How to Use Yes / No / Maybe Lists

How to Use Yes / No / Maybe Lists

Sometimes you’re not in the mood. For one reason or another (or, like, 20 different reasons all affecting you simultaneously), you just don’t want to be touched.

But sometimes you do feel connected to your sexy self. You do want to be ravished. However, the thought of another sex session that follows the same old sequence of events doesn’t get you hot; it just makes you yawn.

Or maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe, for as long as you’ve been sexually active, you’ve been so focused on pleasing your partner that you’ve never gotten a sense for what makes you feel good. At this point, where do you even begin? You’re seemingly set in your ways — doomed to repeat the same sexual patterns over and over and over again and follow the same sexual scripts — so isn’t it too late to change?

When I first learned about Yes/No/Maybe lists back in the nascent days of my sex writing career, they were presented as a communication tool for partners, something two people could use as a means of opening up a conversation around sexual fantasies and kinks. Couples could use these lists — which generally listed out various sexual activities — to gauge their partner’s interest in or comfort level with certain sexual acts, and to negotiate what they might or might not be willing to try in the bedroom. They could use it to set some sexual boundaries.

At the time, these lists were often presented as a solution for those who were afraid to share their kinks with their partner(s) because they were worried they might be judged for their “deviance.” In presenting various activities within the context of a larger list — where individuals could indicate that they had enjoyed something in the past, were interested in trying something, could perhaps be persuaded to try something, or were not at all interested — partners could then kick off a dialogue around why certain behaviors were intriguing or hot for them while others were scary or off-limits.

Only recently, I’ve also begun to think of these lists as the ideal tool for those who have no idea what they might actually enjoy. Because there are so many versions of Yes/No/Maybe lists — and because they are so customizable — these sexual bucket lists can provide both individuals and partners with fun ideas for exploring their own sexual pleasure.

To that end, I recommend checking out a few different Yes/No/Maybe lists available online to see which ones work best for you. You can always feel free to mix and match elements of one list with those of another.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Heather Corinna and CJ Turett of Scarleteen, a fantastic sex ed site for teens, created a pretty solid list that incorporates body boundaries, words and terms, relationship models, safer sex behaviors, sexual responses, birth control and reproductive choices, and various physical and non-physical sexual activities. Those who use the list are encouraged to indicate yes, no, maybe, I don’t know, fantasy, and N/A for each item.

A.E. Osworth, a staff writer for Autostraddle, moved beyond the list format to create several worksheets partners can use to explore various sexual activities, lube and toy materials and ingredients, general turn-ons, dirty talk, boundaries, and more.

And sex educator Bex Caputo has one of the most comprehensive and complex Yes/No/Maybe lists I’ve ever seen. Instead of just three columns (yes, no, and maybe), users can distinguish between those activities they’re personally excited to do or try and those that they’re willing to do or try because their partner is into it. In addition, there are separate sections for sex and kink, language used during sexual activity, and feelings you do or don’t want to feel during sex.

One final note: You are allowed to change your mind at any time as to whether you’re a yes, a no, or a maybe for any given activity. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to revisit your list on a semi-regular basis. After all, our interests and our comfort levels naturally shift over time, which is why it’s so important to be open to the possibility of redefining sex for ourselves over the course of our lives.

My only other advice? Have fun with this! Who knows what new source of pleasure you might discover.

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