Let's Talk About Sex
Exploring Sexuality with Kindness and Compassion
Sex, the most intimate, layered, and loaded of topics. Few subjects are more personal or individual. Sexuality is a complex composite of culture, gender, beliefs inherited from our families, life experiences, biology, etc. It is as unique to an individual as their finger prints. And so it follows that exposing your sexual fears and desires can feel incredibly vulnerable. As terrifying as this process might be, however, learning to communicate openly, respectfully, and continuously about sex can improve your sex life ten-fold, deepen your relationship with your partner and yourself, help you to feel more comfortable in and loving towards your own body, and enhance your appreciation and understanding of your own sexuality. Let’s look at how you can facilitate a healthy, mutually-beneficial dialogue about sex with your partner.
"Know what you bring to the table…"
What does sex mean for you? Consider who you are as a sexual being. What emotions does the idea of discussing your sexual desires bring up for you? Fear? Excitement? Shame? Let your feelings arise without judgment. Think back on your past sexual experiences. How did you feel about yourself? Are there aspects of these experiences you would like to create with your current partner? What helps you to feel safe and relaxed with a sexual partner? How important is sex to you? Is sex more of an emotional act or a physical act for you? The idea here is to begin to explore and embrace your sexuality from a place of allowance.
Where are your boundaries? Most people have at least a few sexual frontiers they would rather not explore. Be candid with yourself about what makes you uncomfortable and be willing to assert those boundaries with your partner.
What does your ideal sex life look like? You are far more likely to get what you want when you ask for it. Spend some time thinking about what your ideal sex life might look like. How often would you like to have sex? How important to you is emotional intimacy, foreplay, variety, monogamy?
"Set the stage…"
Pick a stress-free time in a private place. Creating a relaxed, secure environment is essential when discussing a subject as sacred and personal as sexuality. Schedule a time when you will not be rushed or interrupted. Choose a secluded venue which allows you to speak freely.
Check-in with one another. Take a moment to check-in with where you are both at emotionally. Knowing that one or both of you are entering into the conversation tired, distracted, anxious, etc. can help to mitigate the impact of those preexisting states. You may also want to check-out before ending the conversation.
Establish some guidelines for communication. What do each of you need in order for this conversation to feel safe, loving, and inviting? Discuss confidentiality explicitly. If you are not comfortable having the details of your discussion shared with friends or loved ones, make that clear from the outset. Bringing an overall attitude of goodwill is paramount to the success of any dialogue about sex. Some general rules which help foster goodwill might be; no blaming or degrading language, describe what you would like but don’t demand it, and both participants have the right to end the conversation (with an agreed upon time to resume it) at any time.
"Cultivate effective communication…"
Employ respect and kindness. Use “I” statements. This does not mean, “I feel like you are a jerk”. It means taking ownership of your own emotional experience, not attributing it to your partner’s actions. For example, “I notice that sex often brings up feelings of insecurity for me” is different than, “you always make me feel insecure during sex”. Practice emotional responsibility, it will keep your partner off the defense and allow you to be confident in your integrity. Be aware of your emotions and conscientious of how your partner is feeling. Express your fears and concerns. Respect each other’s boundaries.
Talk as a team. Approach this discussion as a collaborative effort not a conflict in which you are on opposing sides. You both have the same goal. Work together, as a unified force, to accomplish your shared goal.
Avoid communication missteps. Denying/avoiding, intellectualizing, minimizing, defending/justifying, deflecting, catastrophizing/dramatizing, assuming, dredging up the past, threatening, attacking, discounting, interrupting, generalizing, preaching, and feigning agreement. These are only a few of the ways in which people fail to hear and acknowledge the feelings of others. Give some thought to which of these you are most guilty and begin to be more conscious of how that affects your relationships.
"Move from talk to touch…"
Take it to the bedroom. Once you have come to an agreement about some elements you would like to change, experiment with, or add to your sexual repertoire, move the discussion to the bedroom. Add a sensate component to your conversation. Explore how you each like to be touched, talked to, seen. This is a trust building exercise so be gentle with each other.
Keep it light. Too much pressure can take the sexy right out of a situation. Let this be a fun, light adventure into exploring and discovering things about your partner. Laugh at yourselves, be playful, and enjoy the intimacy of being safe while vulnerable together.
"Maintain your gains…"
Make time for sex. That doesn’t mean every Wednesday at 5:45. Scheduling time for sex and intimacy can feel sterile and overly structured, but forgetting to make sex a priority altogether can be even more detrimental. Make time for sex, and even more importantly, for connecting with your partner, just as you make time for exercise, regular meals, and sleep. Sexual intimacy is a vital part of a satisfying relationship.
One question a week. Make sex an ongoing topic of discussion. Now that the lines of communication are open, keep them that way! One way to keep sex out from under the rug is to integrate a weekly sex question into your discussions. Here are a few examples:
- 1) How does your mood impact our sex life, your desire for sex, etc.?
- 2) What are you embarrassed to ask for during sex?
- 3) What is the most important part of sex for you?
- 4) What is your favorite part of my body? Of your body?
- 5) Are there any sexual fantasies you would enjoy playing out together?
- 6) How can I show you that I am interested in sex?
Creating a space where you are free to express your sexuality openly and without judgment is a very healing and liberating experience. Being ridiculed or shamed, however, can be scarring. As the old adage instructs, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Showing kindness, respect, and reverence for your partner’s sexuality creates the fertile soil in which a healthy and satisfying sexual relationship can grow.