Don't Want to Have Sex?
Then don't. You don't have to: sex and sexual relationships are supposed to be optional. For everyone -- of every age, gender, orientation, economic class, in any kind of relationship -- always.
When sex isn't something you want or doesn't feel right, you get to opt out. Being part of sex you don't want or that doesn't feel right for you tends to result in unhealthy, dysfunctional or just-plain-old-crummy relationships, a sexual life you probably won't feel good about or enjoy, and feeling in conflict or out-of-touch with yourself. A big part of being at peace with and enjoying our sexualities and sexual lives is making choices that feel in alignment with our wants and needs, our own ethics and values, things we want to explore, our abilities and our limits and boundaries. So, when it's not what we want, no or "not now" is not only something we can say, it's usually the best thing to say.
It is always okay for anyone to choose not to engage in sex. It's always okay to opt out of entering or staying in a sexual relationship when you do not want or feel ready for one, or to opt out of any given sexual experience or opportunity.
It's a valid choice for people to want to engage in sex or to want a sexual relationship and to pursue either or both. It's a valid choice not to want one or both of those things, or to want them in some respect -- maybe even every respect -- but to choose to opt out. Truly consensual, emotionally safe sex and sexual relationships are about people having real choices, including a no always being as acceptable as a yes. If "no" is not a real option, that means sex isn't a real choice.
- Has religious, spiritual or ethical beliefs in conflict in some way with engaging in sex with a partner.
- Identifies somewhere on the asexuality spectrum.
- Feels very fearful of certain consequences of sex, like pregnancy, STIs or a broken heart.
- Doesn't have access to things that can reduce some risks with sex, like contraception, safer sex barriers, a partner who is on board with either or both, sexual healthcare or support from family or friends.
- Would be in danger, or a great deal of conflict, in their families were they discovered engaging in sex.
- Is in the process of healing from sexual abuse or assault or another kind of interpersonal abuse.
- Is not comfortable risking being outed in some way, or risking a partner disclosing sexual activity with them to others.
- Is not comfortable enough with their body, sexuality or gender identity yet to be sexual with someone else.
- Just does not feel ready for sex with someone else, in any number of ways.
- Just does not feel a desire, yet, or so far, for sex with someone else.
- Is not in the mood or has something else they'd rather be doing.
- Doesn't feel confident or assertive enough.
- Is in the middle of a big relationship or other personal conflict, crisis, life change -- like a move, parents divorcing, severe depression or anxiety - or loss.
- Hasn't yet had or found the kind of sexual opportunities they really want.
- Just isn't sure how they feel about sex in a given situation or in general yet.
All of those reasons are not just valid but equally valid. It's also valid if you aren't sure what your reasons are, but you just know something sexual isn't right for you, or that you aren't sure enough it is right for you to do it. It's even valid if your reason is something that doesn't seem important, or even sensible, to anyone else, like "Because my show is on," "Because it's Tuesday," or "Because 42." A reason or a rationale isn't required for someone to accept a no -- we don't need to understand something to respect and accept it. "No," "not yet," or "not now," is truly all anyone should have to hear to know and accept that sex or a sexual relationship is a no-go.
But not everyone gets or feels that. Some people feel they don't have the right to engage in sex of any kind, or be in a sexual relationship, only if and when that's what they want. Some people don't feel assertive enough to hold their own lines, and aren't resilient to pressure from partners, friends or even their own minds. Some people feel like even if they don't really want to be sexual with someone, they have to be to get or compensate someone for something else they want, like a boyfriend or girlfriend, a kind of commitment, or social status. Some people also don't accept a no or a "not yet" with grace and courtesy. Sometimes people will manipulate, coerce, push or pressure someone into changing their no to a yes.
We know it isn't always easy or clear how to opt out of sex or sexual relationships, and that some people just don't know how to do that, or what they can do to support their own wants and limits. So, to get started, there's some content already at the site that may help with specific needs or gaps when it comes to all this:
- Does sex feel like something out of your control, something happening TO you, rather than something you're an active part of; like something that "just happens?" Then check out: When Sex "Just Happened" (And How to Make It Happen Instead).
- Does it feel like everything is moving at warp-speed, too fast for you to slow it down to even have two seconds to figure out what you want and feel ready for? Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You're Moving Too Fast can help.
- Do you feel like you just don't know how to make choices, like sexual choices, that come with some high stakes? Have a look at: Risky Business: Learning to Consider Risk and Make Sound Sexual Choices.
- Is your partner -- or maybe even all of the partners you have ever had -- pressuring you, not really giving you a choice, or, when you say no, saying something besides, "Okay. Is there something else you want to do together today instead?" Then you've just got to get away from that person. This can help you to plan and do that safely: The Scarleteen Safety Plan. Or, if it doesn't seem quite that dire yet, at the very least you'll need to set some hard limits and have some big talks. This, this or this can help with that.
- Is assertiveness something you feel like you just don't have yet? Then the best thing you can do for yourself is probably to take yourself out of situations -- like sex -- that require everyone involved is able to assert themselves, and work more on that before getting into a possible sexual relationship or interaction again. There are some great suggestions in this piece: The Sex Goddess Blues: Building Sexual Confidence, Busting Perfectionism. This may also be of use: How do I bring up my sexual limits and boundaries?
- Do you feel like you just don't even know what you want and need in the first place when it comes to sex, readiness and relationships? These may help you figure that out: Yes, No, Maybe So: A Sexual Inventory Stocklist, Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist, Sorting Maybe from Can't-Be: Reality Checking Partnered Sex Wants & Ideals and Supermodel: Creating & Nurturing Your Own Best Relationship Models.
- Is mutual, active consenting just not happening in your relationships or interactions? Here's how to do that: Driver's Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent. Here's an extra tip: Consenting is something that should be going both ways. So, if you're not opening up conversations about consent yourself, and assuring you have the other person's consent for things, that closes the kind of communication we need to say what we don't want and do, and sends a message to the other person they don't need to do that with you, either. When we don't seek consent from someone else, we can't expect them to feel like they need to seek it from us.
- Do you feel like you have to have sex with someone to basically pay for a relationship with them: that sex is something you are obligated to do in order to get an intimate relationship, to keep a boyfriend or girlfriend? It's not, but if it feels that way, the following pieces may be helpful: This is what sexual incompatibility looks like, An Immodest Proposal, Potholes & Dead Ends: Relationship Roadblocks to Look Out For, or I think he'll dump me if I don't have sex with him. So, should I?
- Feeling a lot of physical and emotional sexual desire, but know sex or a sexual relationship isn't the right thing for you right now? How to Understand, Identify and Make Choices About Desire and Kisses and Snuggles FTW! may be of use. Don't forget: masturbation is a way we can be sexual and answer those desires without being sexual with others when that's not what we want or what's right for us.
- Wanting intimacy and feeling like the only way you or others can get that is through sex? It's so not. Here's something that can tell you more about intimacy and the many ways we can create and experience it: Intimacy: The Whys, Hows, How-Nots, and So-Nots.
- Want to have some kinds of sex, but not others, like intercourse? Intercourse is not the only "real" sex, nor are all other kinds of sex "not sex," but "only foreplay." To find out what sex is and can be, what a range of different sexual activities are, and to help you figure out which kinds of sex you want and feel right about, and what you need to feel okay about the sex you do want, check out What's Sex? and Yes, No, Maybe So: A Sexual Inventory Stocklist.
(There's also a big batch of more pieces related to this topic in the grey boxes at the end of the page. If you feel alone in this, know you're not: this is one of the most common themes in our interactions with Scarleteen users.)
Still want more? Oh, boy, do we ever got some more.
First things first: if and when you know you don't want a sexual relationship now or anytime soon, communicating that clearly to anyone you're dating (or, anyone you're seeing with the aim of mutually-lovey feelings, if that word isn't your fave) or are thinking about dating can help keep you from getting involved with anyone who isn't cool with that.
Right at or near the start of things, you can ask the other person what they're looking for in a relationship right now, including when it comes to sex. Or you can hang out them for long enough before getting involved in an intimate relationship with them to find out what they generally want: friends do often talk about this stuff. Then you take your turn, being sure to include that one thing you know you do not want right now is something sexual. If that's just on the whole, then you can say you just don't want a sexual relationship at all right now. If it's more specific than that, like if there are some ways of being sexual together you may want now or soon, but not others, go ahead and be specific. Clearly. Confidently. Knowing you get to do that and that being clear about what you want (and don't) is the only likely road to get you to getting what you want.
The Prude Trap
Do you feel reluctant to put your limits out there because you have the idea being clear about not wanting sex means you're a prude, sexually shackled or repressed? If so, please know that kind of awareness, assertiveness, self-care and self-determination is anything but.
Concepts of "sexual repression" or "sexual liberation," are not universally defined, but are very arbitrary and personal. These aren't things we can soundly just assign to people, nor things that we can know anything about just based on whether someone does or doesn't want to have sex. Much like words for sexual orientation or gender, these are words best and most accurately expressed only by someone about themselves, based on their own feelings, experiences and introspection.
I think being as clear and strong about a sexual no as a yes is strong evidence someone is sexually liberated and empowered, not repressed. It's people who do not (yet!) feel sexually empowered who feel they can't say no. Someone who feels empowered sexually is usually someone who's good at advocating for themselves in what they want and don't, and at setting whatever limits and boundaries they have. Someone who feels sexually empowered tends to take real ownership of their own sexual wants, don't-wants, needs and choices.
Liberation, of any kind, is centered in freedom, and freedom is centered in people having the power, ability and right to make their own choices. Empowerment is about a real feeling of power and agency in our own lives. So, if and when you want to opt out of sex or a sexual relationship, know that holding to that limit, regardless of what someone else wants from you, is something that supports liberation and empowerment, not something that opposes it.
By the way, some people choose to reclaim and use the word "prude" to express part of who they are without feeling crummy about it, just like some people do with "slut." The origin of that word goes back around four centuries, originally meaning "woman who affects or upholds modesty in a degree considered excessive." This may sound familiar: just like the word "slut," it's a term based in other people's own standards, ideas and wants about other people as a whole and their sexuality -- and what they consider too much or too little for someone else. It's not about someone's own ideas and standards about themselves, which is what we support with people's sexual lives if we want them to be healthy and beneficial. You may find it's powerful for you to reclaim terms like prude, swapping them from being something people use to try and control the sexuality of others into something you feel represents the sexuality you want. Who knows, maybe SuperPrude! is exactly the kind of identity that will help you flip the bird at people who doesn't respect you for making your own choices, and feel like just the thing to support you in sticking to what it is you want.
Maybe not so much with the maybes.
If you're at a maybe with sex or a sexual relationship, you may know what you would want or need you don't have yet to get you to a yes or no. When you do know, communicate that clearly. Leaving maybe's vague can result in someone assuming you're being coy or playful -- even if you're not -- or that you, like them, do want sex or a sexual relationship, because you haven't said you don't. From what I can tell from our users talking about these situations, the vague maybe leads to relationship conflict and inner turmoil fast, and leaves those voicing the unclear "maybes" feeling cornered by it, under pressure to move that maybe to a yes more quickly than is wanted.
Are you saying maybe because you're at a no, but are afraid to say no? How about taking a positive risk and saying, "I'm saying maybe because I feel like it isn't okay for me to say no." There's a bold move that could give you some confidence and relief you didn't have before. If that kind of honestly feels way out of reach, it's probably time to step back and away and figure out what's keeping you from feeling comfortable saying a yes or a no instead of a maybe.
Let go of guilt or feelings of obligation
Sex is not something anyone is "owed," nor that anyone must provide for someone else. It's not required just because someone is in a romantic relationship, either. Sex isn't something anyone is being hurtful simply by not being part of or saying no to, nor is it something someone simply will be unable to live without from you. Feelings of sexual desire can feel very strong, and we do have a real human need for touch, but that touch doesn't have to be sexual. This is only sex we're talking about here, not food, water or shelter. Some people do set up and conduct their sexual relationships like sex is a "duty" (and usually only for one of the people involved), but that's just not a framework for healthy, equitable relationships, or sexual lives that people are likely to enjoy or feel good about.
It might also be helpful to think about how you might feel if a partner was only having sex with you because they felt like they had to because you couldn't handle it if they didn't, like they owed you, or to avoid feeling guilty. That's probably not something you'd feel happy about or that would leave you feeling good about yourself. Any partner would probably feel the same way. Not only is having sex only because you feel like you owe it to someone probably bad for you, it also is pretty disrespectful of them: it suggests they're the kind of person who thinks that little of themselves and you. Everyone is likely to feel more respected, and better about a shared sexual life, when everyone in it is only in it because of positive feelings and a real desire to connect in that way together.
Don't get hung up on, "But no one will date me if I say I don't want to have sex!"
Whether it's doing something you don't really want or feel ready for, or being dishonest or deceptive about your desire NOT to have sex, these setups are recipes for interactions or relationships that feel more like a back-alley drug deal than building and sharing real intimacy and connection. Plenty of times, we're not going to wind up dating or continuing to date any number of people we feel drawn to; we're not going to be the right fit for a specific kind of relationship with everyone, whether that's about sex or something else. It typically takes time and some trial and error, sometimes over many years, to find people we really connect with and who also wants the same things we do. Timing truly is everything with intimate relationships, and it usually takes a while for the timing to be just right.
This setup is a lot like having pets and renting apartments. No, seriously. When you have a cat, for instance, finding an apartment to rent becomes a bit tougher. Many landlords make clear right up front that they don't accept pets, so there are fewer places even open to you to consider. At some point, you may well do the very foolish thing some of us (ahem) have done, where you figure you just won't say you have a pet and hope you don't get caught, because you really, really want some awesome apartment that otherwise exactly suits all of your needs. But it's pretty much guaranteed you will get caught, and then you'll have to still find somewhere you can live with your pet, and with it even tougher now because you have to find a place faster than usual, and may even be dealing with big fines, an eviction, or a bad reference from the landlord you were dishonest with. Welcome to a giant mess entirely of your own making that could probably have been avoided if you just accepted other people's limits and your own and sought out a place that was fine with your cat.
Whether we're talking cats and apartments, or sex and relationships, things are always going to go a lot better when we don't walk into agreements we know we can't honor or situations we don't want.
If and when we don't want a sexual relationship, and get involved with someone we know does, it's not likely to go well. No one is likely to get what they want or feel comfortable. Deception or manipulation is in the mix, which puts a relationship on the express train to Crummytown. This setup often seems to result in people feeling like there's a ticking sex-bomb under everything, one they'd better diffuse soon with sex -- sex they don't really want -- to keep the relationship from going kaboom. That's much like it feels when you're hiding out in a flat with a cat who isn't supposed to be there, your awesome place that turned out to feel a lot less awesome than you thought it would because being able to stay there is so utterly unstable and uncertain; because you know the mess you made is going to bite you in the arse eventually.
Relationships that work well do in large part because the people in them want similar things. It's important we're honest about what we do and don't want or feel ready for, and that we accept that some relationships aren't going to be the right ones, because there's some big part of them -- like sex -- where we and the other person just want different things. Being open and real about your wants and don't-wants makes it way more likely you'll find and build relationships that are mutually beneficial for everyone in them and that feel like the right place for you to be, just as you are.
If it feels like you have to "pay" for or earn some kind of relationship or intimate interaction with sex, rather than sex feeling like something that's mutually wanted, do yourself a solid and don't rationalize how that can be okay, because as we often see with users who do this, it doesn't feel okay at all, especially over time. Instead, look for partnerships or interactions where your wants and needs do align: they're out there, and they're easier to find when you're clear they're what you're looking for.
Sometimes people get nixed as partners because they do not want a sexual relationship, or have a breakup because only one person wants a sexual relationship. When that happens, we've heard some big expressed anger about how someone broke up with them or didn't date them "just" because of sex, implying it isn't meaningful, acceptable or moral for someone to make decisions about their relationships that include consideration of their sexual desires. I get that experience can sting. But sex isn't a "just" for most people most of the time. If it was, you wouldn't have the strong feelings about not wanting it or not feeling ready that you do. It often feels just as important and big when it is what someone wants.
So long as everyone was honest with each other, and didn't ever intentionally misrepresent their wants or limits, no-one is the jerk in these situations while the other is the saint, or in the wrong when the other person is right (or more noble, superior, or righteous). Everyone in these spots is just someone who wants something different than someone else, that's all. Respect for each others' differences without setting one want up as more or less valid, or more or less noble, is the better way to go. Not only does that help keep you focused on seeking out and finding what you want without getting bogged down by bitterness, it also is just the kind of basic respect and understanding we need with each other to have a chance at any kind of healthy relationships.
Relatedly ditch-worthy: "If I don't have sex with them, they'll have sex with someone else!"
Ooof. Is a sexual life that's built on extortion one that sounds awesome to you? It sounds pretty crap to me. If someone wants a sexual relationship but you don't, you're just not likely to be a good fit. Why not just go ahead, acknowledge that difference, and move on, letting that person have sex with someone else who wants to have sex, while you find someone who wants what you do?
If someone is clear they want a sexual relationship, and you're not clear you don't and get involved with them anyway? They are likely to feel dissatisfied, and may indeed seek out a sexual partner in any number of ways, including by splitting up with you, because that's what they want, after all. When people want something, we tend to seek it out, and that includes sex. There's nothing unreasonable or unusual about that, and it sure beats the alternative: someone having sex with someone who's only doing it because they think it will control that person. Everyone loses with that one.
Too, know that often enough, people who have sex with others while in relationships that are supposed to be exclusive often do so even when their partner is engaging in sex with them. If this concern comes from the idea that someone will only break sexual exclusivity agreements if and when they're not "getting" sex from their partner, know that just doesn't square with reality. Even if you do have sex with someone, they still might seek out sex from others, so this approach not only isn't likely to make for anything emotionally healthy, it also often doesn't even work the way you hoped it would in the first place.
On Keeping Up With the Joneses
(Or the Kardashians. Or anyone else who isn't you.)
If you have the idea "everyone" around you is engaging in sex so you have to, know that if you're a young person, you're probably wrong. A lot of people get their ideas about who's having sex from the media, peers and what adults have their knickers in a twist over. But those are often the most unreliable sources of information about young people's sexual lives. The media has represented nearly every generation of young people for the last 100+ years as wanton, out-of-control hedonists, even though from generation to generation, that's actually varied a whole lot (and that's never been an accurate representation of any whole generation sexually). Publishers recognize that sexual sensationalism sells, especially when it's about young people, who the world on the whole has a terrible and highly-profitable habit of sexualizing. Adults panicking about some giant wave of youth sex a) have done that historically for pretty much ever (and when they were young, adults did the same with them), b) are usually not basing that on accurate information or young people's real sexualities, and c) are often having a hard time even seeing through their own ongoing issues and conflicts with sex, their youth, or both.
Here are the facts: statistically speaking, for most of you in your teens and twenties in developed nations, your sexual debut -- when you start being sexual with others, though this is often represented only as intercourse in studies -- is happening later than it did for your parents or grandparents, maybe even than some of your great-grandparents. "Everyone" in their teens, or at any age, for that matter, isn't having sex.
Even if everyone else was, "Everyone else is so I have to," is a real stinker of a motivation for sex. To feel good about our sexual choices, they need to be primarily about us, and our partners, not about people who are no part of our sex lives. If and when we are different sexually in some way than others, trying to conform to how other people are, and what they want, isn't the road to a sexual life that's good for us -- for who we are.
If you feel like the only person who isn't having sex in your social circle, or aren't feeling super-supported in your choices, you could probably stand to expand that circle so you have some friends who get you or feel the same way. Through life we're going to expand, contract and mix up the groups we hang out with to keep them a good fit as we all grow and change. Whether it's about you not wanting to have sex, or you having a passionate interest in marine life, being an artist, or wanting to spend your every waking leisure minute jousting, we're always going to need some solidarity and commonality with our friends and will need to make a point of seeking it out. And if your friends are all people who'll only be friends when someone meets the sexual status quo, even if those choices are totally wrong for them, it might be time for a new group of friends altogether: the kind who actually act like friends.
"Not Really Sex" (And how it usually is, really, sex.)
If you don't want to be engaging in sex and know it isn't something you feel good about and ready for, do yourself a favor and don't engage in some kinds of sex by trying to trick yourself into thinking "everything-but-intercourse" isn't "real sex," that skipping condom or contraceptive use means it "wasn't really intercourse," or that sex where you're touching someone else's genitals, but they're not touching yours is "not sex." The things people do to express or explore their sexuality together are what sex is, not just some things, or only the kind of sex that can make a baby.
For one, your body isn't fooled: if, for example, you want to opt out of sex to avoid any pregnancy or STI risks, your body doesn't care what you call something. If what you're doing, like anal or oral sex, carries any of those those risks, you could call what you're doing "making cupcakes for leprechauns" and your risks are still going to be the risks there are for that kind of sex. But your mind and heart probably won't be tricked, either. In our experience, people who don't want to be having sex and go this route still emotionally feel as if they are having sex (which isn't surprising, as they are). The conflict that person would feel having whatever they are calling "real sex" are usually the same ways they feel with other kinds of sex. If you don't want to be having sex, just don't have sex. Calling something we don't feel good about something different won't magic it into something we feel good about.
What you can find in romance can also usually be found in close, intimate friendships
In the years I've done this work, I've heard a lot of people express that they want things they see as only being in a romantic or sexual relationship. They'll talk about things they want like support, acceptance, love, company, non-sexual physical affection, sharing life plans and dreams, having adventures together or creating families.
The issue of trying to untangle the romantic from the erotic aside (historically, from the advent of the idea of romance as a concept in the 1600s, the romantic was totally tied up with the sexual, so talking about them as two radically different things is tricky), most of those things are usually things we can find in intimate, non-sexual friendships. None of these things -- including things like making families together -- are exclusive to sexual or romantic relationships, and most of them are things we can have or nurture through close, platonic friendships, too. If you're finding these things aren't part of your friendships, you can work more on making them part of your friendships, and seeking out and building friendships to include them. That's a good thing even when you are in wanted romantic or sexual relationships.
What about when saying no to sex you don't really want just feels impossible?
If you find yourself in a situation or pattern where holding to your own limits, and getting them respected just literally feels impossible, one of the following is probably afoot:
- You are in WAY over your head, per relationships or interactions that are much too far down the road from where you, yourself, actually are right now. Everything is just moving way too fast for you. You're in the deep end of the pool when you haven't even started learning how to swim.
- You are with someone -- or, if this is a pattern, more than one someone -- who makes it hard for you to say no intentionally, and/or just isn't at a place yet in their own lives where they are able to be intimate in healthy ways with others. You're in an unhealthy relationship or interaction, once which may even be abusive in one or more ways.
- Something about your life circumstances is such that you either are not being afforded the right for sex to be optional, or you do not feel you have that right, even though you do. OR, your literal survival depends on sex, like if sex is the only way you have found gets you a place to stay, food to eat or other essential parts of simply getting by in life from day-to-day.
- There's something else going on that feels way bigger and harder than saying yes to sex you don't want or don't feel right about, or where it feels or seems like having sex compensates or covers for that other thing, like: knowing you're not heterosexual but not accepting that; using sex to prevent harassment or other abuse; having a hard time feeling you have value in the world or with other people; dealing with trauma of some kind, including sexual trauma; untreated mental illness like depression, a compulsive behaviour disorder, or fears of being alone.
In any of those situations, what's usually the very best bet, if not the only sound move, is to work to get yourself out of them. If we're ever in something where we we have or feel no real agency when it comes to our own lives, and we have the option to get out, we want to get gone and stay gone from those. Then we want to do what we need to to change our situation, whether that's something like healing from some kind of abuse and getting more help to learn to do what we can to steer clear of more, working on self-esteem, finding public shelters or services for care, advocacy and help we need, or just finding some extra guidance and support. (We are always willing to help our users find these kinds of services and help in our direct services, btw.)
Depending on your situation and circumstances, you might be able to come back to sex and sexual relationships in a much better place in a few weeks or it may take a few years. Realizing you may have a very long haul before you can find yourself more able to make, and better supported in, healthier sexual choices isn't the most wonderful realization of ever. But the truth is that you're likely to get to the good stuff a lot more quickly if you're not still getting stuck in the yuck, where things may never change, or if they do, will probably involve positive progress at a much, much slower rate than if you gave yourself a clean, empty slate, and the wide-open time and space you need, to work with.
If you don't want to be having sex, don't.
Sex and sexual relationships that people tend to truly enjoy, and that feel like good things in their lives, are about shared pleasure: physical and emotional. No one is generally pleased by doing something big, something where we're all vulnerable, that they don't want to do. Few people also want their sexual lives with others to involve someone being sexual with them when they don't want to be, because: yuck.Again, sex and sexual relationships are supposed to be optional. If we want them to be something everyone involved in them only is involved with by choice, one big thing we've got to do is at hold our own lines, whatever they are, and choose the option of "no" or "not now" when that's the option we want.
The really good news is that if this is something you are struggling with, if you can just give yourself a little push and start to say no or set limits when that's what you really want, it gets easy pretty fast without a lot of practice. Just going ahead and saying and holding it strongly once will probably leave you feeling a more able, less scared and your yesses, when you do give them, will feel a lot more fun to give. And the more you practice having and holding limits, the better you'll get at it, the more likely you'll be to gather people in your sex and dating life who are also on board with what you want. In time, you may well find yourself marveling at how it ever felt so hard to do in the first place.