Improving the Yes, No, Maybe List [+5 Free Lists]

A few weeks ago I wrote about how a Yes, No, Maybe List inspires sexual exploration. In my post, I explained how to use this type of checklist and the benefits it offers people in partnerships. I even included a free Yes, No, Maybe List for readers looking to try it out.

What I didn’t do, however, was explain why I make my Yes, No, Maybe Lists a little differently than others you might find online.

In this post, I’ll:

  • talk about the trouble with standard Yes, No, Maybe Lists
  • share some steps I’ve taken to address those problems
  • give you five free Yes, No, Maybe lists you can use yourself

Just here for the free lists? Skip to the end. 😉 For sex ed nerds with an interest in instructional design, however, read on.

The Trouble with Yes, No, Maybe Lists

Photo by Anna Shvets

There’s a problem I’ve noticed with the standard Yes, No, Maybe List format:

it tries to do too much with too little.

Allow me to illustrate. A typical Yes, No, Maybe List looks something like this:

YesNoMaybe
Genital Touch
Oral Sex   
69   
Sex Toys   
Temperature Play   

…and so on. These lists will often include dozens, perhaps over a hundred names of sex acts as well as space for readers to check whether they are, are not, or are maybe interested in each act.

But there are a couple of problems with this format:

  1. There’s no space for readers to mark whether they’re comfortable giving or receiving each act. Some sex educators have solved this by adding “giving” and “receiving” boxes next to the Yes, No, and Maybe boxes for readers to check. But what happens when someone wants to say yes to giving and maybe to receiving?
  2. Users have to look up unfamiliar terms as they work through the list. When a list contains dozens of items, that creates a lot of work. Additionally, not everyone is comfortable with having those terms in their search history or possibly being exposed to imagery of every unknown sexual act on a list.

Compounding these issues are the audiences Yes, No, Maybe Lists are typically designed for. Most easily found lists online are made for:

  • young adults
  • sexual novices, or
  • experienced partners looking to “spice things up”.

Each of these situations draw different issues to the surface when it comes to the standard Yes, No, Maybe List format.

Newcomers Have A Lot to Learn

In the case of young adults or novices, the idea is that readers at the beginning of their sexual journey can use these lists to determine their personal interests and boundaries.

Understandably, the lists for this audience aim to cover a broad range of common (and a few uncommon) sexual acts to help people explore their options. Due to inexperience or lack of exposure, however, this can pose some problems.

For example, someone might check “yes” to genital touch while picturing a partner using hands or fingers to touch their genitals. However, their partner might see this and innocently assume that it refers to two people touching their genitals together. Clarification is necessary.

Experienced Folks Demand a Wide Net

Other lists are designed for people with more sex acts and communication under their belts. Assuming this audience has dabbled in any possible number of experiences, these checklists are often multiple pages long to try to include anything readers may have missed. Some creators even use small fonts to cram every possible sex act they can imagine onto those pages.

Talk about overwhelming! I’ve had a number of clients tell me that they’ve given up on completing the Yes, No, Maybe Lists they found online. They simply don’t have time to go through pages and pages of options, especially if they have to look up the meanings of some of the less common acts.

Why Sex Educators Use Long Lists

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich

Why are Yes, No, Maybe Lists so unwieldy? It can feel like sex educators are trying to impress you with their extensive knowledge of possible sex acts. Realistically, however, I think most are just trying to be comprehensive.

Educators want to give their audience everything they can, demonstrating the truly endless possibilities sexual exploration includes. They also want to avoid alienating anyone with unique interests. (i.e. “My kink didn’t even make it on the list—I must be exceptionally weird!”)

This desire for comprehensive Yes, No, Maybe Lists is well-intentioned, but it can leave readers drowning. These crammed lists also rarely include room for any kind of explanation of what each act entails, missing an opportunity to help newcomers achieve better clarity.

The Solution to Overwhelming and Unclear Lists

What we need are Yes, No, Maybe Lists that are digestible, descriptive, and include space for clarifying details like whether someone is marking “yes” to giving and/or receiving an act.

I aimed to accomplish exactly that with my free Yes, No, Maybe List for Beginners. It is a generalized list meant for newcomers to sexual exploration. I made a point of:

  • keeping it short and sweet
  • using simple formatting
  • splitting acts into giving & receiving options
  • including short descriptions of each act

The result? A one-page, easy-to-complete Yes, No, Maybe List that doesn’t require readers to consult a search engine or add notes about whether they’d like to give, receive, or both:

Is this a complete list of all possible sexual acts for newcomers? Absolutely not! That list is infinite—and constantly growing.

Not a Beginner? 4 More Lists for Extra Sexual Exploration

Photo by William Fortunato

The free Yes, No, Maybe list above offers newcomers a chance to dip their toes into sexual exploration without getting overwhelmed. Once they’ve gotten a feel for what the list can do for them and any partners they may have, they’re ready to try the next stage of my approach to Yes, No, Maybe Lists.

Increase User-Friendliness with Topic-Specific Lists

When I made my free Yes, No, Maybe Lists, I purposefully kept them short. I’d had clients comment about how long lists feel overwhelming—even compounding feelings of inexperience or inadequacy.

I wanted to address that, so created something more approachable and digestible. Today, I have 5 free Yes, No, Maybe Lists available for my readers:

  1. Yes, No, Maybe List for Beginners
  2. Yes, No, Maybe List for Anal Play
  3. Yes, No, Maybe List for Newcomers to Kink
  4. Yes, No, Maybe List for Solo Sex
  5. Yes, No, Maybe List for Ethical Nonmonogamy

These Yes, No, Maybe Lists focus on narrower, more easily digested topics rather than trying to fit every sexual act under the sun on a few pages. Each list includes brief descriptions of every act as well as a dedicated line for giving or receiving when relevant.

I keep each list under two pages long, using average-size fonts so as not to cram the pages full of small text. The result? Documents I consider to be very user-friendly Yes, No, Maybe Lists.

All 5 lists are included in my free activity book: Talking About Sex.

Free Activity Book + All 5 Yes, No, Maybe Lists

Talking About Sex is a sex-positive activity book for relationships and life. In it, 14 activities guide users through breaking down barriers to sexual communication.

The best part? My 5 Yes, No, Maybe lists are included in the book as resources.

For a limited time, Talking About Sex is available for FREE at sexcoachshannon.com/free-gift.

$14.99 value — FREE for a limited time

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Talking About Sex includes information about sex positivity and negativity, consent, and illustrations of new concepts such as the Sexual Communication Cycle and Pillars of Relationship Satisfaction.

All of that is valued at $14.99—but available now for free at sexcoachshannon.com/free-gift.

The Future of Sexual Communication

There is so much that needs to be learned and understood about human sexuality. However, overwhelming lists make that knowledge hard to absorb. My resources aim to split large collections of information into digestible chunks to avoid inundating readers.

If email lists aren’t your thing, but blogs are—why not subscribe to this one? I update weekly with the latest trends in sex research, kink, ethical nonmonogamy, and more.

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Published by Shannon Burton

Sex educator and writer by day, poet and flash fiction author by night, I occasionally manage to get out of the house to enjoy New Orleans as it's meant to be.

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