By Vaila Bhaumick

Sexual boundaries is a topic which has crept more and more into the public arena but remains a touchy subject for many. However, having a hands-on approach is by far the best way to ensure you and your partner feel safe, comfortable, and happy with your sex life, or one-off encounter (no judgement here).

As a woman, I can only write from a female perspective, but sexual boundaries are equally important for all genders to consider. Women are often taught to be polite, people-pleasers growing up, and this often extends to sexual encounters. It took me a long time to learn the importance of considering, knowing, and asserting our boundaries.

While considering your sexual boundaries is indeed important, it can also be playful. Experts suggest making lists of sexual acts with your partner and deciding whether you would, wouldn’t, or might try them. But, what if it’s not as simple as playing a game of ‘Yes, No, Maybe’? As someone who suffers from endometriosis, I certainly don’t have the luxury of just deciding what I fancy or not. Sometimes, physical or psychological pain can play a role too, making things a tad more complicated. 

Take the Bull By The Horns

Discovering, understanding and communicating your sexual boundaries can be a minefield. However, it’s best to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and face this obstacle course head-on. Here are some guidelines:

Set Your Own Boundaries

See this as an exercise in self-love. You may not be able to come up with an exhaustive list, and it may continually evolve, but have a good long think about what is acceptable to you in the bedroom, and what you need for your self-respect, security and happiness to remain intact. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling you need to fulfil sexual stereotypes or do things to please your partner, but getting in touch with your own needs and values must come first. If you’ve never really thought about your own pleasure, please do! OMGYes Is a website dedicated to female satisfaction and can give you some inspiration.

Talk About It

Don’t beat around the bush when it comes to talking about sexual boundaries—bring it up with your partner. This can be easier said than done, especially if you have grown up in an environment where sex is taboo, but you will be relieved once you have had the conversation.

Be Explicit

Wishy-washy guidelines for sex don’t usually get the message across. It’s advisable to delve into different scenarios verbally with your partner, before you get physical, as I mentioned earlier. Explicit descriptions, including the use of particular body parts and how we refer to them, leaves no room for confusion, and makes your wishes crystal clear.

Boundaries Are Moveable

If you change your mind about something related to sex, it’s ok to say no (or yes!). Just because you both agreed on a set of boundaries, doesn’t mean they are set in stone. Constant communication is essential, even when you’re having sex. If you’re not enjoying something your partner is doing, guide them in another direction which gives you more pleasure, or feels more comfortable. Never be pressured into doing anything. 

For The Warriors

For those of you who, like me, suffer from some form of chronic pain or psychological trauma, making sex far from a fun ‘roll in the hay’, here are some extra points to consider:

Don’t Put Up With Painful Sex

It’s vital to be even clearer about your boundaries if you experience pain during intercourse. Discuss whether (deep) penetration is ok, or if oral sex might work better, the positions you find less painful, and even the time of the month that gives you the best chance of a pain-free orgasm! Some women use medication to stifle pain, numbing lubricant, alcohol or cannabis. Make sure your partner is aware of this, and that they are comfortable with it.

Support Your Partner

Your partner may have suffered psychological trauma, and find intimacy hard, or they may have chronic pain, which is also connected to mental unwellness. Be open in your conversations about limitations—it may be that your partner is just not ready for a physical relationship, and needs compassion, caring, stability and reassurance before becoming sexual with you. Listen, and be patient, because it can sometimes be a long road to recovery.

Not every country has sexual laws and norms that make an open discussion of sexual boundaries possible. In an ideal world, we all could open every potential sexual relationship with a little push from 90s hip hop duo Salt-N-Pepa, and just talk about sex! The cost of not having ‘the talk’ is too high, and it’s simply not worth it. Just get it done and get on with the fun part!