The Myth of the “No-Limits” Slave

Posted: September 23, 2015 by Isaac Cross in Advice, Learn Something, Philosophy

Image used in compliance with Creative Commons 3.0 License

Recently, an individual posted a journal entry claiming to be a “no-limits, 24/7 slave” to her Master. She was upset, because at a recent discussion group, she was told by a number of members of the group that there was no such thing as a “no-limits slave” and in fact that the expectation of 24/7-365 is unrealistic and a path to misery. She was upset about this because, from her perspective, they were denying her reality and failing to acknowledge the way that she expresses her submission.

(An undercurrent tone in her post suggested that she ascribed to the notion that “slave” and submissives are two totally separate groups that do not overlap, which I do not agree with, but that is another rant.)

Here is what I think.

I think the question of realistic expectations is important to understand and I think the person who raised that concern is correct. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the original person was wrong.

All of us are guilty of entering every situation with our own biases, preconceptions, and assumption. It is a trait inherent to being humans. That is a big part of what makes discussion groups like the one where this happened so important. Yes, to some extent, they are intended to make you feel safe and heard and understood, but they are also meant to challenge you to rethink the things you think you know.

So while she may be right that the members of the group were not seeing and hearing her, is it possible that, in her defensiveness, she may have failed to recognize a valid point that they were making.

When people talk about “24/7 no limits” dynamics, they usually mean two different things, depending on whether they are in them or not. And that is probably where the root of this disagreement lies.

When a person identifies as a “no limits” slave, what they probably mean is that they do, in fact, have limits, but that they are confident their master/mistress/owner/etc would never get anywhere near those limits and that they will never face a situation where they have to say no to anything. So, for all intents and purposes, the relationship is effectively no limits, even though it is not actually no limits. Any number of scenarios could be conceived to illustrate this but the one I used was this:

If you where late for something and you were driving, with you Master as a passenger, and because you were running late, he ordered you to drive as fast as your car could go and to run all the lights on the way, putting not only both of you at risk, but also everyone else on the roadway, including children, would you comply? Would you harm another person at your Master’s order?

I don’t think you would. I don’t think that any of these “no limits” slaves would comply.

A slave’s faith and love for their owner means that they believe they would never be put in that position or have to make that decision.

But when you say “No limits”, these other people are not hearing:

“No limits (Excepting, of course, for obvious limits liking harming others, involving children, and other common limits that don’t really need to be stated).”

They are hearing:

“I am making the claim that if my Master ordered me to shoot a five-year-old in the face, I would do it without hesitation.”

And they rightfully doubt that to be true. So when they make the pragmatic statement that “it is impossible to have no limits”, perhaps you should cut them some slack and realize that what they are saying is actually true. They, in turn, should cut you some slack and acknowledge that everyone knows you don’t really mean NO limits. You just mean PRACTICALLY no limits. Which is a very different thing. But you don’t want to say PRACTICALLY no limits, because that doesn’t serve the fantasy and allure of your chosen relationship style.

I think if both sides of discussions like these were more willing to meet in the middle, the discussions might be more productive and fulfilling for those involved.

The first step for the “no-limits” slave in question would be acknowledging that, no matter what she has negotiated in her relationship, she is still a human being, still makes choices, and still has agency as an individual. She is still responsible for her choices and as such, she still has limits. If all of that were not true, there would be no point to her, because she would be a robot, not a slave.

The first step for the other “not-no-limits” folks is acknowledging what “no limits” means to a person who identifies that way and not have to get hung up on the semantics of that all the time. Once everyone in a discussion knows and understands what someone means when they say “no limits”, that should be good enough.

After all, we are making all of this up. There are no rules to power exchange relationships that determine what is valid or not except the consent of the participants. So if the nature of your relationship is that you do not ever say “no” to anything, that is perfectly valid. And nobody should tell you different.

However, these “no-limits” slaves need to acknowledge that there are hypothetical situations where you would say “no” and you need to ask yourselves if you will still be able to do so when/if that moment comes? Or will you find yourself defending some indefensible action with the words, “I was just following orders”.

Because, historically speaking, that has not gone so well.

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