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  • Writer's pictureHailey Rawhouser

Understanding Sexual Boundaries: Tips and Tricks for Discussing Sex

Boundaries allow us to set guidelines for how we want to be treated. Boundaries are crucial in every area of our lives, including our sex lives. Sexual boundaries involve setting limits on how we choose to engage in sex. Often, we are taught that talking about sex is “dirty”, disrespectful and taboo, so setting sexual boundaries can be incredibly uncomfortable for us. It is important to remember that being uncomfortable is not the same as being unsafe. There is a level of vulnerability in asking someone about their boundaries and sharing your own. However, the goal of doing so is to ensure that the health and safety of all parties is prioritized. Below are a couple examples of sexual boundaries a person can set and communicate to their partner:

  1. I do not like kissing with tongue, do not do that. It felt amazing when you kissed me this way, but I also felt uncomfortable when we used tongue. I would appreciate it if we kissed the other way instead.

  2. Masturbation is a personal activity for me, and I do not want you to be involved. I enjoy masturbation as a solo activity, it is not something I feel comfortable doing in front of others.

  3. I do not feel comfortable having sex with you unless we discuss our sexual health status. I am careful to not have sex with anyone until we have both been tested for STIs. Let’s go together!

Once you begin exploring sexual boundaries, you might wonder, how do we have these conversations and how do we know what type of boundary is right for us? Setting boundaries works best when it is done in a neutral setting. Before having a discussion relating to sex, consider the three T’s: trust, turf, and tone. To be successful a discussion about boundaries requires there to be mutual trust between people. We have to trust that our partner knows what is best for them, so they will set their boundaries accordingly. Additionally, we must trust that our partner won’t intentionally cross our boundaries. Turf refers to the place and situation where the discussion on boundaries happens. If this discussion happens during a loud gathering with multiple people outside of the relationship involved, this adds additional pressure and stress to the situation. Instead, discussions about boundaries should take place in a quiet and calm space where both people feel comfortable being vulnerable. Lastly, tone refers to the way the conversation is approached and discussed. Approaching a discussion on boundaries with a judgment-free tone and genuine curiosity can ensure that all people involved feel heard.

Before engaging in any type of intimacy with someone, boundaries should be set for what that activity will look like. If there is someone you are interested in, and they feel the same towards you, you can suggest having a conversation with them about your sexual boundaries. During that conversation, it is encouraged to have an open conversation about STIs. It can be helpful to ask if they have had sex since they were last tested.

There are several options when setting sexual boundaries and that decision is fully up to each person. Your own comfort level determines what your sexual boundaries are. There is a lot of information out there about sexual boundaries, and it can feel overwhelming. If you are confused about how to set your own sexual boundaries, bring the topic up with your therapist or seek out a sex therapist for more information.


By: Hailey Rawhouser

Master of Social Work Intern

Park University

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