Boundaries are sexy AF: Boundaries are NOT manipulation

Boundaries are sexy AF: Boundaries are NOT manipulation

Join any ENM or poly group on FB, and within the first five posts, probably four will have references to boundaries in the post or the comments. Maybe five.

And half (or more) will get boundaries wrong.

Because they will talk about boundaries that someone has about the other person’s autonomous actions.

I get it. It can feel like a very very fine line and a confusing one. After all, if I am affected, why can’t I set boundaries that include others?

Well, you can. It’s in how it’s framed, really.

Let’s get back to the basics. Boundaries are where you end and others begin.

Everything that is YOU can be a boundary. Everything that is THEM cannot.

Simple, right?

Well, no. Because as humans we tend to connect and entwine and grow together and affect each other in ways that blur

The Cupcake Conundrum

If they bring a dozen cupcakes into the house while you are on a medically-require liquid diet, that can deeply affect you, right? Right.

However, can “You can’t bring cupcakes into he house” be a boundary? Nope. It’s not a boundary, because it’s not about you. It COULD be a rule, and depending on your dynamic and negotiations, it could even be justified.

But it’s not a boundary.

What WOULD be a boundary in a situation like this?

Well, let’s say they offered you one of those deliciously light and fluffy cupcakes with the gorgeous multi-colored icing and sprinkles, and you said, “No thank you. I’m sticking to my MEDICALLY-REQUIRED diet (you asshole),” and they tried to talk you into it.

The “No thank you,” is your boundary.

Them then trying to talk you into eating a cupcake anyway is ignoring/trespassing/stomping on/smashing your boundary.

Because they are trying to affect you and your decisions with their actions. They are trampling your autonomy.

Which, to be fair, in kink, you may have given them that right.

(However, if they have that right and they use it to force a cupcake on you when you are on a medical restriction, they are indeed an asshole, and you may want to reconsider giving that kind of power to someone who will put your health at risk and/or ignore your personal boundaries when stated.)

Getting more serious with STIs.

Ok. Now lets get into deeper territory. You are nonmonogamous. Whether your partner is or not doesn’t matter in this scenario, but that they know and accept it as part of you does. You are open and (presumably) honest about it.

Your nonmonogamy includes sexual contact with others.

Which means a potential risk of STIs.

What are boundaries, what are rules, and what is possible manipulation in this case?

Is it a boundary for your partner to say, “You cannot have sex with anyone else without checking with me”?

Or what about, “You have to get a full STI panel before going past second base with anyone else”?

Neither of those are boundaries. They are rules. And they are potential manipulation and attempts to control your sexuality and behaviors when it comes to yourself, your body and your interactions with others.

And as rules and attempts to control, they may be valid, if you have the relationship dynamic that supports that.

Now, if YOU said, “I won’t have sex with anyone without checking in with Partner A,” that is a boundary, because it applies to you and your actions. If you also say, “I want to exchange full STI panels before going past second base with anyone,” that is also a boundary.

Seems simple enough.

BUT…it’s not. Because your partner IS affected by your actions. So, what can their boundaries be to help them feel safer?

All of these are boundaries and are totally fair and valid:

  • I will always maintain safe sex practices with you, and will never have sex without a condom/dam/whatever. (Yes, even if you have been fluid-bonded prior.)
  • I need to know when you have sex with someone and what protection you used/steps you took before you and I have sexual contact again.
  • I prefer that you take a shower between having sex with someone else and having intimate contact with me.
  • If you have unprotected sex with someone else, we will go back to having protected sex for whatever period of time it takes me to feel comfortable and safe again.
  • I need to feel sexually safe. If I ever feel unsafe or unsure, I may choose to start practicing safe sex with barriers, regardless of your actions or communication.

And so on. All of these are decisions made to protect their mental and physical health, and while they affect you (you may have to use barriers), they are boundaries for THEIR body. You are not forced to comply. You may then set the boundary that you will not engage in barrier sex, if you choose. Or that you don’t feel comfortable with hat relationship including sexual contact.

Those could possibly be manipulative reactions. They are also still 100% valid. Even if you are being a shitty person and intentionally punishing them for boundaries you don’t like or think are fair, your boundaries are still valid.

(Valid does not equal good, FWIW.)

Here are a few others examples of rules/manipulation/control versus boundaries:

Rule: You can’t watch horror movies.
Boundary: I don’t like horror movies, and I will not stay in the room with you if you choose to watch them.

Rule: You cannot use words like “slut,” “whore,” or “slag.”
Boundary: Words like “slut,” “whore,” and “slag” upset me, and if you use them around me knowing that they upset me, I’ll remove myself from your proximity and consider what my mental safety means to you.

Rule: You can’t have other submissives.
Boundary: I would feel insecure about our relationship if you had power exchange dynamics with others.

A few notes on semantics.

First, let me be clear: Anyone saying “That’s just semantics” is already wrong in my mind, because how we use words and the minor distinctions between them matter, a lot. Some postulate that they matter so much that how we use words actually changes how our brains develop.

That said, some people use rules and boundaries interchangeably. I hope I’ve shown they are not the same in word or in practice.

However, what about an agreement? To me, and agreement is a rule that both people consent to, or a boundary that is shared between two people.

And an ultimatum? Well, stating a boundary can be used as an ultimatum, “If you do X, I will Y,” but a boundary is not inherently an ultimatum. If you are using ultimatums to except power or control, perhaps it’s a good idea to understand why and address those issues, or maybe rethink your relationship. And if you believe your partner is using ultimatums to except power or control, perhaps it would be useful to examine why you think your partner is that kind of person and examine your relationship.

What about limits? Well, those are boundaries. And in kink, we might have hard limits and soft limits. Boundaries that are firm and ones that are potentially open for discussion and trial.

This is not complete.

This is a first draft of some ideas that I am writing about right now for my upcoming book, Boundaries Are Sexy AF.

I’m very open to comments, thoughts, ideas, refutations, calls of BS and more. smiles

What are your thoughts?

Have you ever had boundaries used against you as a tool for manipulation? Have you ever had someone try to create rules while calling them boundaries?

Have you ever been on the other side?

What thoughts do you have on the differences and semantics of it all?

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