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.