intellectual rigour plus someone else to shout "no!" repeatedly at you can help keep you honest on that front. Anything will do, as long as it actually delivers results. Captain favours large blank piece of paper and black markers, which has a certain charm. I tend to supplement introspective musings with this blog for example, which is both a snapshot of "what I'm thinking now" and a record of "what I thought then". Which is handy.
In other words, we can write down our current borders. We can probably also write down where we want to push these borders. We can even (if we really, really think about it) draw a line between the two and mark out an adventure for ourselves. This gives us the framework for what (we think) we want. Equally, it might not. Life is like that. Insert platitude here. But the important thing is to be an active participant in the journey - to be aware of what is going on.
Self awareness is a big turn-on for me and I push for it in all my relationships because "knowing where I stand" is a key factor in my own sense of self worth (am I doing everything I can do to be as good as I can be with the options available to me?) and general place in the universe. Awareness is a good word to flag up here. Because our little list of what we want needs to be an aware list. We need to know what it is that we are talking about, what lies behind the stuff we want and what it actually is in order to know whether we can have it, and perhaps whether or not we should.
Ethics. Personal morals, perhaps even societal morals. The legal system. The opinion of family and friends. The impact on those around us. A big, big pile of considerations. Our awareness must go beyond what lies behind the simple, animal "what we want" and include the ramifications of getting it, both the process of getting it and how the world will look once we have it. These factors cannot always be identified in advance (the infamous known unknowns and unknown unknowns), but we can at least hang a question mark over them.
We can, of course, say that we don't care. And perhaps we don't. But that too is a conscious decision in the process of getting what we want and it's a factor in who we are. We have decided to be the person who doesn't care about their impact. And if so, we need to own and accept that, and all that comes with it. We don't live in a vacuum. What we do has a knock-on effect that ripples far beyond us and can often come back to us. Even if we have the empathy of a brick, it is the practical implications of consequences that might prevent us from doing certain things.
These form our very own edges. Every single person who we come into contact with will have their own, which are obviously different to ours (though the chances are if you come from the same society, have similar interests, you might have a lot in common). How we work with other people's edges will be the next thing I talk about.