During the first term of my doctorate, one of our professors introduced me to the “Yes/No/Maybe” list. It’s a technique so simple, yet so effective, I was a little embarrassed that I’d never thought it of before. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the technique, it’s a super easy way of defining your sexual boundaries and communicating those boundaries to your partner.
Here’s what you do:
Step One: On a piece of paper, or in a word processing program, make three columns labelled “Yes” “No” and “Maybe.”
Step Two: Under “yes” write a list of your sexual wants. This is anything and everything that turns you on and gets you off. It doesn’t matter if it’s kinky, vanilla, or some delicious combination. All of us have specific things that work for us sexually. Writing them down helps bring our needs into focus.
Step Three: Under “no” write a list of your sexual limits. These are your no-can-do, won’t-go-there, non-negotiable boundaries. Again anything goes. There are a few items on my list “no” that most would consider very softcore...like tongue-kissing, which super-grosses me out.
Step Four: Under “maybe” write a list of the things you’re willing to try, even if they aren’t your specific turn ons. For example, I don’t find bondage especially arousing but I’m certainly game to try it if my partner is really into it.
Step Five (optional): Compare notes with your partner. Anything that appears on both of your “yes” lists, means you’re good to go! Stuff on both “no” lists is off the table. Sometimes you’ve put something — anal sex, for example — on the yes list and your partner has it on the maybe, well that’s an activity that’s up for negotiation. Talk about what makes it such a turn-on for you. Find out what they’d need to feel safe and comfortable, if they were going to give it a try. Stuff that’s on the no list isn’t going to happen, at least not with each other. If your partner is “yes” on something you’ve put as a “no," don’t panic. When it comes to having our sexual needs met, there are lots of options from fantasy to toys to having more than one partner. It all depends on what you like and what works for your relationship.
This is YOUR list. It can be set it stone. It can be fluid and ever-changing. It’s your life, your sexuality and your list can reflect whatever works best for you.
If you’re doing this activity with a partner, I suggest working on them at a time when sex isn’t imminent. Horniness is fab, but it tends to render the thinking part of the brain less effective.
Also, this exercise seems to work better if partners work on their lists separately. If you’re married or living together, you can set a timer and head off to different parts of your home to write. Once the timer goes off, reconvene — maybe with a bottle of wine and go through your lists together.
Looking for more sex-related solutions? Check out the app that helps you talk to your kids about sex. And find out what you should know before using the NuvaRing!
photo by Justin Van Leeuwen