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Desires Fears and Boundaries with Morgan Penn

Sexologist Morgan Penn staring into the camera
Desires, Fears, and Boundaries is a consent tool used frequently by sexologist Morgan Penn to navigate intimate situations, especially during season 2 of her Sex.Life podcast.

The number one question I get asked as a sexologist  is “What is your best sex tip?” And I always say…. Communication!

The issue is most of us haven’t been taught how to do this well. A lot of the time we don’t know what clear, direct, honest relating looks like. I want to share a communication framework that will hopefully change that.

What is ‘Desires, Fears, and Boundaries’?

This concept was introduced in my podcast Sex.Life. I used it before I went to swingers parties, sex clubs and before receiving a sensual massage.

The aim being that using Desires, Fears, and Boundaries will achieve clarity, understanding, and alignment between you and who you’re connecting with. Ultimately this is about consent.

Read more: How to make consent sexy by Amy Louise

How to use ‘Desires, Fears, and Boundaries’

 

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If you’re sharing first, start by asking yourself, “What do I desire from this situation?” Even if you don’t know if it’s possible to have the desire met, say it, because chances are there will be a way to make at least part of it come true. Envision your ideal scenario, including both how you want to feel and what you want to have happen.

Let me share how I used it in my podcast Sex.Life.

Desires

In episode 1 of season 2, I take my friend and potential lover “Cowboy” to an Underwear Party. I was a little nervous as I’d never been to a party like this before and didn’t know what to expect. Cowboy and I were also flirting with the idea of taking our friendship to a more sexual level. It was important that we had a really hearty chat before we went to the party.

My desires were:

  • To immerse myself in the experience and go in with curiosity.
  • To be a bit sexy with Cowboy and see if we can shift gears from the friend zone.
  • To flirt with anyone else that tickled my pickle.
  • To be voyeuristic and really watch what other people were doing.

After sharing, the listener should reflect back what they heard to ensure understanding. This could sound like Cowboy saying, “I’m hearing you want us to feel connected at the party.” If something is missed, clarify. “Yes, I really do and yet, I also want the space to connect with others. That would feel good to me.”

Cowboy’s desires were:

  • To support me. First and foremost he wanted to meet my desires and make sure I had fun. In his words “I’ll take your cue if you say dance monkey dance, I will”

Fears

Next, share your fears by asking, “What do I fear from what’s being discussed?” It’s common to have more fears than desires because it’s easier to go to worst case scenarios and catastrophise. Fears might be about unmet desires, personal insecurities, or rogue intrusive thoughts that you know have about 1% possibility of actualising.

My fears were:

  • That Cowboy would connect with someone at the party and spend all night smooching them and I’d be left alone. Now, in my heart I knew this was unlikely and I felt silly saying it, BUT it was a legitimate thought that popped into my head. Saying it, took all the weight out of it and I felt lighter after saying it.
  • That we would lose each other. We were in our underwear with no pockets. I would be handing my phone and bag over to coat check.
  • Another fear which was hard to say out loud – as it showed my insecurity – was that there would be way hotter women at the party that would be more sexually liberated and I would feel like a fuddy dudd.

Responding to your partner’s fears

An example of how to respond to your partner sharing their fears could be reflecting them back. For example, Cowboy could say “I’m hearing you’re afraid I’ll not give you enough attention”. The fun thing about Desires, Fears and Boundaries, is that you don’t need to be rigid in the rules. When Cowboy heard this last fear of mine his eyes grew wide “Fuck that, nobody’s hotter than you!” flew out his mouth. I instantly felt heard and reassured, and it felt nice to hear his honest and enthusiastic response.

You wouldn’t believe this dreamboat of a man, but his only Fear was that he would disappoint me. I asked  “what do you think disappointing me looks like?” “Doing something that makes you feel like your fears have come true” he answered.

In that moment I knew we both had a deep understanding of how we wanted the night to go.

Our agreed boundaries

 

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Despite its simplicity, this conversation can prevent many grey areas and conflicts. Whilst fostering radical honesty and deep understanding. We went on to discuss our boundaries. By taking into account our fears this made it easy.

  • A meeting place. If we had been separated for ages and it was obvious we had lost each other. We would wait there until the other one arrived.
  • We would not leave the party without telling the other one first.
  • If we were feeling attraction to each other to bring that to the table to be discussed before acting on it.
  • We made a plan but not a hard and fast rule to stay until 1am
  • My final and most important boundary was…. No finger banging on the dancefloor without me knowing!

As you can see, mastering it requires vulnerability, self-awareness, courage, and practice. Getting this clear consent gives you confidence and clarity to move forward in any situation. You can use this if you have been married for 20 years or if you are meeting someone for a potential hook up.

An animated gif from Sophie Ellis-Bextor
No fingerbanging on the dancefloor. And you better not steal the moves.

Why I love Desires, Fears, and Boundaries

To summarise, Desires, Fears and Boundaries can:

  1. Enhance Communication: Desires, Fears, Boundaries fosters open and honest dialogue, helping individuals articulate their needs, concerns, and limits clearly.
  2. Prevent Misunderstanding: By addressing potential issues proactively, Desires, Fears and Boundaries helps prevent misunderstandings and conflicts before they eventuate o escalate.
  3. Build Trust: Sharing your deep personal desires, fears, and boundaries requires vulnerability, which can strengthen trust and emotional intimacy.
  4. Promote Self-Awareness and Personal Accountability: The process encourages you to reflect on and understand your own needs, concerns, and boundaries better.Desires, Fears and Boundaries encourages us to take responsibility for our own feelings and needs rather than projecting them onto others.
  5. Foster Mutual Respect: Listening and acknowledging each other’s perspectives and boundaries promotes respect and empathy within the relating.
  6. Create Solutions: By discussing boundaries and potential solutions, you can collaboratively find ways to meet each other’s needs and address concerns.

Ultimately, the goal of Desires, Fears and Boundaries is to create a consensual, pleasurable, respectful, and safe environment where all parties feel heard leading to healthier and more fulfilling relationships and interactions.