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Setting boundaries

Amid the hustle and bustle of city and school life, sometimes we need a little space. Relationships can be fun and nurturing, but sometimes they can also feel suffocating. Similarly, setting boundaries to physical intimacy is important to ensure you have a good time according to what you want.

No one is Jean Grey or Professor X.

Put the “relate” back into your relationship. If you are unsure of your partner’s intentions or comfort level, don’t make blind assumptions based on what they might have said in the remote past of last month. This isn’t the time to put your mind-reading chops to the test, either.

While non-consensual penetration is a major boundary transgression, it is not the only one. If you don’t communicate about what you both want, you may end up overstepping these boundaries and unintentionally hurting your partner.

Boundaries are not set in stone. Boundary-setting is an actively consensual and constantly evolving process. By setting boundaries, you’re not saying that you’re taking the path of the Jonas Brothers by pledging to be virgins until after marriage (though that’s certainly an option you could consider). You may simply be deciding, for example, that some boundaries such as unprotected sex (barebacking) or sex with multiple partners are not open to negotiation.

In Singapore, non-consensual penile-vaginal sex is rape under Section 374(1) of the Penal Code, while non-consensual penetrative oral and anal sex is considered unlawful sexual penetration under Section 376(1).  Both crimes are punishable by up to 20 years of prison plus a fine or caning. The absence of objection to the sexual act does not imply consent, and even after consent is given, it can be withdrawn at any time.

So, don’t continue charging ahead with the deed and assume that your partner’s just being shy by not moving, not talking, crying, laying still, and so on unless you want your precious tushie in jail. The Penal Code offences do not only concern extreme physical violence but includes any form of non-consensual penetration.

The CUNT Principle

Here’s a tool to maintaining effective boundaries: the CUNT principle.

Communicate, Understand, Negotiate, Track

This means that it’s best for you and your partner to openly communicate what you’re comfortable with exploring, understand fully what each of you has communicated, negotiate what it specifically means to respect the discussed boundaries, and then track by checking in from time to time if you are both comfortable with how things are.

Here’s an example of the CUNT principle in practice:

Your partner wants to turn down the lights to canoodle, but your parents are in. Using the CUNT principle, you’d communicate to your partner that you’d be more comfortable doing it in private, ensure that you understand that both of you want to do different things, negotiate a compromise (perhaps you could hold hands instead). At an appropriate time, review the important question: are you both comfortable?

If you find yourself pressured into doing something you don’t want to do, remember CUNT (the acronym!). Make sure that you and your partner have mutually consented to an activity before doing it, and respect each other’s right to withdraw consent at any point.

If your relationship puts you in situations where you are repeatedly pressured into things you don’t want to do, consider other options like taking a break from the relationship, telling a trusted adult, or, in cases as serious as sexual assault, lodging a police report.

Setting boundaries can show that you are committed to your relationship and to yourself. Don’t feel like you’re being a frigid prude: you have a right to bodily integrity. You deserve nothing less than a healthy, respectful and safe relationship.