Many people have a level of discomfort expressing sexual needs, desires and boundaries. There are lots of ways around this, but you will already know how much I love a good list. So, here is me promoting them as an idea again. Yes/no/maybe lists are an awesome written way to avoid some of the awkwardness of sexual negotiations and to find areas of sexual compatibility with a new partner. They can also help folks feel confident about the other person’s desire to engage in an activity with them specifically. We are likely to have different desires and limits with different partners, so sharing these lists can be a good way to gauge what you want with each other as much as they are about each of your general kinks.
So, what is a yes/no/maybe list? Well, it is just a list of sexual or kink activities that you can indicate your interest or disinterest in. There are a LOT of different lists online, and you might want to be selective about how kinky or vanilla the one you have chosen is. Each of you starts with a copy of the same list, and you note whether a particular activity is a yes, no or maybe with the other person. Extra points if you highlight the 3-5 activities that you are most interested in, since then you’re way more likely to get to those first!
Like the last few exercises, a key part of making the best use of the list is actually talking about your selections. After all, yes can mean anything from – ‘this is OK with me’ to ‘OMG, that is literally the hottest thing I’ve ever thought about’. There are also important details in discussing how/when/where you would be interested in different activities – even if you are an exhibitionist, there are likely to be some boundaries around where you are comfortable being sexual.
An effective conversation about a yes/no/maybe list will involve discussion of risk and pleasure. This might include safer sex or kink practices such as how toys might be sterilized, barriers such as gloves, condoms and dental dams, and emotional safety. In terms of pleasure, it is worth talking about what elements make an activity particularly pleasurable, for example, some people only get really excited about penetration after oral sex, others may not particularly enjoy genital contact unless there is power exchange or pain or a vibrator. Using the lists as a starting off point to get to fantasies, desires and peak sexual experiences is as important as finding limits and boundaries.
There are a lot of lists available, but I thought I’d add a selection of them here. This one covers a wide range of kinky activities and can be printed quite easily – it also has space for notes beside the activities and to note whether you have experience of something you’re excited about. This one is more vanilla, and involves a greater range of sexual positions. Scarleteen have a characteristically excellent resource here which is much more detailed about boundaries and safer sex activities as well as kink and sex acts, and you can find that list here.
Once you’ve created a yes/no/maybe list you might want to go on to create even more exciting sexual communication tools. I think the sex menu is a great way of working through communicating how you would like sex to work. Talking through the wheel of consent is another great idea. This blog post talks about my top 10 ways to start negotiating sex and kink. One of my favourite ways to start is by talking about how you want to feel, and you can find out more about that here.