It's surprisingly common that many of us are more comfortable having sex than actually talking about it. I've worked with clients who have been sexually active, even some with the same partner for decades and still have never had an actual conversation about sex due to fear or discomfort.
Talking about sex can be hard, whether you’re new to the dating game or an experienced veteran in the sport. It can feel difficult, vulnerable, confusing and everything in between. We have rarely had these conversations modeled to us in a way that is encouraging, supportive and sex-positive. The closest thing we often have to go off is porn and in mainstream porn, there's very little talking and a lot more banging.
As a result of this, we often bring all these learnt assumptions that talking about sex will be awkward or uncomfortable. We might feel like we don't know what to say or how to bring it up. Let's also be transparent, that this isn't to say that none of these won't happen. It's very likely that they will, but that's also ok! The best thing is that it (generally) gets better and easier with practice.
There's only so many articles and advice columns you can read about how to talk about sex before you just have to bite the bullet and do it. The best way for many of us to learn these relational skills is by doing. So if you’re struggling with this and it’s been on your mind, this is your sign to take the leap. Just talk about it because it's never too late to learn how to talk about sex. Your sex life will thank you for it.
It's also worth noting that when we're learning how to talk about sex, it's never going to be a one-and-done tick a box situation. It's going to be multiple conversations throughout a relationship and definitely throughout your lifetime, so you better get comfortable. While there's no secret formula about how to have this conversation, this is as close as we're going to get so here are some of my favourite tips for how to talk about sex:
Never start the conversation immediately after sex. Emotions are high, the feel-good hormones are (hopefully) flowing, and because of this, everyone's often a bit more sensitive to feedback or potential criticism. It's often best to initiate this conversation in a lower-stakes situation, like over dinner or on a walk. This is really useful because it can be easier for us to stay more objective and clear-minded rather than being on the defence.
Acknowledge it will be awkward and this is ok! All new experiences and skills are awkward at first. You can survive awkward things.
Be clear about your intentions. Ask yourself what do you want to get out of these conversations. It can be difficult to talk about sex if you don't have a clear intention or goal in mind. This isn't to say that you need a clear goal for every conversation, but it's really beneficial for giving us directions about what we're working towards. It also gives us the space to ask ourselves what we want from our sex lives and what we might feel like we're not getting.
Use positive framing. Focus on what we want more of, rather than complaining about what's going wrong - this is relationship therapy communication skills 101. Few people respond well to criticism, even fewer respond well to criticism about sex. An easy example of this is: "I'd love to learn about what you enjoy sexually" vs "you don't know anything about what you like".
Send them one of my posts or blogs with a "hey this is interesting, what are your thoughts?". This is a great one because it breaks the ice quick and easy, and it is such a green flag in a partner to be able to talk about sex generally as well as about your own sex lives.
Delve into sex-positive content like podcasts, tv shows and books. Build your vocabulary and use them as an opener! As I mentioned, we don't often have good role models growing up showing us how to have these kinds of conversations but the wonderful thing is that there's so much available now from Netflix series, Sex Education to Emily Nagoski's famous book and my personal Bible, Come As You Are. Not only are these great forms of entertainment and science-backed education, they are great platforms for bigger conversations about sex.
Practice makes perfect. Ask questions and stay curious. Start with these...