There's something about deal-breakers that I think a lot of people miss. A deal-breaker is not exactly a standard that you have. Take dating. If you don't want to be with a man who is broke or you'd prefer not to date someone who's been married before, technically, that's not a deal-breaker. For you, that's a standard or personal principle.
By definition, a deal-breaker is more like something that is up for negotiation, but if both parties can't come to an agreement, the "deal" is off of the table. And boy, when it comes to deal-breakers as it specifically relates to sex in relationships, in order for everyone involved to be happy and fulfilled (oh, and safe; don't forget about safe), there definitely needs to be some pre-sex negotiating that goes on.
To me, there are about 10 things that should be discussed between two people who plan on "engaging" one another in the bedroom. For some of y'all, these are standards and I totally get that. But for everyone, there should at least be a conversation—or two or 12—about all of these issues, preferably beforehand. Otherwise, there's a huge chance that not only will coitus not go as planned, but the relationship itself could find itself in some serious jeopardy too.
1. Bad Hygiene
You'd think it would be a given that most people are turned off by bad hygiene. Oh, but not so fast. Studies reveal that many of us ladies are completely into a sweaty man and, let's not act like all sweat smells great. Personally, some of the best sex I ever had came from a guy who dripped sweat the entire time. The problem was, I actually can barely stand my own, so it was getting to a point where I had to ask myself if I wanted to keep sleeping with him. Either we needed to move to Antarctica or I was gonna have to bow out gracefully (we ended up breaking up before it got to that point).
Along these same lines, there are people I know who don't mind having sex after a long day at work (sans a bath, I mean). Then there are others who think it's a given that their partner should wash up first. See what I mean? Some things are not necessarily right or wrong; some things are about personal preference, so there needs to be some upfront negotiating first.
As far as pubic hair grooming goes, I've had partners who definitely prefer a lot of hair and others that feel like having sex with a woman who has little-to-none of it is like having sex with a child (someone literally said that to me); it creeps them out, so a bush is a must. But then, I have a friend who's been married for years whose husband has been begging her to stop "Nair-ing" her vulva; she ain't having it. Sometimes, she grows it out, just to make him smile. Again, there goes an example of sexual negotiating.
Taking all of what I just said into account, when it comes to your partner's hygiene and landscape, what would be your deal-breakers? Do you have any at all? Does he?
2. Condoms. Or Not.
Did you know that reportedly, only one-third of us use condoms? Wow. Even with all of the information out in these streets about STDs being on the rise, folks still ain't wrappin' it up. Although I'm abstinent now, you can read some about my sexually active journey to see that I clearly wasn't the posterchild for safe sex (not even close—SMDH); therefore, I get that using rubbers isn't anything any of us really want to do. But condoms do save lives (and prevent unwanted pregnancies), so whether or not you and your partner are going to use them is a must-have conversation.
If you do decide to partake (which you absolutely should unless you're in a long-term commitment and you both get tested on a regular basis), you need to make sure that he puts it on, every time, unless you consent to otherwise. I needed to say that because, unfortunately, stealthing (the practice of men taking off condoms without their partner's consent) happens more than a lil' bit. This is why condom etiquette is something that should never be assumed.
Oh, and just for the sake of subconscious reinforcement—if a man does happen to stealth you, he doesn't care about you nearly as he should. So yes, there should be no question that what he did qualifies as an automatic deal-breaker.
3. Fetish Expectations
Even as much as I write about sex, even though I used to work alongside a ministry that got people out of porn, I still have moments when I'll read about something and my immediate response is, "I cannot." Literally. Take sexual fetishes, for example. As I was reading a Thought Catalog article on some of the different kinds that are out there— hybristophilia (the reenactment of rape, murder, etc.), hematolagnia (drinking blood during sex), and cuckoldry (enjoying watching yourself getting cheated on by your partner)—while the topic of fetishes really does garner a "to each their own" response, before someone decides to walk into a room with a diaper on or urinate on you, make sure you let them know whether you're down for exploring fetishes. And, if so, which ones.
Back when I was in college (the early to mid-90s), there were some women I knew who, unbeknownst to them, were taped having sex by some guys on the yard. Those "men" would capture footage of those ladies doing all sorts of stuff and then blackmail them throughout the rest of the school year. That is called revenge porn and most states have laws concerning it.
With articles out here like "Should You Make A Sex Tape? How Amateur Adult Films Can Build Intimacy And Lead To Better Sex", it's clear that some people like to film themselves doing-the-do. But with other articles out in cyberspace like "Filming Yourself Having Sex Can Feel Great – but Only If You're Both in Control", make sure that your partner treats you at all times like one of my favorite Usher songs "Superstar"; that just like a concert, if you prefer that all technology be put away, he adheres to your request. No, not request…requirement.
5. An Undesirable Location
I once read a study that said 1 in 3 teen boys are pressured to have sex while 23 percent of girls are. Pressure, by definition, is a type of force or demand. Yeah, it's an op-ed for another time about how many of our men are not as sexually healthy as they should be and it's all because they were introduced to sex via some sort of "pressure". For now, what I'll say is adults can "peer pressure" each other about as much as adolescents tend to do.
That said, I'm all for spontaneity and thinking outside of the box. When I checked out an article on 200 different places to have sex, I must admit that I filed some away in my mental sexual bucket list. But as I thought about some places (in the car, on the side of a building, public bathrooms) and some of the women in my life who've shared with me times when making out turned to their clothes being taken off in places where they didn't want that to happen, even though they wanted the sex itself—that is why I thought it was important to mention this point as well.
He can think that you're frigid, prudish or any other adjective, but you have every right to have sex, not only when but where you want to. Full stop. No apologies.
6. No STD Test/Results
Every once in a while, I'll get asked what my ultimate "sexual low" was. For me, it was having unprotected sex, with three different guys (on three separate days, not all at once), in one week. Back when I was sexually active, my pattern was always to have sex with friends, so it was pretty much a week of "recycle sex". It doesn't matter, though. Because they were my friends, I knew them well enough to know that I wasn't the only person they were "repurposing" with. For this reason alone, I should've required an STD test from them and they should've required one of me.
I've had chlamydia before. Thankfully, that is curable. But hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV and the human papillomavirus (HPV), at least for now, are not. Plus, there are STDs like super gonorrhea that do not currently react to antibiotics (yikes).
I don't care how fine he is, how well you know him, or what he tells you, it's always smart to expect an STD test and to view the results for yourself before sex (especially with a new partner). And since there are now tests that can be taken from the convenience and privacy of your own home (click here for a woman's test, here for a man's), there's really no excuse. Now is there?
OK, this is another one of those points that is relevant unless you are in a long-term relationship. I'm pretty sure that all of us who've had sex, have done it while we were drunk, at least, once over the course of our lifetime. The reason why this made the list is because, if the person you're thinking about "engaging" is a new potential partner and you get inebriated, it can get a little murky when it comes to whether or not what you did (or all of what you did) was consensual.
There's no question that, for many, alcohol can intensify sexual arousal and remove anxiety and jitters. But don't wait until after you're tipsy AF to try and decide if you should get it on or not. Again, this is a discussion that should absolutely be had beforehand. If the guy respects you and is looking out for your best interest (and his, come to think about it), he will totally agree.
I'll tell you what always has been and forever will be a deal-breaker for me. Don't be over here thinking that you'll get the benefits of my full lips and overbite when "going downtown" (shout out to SWV) ain't even on your radar. Nope. Nada. No sir.
Listen, I'm pretty sure that it comes as absolutely no surprise that in a fairly large (and popular) survey, a whopping 85 percent of men vs. a mere 64 percent of women claimed to have an orgasm during the last sexual encounter that they had. Hmph. The only thing that I can figure is the cause of that is selfishness; men who don't make their partner's pleasure as much of a priority as their own (good lovers do, by the way).
The act of sex between two people can't happen without the participation of both (not if it's consensual, anyway). If your partner doesn't believe that it shouldn't go down unless both of you are also fully satisfied, then there's no question that his selfishness should also be a surefire deal-breaker.
9. Sharing Your Partner
As far as multiple sex partners go, two reads that provide some interesting info is "Promiscuous America: Smart, Secular, and Somewhat Less Happy" and "7 Things People with Multiple Partners Want You to Know About What It's Really Like". Something that particularly stood out to me in the second article was polyamory requires a lot of communication, isn't always easy, and some people "fall into the lifestyle" without even really noticing (getting drunk and having a threesome was the example given).
Yeah, about that last one. Whether it's in the form of a full-on relationship or you simply being cool with you and/or your partner having sex with others, that's one thing. But if you're someone who is under the assumption that you and your partner are exclusive, 1) don't assume that; ask, and 2) if he's not interested in that arrangement and/or he initially agrees, only for you to eventually discover that he lied, hopefully it's a given that this is definitely a deal-breaker as well.
10. The Act Itself
This one is short 'n sweet. From positions to the amount of time to what happens afterwards—sex has hundreds of different combinations. What you consider to be a good time may or may not be what he does. If he mentions or tries anything that makes you uncomfortable, stop. If he pushes you or pressures you beyond your boundary, he is violating you. Yes sis, out of all of these, that is the biggest sexual deal-breaker that there is. Period.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
What GROWN Women Consider Great Sex To Be
Sexual Compatibility Is As Important As Spiritual Compatibility
Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good
If You Have To Wonder If It Was Rape, It Was
Feature image by Giphy
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Take Our 2-Minute Wellness Quiz To Up Your Self-Care Game!
Black women are not a monolith. We all are deserving of healing and wholeness despite what we've been through, how much money we have in the bank, or what we look like. Most importantly, we are enough—even when we are not working, earning, or serving.
Welcome to Black Girl Whole, your space to find the wellness routine that aligns with you! This brand-new marketplace by xoNecole is a safe space for Black women to activate their healing, find the inspiration to rest, and receive reassurance that we are one small act away from finding our happiness.
Want to discover where you are on your wellness journey? You don't have to look far. In partnership with European Wax Center, we're bringing you a customized wellness quiz to help you up your wellness game. Answer our short series of questions to figure out which type of wellness lover you are, what you need to bring more balance into your life, and then go deeper by shopping products geared towards clearing your mind, healing your body, and soothing your spirit.
Ready to get whole? Take our quiz now!
Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images