Confession: I’m really terrible at talking about sex. Unless you’ve dated me, you’d probably never know this, because in public I’m the “super sex positive, kink positive, no detail is too dirty” friend. But when I’m in a partnership and someone tries to send a sext or dirty talk or even just… get me to open up about what turns me on, it’s like everything shuts down. Getting me to talk about sex is, in a word, difficult.
No matter how unreasonable, my brain always defaults to “don’t you already know,” “can’t we just act more and talk less,” “shhhhhh leave me alone”—none of which are productive. And I can assure you, it’s not about the other person, considering past partners have included sex workers and educators who had excellent communication skills. The awkwardness was entirely mine. Learning to have open conversations about sex with someone I’m actually doing it with has been a steep learning curve
If there’s one thing I keep reminding myself, it’s that there’s power in naming your desires. Somehow (maybe social conditioning? JUST A GUESS), admitting that I want something sexual out loud has always felt intimidating or like I was putting pressure on a situation, and I’ve been much more comfortable giving (and going with the flow). So imagine my surprise now that I’m finding that instead of feeling weak or needy, after telling a partner exactly what I need done to me, I actually feel…. strong? Fierce? And like I deserve pleasure? It’s hot!
So, being late to the “talking about sex” party, I’ve loved these IRL tips from APW readers about the best ways to make lusty conversations fun and easy (or, at least, easier):
Tips to Talking About Sex (More) With Your Partner
Talk about sex… right after having it:
I found an easy segue into talking about sex more was to start talking about it openly immediately after sex. Because it’s a more vulnerable time where it’s just the two of you (and it JUST happened), it made for a safer space to actually be open about it… and the more we talked about sex afterward, the more comfortable I got, and the easier it was to talk about in a casual way.
Or, wait till you’re both trapped together—um—relaxed together:
Long car ride conversations. They’re good for all kinds of tricky topics besides sex, too, including but not limited to the emotional availability of our parents and the drug habits of our close friends. Other good forums for tough issues that require depth and time? Camping. Hiking. Beach vacations. Basically any time you are alone (together) and relaxed.
Tell ’em what you like:
You’re gonna catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Include the parts of sex you like. If he/she/zie is doing something that you don’t like, use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. (Ya know, “I feel good when you go down on me first, and I want to make this a more frequent thing,” versus, “You never go down on me unless I push you down there, jerkface!”)
Tell ’em what you want, what you really really want:
One thing I would say is essential is being willing to talk about fantasies with each other. My husband and I started out really honest before we ever got married. He was into bondage and eased me into it. Now it’s something we share that really has helped, umm, bond us closer together. Recently, we’ve overcome a tougher spot sex wise and that was by once again diving into fantasies. These aren’t necessarily ones we will act on, but just talking about them in the bedroom spices things up nicely.
Talk about one thing at a time:
Something that we started doing recently that has really helped was the “Name One Thing” game. My partner isn’t much of a talker and I need lots of information. That meant he would gets overwhelmed as I peppered him with questions. So I learned to break it down to one thing I want to know. Makes a fun game in the car as well.
Name one part of your body you like to be touched?
Name one thing you wished I touched more often?
Name one sex position we do now that you like best?
Name one sex position we have never tried that you’d like to?
Name one thing about our regular foreplay you’d like to change?
Name one thing you want to try that you think I’d like?
Or, make a list, check it twice:
I learned a lot about how to talk about sex from the BDSM community. They have some really great, concrete communication tools there about how to ask for what turns you on without shame or fear—which we’ve applied to our more vanilla sex life. For example, making a “sex list” (modeled a bit on the BDSM checklists I’ve found on the Internet) of erotic activities and then going over it with my partner and sharing. We check off: tried it/loved it, haven’t tried it/but sounds fun, tried it/didn’t like it, didn’t try it/but don’t think I’d like it, etc. I think having really clear, explicit, honest communications about BDSM activities helped me to be able to communicate clearly and explicitly what I enjoy and would like to do more of in my pretty vanilla sex life.
Listen to other people talk about sex:
Listening to other people talk about sex really helps take away that taboo feeling. We had a conversation about what we each thought being monogamous meant because of a podcast I listened to, and it was a really awesome to really talk about our boundaries and what we thought being a couple meant. It makes me happy to know that we are monogamous because we chose it and not by default.
Two podcasts I recommend are Sex Nerd Sandra and Sex Is Fun (which sadly is not updating anymore, but you can still check out their archives). Sex Is Fun also has a website that sells some pretty cool sex games, and has an illustrated comic-style book also titled Sex Is Fun. The people who run these podcasts are passionate sex educators, and I’ve learned so much from listening!
If one or both of you isn’t into porn (though, catch up on our feminist porn recs right here), how about books?
Even if watching things is off the table, reading together might not be. Pull out your sexiest book/blog. Reading a book aloud to each other can be a great way to get reactions. Guide to Getting It On (book) and Savage Love (column) have been two of my go-to resources.
Finally, while not technically a conversation, still, get thee to the toy store:
Investing in toys is fun if you can get over the awkwardness of buying them. Online shopping is also a lot of fun, though perhaps more likely to result in a box showing up at your door after a night of drunken browsing.
How about you guys? Have you cracked the code on talking about sex… even if one or both of you is more into doing it than talking about it?