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Let's Talk About Sex: Navigating the Conversations with Confidence

The Importance

Believe it or not, you’re actually an expert in sex. When it comes to yourself, what you like, what feels good, and what you want, there will never be anyone who is more of an expert than you. So you, as the expert in your own body, have to communicate about your desires to your partners. But it can be really scary. For some reason, our society has made it nearly impossible to talk about sex without uncomfortability or shame. It feels like everyone should just go in, do the deed, do it perfectly for each other, and then be done. And yet, we would never expect a partner to guess what we’re feeling without giving them any indication, so why are we acting like we should do that with sex?

Communication about sex can only make it better. It’s like playing a team sport. During practices and games, you learn how to say cues, move in sync with your teammates, and work towards a collective goal. Sex is basically the same thing. You have to learn how to talk to each other, read each other’s bodies, change up your flow, and work towards a collective goal: pleasure. 

Considering that none of us have ever been taught how to communicate about sex, we thought it would be a good idea to jump in here and give a crash course on exactly that. So from getting over the awkward start to figuring out what it even is that you like, we’ve got you covered.

Overcoming the Awkwardness: Starting the Conversation

There are always ways to make these conversations a little less awkward, but sometimes it’s best to just embrace the awkwardness. Talking about sex doesn’t have to be weird, but it definitely can be! It’s vulnerable and none of us have really been taught how to express our desires and likes in the bedroom. So first, take a deep breath. If you’re feeling awkward, that’s so normal. And sometimes naming the awkwardness can help alleviate it. 

But there are a lot of tools that are made to help initiate these conversations. Try making it part of a date night. Plan a date that is centered around talking about sex. Grab a conversation starter card game, a sexual desire activity, or have a set of questions that you answer ahead of time. This way you both know what to expect and are not surprised by the conversation. Before you begin, make sure you establish that this is a safe and comfortable space to talk with each other. You’re going to be open and honest about your desires and non-judgemental of your partner’s desires.

Having a conversation outside of when before or after having sex can also help clear your mind. It’s easier to think things through or not have a reactionary response if it’s not in the moment that a partner is asking to explore something new.

how to talk about sex 

Communication is Key: Expressing Desires and Boundaries

Something that can make this conversation feel more intimidating is not even knowing what your own desires, fantasies, and boundaries are. It’s tough to express them to someone else, before you are aware of them. Take some time to explore things for yourself! This could be through watching new kinds of ethical porn, allowing yourself to daydream about potential sexual scenarios, thinking about what you picture why you masturbate, or trying out toys and accessories on yourself first.

It’s also important to note that desires and fantasies are a bit different. Desires are generally things that you want to do in real life. You’d love to give them a try or incorporate them into your sex life. Fantasies on the other hand are often things that you think are really hot and you love to fantasize about, but you may not want to try. It’s 100% ok if you aren’t sure what are desires and what are fantasies. It may take some trial and error. Fantasies may turn into desires and some desires may end up just being a fantasy. 

When introducing new desires to a partner and expressing what you want to try, focus on the potential for new things rather than what’s currently lacking. No one wants to hear that they aren’t a good sexual partner or aren’t giving someone what they want, and that isn’t always the case anyways. But it’s much easier to be receptive to new ideas when it’s phrased like “Recently I’ve been getting really turned on by the thought of giving each other massages before we have sex, would you be down to do that?”

Expressing your desires doesn’t always have to mean introducing something new, it could be giving a bit of direction in the moment. Don’t be afraid to give a little guidance like “could you go a little to the left” or “when you were going slow that felt so good”. It can be so hot to even move a partner's hand or head to exactly the right spot. And when things feel really good, make sure they know. Saying how good something feels is just as beneficial as giving guidance. 

Listening Matters: Understanding Your Partner's Perspective

Like we said before, these can be incredibly vulnerable and sensitive conversations. Considering all of the taboos about sex in our society, it takes a lot of courage to not only identify what you like, but express it to your partners. 

If your partner is expressing something to you, try not to take it personally. Instead of thinking about it as something you’re doing wrong, think of it as an opportunity to have even better sex. Sex can only get better with communication and communication is one of the best sex toys. Affirm your partner and thank them for sharing with you. Get excited about the new things you can try the next time you have sex, and maybe even do your own research on how to expand upon what they shared. You may even find your new favorite thing!

Dealing with Differences: Navigating Disagreements and Misunderstandings

There may be times where your partner expresses something to you that you are not interested in trying and vice versa. A great phrase to come back to is “Don’t yuck someone’s yum or yum someone’s yuck”. What that means is that sexual desire is good and there’s nothing wrong with it. Sexual desires show up in many different ways for everyone. One person might get turned on by the thought of using a butt plug, while someone else doesn’t want anything anywhere near their butt. Both are great and so normal. This can feel tricky when you and your partner’s desires don’t match up, however it’s a pretty common situation. So first, if they are sharing something with you that you have no interest in, don’t immediately say “yuck” to it. Approach it with the same level of kindness and gratefulness that you would if you did like the idea. Feel free to ask your partner questions if you aren’t familiar with something or if you want to learn more about what specifically is hot to them about it. 

From there, it’s also completely ok to have a boundary in something you are not willing to do. Talk through with your partner if it’s something you would never try, you would try once, or you would try with some modifications. Maybe you don’t want to try a butt plug, but you’d be open to external stimulation. Even if you don’t end up wanting to try it or finding a middle ground approach, it’s important to keep these conversations going and not shut them down just because you came across a difference in desires.

This is another great opportunity for using a sexual desires activity sheet. When you take time to fill out something like this separately and then go over it together, you can see everything laid out. You can see common ground, big differences, and things that may surprise you. It’s important to focus on the things that you are excited about trying together rather than changing someone’s “no” into a “yes”.

how to talk about sex / rompy

The Role of Education: Staying Informed and Safe

Communication about sex extends beyond sex itself. It also has to include conversations around birth control, STI’s, and general safety. If you are in a sexual relationship that has the potential of pregnancy, make sure to discuss all of those details in advance. Is a hormonal birth control being taken, should a barrier method (such as a condom) be used, or are you open to getting pregnant? Sex is so much hotter when you know there won’t be unintended outcomes. STIs are another crucial topic that a lot of people skip. Everyone can get STIs, and not just people who are doing casual hookups. All genders, sexes, relationships statuses, sexualities, races, and religions can get STIs. As an individual, it’s important to get STI tested before/after each new sexual partner, or once a year if you’re in a long-term relationship. If you do have an STI, it’s not the end of the world! If it’s a curable STI, follow the instructions from your medical provider and let any potentially infected partners know. If it’s a long-term STI like HSV, HIV, or AIDS, it’s still not the end of the world. Again, talk to your doctor and potentially infected partners, and learn about how you can continue to have sex with one of these STIs. It’ll be important to let future partners know before you have sex and share with them the knowledge you have on how you can both be safe during sex. To learn more about all things sexual health, Planned Parenthood has a phenomenal site full of education from birth control to abortion, STIs, assault, cancer, sexuality, gender identity, and more. 

Outside of sexual health, consent is a key safety measure to be aware of in sexual situations. Consent applies not only in the bedroom, but in digital scenarios like sexting too. Especially when trying new things, it’s important to be checking in with each other about what feels good, if it’s ok to keep going, and if needed, have additional measures like safe words. We go into even more depth around consent in our Consent 101 blog article!

If you’re beginning to explore some kinkier things inside of the BDSM world like bondage, dom/sub, impact (hitting, paddles, whipping), or choking, there’s a specific consent concept used here. It’s called Risk Aware Consensual Kink (also known as RACK). This highlights having the education around the risks involved with kink, having more layers of consent check ins when someone might be restrained or unable to communicate verbally, and being aware of when something is too far. Kink education should be left to the pros, so check out Kink Academy for education on consent in kink, training, and different topics.

Beyond the Talk: Maintaining Ongoing Communication

Communication about sex goes on for as long as you’re having sex. But there may be ebbs and flows to it. There may be times where the sex is *chef's kiss* and no one wants to change a thing for a bit. This is a great opportunity to practice conversations around consent in the moment, when someone is tired or not feeling well, or checking in while you’re cuddling afterwards. At other times, it may be time to really mix things up, so conversations are happening constantly. Either way, communication is happening in different formats. It’s also important to remember that you may change your mind and preferences about a million things! We get older, our bodies change, our interests change, and so do our sex lives. The thing that always got you off before may not work anymore or something that you weren’t interested in 5 years ago may seem a little sexier. Sex is not stagnant and communication helps avoid those slumps that can come over time. 

If you’re wanting to get into a better habit of communicating about sex, figure out a format that works best for you. It could be that you set a monthly date night where you each answer what you’d like to have stay the same in your sex life, what you’d like to remove, and what you’d like to add. It could be a quick weekly check in where you talk about your favorite sex you had that week and what you liked about it. Your check in could happen right after sex as part of your aftercare or it could be before you start so that you can express what your body is needing that day. There are a million variations on how to continue communicating about sex, but what’s most important is finding what works best for you. It may seem counterintuitive to schedule time to check in about your sex life, but you might find that it becomes your favorite time of the week.

In conclusion...

Whether you’re having sex with someone for the first and only time or you’ve been in a long term relationship for over a decade, ongoing communication is key. While we can’t promise that you’ll never feel awkward or uncomfortable or vulnerable, we can promise that it’ll always be worth it. 

If you want to take it one step further, open up that communication to others! The taboo around sex is perpetuated by people not talking about it or shaming others for talking about it. You can start by opening up conversations with your friends, following sex positive accounts on social media, joining in on conversations with Rompy, learning about your own desires, and educating yourself. 

Remember — above all, don’t yuck anyone’s yum or yum anyone’s yuck. Everyone is entitled to their own desires and sex positivity is about encouraging people to pursue what they find pleasure in, whether it’s what you vibe with or not.