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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Yousome, mesome, threesome: exploring sexual boundaries

Published: February 11, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

Creating healthy boundaries and discovering which sexual activities feel right or wrong for you remains the key to maintaining and exploring your sexual health. This means knowing what you are comfortable with doing as well as realizing that each person may have wildly different boundaries than you do. Boundaries can be influenced by personal preference, religious values, cultural values and a multitude of other factors. An example of variance is that, in some European countries, it is customary to kiss someone as a greeting, while in other countries it is not even socially acceptable to smile at the person. Case in point, when you assume someone’s boundaries, it makes an ass out of you and me. So how can you make sure you maintain your own boundaries as well as your partner’s? Ask your partner!

The only way to be sure both you and your prospective partner are on the same page is through communication and the establishment of a form of consent. This can be achieved through assertive “I” statements like, “when you (behavior), I feel (how you feel) and I want (a change you want or reinforcement of something you enjoy).” SSIS members Sami Grosser ’12 and Shannon Ingram ’13 suggest creating a safe word like “bananas” or “paprika.” This is a word that you or your partner can say when the activities become uncomfortable, and the word will stop whatever that activity is when you hear it, no questions asked. They also suggest that if you’re meeting up with somebody new that you don’t know too well, you should tell a close friend where you’re going and when they should expect to hear from you. If they don’t hear from you or you tell them a code word that means something is going wrong, they can help. Boundaries can either be crossed or expanded, but it should be at your own discretion.

The most extreme example of unwanted boundary-crossing is rape, defined as forced or unwanted sexual intercourse. According to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, “in Massachusetts alone, 4,418 adolescents and adults are sexually assaulted each year—that’s 12 people each day and one every two hours. Additionally 90 percent of rape survivors on college campuses knew their attackers.” Now I am not introducing these statistics to confine you to your room at night, but to have you be aware that rape and sexual assault is more common than we think. The best way to prevent this is to be alert upon entering every new situation. Ultimately preventing boundary crossing should also be a crucial part of our community standards, as we should have a zero-tolerance policy for that kind of behavior.

On the other end of the boundary spectrum is the idea of exploration and expanding your boundaries. If you have known what you enjoy for a while and are ready to try new things, there are many different activities to try to expand your sexual boundaries. Ingram and Grosser suggested the idea of BDSM (Bondage Discipline Dominant Submission Sadomasochism), an umbrella term for a lot of different techniques and activities. Perhaps you would not self-identify or be afraid of BDSM, but, in fact, many people actually perform it or fantasize about it. For instance, using handcuffs or spanking your partner are both forms of BDSM. Intrigued yet? All types of people have been known to enjoy BDSM, whether they’re gay, straight, queer, young or middle-aged women. For people who have too many responsibilities in their lives and want somebody else to take the reins, or for people who feel like they have lost control of everything around them and want to regain a dominant position, BDSM with a consenting partner could be for you.

Expanding your boundaries can also include role playing, strip teases, bondage with silk scarves, public settings, tickling, ice and threesomes. Benefits of threesomes can include deleting the desire to cheat, reviving your lust for your partner through competition and giving an incentive for you to get into shape and dress up (or down) for a new person! Some say the sensation of two people stimulating you is an experience that could bring you to new levels you could never have imagined.

Whether you discover that your comfort zone of sexual health doesn’t go beyond kissing or that it’s time for a third person in the bedroom, exploring sexual boundaries is an essential part of your sexual health. I wish you all safe and healthy pleasure. From masturbating to putting condoms on with your mouth, I hope that this sexual health series has been informative and exciting. As always, tune in for more health tips and send me an e-mail at with any health-related questions you may have.