Yes/No/Maybe: Setting Sexual Boundaries

Yes/No/Maybe: Setting Sexual Boundaries

photo of two people who appear to be POC - one femme and one masc - wearing dark shirts and holding a lit sparkler together in front of a lake; under photo with some overlap at bottom of photo is a reddish ragged text box with white cursive-like script "Yes/No/Maybe" - under this is a yellow text box with reddish text "SETTING SEXUAL BOUNDARIES" and "Chronic Sex"

One of the best facilitators for communication around sexual acts is a yes/no/maybe list. Essentially, this lays out a number of sexual acts as well as language around anatomy. You rank them and can discuss more with your partner.

There are so many versions of this list out there, and they all vary around different things. Some are kink-based while others are centered around polyamory, risk-aware sex practices, or other things. There are lists that give you ideas to rate and others that are blank. There is certainly value in both, depending on what you’re into.

Here are some of my favorite yes/no/maybe lists.

Bex over at Bex Talks Sex has one of my favorite lists. Like me, Bex organizes things with differences in color and text. They’ve got lists for sexual acts, kinky acts, language, and a really comprehensive list of things you can build your list from. There are more nuances in Bex’s categories, too – it’s not just a yes/no/maybe list. It’s a yes-into/yes-willing/maybe/soft-no/hard-no list. I think that fits real life a lot better. A person after my own heart, Bex has a downloadable PDF as well as an excel sheet.

That said, just because I nerd out over Bex’s list doesn’t mean it’s the right list for everyone.

Autostraddle has a great worksheet that also touches upon what lube ingredients you can/can’t/won’t use and a Venn diagram of sexy activities partners have in common.

Scarleteen’s list includes words and activities that can be triggering, relationship models, risk-aware sex practices, and even birth control. It’s a really great list, and I love just about everything on their site.

Poly Notes on Tumblr has a list that focuses on what activities are okay for people to do in non-monogamous or polyamorous relationships. They even suggest having a list that is for a couple to do together and a separate one for how comfortable they are with those actions involving other people.

Sunny Megatron also has a great list that showcases different activities. It is just a list of activities though, and you would need to create your own worksheet (or use another one listed here).

Each of these lists has great information and there are things on most of them that are unique.

Something to keep in mind is that these things change. Lists don’t have to be set in stone. It’s fine to alter them and even revisit them from time to time. I went through and used Bex’s template for mine and I feel like I have a better understanding of what my maybes and nos are specifically. I added a tab for activities with people other than my partner, triggers, and body/emotional boundaries.

That’s one thing I love about these lists – it’s incredibly easy to add or subtract things based on your lifestyle.

Guest Post: Sex is an Important Part of a Healthy Relationship, Right?

TW: childhood sexual abuse (mention), and pregnancy/parenthood/babies.

When I began my sexuality studies as an excited young pup I remember reading, “sex is an important part of a healthy relationship.” Yes! Validation that it is not only worth prioritizing sex in a relationship, but necessary to its success. I took this little sentence and threw it around, loud and proud, to everyone who would listen (and even those who would rather I shut up– such as people who identify as asexual, for example).

Then life happened.

I began struggling with chronic digestive pain. Then endometriosis. Then repeated kidney stones! I started therapy for childhood sexual abuse. Sex as a psychologically and physiologically painful activity became my reality. My lower abdominal world can be a delicate, tired, sore place. Here’s what it taught me:

Even if you’re not asexual, sex does not need to be an important part of a healthy relationship.

Surprise.

I do have sex, it’s not totally out of my life and I have prioritized healing my sexuality and making it my life’s work. As an aspect of my relationship, it has fallen from priority number one to a delightful extra if the stars align. So, when I was asked in an interview, “isn’t sex an important part of a healthy relationship,” I realized that statement was misleading.

Sex can be an important part of a healthy relationship. But that’s not up to me to decide as a sexual health expert. That’s not up to your doctor, therapist, or sex ed teacher. That’s for you to decide. Yes, relationship satisfaction tends to move with sexual satisfaction in a relationship, but I think we may have misunderstood this little statistical finding, or worse, we have inappropriate statistical tools for measuring satisfaction that doesn’t capture what it means for all sexual people or asexual people. Tools aside, I can tell you that my sexual and relationship satisfaction is high even though I don’t prioritize sex in my relationship. Why?

I asked my partner once, “if I decided I couldn’t or didn’t want to have sex anymore for any reason, would you leave me?”

His response: “No! Why would I?”

Because sex is an important part of a healthy relationship!

His response, “But I get so many things out of our relationship. Sex is nice and I like having sex with you, but that’s not the only thing I get out of our relationship and it’s not the deciding factor of being with you.”

I specialize in sex in pregnancy and postpartum as a doula, aromatherapist, and coach. What my partner said reminded me of a study I’d been looking at: guess which couples fared well during the sexual struggles of the postpartum period? Couples whose priorities aligned. Couples that were both okay with sex being off the table for a little while. Or couples who both decided on sacrificing co-sleeping with their baby to have alone time in their bed. What mattered was that couples were on the same page, the page itself was otherwise irrelevant.

My satisfaction is high because my partner and I are on the same page. That means, we’re both happy with our relationship and when we do have sex, it’s damn good sex.

There is nothing wrong with prioritizing sex in your relationship and this will work best if your partners also prioritize sex in the relationship.

There is nothing wrong with not prioritizing sex in your relationship and this will work best if your partners also don’t prioritize sex in the relationship.

When you don’t align, that’s when things can get really tough. Seeking the guidance of a couples and family therapist or sex therapist can be really helpful when the stars are not aligning for sex. Although some therapists and counselors offer sliding scales, not everyone can afford these services. Here is a list of affordable book resources that I have used so far on my personal journey through sexual healing that you may even be able to find at the library. I am currently seeking more LGBTQ+ resources pertaining to this topic as I do not identify as heterosexual or cisgendered, but these are the books I have found so far. The first book is a great read based on cisgendered women’s experiences with various life events that have changed their relationship with sex. The second book is a great resource for how to communicate effectively in relationships – however, it should be noted that the research is based off observations of monogamous heterosexual couples who are struggling with the transition into parenthood. The final book is also based on research with cisgendered women, though I strongly feel everyone would benefit from its good science and worksheet pages:

Sex After… Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes by Iris Krasnow

And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives by John Gottman & Julie Schwartz Gottman

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski

The next time someone tries to tell you that sex is an important aspect of a healthy relationship, ask yourself: who’s saying it? How does this statement benefit them? What are they trying to sell me? What are they trying to sell themselves? And finally– is sex an important aspect of relationships for me?

Because, really, that’s the answer that matters.

a short haired woman in a dark jacket with a red scarf smiles against a leafy background

Tynan Rhea works in Toronto as a doula, aromatherapist, and coach specializing in sexual and reproductive health. Tynan graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Joint Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sexuality, Marriage, & Family. They received their doula training from the Revolutionary Doula Training program and their aromatherapy training with Anarres Apothecary Apprenticeship program. You can read more about them at TynanRhea.com, follow them on Instagram and Twitter (@TynanRhea) or check out their blog: queering holistic health (on her website).

This post has been featured as one of Kinkly’s Sex Stories We Love!

Study: How Fibromyalgia Impacts Relationships and SEX for Men

The University of New Brunswick has been conducting some amazing studies as of late. Currently, they have one looking to understand how fibromyalgia impacts relationships and sexual well-being. This study is specifically looking for males with fibromyalgia. Due to how hard it’s been to find men, they are giving participants $75 CAD.

These researchers are also looking to continue research on sexuality and chronic illnesses or chronic pain conditions. The cool thing about this is that the next step in this study is to interview our partners. I love this.

You can learn more about this group at their site. You can view and download the consent form via PDF here and email that to rehablabUNB@gmail.com.

Study: The Relationship Between Media & Sexuality

If you are between the ages of 18-35, please consider taking part in the following research opportunity.

This study examines the “relationship between media and sexual attitudes and behaviors.” It takes about 15-20 minutes to complete the study via Survey Monkey. There are no financial benefits or incentives related to this study.

If you have any questions or concerns about this research study, please feel free to contact Izabella Bagdasarian at izabella.bagdasarian at gmail dot com or Dr. Christensen at Jacquelyn.christensen at woodbuey dot edu.

SYLK: a fun lube AND a contest!

You may have noticed that several of the posts in the last week have been about the wonderful world of lubrication.

There’s a reason for that!

Earlier this year, I was introduced to SYLK.

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SYLK is an all-natural lubricant made from the vine of the New Zealand kiwi. This ingredient means that SYLK is able to mimic the natural lubrication of the body thanks to polysaccharides. SYLK is made in the US, despite the location of the plant.

Remember some of the icky things we talked about watching out for in lube – parabens, silicones, and scents/flavors/dyes? Of those, SYLK only has glycerin and, even then, natural glycerin from the vine. This means it’s safe to use with just about any condom, dental dam, sex toy, and more!

It’s been being sold in New Zealand and Australia for over 30 years, and in Europe for 20. It’s also sustainable which is pretty badass.

why

After receiving positive and rave reviews on Amazon and elsewhere from people struggling with illness-related sexual issues, the company began to learn more about what we all go through with illnesses and sexuality. Recently, SYLK reached out to a number of people in the chronic illness blogging world across disease types from Lupus Chick to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation and more.

I struggle with vaginal dryness. It’s like my body doesn’t respond to natural turn-ons anymore, like the connection between my emotions and my vagina is non-existent. Therefore, sex isn’t always comfortable for me simply because I don’t always practice what I preach and utilize lube.

Why?

Well, one of the problems that I have with lubes is that they get sticky. It may not always bother me, but definitely always bothers my partner.

It’s not sexy to feel like you fell into a vat of wet cotton candy.

When I got SYLK to try, then, I was excited to see how things went.

Real talk: it was a surreal moment to realize having sex was totally a part of my job, but I digress.

We really enjoyed the consistency of the lubricant and how effective it was. It also was more similar to my body’s own lubrication and didn’t leave the same sticky residue. In fact, any leftover stickies were easily taken care of with a wet washcloth or bathroom wipe.

As I went through the rest of my day, my vagina wasn’t sticky and it also didn’t feel like there was a glob of incompatible goo jammed up there.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners will be chosen at random on Halloween by Rafflecopter and then contacted for their information, which will then be shared with our contact at SYLK for shipping. We do have samples of SYLK that will be included in future giveaways so stay tuned if you don’t win this round! Please also note: While I received SYLK for free in order to evaluate it, I received no other compensation for this post.