The other night, I went home with a guy I’ll call Doug. He was cute, I was horny, and the hook-up was going well until somewhere in the middle, something unexpected happened. He asked me a question:

“Do you like it?”

It was a phrase I had never heard in bed before, and I didn’t know what to make of it. Was he asking permission to go further? Was he asking me, genuinely, if I was enjoying myself? Hadn’t my moaning been enough of an indicator? As I thought about it, he asked me again, this time though, the instructions were clear:

“Do you like it? Tell me you like it.”

I did indeed like what he was doing to me, but the idea of saying so out loud seemed trite and contrived—two things I never want to feel in the bedroom. I didn’t want him to think I was faking it, but my lack of past dirty talk experience left me unsure of exactly what type of inflection this pronouncement called for. My curiosity quickly overpowered my uncertainty, however, and I gave it a try:

“Uhhhhhhh, yes I like it,” I purred. Or, at least I hoped I purred.Apparently it did the trick, because after that he kept asking for it again and again. In an attempt not to bore him or myself, I experimented a bit with tone. I tried breathy. I tried domineering. I moaned it, and when he told me to be louder, I screamed it. I hadn’t performed that well since I was a theatre major in high school. No matter what tone I took, though, the words Doug had selected just weren’t turning me on.

I know what you’re thinking. Why would I participate in a sex act I don’t enjoy? While nine out of ten times I would agree with you, uncharted sexual territory is my personal exception to the rule—my number ten, if you will. As long as everyone involved feels safe and comfortable, I am a firm believer in expanding one’s sexual horizons.All too often we fall into the trap of tried and true sex—which can be great—but where did those back-pocket moves originate? My guess is trying something new, something you weren’t quite sure you were going to enjoy.

That being said, there are some ground rules for exploring.All sexual experimentation should take place inside the boundary of safety and comfort. Communicating with your partner will solidify those boundaries, but when it comes to trying new things, the most important person to communicate with is yourself. Listen to your inner dialogue and learn to trust your instincts by checking in with yourself every time something new comes up. It’s all too easy to say “yes” when what you really mean is “I don’t know.” If the act in question is sprung upon you, as was my experience with Doug, all the more reason to give it some serious thought before proceeding. The more you communicate with yourself, the easier it will be to communicate with your partner.

Although Doug’s choice of words was not particularly arousing to me, they also didn’t offend me, which is why I accepted his invitation to go dancing again. This time, however, our bedroom experience wasn’t as smooth. Everything was going well—hands in the right places, perfect pacing—when Doug popped a new question:

“Is it mine?”

“Is what yours?” I asked, completely confused.

“Your pussy. Is it mine? Tell me your pussy is mine.”

My first thought was but it’s not. It’s mine. Even in my long-term monogamous relationships when I really loved the guy, my vagina was still mine. A boyfriend might have exclusive access, but even then he’s really just a squatter; there’s always a possibility he’ll be kicked out. Doug, who had known me for the grand total of 10 days, without question, did not own my pussy.

“It’s yours,” I said, surprising myself. I didn’t mean it; I just wanted to know what it would feel like to say out loud. If I said it, maybe I would understand what Doug thought was so appealing about it. Instead, I felt nothing.

“Tell me it’s mine. Is the pussy mine?” Doug sounded skeptical, like I was a student who hadn’t fully learned my lesson.

I said it again, and this time, I felt something. Unlike before, when trying out something new felt fun and exciting, reciting this new phrase was giving me the creeps.I had checked in with myself, and what I found was an unfamiliar fembot on autopilot, not the sexually adventurous girl I identify with. I was out of my comfort zone and I needed to tell him that. But I couldn’t; at least, I couldn’t in words. Instead of saying exactly how I felt, I kissed him and ignored any new requests for conversation.

I never saw Doug after that. I don’t regret trying out his version of dirty talk, but I do regret not telling him exactly what about that second phrase bothered me so much. I trusted my instincts, I listened to my inner dialogue, but when it came time to communicate with my partner, I seriously chickened out.I’m not proud of breaking my own rules, but I am proud that I found my limit and stuck with it. You can’t always bring yourself to directly address the issue in the moment, but you can always stop what’s making you feel uncomfortable. I had to cross my limit to find out where it was—you don’t.