Yes, No, Maybe List

Updated: NOVEMBER 2, 2023
Reviewed by Dr. Laura McGuire
on October 19, 2023

A yes, no, maybe list is a document that catalogs its creator’s interest in trying different sexual activities. Typically, this document lists acts they want to try in the "yes" column, acts they feel uncomfortable trying in the "no" column and acts they could consider in the "maybe" column. You may see this document written as a yes/no/maybe list or called a yes, no, maybe checklist.

A yes, no, maybe list can include any sex practices a person can think of. It usually focuses on acts of pleasure, but may also include more practical boundary-setting, such as whether it's OK to make eye contact, what a partner likes to be called during sex and much more. Some of the activities someone may include on their yes, no, maybe list include:

A sample Yes No Maybe List

Why Make a Yes, No, Maybe List

Making a yes, no, maybe list can be a useful tool to spark discussions about sex and sexual health and help people learn more about their partners. It may also open people up to new sexual possibilities. It can help people in new relationships assess their sexual compatibility and navigate their sex lives together. People in long-term relationships might use a yes, no, maybe list to improve their connection and understanding of one another and expand their sexual horizons. This can reignite a spark for people who feel sex has become predictable or routine.

How to Make and Use a Yes, No, Maybe List

People can make a yes, no, maybe list with their partners by following these steps:

1. Create or find a template

People can use an established yes, no, maybe list template or create their list from scratch. When creating this document from scratch, divide the page into four vertical columns titled sex acts, yes, no and maybe. Then list the sex acts to categorize in the left column. Alternatively, simply list the sex acts and leave space for writing yes, no or maybe beside them. Try to be as specific as possible to avoid confusion. For example, “hand stuff” could mean fingering, hand jobs, mutual masturbation or digital penetration. Listing giving and receiving sex acts separately also makes this document clearer. Make enough copies of the yes, no maybe for everyone in the relationship to complete.

2. Categorize the sex acts

Classify each sex act as a yes, no, or maybe by marking the appropriate column or writing these words or their initials, depending on the template. Some people prefer using a numerical grading system to show their level of interest. It’s a good idea for each partner to complete this step without the other partner(s) present. This ensures each person doesn't feel influenced by their partners’ opinions.

3. Compare lists

Partners can then come back together to compare their lists and see which acts they share similar views on. Highlighting shared "yes" acts can be a good visual aid for further exploration. People might also cross out any acts that received a no from one or more partners.

4. Discuss sex acts

A non-judgmental discussion can help people understand their partner’s perspectives and preferences. Good topics for discussion include the reasons for giving activities certain classifications, circumstances where someone might consider "maybe" acts, and feelings about sex acts people have categorized differently. Listening to a partner and respecting their limits is important. Discussing the yes, no, maybe lists at least once a year can prompt partners to share any changes in their preferences or interests.

More About Yes, No, Maybe List

A yes, no, maybe list can be a useful document for couples who want to clarify and explore their sexual interests. People might use this document if they’re vanilla, kinky or a member of the BDSM community. Remember that it doesn't matter what the acts listed are or how kinky they are. What matters is finding areas of common ground and a point of exploration for partners.

Yes, No, Maybe Lists and BDSM

Yes, no, maybe lists originated in the BDSM community to help dominants and submissives understand their desires and ensure they aligned before scenes. While there may be some overlap between activities on vanilla and BDSM lists, lists for BDSM often include more intense activities that focus on power play. For example, they may feature serious impact play and kinkier fetish activities. These discussions may even be used to build a BDSM contract.

Yes, No, Maybe Lists and Consent

Categorizing items on a yes, no, maybe list isn’t the same as giving consent for them. While someone may be more likely to consent to the acts in the "yes" column of their list, their partner should discuss and gain consent before trying something on this document.

“Consent is always crucial, even after establishing a yes, no, maybe list, because desires and boundaries can change over time,” adds Mary Smith, a licensed relationship and dating specialist, wedding planner and the founder of “What someone may have been open to in the past could become a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and vice versa. That’s why ongoing communication and consent are vital to ensure both partners feel comfortable and enthusiastic about any sexual activity. The yes, no, maybe list is not a binding contract, but a tool to facilitate discussions around consent. It should be viewed as a dynamic document that prompts couples to revisit and update it regularly.”

People can also withdraw consent at any time, so it’s important to gain consent every time, even if a partner has consented to an act on the list previously.

Templates and Apps for Yes, No, Maybe Lists

These yes, no, maybe list templates make creating these documents easy. Check them out and find one that works for you!

The following apps also help people create yes, no, maybe lists:

Incorporating Acts From a Yes, No, Maybe List Into Your Sex Life

With a clear understanding of a partner’s desires and preferences, people can start experimenting with acts for pleasure on the list. After confirming consent, start with "yes" acts in common with a partner as these will likely be the most mutually pleasurable. Afterward, partners can discuss their feelings about the act and whether they might try it again or change anything about the experience. Over time, people might move out of their comfort zone and try some "maybe" acts. Acts for pleasure with "no" classifications should remain off limits - even if one partner is interested in them - to show respect for boundaries.



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