We have boundaries (rules, limits) around lots of things: how we balance our time at work or with friends vs. at home or with ourselves, which projects or activities we take on, and what we share with which people. In simplest terms, boundaries are about saying “Yes” or “No.” Boundaries help keep us safe and comfortable, and everyone will have different boundaries. It’s never okay for someone to push your boundaries, and it’s never okay to push someone else’s.

Setting boundaries can be complicated, especially because they often involve other people. Some of us feel awkward or embarrassed or we’re worried about rejection or hurting someone’s feelings. Here are some tips for expressing your boundaries.

  • For some of us, asking explicitly for what we want is hard. One way of working around that is to assign different words/codes for things you like/dislike - For example, “hot” and “cold,” or green/yellow/red like a traffic light. Make sure everyone understands what each word means.
  • Pay attention to body language: This unspoken form of communication can tell you a lot about how someone is feeling. If you’re unsure, ask - “You seem uncomfortable, do you want me to stop?”
  • You could try filling out a sexy questionnaire (like this one from Autostraddle) about what you and your partner(s) are into. Bonus: it might give you some fun ideas.
  • You could pull from previous experiences to help articulate what you want: “Remember last time when you ______? That felt reeeeeally good. I’d like to do that again.” Or “I liked how we _______, maybe we could try it with/without/like this...”
  • If you’re comfortable sharing fantasies, you could describe things that turn you on, either in person or via text.
  • You can make a Want/Will/Won't list

Whether you need a certain amount of “you” time, or are uncomfortable with a specific activity, or want to practice safer sex, your boundaries are legitimate.