How to talk about sex.
There is a persistent cultural myth that sex is fun, easy and we all want to be having it. And of course, for some of us that may be true. Sex is great when all parties are laughing, groaning and orgasms abound. But sex doesn’t always look that way. Quite often it’s the opposite.
In long-term relationships, sex can become routine and complicated as a couple grows into one another. In short-term hook-ups, sex can be awkward and fumbling as we learn how to touch a new person’s body and have ours be touched. Sex just doesn’t always look how we imagine it will. There are far more miscommunications, mistaken bodily functions and unpredictable moments compared to what we see on screen or in our fantasies.
Sex and dating would be a whole lot easier if there was a simple solution to all of the potential mishaps that can come up when two (or more!) bodies are getting hot ‘n’ heavy. But because bodies, humans and sex are each complicated beasts, the solution isn’t so straightforward.
It may sound easy—just communicate. Talk about sex. But using words to express our desires, needs and boundaries is profoundly difficult for many. Sex is a place where we are vulnerable, and vulnerability is a pretty uncomfortable space to rest in.
When faced with the literal and metaphorical nakedness of sex, silence and complacency can sometimes feel like the safest and easiest option. But in truth, performing radical honesty is the more courageous, difficult—and yet straightforward—path to having the kind of sex you want. In the intimate realm of human bodies, the potency of words far outweighs assumptions.
Getting to feel comfortable talking about sex might take years of practice, or, you just might need some simple reminders. It depends on where you’re at in your relationships and experiences. Regardless of your starting point, here are three quick tips to encourage your bedroom talk. You’re already well on your way to being a loquacious lover.
The first step in being able to talk with others about sex is knowing how you like to have it on your own. You can’t tell someone what you do like, what you don’t like, and what you might like given the right circumstances if you’re not sure yourself. Knowing the answers to these questions takes practice. Try sex toys out solo. Explore your butt on your own time. Your body is your wonderland. Figuring out how to treat it is some pretty enjoyable homework.
Sex really puts our egos on the line. When we communicate about it we run the risk of being rejected, of hurting someone, or of not getting what we want. It’s a big deal! But really, these same risks come up on a smaller scale all the time. Saying no to a date that you don’t really want to go on. Expressing how much you enjoyed a particular activity. If we start by truthfully demonstrating what we do and don’t like when the stakes are much lower, those high stake situations like sex will slowly become less daunting.
Draw on your resources
Talking takes two. So as you practice communicating with lovers, draw on the help of those around you. Talk to your friends about sex. Turn to books for guidance and direction (I particularly recommend the work of Emily Nagoski or Esther Perel). There is a wealth of information out there when it comes to sexuality, and it’s more than likely that you’ll find at least one gold nugget of resonant wisdom to steer you onward in your sexual journey.
Ultimately, if there did exist a magic key to unlock the door leading to a life of having great, orgasmic sex, that key would be communication. It isn’t an easy trick, but it’s certainly an effective one. And the best way to master it is to practice!
Kaleigh Trace has been working in sex education since 2009. Her first book, Hot, Wet & Shaking: How I learned to talk about sex can be found online or at your local book store.