Yes, No, Maybe Lists

Yes, No, Maybe Lists

Posted By Javay- The Millennial Sexpert
Yes, No, Maybe Lists

Yes, No, Maybe Lists

Our sexual preferences and needs can evolve over time. Utilizing a Yes/No/Maybe list with your partner can help you both talk openly and honestly about what you like, what you don't like, or what you are curious about trying. 


We all have different interests sexually and ideas of things that don’t wet our whistle when it comes to sexual play and activities. When you start playing with someone new or enter into a relationship, it can be overwhelming thinking about what you are want to do with them or what they may not be interested in doing with you. A great way to address this topic in a relationship is by using a Yes/No/Maybe list.

What are they?

Yes/No/Maybe (YNM) lists are breakdowns of sexual activities, interests, positions, etc., that you would be interested in doing, don’t want to do at all, or most definitely want to make happen in the bedroom. YNM lists started as a BDSM-kink practice for negotiating play between partners. Over the years they have grown in popularity to be more mainstream. BDSM/kinksters would use YNM lists to establish hard and soft limits in terms of play and have a starting point when designing scenes to engage in.

Since becoming more mainstream YNM lists have been used as a starting point in terms of the consent conversation. It also has become popular in relationships where one partner may be kinkier than another to find common ground as the less experienced partner gets their toes wet and starts to experience the world of kink and BDSM.

You can create a YNM list by getting a notebook or piece of paper and creating three columns. You are going to label each column: the first column is yes, the second column is no, and the third column is maybe. Start writing out everything that pops into your mind. There is no rush in the creation of your list, especially since you probably won’t be able to think of every single sexual activity in one sitting.

If you are more technological then you can create a YNM list on your phone and refer back to it every time a new sexual activity pops into your head. Keeping it on your phone allows for quick access to your list, especially if you are in a different location when the conversation around sexual activities and what you are interested in or okay with comes up with a partner.

How they can help facilitate the conversation with a partner

YNM lists are a great option for starting a conversation with a partner because they can be used as an activity to open the conversation. You can plan a whole evening around creating your YNM lists together. Create a fun environment with your favorite music, fun lighting, something to snack on while creating the list, new journals or decorative poster board, whatever gets you excited about an activity. 

For each section, you should discuss the items you (and your partner) have written down. For example, 

YES: Consider if there is anything specific about a yes that excited you or your partner. 

NO: Talk about each no, and listen to your partner's no list to build more intimacy and better understand each other.

Maybe: Talk about what conditions or parameters need to be in place for a maybe to become a yes. One condition may be that in order for it to be a yes it would have to be after a specific milestone (e.g. no anal until you’re in a committed relationship or married), on a specific occasion (e.g. roleplaying and costumes can happen on Halloween when you’re already in that headspace) or after discussing at length. There are a lot of different reasons why something may be in the maybe section and learning more about the reasons can help you and your partner better understand yourselves, your desires, and your relationship. 

Examples of useful Yes/No/Maybe lists

Though YNM lists are common for kink/BDSM and sexual play they can also be used in a variety of ways throughout a relationship. You can use YNM lists when planning your first vacation together with a partner, for establishing boundaries when you move in with a partner, or for relationship agreements in polyamorous relationships or group play settings.

If you are wanting to start with a YNM list that focuses on a sexual activity break it into categories to make it easier to think on. For example, some categories could include

- Adding components to your sex life, such as sex toys, restraints, porn use, etc. 

- Aftercare practices after all sexual activity, not just kink/BDSM activity. 

- Names you would like to be called during sex or within the relationship in general. 

- List of activities you would be okay receiving or being the bottom for and the activities you would want to be the giver or top for. 

If you are overwhelmed by creating your own list and want something to work from, there are a variety of resources on the internet. Autostraddle is a great resource for a multitude of downloadable PDFs that include YNM lists, exercises for what turns you on, how you like to be talked to, and exploring one’s fantasies. 

We are continually evolving and changing as people and sexual beings, so it is recommended to revisit your YNM list every couple of years or so. This will allow you to see how your sexuality and sexual interests change over time and give you and your partner an opportunity for continual check-ins to keep the spark alive in your relationship on every level, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

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