In any relationship, boundaries and communication are important. Boundaries are the limits by which individuals and communities define their zone of legal, respectful, and appropriate behavior. Boundaries allow all parties to have a better understanding of each other's wants, goals and needs. Without this information, we are often guessing at what would make our partner or colleague feel safe and respected.
We all have moral boundaries, like seeking honesty in ourselves and others; physical boundaries, like not touching others or accepting to be touched without permission; and fair treatment boundaries, like speaking politely and being punctual. We each have a right to identify and declare our boundaries, to have them respected, and to redefine them reasonably whenever and with whomever we want. And we each have the obligation to respect others' boundaries and the boundaries that Caltech sets through its policies governing how we treat one another.
If you are not sure what the scope of someone's boundaries are in any situation, just ask. Do not risk the wrong answer, especially in romantic and sexual interactions. "Is this okay?" is a powerful question. And let us help. The Equity and Title IX Office focuses a lot of outreach on communicating and understanding boundaries and consent. We provide here some introductory information to help you set and respect boundaries.
Take a look at the Spectrum of Disrespect and consider what can be done to promote respect and inclusivity in our personal and professional relationships and workspaces. Click here.
Readings Check out this article and consider the emotional, physical and digital boundaries that you may need to promote safety.
What about when boundaries aren't respected? Read this article to learn about what a broken boundary could be saying about your relationship and how you can respond.
Quizzes Use this "What I Want To Do" worksheet to determine what sexual activities your comfortable with, and which you aren't. Have you partner fill out the form, as well, so that you can see where your comfort levels overlap and where you have each drawn boundaries. Be sure to respect those boundaries.