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Navigating Consent & Setting Sexual Boundaries: Yes/No/Maybe List

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  It’s a topic I am very passionate about.

I devoted a lot of time this month to speaking and teaching about sexual consent.  In my Sexual Consent Workshops we learn about consent in the context of various relationships like a hook-up, dating, marriage/domestic partnership, a swinging encounter or a BDSM scene.

We’ve all heard the catch phrase “No Means No” which, on the surface, makes consent seem simple to navigate.  In many real world instances, sexual consent isn’t a black and white issue– it has many shades of gray.

A better definition of sexual consent is:

  • Consent requires a clear, enthusiastic, resounding yes
  • Consent can never be assumed, it must be granted
  • Consent given does not constitute blanket consent, it can be revoked at any time
  • Consent is ongoing; it requires continual communication between all parties
  • Each person involved is responsible for respecting, maintaining and/or communicating consent
  • Consent is only capable of being granted by someone who is fully capable, fully informed and not coerced

It is necessary for us to predetermine our own sexual boundaries before we can effectively navigate consent when engaging in sexual activity with others.

In my Consent and Safewords Workshops I recommend the use of  yes/no/maybe lists to set personal boundaries and to foster communication about specific sexual topics with partners.

You can download my Yes/No/Maybe list here:  Sexual Yes/No/Maybe List

To use the list, indicate how interested you are in each activity with a yes/no/maybe and ask your partner/s to do the same. Discuss your responses together. Go beyond a simple yes or no. Use this list as a starting point and add other sexual activities pertinent to your own experiences. Ask additional questions like:

How willing are you to explore outside your identified sexual orientation? Are certain parts of your or a partners body off limits? What kind of sexual aftercare do you prefer? Do certain sexual acts or scenarios trigger post traumatic response? What other acts make you uncomfortable (being seen fully naked, eye contact during sex, etc.)? Do you have any medical conditions or allergies that affect your sexuality?

Used alone, this list is a great tool to help you identify and set personal boundaries better preparing you for your next sexual encounter.

Discussing turn-ons, desires and fantasies with partners can be fun. Y/N/M lists allow you to learn a lot about your partner/s and yourself opening the door to more fulfilling, satisfying sexual experiences and relationships.

This yes/no/maybe list is geared toward “vanilla” partners.  If you need BDSM pre-negotiation tools, download the Kinky Yes/No/Maybe list here:  BDSM Yes/No/Maybe + ROUGH BS    **(props to Jim Marcus, the brainchild behind the ROUGH BS System!).


If you would like me to speak about sexual consent (in vanilla and/or alternative sexual situations) at your organization, event or school please send me an e-mail at [email protected].

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