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Boundaries are the standards we set to feel comfortable and in many cases, safe. They can be well thought out and based on your own experiences or values. They can also be based on your physical reactions in specific situations. Boundaries can serve you well when you consider both your mind and the signals your body sends you.
The best way to respect other’s boundaries is to check in with them by asking questions like: “do you feel comfortable with this?” To learn more about these types of conversations, visit our Consent page.
To respect your own boundaries and limits, you’ll have to take the time to reflect on them so you know what to communicate to others.
Only you can decide when you feel ready for sex and what you are comfortable doing. This includes the day, the time, with who you have sex, how often, and what you choose to participate in (or pass on). You might be comfortable with certain sexual activities and not with others.
Try to reflect on your sexual boundaries before you have a partner so you are more prepared to have this discussion when you need to. Your boundaries may shift over time. Things may change as your relationship progresses but thinking about your limits can help you show care to yourself. It can also help you avoid pressure and doing things outside your comfort zone.
Here are some questions to help you reflect on your own boundaries:
- Am I sexually attracted to this person?
- Would I like to be sexually intimate with my partner or do I just want to explore other forms of intimacy?
- Where do I like to be touched? Are there areas of my body that I don’t like to be touched?
- What does my “ideal sexual experience” look like or include? Can I ask my partner for this?
- Which types of sex interest me?
- Which types of sex make me feel uncomfortable?
- How do I feel about talking to my partner about my interests?
- How do I feel about talking to my partner about my limits?
- Do I know how to have safe sex (prevent STIs and/or pregnancy)? Am I able to talk to my partner about this?
After reflecting on your own boundaries, it would be respectful to check in with your potential partner about theirs.
Know your partner:
- Do my partner and I want the same things from sex?
- What are my partner’s limits?
- What does my partner like or enjoy?
- How does my partner communicate a “no” or that they need to stop or slow down? (Avoids eye contact, makes excuses, delays, etc.)
- How does my partner communicate they are enjoying themselves?
- Did I check in after to see what they liked or what I could do differently next time?
You have the right to change your mind and stop a sexual activity at any point including while it is happening. It is your partner’s responsibility to respect that. It is also your responsibility to check in with your partner and to respect their feelings if they want to stop, slow down or take a break to sort out their thoughts.
Everyone is different and sex can be different each time. Pay attention to how you feel and what your body is telling you in the moment. A bit of nervousness is normal but if you feel scared, pressured or not aroused/turned on then it’s likely not the right time.