One way I describe our dynamic is: no safewords, no limits. This descriptor has worked better than anything that has a broader spectrum attached. On the one hand, that descriptor is exactly what it says on the tin and gives an idea of the root of things easily. But, let me elaborate, because there are a lot of points attached that most people don’t think of.
No safewords, no limits is, for us, the natural extension of me not being allowed to say no. I don’t often specify that, because it’s basically implied in the contexts I’m usually in. If you think about it, most vanilla relationships have no safewords, no limits, but that’s because they just use the word no. I’m not usually using the phrase in that sort of context though.
For us, the nature of this dynamic is that we don’t really negotiate. We might talk about things, and sometimes if I express hesitancy, Mistress takes it into consideration and backtracks, or changes something. Maybe the point of the thing discussed was she thought I would like it, or I provide information she wasn’t aware of, like a specific concern. Sometimes she doesn’t backtrack or change anything.
The point isn’t that she always ignores my preferences, but that she is always well within her rights to do so. It would be hard for her to manage to never do things that I like, and that isn’t her goal. The goal is that she gets what she wants from me without limitations—and sometimes what she wants from me is for me to be happy. Sometimes she wants something else, and she doesn’t need to justify it or negotiate for it.
I sometimes say things like, “That would be a hard limit if I had hard limits.” Because when I say I don’t have limits, I don’t mean I’m so kinky that I would never have objections to anything. I mean that I’m a slave who has given up the right to those objections and limits. It’s the difference between having a favorite ice cream flavor and actually being allowed to choose which ice cream to eat.
Something that I don’t see discussed about dynamics like this as much is… well, anything that’s not play. (And there could be dynamics like this that don’t involve play at all.) While some of the most dramatic sounding examples of this dynamic might take place in a dungeon, there are plenty of things in life people might want to place limits on that don’t happen in a scene.
Let’s say, doing chores. In the most vanilla sense of the word chores. Dishes, laundry, things like that. Maybe putting some clothes in the washing machine hasn’t made a lot of people call a safeword, but if this dynamic is for the rest of your life, there are things to consider. Maybe the washing machine is in a not-temperature-controlled area, and it’s below freezing or it’s a hundred and fifteen degrees outside. Maybe you’re so tired you feel like your body is vibrating in protest of being upright, and there’s a sink full of dishes to be done. No safewords, no limits, no “no” applies to those situations just as much as it does to a type of whip you’re not inclined to.
The same thing goes for rules and protocols. There’s no safewording out of having to kneel on the floor on an aching joints kind of day. There’s no setting a limit to prevent a rule about what you can eat that might eliminate favorites or require foods you hate. Think bigger—life choices. Career, schooling, moving? Suddenly whip types seem like a smaller problem.
Mercies may be granted, but they are not in your control anymore. I actually think that largely, Mistress is easier on me than I am. I’ll be forcing myself through a chore or whatnot, I might not ask to get out of it, I might even reject an offer to be let out of it. She sometimes stops offering to let me rest and starts ordering me to go to bed instead. … And I realize how right she is as I almost black out on the way there. Of course, the flip side is that if I do ask to get out of something, she can always say no.
Also consider some other general good practices of BDSM that no longer apply when safewords and limits don’t. Aftercare? A heads up on certain things? Not guaranteed. Not being able to say no means that conditions can’t be put on things. So you can’t say, “Sure you can hit me with that, but only if we do this kind of aftercare/only if you let me know beforehand.” You can ask. You can’t demand.
A common misconception about this dynamic is that it usually involves yelling, “No! Red!” and being ignored. That’s not how my dynamic works at all. It’s not about saying no and being ignored—it’s more about just not saying no. The reality is that as much as I might want to say no to something in particular, I don’t want to say no to Mistress in general, and that’s better to keep in mind. Not whining is a better goal for me than making her overpower me constantly. She might want to have to overpower me in some situations, but not all the time.
If I don’t feel up to sex, the sex doesn’t look like rape play; it looks like having sex where I’m not aroused, and might not be able to act like it. Maybe it looks like me making a lot of pained noises of the bad sort. Sometimes Mistress will decide to stop, this isn’t what she wants right now; sometimes she won’t, but will hold a water bottle to my lips after and leash me to the bed for a nap. Sometimes, she won’t stop and falls asleep basically immediately afterwards herself.
Big point is that my slavery is not about me, and I would not want it to be. I don’t actually “hold all the power”, we’re not equals “at the end of the day” or “underneath pretenses”, and it would be impossible to “take off our roles” whether we wanted to or not. And internal enslavement means that it’s not just her or external circumstances dictating my obedience, but my own mind.
This all makes consent as a concept messy and complicated, but for us that’s okay. It’s not for everyone or every dynamic. As I said, I’m not universally a no-limits person, nor was I always necessarily capable of having such a dynamic; but now, in the context of my dynamic, I am. It takes having the right emotional balance on both sides, and the ability to keep it within our own dynamic.
If Mistress were to say yes to everything I want, to give in every time I was suffering in any way, we couldn’t have a functional M/s dynamic as we define it. She has to be able to pick her own methods over what society teaches us about courtesy and compromise. She can choose to observe those things if she wants, but if she feels bound by them every time, she’s not actually controlling things.
For my part, I have to be able to deal with it in a way that makes it easy for her to choose her own methods, not fixate on the concept of fair or treating others as you want to be treated. I can’t just technically never say no but try to whine and wheedle my way out of anything and everything I don’t like. It helps to be flexible, able to find things to like in a situation and handle it even if I can’t.
For us, no safewords/no limits works as a style and a quick descriptor—this is my elaboration.