Dear Lani: Hard and Soft Lines

Welcome to this week’s Dear Lani, an advice column to answer all your kinky questions. Want to know how a guy gets fitted for a chastity cage? Want to know what gag reflex training looks like? We’ve got your answers, or at least advice…okay, opinion.

Q: I hear sometimes in reference to scenes and kinks, hard and soft lines? How are those lines defined and how to find out someone’s lines? What’s the difference in them and how do you make sure you don’t jump from one to the other during play?

A: This definitely a key thing to talk about with your play partner to prevent a scene from going from fun to danger zone. The Playgrounds series, especially in The Will to Serve, deals a lot with soft and hard lines/limits. So, let’s start by definitions of both.

Hards lines are limits that should not be pushed beyond. Sometimes it’s because the person had experienced a particular kink or play before and did not like it one bit. Sometimes, the person innately knows that it does not appeal to them at all. These are the hard “no’s”

Soft lines are kinks or plays that the person is hesitant about, mostly due to not having experienced it before. They may be nervous but curious (we’ll cover good nervous vs bad nervous later).

Note that nowhere do we use the term “Dom/me” or “sub”. That’s because both Dominants and submissives have these lines and both sides need to respect those lines. In addition, these lines may change. Something of a soft line may turn into a hard line after a particular experience. Hard lines may also change to soft as trust builds up over time. However, the change from hard to soft for a particular kink must always be driven by the owner of the line, NOT the partner. We cannot stress this enough. As a partner, respect the hard lines!

Let’s dive into that a bit more. Domme Shadow, for instance, has several styles that she would not do because she knows she would not enjoy. Her sub must then know not to ask her to do so. They may, however, ask for permission to try with someone else of her choice. 

So, how to read the lines? The hard lines in some way are easier. Talk talk talk. Communicate. Clear lines should be drawn before a play session. However, soft lines are a little harder. Let’s talk a bit about a submissive’s soft lines first. In a scene where soft lines are explored, the Dom/me should always check-in and ask whether they wish to continue for the sub themselves or for both themselves and their Dominant. Never for the Dom/me themselves alone. That’s because a sub should never be pushed solely for the Dominant’s pleasure and it’s easy for the sub to agree to that because of their eagerness to please. The Dom/me should also pay close attention to expressions. Watch and listen for signs of arousal and excitement. Nerves are one thing but facial expressions give it all away. There is a look of “I want to try but I’m scared.” That’s good nervous. Learn it.  In addition, the Dom/me also needs to evaluate themselves and see if they want to push their sub harder. 

A great analogy is whether the sub is going to be pushed into a brick wall or a paper banner. A paper banner is good. A brick wall is terrible. It’s good to think through and anticipate which one it would be. There may be times where the Dominant can see that brick wall coming, whether by posture, by the complete change in attitude and perhaps by the submissive going more on the offence. (Bad nervous!) Every person is different so it may take time to learn those signals.

And sometimes judgement will be wrong. That’s what safewords are for. Make sure it is clear that there will be no punishment, no consequences for using those safewords, for both parties.

So let’s move on to the Dominant. What if it’s their soft lines that are being tested? What if it’s the sub asking for a kink that the Dominant wasn’t sure about but they have agreed to explore it. (Hey, maybe that’s a reward for a sub!) First, before a scene, the Dom/me must learn more first about possible issues with the soft line. During the scene, the Dom/me should also continue to evaluate themselves. If something doesn’t sit right with the Dominant, it is likely a hard line. The sub must also understand that the Dom will call a halt to the scene if that’s the case (use Dominants, have and should use safe words too) and their respect and love for the Dom/me should outweigh their disappointment of missing out on a possible experience. Because with how much a good Dom/me makes a sub feel safe, the subs must be understanding in return.

We cannot stress enough the importance of not only knowing what are the hard and soft lines but also in how to respect them. Please please please talk it out beforehand when you’re venturing into this territory and keep each other safe while having fun.

Got a question?

Join the The Muse’s Touch Facebook group to submit your questions and join in on the discussion. Every Tuesday, we’ll be picking one question to answer for the following Monday.

Disclaimer: We are expressing personal opinions and views. These opinions or views are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional.

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