NOT SEXUALLY ACTIVE? STRATEGIES TO BUILD HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
- wanting to wait until they are married or in a serious, committed relationship
- wanting to build a strong relationship based on friendship and trust before becoming sexually active
- don’t have the time to invest in a relationship and are focused on school, jobs, sports, etc.
- waiting until they're ready for a sexual relationship
- getting over a breakup
- wanting to avoid pregnancy and STIs
- having fun with friends without sexual involvement
- supporting personal, cultural, or religious values
- following medical advice during an illness or infection
Some conversations can be helpful to have when establishing boundaries and expectations with a new partner. Find a time and place to talk where you feel safe and comfortable.
When talking to a partner, it is always important to communicate. Just because someone said yes to something before does not mean they will want to do it again or at that moment. Ask for consent every time, and respect your partner’s response.
Note: Asking more than once can be coercive, and indecision does not mean “convince me.” Only yes means yes.
- ‘I know you really like _____ but it isn’t something I enjoy. Is there something else we can try together?’
- ‘I’d like to be alone after work today. Could you please give me 10 minutes when I get home?’
- ‘Do you like it when we ______, I can’t tell.’
- ‘I like spending time with you and want to see where this relationship goes but I don’t want to have sex at this point.’
- ‘My values are important to me. Until I am married, I am only comfortable kissing.’
- ‘I don’t want to have sex but would you want to go to a concert on Friday? I like spending time with you.’
- ‘I had a negative experience a year ago and I am still trying to get comfortable with being sexually active again.’
Just because someone isn't sexually active doesn't mean they can't be close or emotionally connected with someone. Check out this list to build and maintain intimacy without sexual activity.
Believe it or not, physical contact does not always need to lead to sex. Holding hands, stroking their cheek, hugging, kissing, playing with their hair, and giving massages are all opportunities to intersperse daily touching without sex.
Continue talking to your partner about more than just everyday happenings — explore each other’s hopes and dreams, bounce ideas off one another. Communicate with each other about feelings, whether it be anger, sorrow, happiness, anxiety, and let that drive intimacy without physical touch.
Revisit cliché first date questions. Maybe this is finding out something they want to learn or get better at, asking would you rather questions, such as ‘morning or evening time for dates’, or ‘roller coasters or walk in the park’, to plan your next date.
Use this time to find something new to do together, like cooking or golfing, and hopefully form a common interest. You could also take the time to show your partner something you really enjoyed doing as a kid. Spending quality time with one another doing things out of the ordinary is important for furthering shared experience, and thus intimacy with one another. Even if your partner doesn’t want to take the activity on as their own, spending time together and learning from each other can strengthen your relationship.
Partners could have different likes and dislikes so it is important to know how to identify when people want two different things. When in doubt, check in with your partner for clarification!
If the other person is silent, uncomfortable, or says “no,” then back off and drop it. Silence, passivity or the absence of “no” are not consent. Consider doing non-sexual activities together instead – like watching a movie or listening to music together. If the other person says “maybe,” “um,” “okay” or is giving mixed signals, you should back off or gently ask clarifying questions.
For example: A: “Would you like to have sex?” B: “My roommate is coming home soon.” This is ambiguous and could be a way that someone expresses that they don’t want to do something, so clarification is needed. A: “So does that mean you don’t want to have sex? It’s fine if you don’t, I only want to if you’re into it.” If the other person is hesitant or unsure, then drop it.
Remember, “sex” includes a broad range of many sexual activities, and each person’s sexual preferences are unique. Ask specifically what your partner wants to do, and share your own desires, too. Ask about what they are comfortable with. Specifically checking in throughout any activity will also help someone know what their partner likes or dislikes.
|This means no||This means yes|
|"Let's just watch the movie"||"Absolutely"|
|Silence||"I'd love to"|
|"I'd rather just sleep"||"Yes"|
If someone decides not to be sexually active, but are feeling pressured, the following troubleshooting responses could help someone out of awkward or intimidating situations:
Line: I’m glad I’m on the pill, just in case we hit it off tonight.
Response: I’m glad you’re glad, but I’m not interested in sex tonight.
Line: If you’re on the pill (or other contraceptive) then there is nothing to worry about.
Response: There are always STIs and most importantly, that’s how I feel.
Line: I just bought you dinner, etc.
Response: You’re right. You bought dinner—not me.
Line: You had sex with ________, why not me?
Response: What does my relationship with ________ have to do with us?
Line: Everyone else is having sex, what’s your sexual hang-up?
Response: Why does my not wanting to be with you mean that I have a hang-up?
Line: I really want you.
Response: I like you too, but I’m just not ready to have sex with you.
Line: I think I am in love with you.
Response: I am not ready to have sex yet, but if I was, you’d be the person I would want.
Line: You owe it to me. You get me all worked up and then you say no.
Response: I’m sorry you feel that way but I enjoy kissing you; I’m just not ready to have sex with you.
Line: My roommate’s away tonight, maybe we’ll have time to be by ourselves.
Response: I enjoy your company, but I’m not looking to have sex.
Adapted from: One Love. (2022). 10 perfect questions to ask on the first date to really get to know someone. https://www.joinonelove.org/learn/10-perfect-questions-to-ask-on-the-first-date-to-really-get-to-know-someone/ Princeton University. (2018). Communication, dating, and relationships. https://thesexpert.princeton.edu/2018/04/not-into-intercourse-how-can-my-partner-and-i-be-intimate-with-each-other-without-having-sex-what-are-different-forms-of-outercourse/ UC Davis Student Health & Counseling Services. (n.d.). Let’s talk about it! A guide to consent and successful communication. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1R_gmvsjtuP0GFF-rI0H6L_o5h2oXqaoC/view