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How (and Why) You Need to Talk About Sex

Shaun Galanos

February 19, 2021

Talking about sex will make you a better lover

How (and Why) You Need to Talk About Sex

Let’s be honest: it’s awkward to talk about sex because no one showed us how. And, that’s too bad.

Porn doesn’t help, and your parents certainly didn’t model how sexy talking about sex can be (and if they did, kudos to them).

Sex education is virtually nonexistent, and it certainly doesn’t include how to navigate consent with courage and clarity, how to talk about your sexual health, or the art of bringing communication into the bedroom.

It’s a shame.

More comprehensive communication and relationship education would undoubtedly lead to higher levels of interpersonal satisfaction, not to mention better sex lives.

Paul Joannides, Psy.D. and author of The Guide to Getting It On, has us consider:

“Imagine going to a restaurant where the chef served you whatever he or she felt like fixing instead of giving you a choice. Imagine a gardener who never asked, ‘How do you like your bushes trimmed?’ Yet when it comes to sex many of us assume that we know what our partner wants, or we clam up instead of giving feedback.”

We’re doing our relationships and our sexuality satisfaction a disservice when we refuse to talk about sex.

Elyakim Kislev, Ph.D., says that “sexual communication is positively correlated with sexual satisfaction. In fact, some researchers show that sexual communication — particularly the ability to ask for specific acts — is a mediator between sexual self-esteem and sexual satisfaction.”

That’s not all.

Dr. Kislev explains that “higher levels of sexual communication positively correlate with more orgasms experienced and a higher frequency of intercourse.”

There’s no doubt about it; couples who talk about sex have a better sex life, and an increase in sexual satisfaction can lead to an increase in general life satisfaction. That seems like a no-brainer to me.

And as a love coach with a background in interpersonal communication, I’m ecstatic anytime I can bring more clarity, excitement, and satisfaction using the best tool we have to connect: our words.

When I asked the students in my Intro to Great Sex Workshop what prevents them from talking about sex, this is what some of them said:

  • I’m ashamed of what I want.
  • I’m scared of getting rejected.
  • I don’t know how.
  • I lack confidence.
  • I don’t want to hurt the other.
  • I didn’t feel safe enough to do so.

If you identified with any of these reasons for not talking about sex, you’re in the right place, and you’re not alone. Not by a long-shot.

And by the way, if it wasn’t clear yet, this article isn’t only for couples. It’s for anyone who wants to have sex, regardless of relationship status, gender, or orientation. If you identify as a human who wants to have sex or is curious about sex, you belong here. Great.

The status quo of not talking about sex

If you’re not comfortable talking about sex, you’re not alone; I’d say that you’re in the majority. When you get used to avoiding the subject, not talking about sex becomes the status quo.

From the fear of getting rejected by your sexual partner for expressing a kinky desire to feeling ashamed of the kind of sex you like and want, to not even knowing how to formulate what you want to say, there’s no shortage of reasons why you’re not talking about sex.

And regardless of the reason, you need to break through not talking about sex because the longer you sit on the sidelines and ignore this issue, the harder it’ll be for you to overcome.

Long-term couples who don’t talk about sex have a much harder time broaching the subject than those who started talking about sex from the get-go.

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. says, “too often, people let years pass without having a conversation about their sexuality. When it comes to sex, most people tend to feel there are a lot of “supposed to’s,” as if they are supposed to perform this way or feel that way in a sexual encounter.”

This means we’re operating under assumptions that aren’t necessarily shared, and that can lead to confusion or accidental boundary-violations.

And I thought sex was supposed to be fun and easy?

The guessing game is over

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the days of assuming what your partner wants and likes are over.

Thinking that you know what makes for great sex without checking in with your partner is presumptuous and lacks humility.

Everyone is different, and you’ll never get to know your partners if you don’t get curious about what they love in bed (and telling them what you love). People in your life don’t know your sexual preferences, just like you don’t know theirs.

Sure, there’s the traditional, hetero-normative script of sex we’re used to seeing in porn and replicating in our bedrooms of making out leading to oral sex leading to penetration, and I’m here to say that script is tired and rote.

You can lean on tired routines that you assume your partner wants, or you can break from silence and start voicing your needs.

There’s so much more to sex than penis in the vagina, and you won’t get to explore much of it if you can’t speak up for what you want in bed and to take an active role in deepening your sexual satisfaction.

You can do better than non-verbally fumbling your way through sexual encounters because you’re scared of speaking up or lack the language to start talking about sex.

When you rely on non-verbal communication, you’re depending on correctly reading the situation, the energy, and often-confusing and contradictory micro-expressions to see if what you’re doing is working.

Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not.

And I’d much rather know for sure that what I’m doing feels great to my partner than blindly hoping that it does,

If you’re with me, read on, my friend.

Empowering each other

One of my favorite therapists, Dr. Jay Talkoff, once said: “when you communicate more, they communicate more.” It’s a pretty obvious statement, but one that bears exploring.

The more you talk about sex, the more you show your partner that it’s OK to talk about sex.

When you show courage in opening up about your sexual desires, fears, and fantasies, you’re creating an environment of safety and permission that fosters closeness and intimacy.

Talking about sex empowers others to talk about sex. That’s the goal. Open, honest, and playful communication leads to more fulfilled and intimate relationships.

And, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much people are willing to talk about sex if you make the first move in bringing it up.

But, won’t it ruin the mood?

Unequivocally, no.

Speaking from personal experience here, I’ve never ruined a sexual encounter by talking about sex before, during, or after sex. Ever. Not once.

“The Mood” isn’t nearly as fragile as you make it out to be. What you call the mood, I might call ‘energy,’ and the thing about energy is that it ebbs and flows.

In my podcast conversation with Britt East, I explore how sharing my desires, talking about my sexual health, and being curious about my partner’s desires can do a lot more to increase the energy or the mood of a sexual encounter than to take away from it or ruin it.

Trust me on this one.

But, won’t talking about sex be awkward?

Unequivocally, yes. At first.

How can it not be?

Sex is perhaps one of the most awkward activities to do, especially with a new partner. You’re going to dance naked and grind your genitals together in a way that hopefully makes you both feel good? Sounds pretty awkward to me.

Anything you do will be awkward and scary at first.

Talking about sex is kind of like playing tennis. At first, if you’ve never done it before, it’ll be pretty awkward, and you’re going to suck. But, over time, you’ll get used to it. You’ll feel a bit more natural, and you’ll fumble a little less, and it’ll be a bit more fun.

And eventually, you might even start to like it. It might even turn you on — this is good because talking about sex can lead to getting turned on, and that’s the whole point.

So, where do we start?

Starting to talk about sex

Start at the beginning by not springing a conversation about sex with your lover on them out of the blue.

It might be tempting to talk about sex right before having sex. While I advocate talking about sex before, during, and after sex, if you’re new to talking about sex, consider setting some time to speak apart from your lovemaking session.

“Hey, I’d love to spend some time talking about our sex life. It’s not something I have a lot of experience in doing, but I think it’s important, and I’d love to do it with you (wink wink). Is that something we can do this weekend?”

And what you talk about depends on where you’re in the relationship and your goals.

If you’re wondering what there is to talk about when it comes to sex, here are some subjects you might want to explore with your lover and some scripts that might be helpful to get started.

These scripts are jumping-off points. If I could script the entire conversation for you, I would. But I can’t.

So you’ll have to muster up some courage, mixed with a healthy dose of faith, and add a dash of nerves and go for it.

Remember, you’re in charge of your sexual satisfaction, and you can’t expect to build the kind of sex life you’re proud of without asking for what you want.

So, get to it!

What Is there to talk about?

There’s no shortage of topics when it comes to sex. Pick one and go for it.

The sexual health conversation

Hopefully, this conversation happens before you have sex, but if you’ve already had sex, it’s never too late to talk about your sexual health.

Because this is a huge topic, I wrote a detailed blog post and recorded a podcast episode on having this conversation, but here’s the opener:

“I’d love to take a moment to talk about sexual health with you. I don’t want to assume what will happen between us, but this seems like a good time to talk about it. Are you up for it?”

What turns you on

Your lover isn’t a mind-reader, so sharing what you like is the best way of getting what you want.

“I have a fun date idea. Let’s spend an hour filling out this questionnaire and then talk about what we like and dislike in bed. There’s a few things I’d love to do with you, but honestly, I’m a bit shy to talk about it. Hopefully this exercise will help!”

Your preference for birth control

You probably know what you’d like to do regarding birth control, but it’s best to check that your partner is on the same page.

“Since we’re thinking about having sex together, I’d love to spend some time talking about birth control. I can share with you my preferences, unless you’d like to go first.”

Safer sex precautions

What barriers do you want to use? What kind of sexual activities are you willing to enjoy without barriers?

“Hey, can we spend some time talking about how we can practice safer sex? I have some ideas I’d love to share with you, then you can tell me what you think about them. Sounds good?”

What kind of touch you prefer

Where are the places that you especially enjoy being touched? How do you want to be touched, caressed, kissed, and held?

Can you share this with your partner?

“I’d love to spend some time this evening showing you how I like to be touched. I’ve never done this before, but I love having sex with you and I think I might like it even more if I show you a few ways I like to be touched. Are you up for it?”

Or

“I love having sex with you, and I adore our physical connection. While I like it when you touch me like this, I would really love it if you could do this as well or instead. It would make me feel even closer and more connected to you. Here, let me show you what feels incredible to me.”

Telling someone to slow down

This is a tough one, but certainly a conversation worth having.

“I’d love it if we could slow down when we’re starting to make love. It takes a bit longer for me to get aroused and if we go slower, there’s a better chance that I’ll really get into it. And, I love getting into it with you.”

These examples are a shortlist.

There’s no shortage of what you can talk about when you find the courage (and the scripts) to take your sexual satisfaction into your hands.

I’m inviting you to use these scripts to get the conversation going and trust that the more you talk about sex, the easier it gets (eventually).

You are 100% responsible for your sexual health, satisfaction, and fulfillment, and if you won’t talk about it, who will?

You got this.

Shaun Galanos

Shaun Galanos is a love coach and course creator. He teaches communication and intimacy tools for better relationships and more love.

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