Sexual communication: Talking About Sex to Have a Better Sex Life

By Kassandra Mourikis, Pleasure Centred Sexology

For some of us, talking about sex can seem way more challenging than the act of physically having sex. But can we really have good sex without first having great conversations about sex?

What makes it difficult to talk about sex?

You may recall being taught both implicitly or explicitly that sex is taboo, awkward, shameful, and like death and politics, something that is best avoided in conversation, even with those people we are actively having or want to be sexually intimate with. For some, talking about sex can feel anxiety-provoking, leaves them feeling vulnerable and exposed or deeply uncomfortable. Others learn sex is sinful, dirty, wrong, triggering. Talking about it can be dangerous, unsafe or risky.

Many are also socialised to think it’s sexy for a sexual partner to be a mind reader and should know what you want without directly telling them. This misconception can be protective, allowing us to avoid awkward conversations, avoid giving feedback or asking for what we want but doesn’t serve or support an open, transparent sexual relationship and places all the responsibility on partners to get it right without knowing what it is. 

Why good sexual communication matters?

Anyone you connect with is likely to have their own diverse sexual and pleasure preferences, wants, needs and boundaries that must be learned. It’s unlikely that another person will ever really know your preferences just but looking at you, regardless of their level of sexual experience. 

Talking about sex, before, during and after, is the key that unlocks a shared understanding of what everyone involved wants and does not want. Conversations about sex create a space to identify whose pleasure specific activities are for, to build trust and safety to share when things aren’t going well and when they are. 

Without ongoing sexual communication, what happens during the act of sex might be assumed or decided without everyone’s input and there lacks an open dialogue to explore options, possibilities and proceed towards having better, ethical and pleasurable sex. 

Communicating – whether it’s verbally, through sign language, body language or communication devices – makes sex pleasurable by taking time to discover and honour sexual preferences and needs and values feedback and adjustments when things could feel even better. 

What does good sexual communication look like? 

Before sex

Prioritising conversations about sex before you have sex destigmatises and normalises it and a way to build anticipation, get turned on, talk about what feels good or what has the potential to feel great that you might like to try. This could include playing The Gottman’s Card Deck (a free App download with question and suggested sexy activities to try) or listening to podcast episodes on sex (if you’re looking for suggestions, check out Speaking of Sex by The Pleasure Mechanics). 

Talking about sex before sex might also involve sharing your want to’s, willing to’s and no thanks lists. It might be a time where you explore what sex means to you and how you define it. 

Before sex is also the place where you check in with those you want to explore with. Here you might decide if you’re even going to have sex and what you’re open to, ensuring that everyone involved is fully informed and knows what they’re agreeing to, is aware that agreeing to one activity does not automatically mean agreeing to everything that could follow, is reminded that they can change their mind and never has to finish what they started, and that choosing to engage or not is free from pressure or consequences. 

During sex

Good communication during sex is the practice of checking in regularly and sharing feedback. This can look like asking “What do you want to do?”, “Does this feel good?”, “Do you want me to slow down?”, “Can I do this with you?” or giving suggestions and options for things you’d like to try.

Sharing feedback is part of this and can be expressed as a verbal cue to indicate that what is happening feels good, that you want to slow down or make adjustments. It’s moaning, giving a thumbs up or down, nodding your head or using your hands to adjust and show someone how you’d like to be touched. 

Good communication during sex is also about listening and responding; noticing when someone has checked out or isn’t enjoying when they tell you verbally or when you see them looking checked out and distracted. Using your words to check in and ask them how they’re feeling or what they need before continuing. 

After sex

Conversation after sex is part of aftercare. This is the process of talking about what went well, what didn’t go so well or what could be different next time. This is a space that builds trust, enhances connection and allows for deep vulnerability.

Having a trusted, non-judgemental space to tell a sexual partner what felt difficult or uncomfortable, what was delicious and what you want for next time and knowing that they can take feedback onboard and validate your wants and desires is powerful and allows for growth.

While talking about sex is hard at times, not talking about sex can be detrimental for a sex life. Communication in all forms is an expression of trust, pleasure and desire and an integral way to reduce risk and repair harm that can and does occur in sexually intimate spaces. 

How do you feel talking about sex? If its difficult, what contributes to that? What do you need (from yourself or sexual partners) to make it safer to express your sexual needs, wants and feedback before, during and after sex? 

By Kassandra Mourikis, Pleasure Centred Sexology

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