What are your hard red lines?

Even people who are sexually adventurous have hard red lines. This week Leah digs into discerning what your absolute NOs are and how to share them with your partner(s).
Good Girls Talk About Sex
What are your hard red lines?
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Even people who are sexually open have hard red lines. This week Leah digs into discerning where your absolute NOs are, why they might be there, and how to share them with your partner(s).

In this episode we talk about

  • A chorus of voices answer the question, “What are your hard red lines?”
  • Leah talks about her own hard red lines, a surprising number of which have to do how she is treated rather than specific act.
  • Leah talks about both setting boundaries and defending them when it comes to your red lines.
  • Pain tolerance, and how it can increase during sex, is discussed.
  • Leah shares her process for vetting and setting boundaries with new partners in terms of safety and play.

Full episode text

LEAH: Welcome to Good Girls Talk about Sex. I’m sex educator and sexual communication coach, Leah Carey and this is a place to share conversations with all sorts of women about their experience of sexuality. These are unfiltered conversations between adult women talking about sex. If anything about the previous sentence offends you, turn back now! And, if you’re looking for a trigger warning, you’re not going to get it from me. I believe that you are stronger than the trauma you have experienced. I have faith in your ability to deal with things that upset you. Sound good? Let’s start the show!




LEAH: Hey friends. During every lowdown Q and A, I ask my guests what their hard red lines are for sex, their absolute “No”s. And it’s not unusual to hear, “Oh. I’m pretty open. I don’t have any hard “No”s.” It makes me chuckle internally every time because I know the next words out of my mouth are going to change the conversation pretty radically.


“Oh,” I say. “What about piss, poop, and blood?” That’s when they start making noises that aren’t really words as their brain tries to regain its equilibrium. Please know I’m not taking light into anyone’s discomfort. Rather, I am loving these moments where people come face to face with their preconceptions and realize there’s more in the world than they’ve ever dreamed of.


I think when people hear the question bout what their hard red lines are, they’re thinking, “I’ll take something in any hole.” And that’s as far as they’re imagination has gone. But there’s so much more to sex than vaginal penetration, oral penetration, and anal penetration. And let me also pause here to clarify. Piss play, poop play and blood play are all legitimate kinks. While they each make a lot of people squeamish to think about or talk about, there are plenty of people in the world who play in these realms and there’s nothing wrong with it. I use those examples because I want to shake people out of their preconceptions and those are relatively extreme ideas for most people.


Here’s the thing. Everyone has hard red lines even people who play in the area of extreme kink. Perhaps someone who’s into poop play draws the line at choking and breath play. Or maybe someone who’s into blood play has an aversion to soft, featherlike caresses. Every single person has some “Yes”s and some “No”s. So, let’s jump into the answers of previous interviewees. As a reminder, these are taken from the extended lowdown Q and As, all of which you’ll find for free at Patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex.


I’ll be back with my own answer in a few minutes.




SPEAKER 1: Not into pain and I guess if I ever feel like the person is out of control, that’s something that would really terrify me. My playmates are all pretty savvy and I know they respect “No”s or even if I hesitate in answer, they take that as a “No”. So I feel really blessed about that.


SPEAKER 2: Pain when it is not invited. Lying and not responding to my “No”.


SPEAKER 3: I do not mind performing anal sex, but I do not want to experience it.


SPEAKER 4: Anal sex, I guess. Or threesome. I don’t think I can do that.




SPEAKER 5: I don’t date people who are not non-monogamous.


SPEAKER 6: No water sports and no fecal matter and no puking.


SPEAKER 7: There’s a select few people who I enjoy anal sex with and for whatever reason, their penis is just the one that is like, “I want it in my ass.” I don’t know why.




SPEAKER 7: And it feels really good with those. I’m thinking of two people in particular and it was super hot and like, “Ooh.” The orgasms were just so great. But I’m not really into anal sex with other people. At least I haven’t been so far. So I think it really depends on the partner that I’m with.


Usually, anal sex is a hard red line and cumming on my face, yeah, I got it in my hair one time too by accident. I was with a new partner and he came kind of on my chest but close to my face without asking. That’s also the other thing, I really can’t stand when guys do that without asking first. It is so much more respectful to be like, “Where do you want me to cum?” And it’s not going to break the mood. It’s not going to take away from the experience at all. If anything, she’s going to respect you so much more.


SPEAKER 8: The big thing is that I need to be listened to. So if I say, “No” or “Wait” or “Bite” or “Suck”, then I need to be listened to because the bite and suck or whatever, the more playful, the fun things, I need to know that those are going to be listened to so that when I say no, that’s also listened to. And usually the no is really more of as a wait or let’s do something different, not like a full stop.


SPEAKER 9: I don’t think I’ll be into SM like hitting [unintelligible – 6:36]. Oh, and I need it to be monogamous so no threesome or other people involved.


SPEAKER 10: Anything that’s meant to inflict serious amounts of pain. I’m into a little bit of pain. Also nothing with any bodily fluids other than semen, cum.


SPEAKER 11: Coercion and manipulation, stuff like that. If I even get whiffs of it, I don’t like it. I mean I think some of the edge play people do like knives and stuff, I can’t deal with needles.




SPEAKER 11: So there’s no way I could do that.


SPEAKER 12: I don’t know if I have any hard “No”s. I’m open to anything as long as I feel like I’m comfortable. I don’t know if that is a good answer.


LEAH: It’s a fine answer. When people say they don’t have any hard “No”s, I always go back and ask, “Does that include piss, poop, and blood?”


SPEAKER 12: Eww.


LEAH: So you have some hard “No”s.




SPEAKER 12: Okay. Okay. Cool. Yeah, no to blood.




LEAH: Everybody has a hard “No” somewhere.


SPEAKER 12: Yeah. Super. Blood.




SPEAKER 12: Now that I’m thinking about where that line is for me.




LEAH: Yeah. Everybody has  a line even for people who are into poop, blood, and piss have a line somewhere.


SPEAKER 12: Sure.


SPEAKER 13: Pain, bruising, hard red line.


SPEAKER 14: Well for me, I wouldn’t want to see porn while having sex. And not for like logical “reasons” but for the trauma.


LEAH: Yeah. There doesn’t need to be a logical reason. It just doesn’t work for you.


SPEAKER 15: Anal sex. Not doing it. I cannot. It’s funny like I have the health situation where I had a fissure and I have surgery and I like to joke that I literally had surgery because I was a tight ass.




SPEAKER 15: So I’m just like a little bit nervous about aggravating anything back there and I just can’t imagine any part of that being pleasurable for me.


SPEAKER 16: I haven’t had any yet. The ones that I have only heard about that I could think that I would not do is the poop, pee, what was the other one?


LEAH: Blood.


SPEAKER 16: Blood.


LEAH: Yeah, it usually goes with that.


SPEAKER 16: Yeah.


SPEAKER 17: I’ve had somebody ejaculate in my mouth and I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it. I haven’t had anybody ejaculate on my face so I can’t say about that. On my body, it doesn’t matter. I really haven’t experienced a whole heck of a lot so yeah.


SPEAKER 18: Anal sex is off the table for me because we had a really bad experience with anal sex not that long ago and so I’m like, “Let’s not do that right now.” I had been taken a cleanse that was cleansing vitamins. And anyway there was a mess but we didn’t know it both. We both enjoyed it. We both climaxed and then after the fact, we were like, “Oh, shit.” Literally. It was so bad.




SPEAKER 18: So bad. A scene from a horror movie. I think I even cried about it. So since that time, I’m like, “Yeah. No. That’s not going to happen.” And my husband tries to use it as leverage, he’d be like, “I had this really great idea today. Don’t you think I deserve some anal sex?”




SPEAKER 18: I’m like, “Good try. No. No.” And it’s so funny because he’s like bringing it up and in my mind, I’m like, “After what happened before, don’t you think that would be totally off the table?” And he’s not fazed at all like no big deal.




SPEAKER 19: I don’t like the feeling of something being done to me or on me. If it’s not an experience with me and not something we’re experiencing together, if it’s something that someone wants to do to me, then I shut off and I’m like, “No. Hard no.”


SPEAKER 20: One hard red line has to do with a history of self-harm that I have. History and present as for me, it turned from coping mechanism to addiction so I have a part on my body that I kind of use as my self-harm area, I can’t have anything remotely sharp or metal interacting with there. And because I very much like BDSM and very much like to be scratched and marked, it’s something that can be very, depending on who I’m with, if they’re new, I’ll just forbid it completely because if I get too deep, I might forget and they might forget and accidentally scratch me there and that triggers me and sets me off.


SPEAKER 21: I am really not into pain. I don’t want any of that in the bedroom. I’m not into humiliation at all.


SPEAKER 22: My head cannot be covered. My mouth and my nose cannot be covered at the same with hands. And I can’t wear hoods. I can’t do anything that’s completely covered. I’m slightly claustrophobic and I’m out of my body in an instant with that and panicked.


SPEAKER 23: Just anal sex so far. Yeah. I’ve tried. I just didn’t like it. I mean for people who can do that, I’m like, “Wow. I’m in awe.” I wish I  could because of what other people say about it, it sounds like a really fun experience but I just can’t get past the discomfort so that’s a huge no for me.


SPEAKER 24: I don’t think I have a hard red line simply because I wasn’t that curious about sex. So there wasn’t a lot of things that came up for me to choose from.


SPEAKER 25: Hard red lines, no threesomes, no other parties involved.


SPEAKER 26: We’ve tried like a strap-on, dildo, I guess that’s what they’re called. Her wearing it but it was a little weird for me because it was like heterosexual sex but the dildos are not body temperature. They’re a little bit colder than body temperature because they’re not flesh and so it felt a little weird. And I just don’t need it and she doesn’t care either way. She’s not at all interested in these sort of strap-ons. It doesn’t interest me either.


SPEAKER 27: My absolute no is when I’m giving head, I have to be in control. Don’t put your hands on me like on my head. You can touch my leg or my back or my ass or whatever, but don’t’ touch my head. I don’t like to be hit in certain ways. I like to be spanked sometimes, lightly, not a hard hit.


SPEAKER 28: Right now, I guess it would be entertaining the idea of a third party. That’s just right now, I can’t mentally do it.


SPEAKER 29: There’s no blow jobs in our relationship because I didn’t really have a lot of experience with blow jobs before him like nobody has ever shoved a penis in my face and expected me to do much with it. Thank goodness because I don’t find the whole idea super attractive.


SPEAKER 30: I don’t think I have any hard red lines, well unless it’s anything involving choking in a way that I can’t breathe. So anything that’s dangerous to my life or the other person’s life.




LEAH: My turn. I’ve spent many hours over the last bunch of years thinking about what my hard red lines are. And what I’ve discovered is that for me only about half of them relate to actual sexual activities. The rest have to do with ways I need to be treated before and during sex in order to feel safe.


For instance, a hard red line for me is that any activity that could result in an accidental pregnancy. I have never wanted kids and at the age of 46, I’m even less interested in child bearing. But I still get a regular period so the possibility of pregnancy still exists. If someone wants to have sex without a condom, that is a hard fucking no. In the past, I used to give in to those needling requests. “Can’t I just put in for a minute without a condom? It feels so good.”


And then I would spend the next several weeks terrified that perhaps there was pre-cum present and I might get pregnant because yes, there can be sperm in pre-cum and it is I possible to get pregnant that way. Perhaps it’s not likely but I have never been a confident gambler.


If someone claims to have a vasectomy, I want to see evidence before I let them go without a condom along with their most recent STI tests. You cannot take risks with my body just because it feels better to you. That type of thinking is an absolute no for me. Due to my history of trauma and abuse primarily at the hands of people who were in an altered state due to alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs, intoxication is also a very hard no for me.


I’m not opposed to someone having a drink with dinner but the moment that I see their eyes get a little fuzzy or their demeanor change at all, I am not having sex with them. And this goes with long term partners as well as new people. I spent so many of my earlier sexual encounters feeling like the other person was so altered that they didn’t see me as a real person. They just saw me as a hole to fill. That is no longer acceptable to me. My partner must have all of their faculties about them and they need to be interacting with me as a whole and complete person in order for me to feel safe. And frankly, I don’t think that’s very much to ask. Intoxication can also lead to slower response time and increased sense of invincibility and a much higher likelihood of ignoring the rules of consent just because it feels so good.

None of those things have ever felt safe to me and now, I feel strong enough to stand up to my boundaries in a way I never could before. Another result of my earlier trauma is that I never, ever want to be in a position where I can’t communicate clearly. In earlier years, I didn’t speak up for myself. It’s an issue I’m still working on and getting better at and I’m not willing to put myself in a position where I can’t speak up for myself. That means no gags, no hoods, and definitely no choking or breath play.


Another hard, hard no for me is getting ejaculate on my face or in my mouth and I tell this story of how I realized I’m allowed to have this boundary back in Episode 62 titled Do You Swallow?


I’ve had knee problems throughout my life so any position that puts my legs in weird positions or put strain on my knees, that’s a hard no for me too. I’m not interested in playing the area of degradation or humiliation. I enjoy the occasional reference to me being a good girl or a bad girl, but I’m not interested in anything more extreme than that.


I would have told you a few years ago that I was absolutely uninterested in anything that created pain. But I’ve begun to understand that pain is a very relative term and my boundaries on that have shifted some. I’m still definitely not interested in being whipped or slapped or anything like that. But I do enjoy some paddling or some spanking or even some caning all on the fairly light side. But it is a hard no that has over time transformed into a yes under certain conditions.


And here are some other boundaries I have when I’m hooking up with someone new. I don’t have intercourse with someone the first time I play with them. There are a few reasons for this including that it gives me a chance to discover if we have good sexual chemistry because if I’m not enjoying the other play, then I’m not interested in granting them entrance into my body. But more important, I want to know that someone can hear, understand and respect about a boundary. If I say no intercourse the first time we play, I want to see them respond with respect. If they squawk at that, the whole thing is off.


Then, I want to see them respect that boundary while we’re playing. If they make any move, either verbally or physically, to try to coerce me into having intercourse, I’m done playing now and forever. But if a new partner can show good humor and respect to that boundary, that gives me really good information about the kind of partner they might be in future play sessions.


The first time with a new person I also want to have my phone within reach and my own mode of transportation and I will tell someone that before we start playing as part of my starts talk. I want them to know that I am aware of safety and that any move that causes me to question my safety will signal the end of the interaction. Is that a challenge or a test? Perhaps. But it is information I want to have before I get hot and heavy with someone and allow myself to become extremely vulnerable with them. And as I finish this up, I supposed I should also mention that I am not interested in piss, poop or blood.


LEAH: That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying the show, please take a moment to leave a 5-star rating and review on Apple podcasts or, if you’re using another podcast app, go to www.ratethispodcast.com/goodgirls.


And remember there is a treasure trove of audio extras available FOR FREE at Patreon. Go to www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex. While listening to those extras is free, producing this show is not. If my work is meaningful to you and you have a few dollars to support it each month, I’ll gratefully accept your patronage at Patreon. I donate 10% of all Patreon proceeds to ARC-Southeast, an organization that supports women in the Southeast United States to access reproductive services that are increasingly difficult to obtain.


Find out more and become a community member at www.patreon.com/goodgirlstalkaboutsex.


Show notes and transcripts for this episode are at www.GoodGirlsTalk.com.


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If you have questions or comments about anything you’ve heard on the show, call and leave a message at 720-GOOD-SEX.


Good Girls Talk About Sex is produced by me, Leah Carey, and edited by Gretchen Kilby.


I have additional administrative support from Lara O’Connor and Maria Franco.


Transcripts are produced by Jan Acielo.


Before we go, I want to remind you that the things you may have heard about your sexuality aren’t true. You are worthy. You are desirable. You are not broken.


As your Sex and Intimacy coach, I will guide you in embracing the sexuality that is innately yours, no matter what it looks like. To set up your free Discovery Call, go to www.leahcarey.com/coaching.


Until next time, here’s to your better sex life!


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