Some people drive fast cars. Others skydive. And some have super hot, kinky sex.

Humans have this impulse to push the limits of their bodies, skills and senses to discover just how far they can go. For many people, sexuality is just another way to do that. That's where things like BDSM come in, as a channel to explore our bodies more deeply and intensely.

It's always exhilarating to try something new in bed, whether it's a new toy, a new position or new sensations. And sensation is what BDSM is all about. In fact, newcomers are often completely overwhelmed by the novel feelings and emotions it brings out. As the dust of these sensations settles, however, what many people realize is that BDSM isn't just about sex; playing with pain can actually teach us a lot about ourselves, our fears and our physical and mental limits. (Learn more about what one writer learned from BDSM in Bondage With Benefits: What I Learned from BDSM.)

Sound intriguing? It can be. But before you get there, there are a few things you need to know.

It Takes Trust

Doing something a little scary takes faith. When you jump out of a plane, you need to trust that your parachute will open. When you engage in sexual play that involves things like bondage, punishment and pain, you need to trust your partner. Without trust, you aren't expanding your limits, you're just suffering. And that is not the same thing. So, whether you’ve known your partner for five minutes or five years, you need to make sure you feel comfortable putting your care in their hands. In BDSM, you give your body and your mind up to someone else, and that person needs to take care of you, both physically and mentally. (Learn more about how that works in So, You Wanna Be a Dominant?)

If you’re beginning to explore BDSM with a long-time partner, you've probably already established trust. Just be careful when looking for new kink partners over the Internet. It can be hard to trust someone you don't know. And let's face it: In most cases, you probably shouldn't.

Once you’ve ascertained that your partner is trustworthy, you need to make a safe space for your scene. That means more than a bedroom or a playroom, it also refers to a mental space where you feel free to explore your limits. The most common way to establish safety is to choose a safeword. Many practitioners and communities use the traffic lights: "Green" for "keep going", "yellow" for "slow down" and "red" for "stop right now".

Discussing trust and safewords also opens up frank and direct conversation about your sexual life. This in itself can improve communication and bring partners closer together - and that's before you've even brought out the whips and paddles.

There Are Limits

Everyone has limits within which they feel safe and comfortable. That applies to all areas of their lives. In order to have consensual sex, it needs to apply in the bedroom too, especially when you're playing with BDSM. When you begin exploring BDSM activities, you’ll often find that practitioners talk about "soft" and "hard" limits. Limits are most often meant for submissives, but they can apply to dominants too. These mental and physical borders define the frame within which you choose to practice. They're what ensure that both participants feel safe and are able to enjoy the rush of new sensations at a level that's more pleasure than pain.

A hard limit is an activity or a practice that you will not - under any circumstances - do. These are often tied to your own beliefs, moral code and even squeamishness: age play (pretending to be underage) and scat play are common ones, but they differ for every individual. Hard limits are activities that would never turn you on and from which you would get absolutely no pleasure. You need to establish these hard limits before any scene or BDSM activity.

Soft limits are more flexible. They are things you might be scared of, like certain types of pain or humiliation, but that you’d be OK exploring with the right partner or under the right circumstances. Pushing against soft limits is often considered "edgeplay" for the submissive in question.

Whatever limits you establish, they should all fall under the general code of "safe, sane and consensual." How you interpret this code is up to you and your partner, but a trustworthy dominant will respect your hard limits and work with you to push your soft limits when you’re ready.

Dominants can also have limits: they are humans just like their submissives, and may not be up for anything. Make sure to discuss not only your own limits but your dominant’s as well. You can find several examples of BDSM checklists online that you can fill out and discuss with your partner. (Negotiating limits and consent sounds pretty sane, doesn't it? Read more in Why BDSM Might Be the Sanest Sex Out There.)

It's About Pushing Yourself

BDSM is about (safely) pushing beyond your comfort zone. After all, if we only did what was comfortable for us, life would get pretty boring, right? Think about something you were afraid to do, tried anyway and ended up loving. It happens all the time, both in life and in the bedroom. That's why limits - both hard and soft - can change over time. As this article explains, pushing your limits takes you out of your comfort zone and lets you explore new sensations. For many people, that also provides a rush.

In order to explore your body and yourself, you need to find and push against your limits. For example, if your soft limit is breath play, you might want to experiment with some light choking first. This sort of experimentation can be applied to any limit you’ve identified with your partner.

How do you stay safe while doing things that scare you? Well, as we’ve discussed, trust in your partner is key. A trustworthy partner will check with you often (by asking you if you’re OK or asking for a color) and will encourage communication. A good dominant also looks out for physical signs that he or she may be going too far.

As you explore your soft limits and play around with them, you’ll gradually develop a deeper understanding of your body and your mind. Exploring your limits in bed will also give you power outside of it. Plus, for many people, kink is a bit intimidating. So, if you can push yourself during sex, you can definitely push yourself in the rest of your life.

The Ultimate Safeword

Remember how we said some people skydive or drive fast cars for a rush? They do it for another reason too: Because it's fun. Whenever you play around your sexual limits, make sure it’s fun. Fun is the ultimate safeword. If you’re not having a good time, you've probably gone too far.