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Imagine you’re in a sexual situation, and you know exactly what you want to do physically. Maybe you’re cuddling with a friend and you really want to kiss them, but you don’t want to go further than making out. Or you’re naked with a date and want to give each other orgasms, but you’re a “no” when it comes to blowjobs. Do you say something?

Yes! Having a good time means being turned on — without being on guard or worrying that your boundaries will be crossed. Sure, talking about boundaries pauses the action for a moment. But communicating what you like and don’t like sexually helps everyone involved have more fun all around. And talking about things you don’t want to do sometimes also involves talking about things you DO want, which can be really sexy.

But before communicating your sexual boundaries, you need to know what they are. Read about getting in tune with your body and emotions, to learn how to recognize them. And once you know how you’re feeling, you can clue in whoever you’re getting sexual with. Here’s how to do that.  

What’s a Boundary?

Personal boundaries are the line between what you’re cool with and what’s not OK with you. If you’re not comfortable with something happening to you or around you, that means you have a boundary between yourself and that thing.

Sexual boundaries are all about:

  • How people touch your body — including over or under clothes and your body parts.
  • How people see your body — such as being naked, partially naked, or dressed in a sexy way.
  • How people treat you in sexual situations — including how they speak to you and what your relationship is.
  • What you’re comfortable doing to others — such as what you touch on their body. 

Communicating How Sexual You Want to Get

Choose from these categories to explain what you want to do and what you don’t want to do.

Clothing Boundaries

  • What clothes you want to keep on.
  • What touching you don’t want — including unwanted types of touch over the clothes and under the clothes. 
  • Example: “It would be hot if you touched my boobs under my shirt, but I want you to stay over my bra.”

Body-Part Boundaries

  • Which of your body parts are off limits.
  • What body parts of theirs you don’t want to see or touch.
  • Example: “I’m into touching each other under our underwear, but I’m not ready to see you naked.”

Activity Boundaries

  • What physical touch and kinds of sex you’re comfortable with, such as heavy petting, fingering, hand jobs, and oral sex
  • What types of other sexual activities you’re comfortable with — such as taking photos, saying kinky nicknames, practicing BDSM, or involving other people.
  • Example: “I really want to get naked and touch each other all over, but I’m not ready to go down on each other or have sex tonight. Also, you can call me [X], but I don’t like when you talk to me like [Y].”

Setting — and Resetting — Boundaries 

Part of what you communicate has to do with what the other person does. For instance, if you’re having sex and your partner says they want to have anal sex, that’s a time to speak up about whether you want that.

Be on the lookout for any signs of sexual coercion. If your boundaries are being pushed, slow down and step back. You might be with a person who doesn’t respect your boundaries or who just isn’t able to hear them.

Finally, sexual situations are dynamic. You might have a miscommunication, and need to restate your boundaries. Or you might suddenly feel uncomfortable and change your mind about your boundaries as you go. That’s totally OK! You can set a new boundary at any time. It’s YOUR body, and YOU get to decide what you do with it!

More About Sexual Boundaries

Tags: consent, sex education, sexual assault