Yes, No, Maybe


“Is this ok?”

I have heard this question more times this year than perhaps in my entire life, asked tentatively, hands approaching with caution, whispered breathlessly into my ear. The prevailing attitude in most consent discourse is that, although consent is necessary, it is decidedly unsexy, and that questions like “Is this ok?” are inevitable mood killers. After spending this year having the best sex of my life, I am inclined to disagree wholeheartedly.

Discussions of sexual communication are often made more difficult by the fact that we may confront questions to which we do not have answers. Many of us have never taken the time to sit down and decide for ourselves what we are and are not interested in. As a response to this cultural phenomenon, the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response created the “Yes/No/Maybe” questionnaire—a detailed list of items covering a broad range of possible sexual and romantic behaviors. The questions are designed for an individual or for partners to assess comfort with various actions and situations, which would ideally lead to further discussions and greater lines of open communication.

I am not shy when it comes to talking about sex. I will regularly and comfortably discuss my favorite vibrators, give information about proper protection methods, and share stories of my experiences openly and honestly. Yet in the past, I have found myself strangely quiet with partners. Perhaps, in some ways, I have been quiet with myself.

With the current sex education climate in the United States, most students are barely learning about the basics of safer sex, much less getting tools for healthy, enjoyable relationships. In my encounters with exes in the past, I have found myself always saying “yes” when perhaps I meant “maybe” or “not right now.” It always felt ok, and I never felt unsafe, but I find myself losing the words I once knew to describe what I want. I lose connection with my body.

Communicating with myself about sexual desire has been a bit like dating. There is the first date nerves, the awkward small talk, the joys of getting to know someone new (even if you met them before). On the third date, you go home together, fumble around for a while under the covers then fall asleep holding each other. You build a relationship – build trust. Perhaps someday you introduce another partner to the mix.

This year I feel closer to my own skin. When I’m touching, when I’m being touched, there’s some kind of magnetism. The sex I have is sex steeped in language. I know that everything I am doing is more than just accepted—it is wanted. And I want everything that is done to me.

Recently I filled out the “Yes/No/Maybe” questionnaire for myself. I realized that my only downright “no’s” involved risks to my bodily integrity and tickling (I tend to get violent). Much of the rest was either an enthusiastic “yes” or something at least up for conversations, and I felt confident knowing I could visualize those conversations.

Back in October, after an admittedly awkward hookup, a guy asked as he was leaving my room if I would give him another blowjob. For the first time in my life, I affirmatively and enthusiastically said no. Practicing yes, practicing asking, practicing debriefing, led me to a place where a “no” wasn’t a disappointment but mine and any partner’s right.

This year, I’ve spent a lot of time saying “Is this ok?” I say it to myself, to other people. And I mean it. I hold tightly then to the moments following, the moments of the whispered, breathless, hot against my neck “yes.”


Megan Sims ’18 ( spends most of time talking about sex when she’s not writing like she’s running out of time.