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Yes, No, Maybe So: A Sexual Inventory Stocklist

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Clear, truthful and open communication is a must with partnered sex. It's the best way to assure everyone is fully and freely consenting as well as physically and emotionally safe; to help sex and sexual relationships be as satisfying, positive and awesome as they can be. We can't just know or guess what we or others want or need, like or dislike, are or are not okay with: we need to communicate those things and have them communicated to us.

Starting deep and honest communication about sex can be daunting, especially in areas which can be more loaded, tricky or where we feel vulnerable. Someone might ask what you do or don't like, or what may or may not be okay with you, and you may find you -- or a partner, when they're asked -- have a hard time knowing how to respond. It might be particularly tough to start these conversations if talking about sex openly and out loud is something you've never done. When sex is newer to us, we may not even have a sense of all there is to talk about. It can feel like being asked what you want to eat at a restaurant without having a menu to even know your options. We might also sometimes find ourselves feeling inclined to only say what we think a partner wants to hear, or only responding to what they bring up rather than putting our own stuff on the table and initiating our own questions.

Yes, No and Maybe lists aren't something we invented. They've been used for a long time by sexuality educators, sex therapists, communities, couples and individuals, and they can be seriously useful tools. So, we've made one specifically for Scarleteen readers including all the issues you ask us about and we've talked about together over the years.


 ¿Prefieres leer en español? Tenemos "Sí, no, quizá" aquí.

How can you use this list?

1) You can either just read through it online, using it as a mental self-evaluation tool or talking with a partner as you both scroll through it. Or, you can print it out using the PDF file linked at the bottom of this page, and fill it in by hand. (It makes a fine bedfellow for our Sex Readiness Checklist, too!)

2) First do it alone. Take your time, especially with areas or questions you haven't thought about before or haven't had experience with yet. When you're answering, figure this is about now: not right this very second, but in your life overall at this time and over the next few months. If you're answering about things you have no experience with, go with your gut on what you feel like you want. You might only use it for self-evaluation and your own decision-making, to get a better sense of where you stand or what you want to talk about with a partner without sharing it or having them fill it out for themselves.

3) If you want to do it with a partner? Even though we use the term "partner" here to mean anyone with whom you'd be engaging in any kind of sexual contact or relationship, this is not first-date stuff. This is a lot of very personal information for anyone to give or ask for. Young people often tell us they want some serious sexual intimacy: this is that kind of intimacy, big time. It would be overwhelming to find flopped in one's hands after only hanging out for a few days. If you're doing it with someone, you want to have been together for a while to have built some trust, to have some solid sense of your relationship and to have already started to discuss many things on this list already. If there are areas of this you don't feel ready to talk about, or that just make you really uncomfortable, feel free to hack it up in a word doc to make it into what you need and want. If you are going to do this with a partner, also be sure you're both earnestly ready to know and accept all of each other's truths (and to be truthful). Make some agreements in advance about the way you'll both address this with each other with maturity and care.

The coding guide for the list is below. A yes is an "I want to" or "I think I would," and a no is "I don't want to" or "I don't think I would." A maybe is an "I might," either only with certain people, at certain times, or in other specific circumstances. If there's something where you just have no idea, that's an IDK. None of these answers are a commitment to always say yes or no to anything, or a promise you'll say either: they're just assessments of how you generally feel about them. Your answers to this list may, and probably will, change over time: you may find something that's a yes now becomes a no after you try it, or that a no now is something you discover you're interested in down the road. Figure it's a snapshot of this point in time and an ever-evolving work in progress, just like you and your sexuality.

We included a code for fantasy. People often confuse what someone fantasizes about with what someone wants to actually or potentially do, which is especially a doozy for young people who can tend to feel freaked by the idea that fantasies must be "want-to-do's" rather than just "really-like-to-think-abouts." Recognizing the difference is important and can also take a lot of pressure off sharing fantasies. N/A is for the things that just don't apply to you: like, I can't get anyone pregnant, so those questions would be an N/A for me. You'll find some fill-in-the-blanks in this list, too.

Lists like this are not finish lines but starting points: for evaluating your own sexuality and/or for deeper conversations with someone else. This is so you can start thinking about things for yourself, or start having conversations with a partner. At the end of each section, we've included a few sample jumping-off points for conversations to give you some ideas.


Code Guide Y = Yes
N = No
M = Maybe
IDK = I don't know
F = Fantasy
N/A = not applicable

Body Boundaries

___ A partner touching me affectionately without asking first
___ Touching a partner affectionately without asking first
___ A partner touching me sexually without asking first
___ Touching a partner sexually without asking first
___ A partner touching me affectionately in public
___ Touching a partner affectionately in public
___ A partner touching me sexually in public
___ Touching a partner sexually in public
___ Having my shirt/top off with a partner
___ Having a partner's shirt/top off
___ Having my pants/bottoms off with a partner
___ Having a partner's pants/bottoms off
___ Being completely naked with a partner with the lights off or low
___ A partner being completely naked with the lights off or low
___ Being completely naked with a partner with the lights on
___ A partner being completely naked with the lights on
___ Direct eye contact
___ Being looked at directly, overall, when I am naked
___ Grooming or toileting in front of a partner
___ A partner grooming/using the toilet in front of me
___ A partner looking directly at my genitals
___ A partner talking about my body
___ Talking about a partner's body
___ Some or all of a disability, identity or difference I have being specifically made part of sex, sexualized or objectified
___ Some or all of a disability, identity or difference a partner has being specifically made part of sex, sexualized or objectified
___ Some or all kinds of sex during a menstrual period
___ Seeing or being exposed to other kinds of body fluids (like semen, sweat or urine)
___ Shaving/trimming/removing my own pubic hair
___ Shaving/trimming/removing a partner's pubic hair
___ Other:
___ Other:

Some parts of my body are just off-limits. Those are:

I am not comfortable looking at, touching or feeling some parts of another person's body. Those are:

I am triggered by (have a post-traumatic response to) something(s) about body boundaries. Those are/that is:

What helps me feel most comfortable being naked with someone? What ways a partner does or may talk about my body make or could make me feel uncomfortable? What do I "count" as sexual touching and what do I consider affectionate touching?

Words & Terms

I prefer the following gender/sexual identity or role words (like man, woman, boi, femme, butch, top, etc.) to be used for me:

I prefer my chest or breasts be referred to as:

I prefer my genitals to be referred to as:

I prefer my sexual orientation and/or identity to be referred to as:

Some words I am not okay with to refer to me, my identity, my body or, or which I am uncomfortable using or hearing about, with or during any kind of sex are:

I am triggered by certain words or language. Those are/that is:

Are certain words okay in some settings or situations but not in others? How flexible am I with what a partner might want to call something I like calling something else? Why do I use the words for my parts that I do?

Relationship Models & Choices

___ A partner talking to close friends about our sex life
___ Talking to close friends about my sex life
___ A partner talking to acquaintances, family or co-workers about our sex life
___ Talking to acquaintances, family or co-workers about my sex life
___ An exclusive romantic relationship
___ An exclusive sexual relationship
___ Some kind of casual or occasional open/non-exclusive romantic relationship
___ Some kind of casual or occasional open/non-exclusive sexual relationship
___ Some kind of serious or ongoing open/non-exclusive romantic relationship
___ Some kind of serious or ongoing open/non-exclusive sexual relationship
___ Sex of some kind(s) with one partner at a time, only
___ Sex of some kind(s) with two partners at a time
___ Sex of some kind(s) with three partners at a time
___ Sex of some kind(s) with more than three partners at a time
___ A partner directing/deciding for me in some way with sex
___ Directing or deciding for a partner in some way with sex
___ Other:
___ Other:

What kind of agreements do/would I want with the kinds of relationships models I want or am interested in? What are my personal values with relationships and simultaneous sexual partners?


Not sure which activities put you or a partner at risk of what? No problem. You can find out right here.

Safer Sex and Overall Safety Items and Behaviors

___ Sharing my sexual history with a partner
___ A partner sharing their sexual history with me
___ Doing anything sexual which does or might pose high risks of certain or all sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
___ Doing anything sexual which does or might pose moderate risks of certain or all sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
___ Doing anything sexual which does or might pose low risks of certain or all sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
___ Using a condom with a partner, always
___ Using a condom with a partner, not always
___ Putting on a condom myself
___ Putting on a condom for someone else
___ Someone else putting on a condom for me
___ Using a dental dam, with a partner, always
___ Using a dental dam, with a partner, not always
___ Putting on a dental dam for myself
___ Putting a dental dam on someone else
___ Someone else putting a dental dam on me
___ Using a latex glove with a partner, always
___ Using a latex glove with a partner, not always
___ Putting on a latex glove for myself
___ Putting on a latex glove for someone else
___ Someone else putting a latex glove on me
___ Using lubricant with a partner
___ Applying lubricant to myself
___ Applying lubricant on a partner
___ Someone else putting lubricant on me
___ Getting tested for STIs before sex with a partner
___ Getting regularly tested for STIs by myself
___ Getting tested for STIs with a partner
___ A partner getting regularly tested for STIs
___ Sharing STI test results with a partner
___ Doing things which might cause me momentary or minor discomfort or pain
___ Doing things which might cause a partner momentary or minor discomfort or pain
___ Doing things which might cause me sustained or major discomfort or pain
___ Doing things which might cause a partner sustained or major discomfort or pain
___ Being unable to communicate clearly during sex
___ Having a partner be unable to communicate clearly
___ Initiating or having sex while or after I have been using alcohol or other recreational drugs
___ A partner initiating or having sex while or after using alcohol or other recreational drugs
___ Other:
___ Other:

I am triggered by something(s) around sexual safety, or need additional safety precautions because of triggers. Those are/that is:

Are sexual history conversations loaded for me? Do I have any double-standards with safer sex, testing or other safety? What makes me feel some risk is worth it, while another isn't?

Sexual Responses

___ Experiencing or expressing unexpected or challenging emotions before, during or after sex
___ A partner experiencing or expressing or challenging emotions before, during or after sex
___ Not experiencing or expressing expected emotions before, during or after sex
___ A partner not experiencing or expressing expected emotions before, during or after sex
___ Feeling and being aroused (sexually excited), alone
___ Feeling and being aroused, with or in front of a partner
___ Having genital sexual response, like erection or lubrication, alone
___ Having genital sexual response, like erection or lubrication, seen or felt by a partner
___ Not having or "losing" erection or lubrication, alone
___ Not having or "losing" erection or lubrication, with or in front of a partner
___ Being unable to reach orgasm, alone
___ Being unable to reach orgasm, with a partner
___ Having one orgasm, alone
___ Having one orgasm, with or in front of a partner
___ Having more than one orgasm, alone
___ Having more than one orgasm, with or in front of a partner
___ Ejaculating, alone
___ Ejaculating, with or in front of a partner
___ Having a partner ejaculate with me/while I'm present
___ Having an orgasm before or after you feel like you "should" with a partner
___ Having a partner have an orgasm before or after you feel like they "should"
___ Making noise during sex or orgasm, alone
___ Making noise during sex or orgasm, with a partner
___ Having sex interrupted by something or someone external or your own body or feelings
___ Other:
___ Other:

I am triggered by certain sexual responses of my own or those of a partner. Those are:

I like or don't like having or giving certain kinds of sexual aftercare (like snuggling or reaffirming emotional feelings). Those are:

Is what I/we think of as ideal in alignment with what our responses and comfort with them really are? What parts of sexual response make me feel vulnerable or exposed? Am I putting any pressure on myself or partners to respond a certain way?


"Receptive" means the person in a given activity who is taking someone else into their body in some way, and "insertive" means the partner who is putting themselves into another person. "Giving" means a person doing something to someone else, and "receiving" is the person having something done to them. Language for these things is imperfect, though, since any time we're actively having sex with someone else, everyone is the "doer" not just one person.

Physical and/or Sexual Activities

___ Masturbation
___ Holding hands
___ Hugging
___ Kissing, cheek or face
___ Kissing, closed-mouth
___ Kissing, open-mouth
___ Being kissed or touched on the neck
___ Kissing or touching a partner's neck
___ Giving hickeys
___ Getting hickeys
___ Tickling, doing the tickling
___ Tickling, being tickled
___ Wrestling or "play-fighting"
___ General massage, giving
___ General massage, receiving
___ Having my chest, breasts and/or nipples touched or rubbed
___ Touching or rubbing a partner's the breasts, chest and/or nipples
___ Frottage (dry humping/clothed body-to-body rubbing)
___ Tribadism (scissoring, rubbing naked genitals together with a partner)
___ A partner putting their mouth or tongue on my breasts or chest
___ Putting my mouth or tongue on a partner's breasts or chest
___ Masturbating in front of/with a partner
___ A partner masturbating in front of/with me
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers on penis or strap-on), receiving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers to penis or strap-on), giving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers on testes), receiving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers on testes), giving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers on vulva), receiving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers on vulva), giving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers inside vagina), receiving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers inside vagina), giving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers on or around anus), receiving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers on or around anus), giving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers inside rectum), receiving
___ Manual sex (hands or fingers inside rectum), giving
___ Ejaculating (coming) on or in a partner's body
___ A partner ejaculating (coming) on or in my body
___ Using sex toys (like vibrators, dildos or masturbation sleeves), alone
___ Using sex toys (like vibrators, dildos or masturbation sleeves), with a partner
___ Oral sex (to vulva), receptive partner
___ Oral sex (to vulva), doing to someone else
___ Oral sex (to penis or strap-on), receptive partner
___ Oral sex (to penis or strap-on), doing to someone else
___ Oral sex (to testes), receptive partner
___ Oral sex (to testes), doing to someone else
___ Oral sex (to anus), receptive partner
___ Oral sex (to anus), doing to someone else
___ Vaginal intercourse, receptive partner
___ Vaginal intercourse, insertive partner
___ Anal intercourse, receptive partner
___ Anal intercourse, insertive partner
___ Using food items as a part of sex
___ Cross-dressing during sex
___ Having a partner cross-dress during sex
___ Biting a partner
___ Being bitten by a partner
___ Scratching a partner
___ Being scratched by a partner
___ Wearing something that covers my eyes
___ A partner wearing something that covers their eyes
___ Having my movement restricted
___ Restricting the movement of a partner
___ Being slapped or spanked by a partner in the context of sexual pleasure
___ Slapping or spanking a partner in the context of sexual pleasure
___ Pinching or having any kind of clamp used on my body during sex
___ Pinching a partner or using any kind of clamp on them during sex
___ Other:
___ Other:

I am triggered by certain sexual activities. Those are:

If I said yes to something but my partner said maybe, what conditions might make their maybe a yes? With a partner, can we each live with and accept our no's? What ways do each of us, so far, know we like things done we've said we would do/like to do?

Non-Physical (or not necessarily physical) Sexual Activities

___ Communicating my sexual fantasies to/with a partner
___ Receiving information about a partner's sexual fantasies
___ Role-play
___ Phone sex
___ Cybersex, in IM
___ Cybersex, in chat room
___ Cybersex, on cell phone
___ Getting sexual images of a partner in my email or on my phone
___ Giving sexual images to a partner in their email or on their phone
___ Reading pornography or erotica, alone
___ Reading pornography or erotica, with a partner
___ Viewing pornography, alone
___ Viewing pornography, with a partner
___ A partner reading or viewing pornography
___ Giving pornography/erotica to a partner
___ Getting pornography/erotica from a partner
___ Other:
___ Other:

I am triggered by certain non-physical sexual activities. Those are:

How do non-physical sexual activities figure into our/my relationship agreements? How big a role do non-physical sexual activities play in my sex life or do I want them to play?


Not sure what poses a possible pregnancy risk? Have a look at this right here. Need to know what reliable forms of birth control are? Check it.

Birth Control/Reproductive Choices

___ Doing anything sexual which does or might pose a risk of pregnancy without using a reliable method of birth control
___ Doing anything sexual which does or might pose a risk of pregnancy with a reliable form of birth control
___ Using emergency contraception
___ Having a partner use emergency contraception
___ Becoming pregnant
___ Creating a pregnancy with a partner
___ Helping a partner throughout a pregnancy and delivery
___ Experiencing a loss with a pregnancy, like miscarriage or abortion
___ Supporting a partner through a loss with a pregnancy, like miscarriage or abortion
___ Parenting with a partner
___ Parenting by myself
___ Paying child support for a pregnancy I co-created
___ Terminating a pregnancy (abortion)
___ A partner terminating a pregnancy (abortion)
___ Choosing adoption if there was a pregnancy
___ Other:
___ Other:

In what situations do I see myself making a given reproductive choice (if applicable)? How do/might I feel about a partner having very different answers in this section than I do, and how would that impact my choice to be with them?

Think we left anything major out we need to add in? Let us know!

written 10 Jun 2010 . updated 01 Dec 2014
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