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Boundary Basics

In any relationship, whether you’re having sex or not, it’s important for partners to talk about and agree on some boundaries.

It may seem a bit random to talk about this when you’re still in the early stages of a relationship, but it’s a good idea. By setting some boundaries at the beginning, you can help avoid misunderstandings later on.

What do we need to agree on?

  • How will you connect with each other? (by phone, email, text, Facebook, etc.)
  • How often will you connect?
  • How much time will you spend together?
  • Are you okay with public displays of affection (PDA) and if so, what kinds and where?
  • Are you okay with online displays of affection, like on Facebook?
  • What, if any, sexual activity do you want to have in the relationship?

It is important to realize that your answers to these questions about may be different at different times in the relationship and it’s okay to decide together to change your boundaries if you both agree with the changes.

If you are not sure about what your boundaries are that’s okay. As the relationship progresses you may get a better sense of what works and doesn’t work for you.

Useful Tips
You may not be ready to talk about sex right away, especially if you are in a new relationship, but before you get carried away in the moment, remember that you need to ask first before you do anything sexual with someone.
For more information on consent, check out Yes means Yes: Sexual Consent, Check In First: How to Talk About Sexual Consent and What do I Need to Know About the Age of Consent?
Planning and talking about sex can be a turn-on. Make it fun!

Turning up the heat:  How do I go about talking about and planning for sex with my partner(s)?

  • Setting boundaries can include talking about what is and isn’t okay for you when it comes to sex.
  • Before you talk with your partner, think about your own views. What are you willing to try sexually and what are you just not into?  What feels comfortable for you when it comes to safer sex?
  • Agree on a time and a private place where you are both comfortable and can speak openly.
  • Talk about what you are interested in doing and what your boundaries are around sexual activities and safer sex.
  • If you say agree to start with one sex act (for example, dry humping) remember that doesn’t mean you’ve agreed to every sex act (for example, vaginal* sex).
  • Now is the time to talk about safer and how you will protect yourself. For more information check out Talking About Safer Sex and Safer Sex 101.
  • Now is also the time to plan for and talk about birth control if necessary. For more information check out the section of this website on Birth Control.

If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]

*We know that these aren’t the words everyone uses for their bodies (eg. trans folks), and support you using the language that feels best for you.

Last Edited: May 2020

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