Allow me to set the scene, inspired by a story an acquaintance recently shared with me:
A man and a woman are on their second date. Things are getting physical. Feel-good brain chemicals are flowing. The kissing is getting deeper and more passionate.
“I want to keep my pants on,” she says.
“That’s fine with me,” he says.
And they continue on. Passions rise higher. Hands and mouths are roaming. Pelvis thrusts against pelvis. Other articles of clothing have been shed. Intensity builds.
“Do you want my fingers inside of you?” he asks.
“That might feel good,” she replies.
A conversation unfolds. Some new parameters are laid down. His fingers do in fact make their way inside of her. And with the dawn of the next day, a question hangs heavy in the air for both of them:
“Did I do the right thing?”
One might think that clearly defined edges, limits and parameters would be easy to navigate, yet when it comes to boundaries around physical and sexual intimacy, it’s pretty amazing how blurry those edges become, how flexible those limits can seem and how permeable the parameters actually are, especially in the heat of the moment.
Boundaries change. Desire shifts. Sometimes faster than you can take a breath or blink your eye. This is the nature of being human, of being an embodiment of erotic energy and relating to other similar beings. And so it’s far from cut and dry.
It can be extremely confusing to know how best to navigate boundaries in ways that honor the giving and receiving of informed consent AND full expression of our eroticism. There’s no rule book or one-size fits all approach, so finding our way can be perplexing and frustrating at times.
Especially if you’re someone who is doing their very best to dismantle the culture of rape, expand the culture of consent and bring a strong degree of consciousness to your relating. Especially if you’re newly relating to someone and are intoxicated by a cocktail of feel-good brain chemicals without much context or prior knowledge of the other.
So what to do?
Imagine a reframe of the conversation that goes a little something like this:
Second date sexiness is unfolding. . .
“Right now, I want to keep my pants on. I’m open to them possibly coming off later and us moving into deeper levels of connection [bonus points for naming specific acts!] and if that desire arises in me, I promise I’ll let you know,” she says.
“Thanks for your clarity. I feel more relaxed knowing you’re checking in with your boundaries and desire. It’s really hot actually! I’m feeling a clear yes to deeper levels of connection, so I’ll defer to you to determine if you want to go there tonight,” he said.
Fast forward through the building intensity. . .
“Wow. . . I am really enjoying you! This feels amazing,” he says.
“I’m right there with you! And checking in with myself, I do feel ready to deepen; however, I’d like to each say what we are and are not up for so we can be clear,” she says.
Next day rolls around:
“That was such a great second date! Both honoring and super steamy. I feel really connected to this person and excited for more.”
Yes, this is a longer dialogue than the first scenario. Yes, this requires a degree of skill, confidence and safety that not everyone may believe they possess. Yes, this is a new paradigm of relating that may not, on its surface, seem quite as sexy to some.
Yet I offer this up as a possibility. I offer this up as a glimpse into what might happen if we chose to be really clear with our words. Of what it could be like to set boundaries that are as wide or as narrow as we need to feel good about engaging. To further take on the responsibility of communicating when a shift happens rather than keeping our partner(s) guessing. To express our desires without an attachment or expectation to someone else fulfilling them right then and there.
Whether or not you believe you currently have the skills or confidence to have this kind of conversation, I assure you, it is something you can learn. This kind of skill is something you can be taught and practice with, and through practice your confidence grows. It really is that simple. I do it all the time with my clients and I have grown through this process myself.
The only way we can affect change in our predominant culture is to begin making changes within ourselves and our relationships. So here’s to really acknowledging and thoroughly communicating our boundaries, to expressing our desires free of expectation around someone else immediately meeting them and to co-creating steamy and soulful intimate connections in our lives!