When it comes to having amazing sex, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not boundaries. Most people think great sex is about letting go of all your inhibitions and just going with the flow. But there is a big difference between having uninhibited sex, and having no boundaries about what you expect and need sexually. In reality, knowing which healthy boundaries to set in the bedroom is the best path to having the kind of free and fearless sex you fantasize about. Not only will having guidelines give you a sense of security, but it can also create a roadmap for your partner about what you enjoy to maximize your pleasure.
That all sounds pretty great, right? But what does it actually mean in practice? Is this only for new partners? Or should you be having boundary conversations with long-time partners? The answer is all of the above. With new partners you have a clean slate to build on, and with long-time partners, while you have been setting boundaries subtly or passively, there is no time like the present to get real with them about your limits and preferences in the bedroom. To help lay out what boundaries you should consider and communicate to your partners, I reached out to sex and relationship experts. Here's what they had to say.
Speaking of safe words, Hochberger says it’s a good idea to have one. It’s basically shorthand for making sure that you are maintaining consent at all times.
“Safe words are an important boundary for sexual play because it provides a clear way for a person to communicate with their partner(s) that they are uncomfortable with whatever sexual behavior is currently taking place," says Hochberger. "Having a clear way to communicate no is important to sexual health and safety."
This is especially helpful for folks who are a little more shy about discussing their boundaries explicitly. A safe word doesn’t require a lot of explanation or context, it’s just a verbal stop sign that is easily delivered and understood.
Another extremely important boundary in the bedroom is being open about our sexual health and form of protection.
“Safety is an important boundary that should be set in the bedroom,” says Hochberger. “This involves communicating with your partner about your sexual health status. Knowing when their last STI test was is important information to know. Proper barrier methods like dental dams and condoms are a person’s safest bet.”
The reason this matters, aside from the obvious safety issue, is that by being open and honest with your partner about each of your STI statuses and forms of birth control or protection, you’re also able to enjoy the experience without fear or anxiety — which is a real orgasm killer.
We all have our sexual preferences and some things that are just off limits. There’s no wrong or right answer, so long as it’s what both you and your partner are comfortable with. That means setting some clear boundaries about what you do and don’t want in the bedroom. Hochberger says not to be afraid to get specific.
“I recommend you and your partner(s) create body maps," she says. "If you and your partner(s) are up to it, draw each other’s bodies and take notes. This is an activity! Individuals start from the feet and work their way up to the top of their head. One person feels the other, as they touch, kiss, lick each part of their body. They communicate what they like and what they don’t like. The idea is you find out where your partner enjoys being touched and kissed and what parts they don’t. You also learn how hard, soft, fast or slow they want it.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely had worse homework.
Once you’ve set your boundaries and talked to your partner about theirs, you may think the conversation is done. But in reality, setting boundaries is a conversation that should never totally come to a close. Over time, you may feel differently about things you have or haven’t enjoyed in the past and want to adjust accordingly. As Hoffman explains, keeping the lines of communication open is essential because “you should make sure that your partner understands your boundaries are so that you can have the most satisfying sexual relationship.”
Ultimately, what your boundaries end up looking like is entirely up to you. Feel empowered to embrace what you enjoy and say no to what you don’t. The reality is there are no wrong or right boundaries, so long as they are based on consent.
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