I have an article up at Everyday Feminism about why it’s hard for a lot of people to talk about sex openly with their partners, and ways they can make it easier.
I have a confession to make.
Despite writing about sex on the Internet, facilitating workshops about consent and sexuality for dozens or hundreds of people, and being openly queer, feminist, and polyamorous, I sometimes choke up when it comes to talking about sex with one of my actual partners.
I want to tell them what I want, or to set a boundary around something I don’t want, but all of a sudden, words completely fail me.
I feel like a hypocrite – but I think there’s more to it than that.
Even in spaces that emphasize celebrating rather than stigmatizing sex, such as feminism and LGBTQIA+ communities, people often have trouble putting their ideals into practice and opening up when talking about sex with partners.
Being part of a sex-positive community can create a lot of pressure: If we’re really sex-positive, shouldn’t we be ready to spill all our deepest fantasies to whomever we want to sleep with?
If you have a hard time talking about sex with partners, you’re not alone.
There are a lot of reasons why people might have difficulty with it, and many of them apply across cultures and subcultures. After describing a few ways in which our experiences and the society we live in can make talking about sex challenging, I’ll suggest some strategies for making it a little easier.
5 Reasons Why Talking About Sex Is Hard
1. Internalized Sexual Stigma
Even if you really want to believe that there’s nothing shameful or inherently dangerous about sex, it’s not always easy to internalize that when you’ve grown up in a society that stigmatizes sexuality, especially that of anyone who isn’t a straight, white, cis, able-bodied man.
This can make talking about sex embarrassing or anxiety-provoking, and it doesn’t mean you’re a “prude.”
2. Not Knowing the Words to Use
Sometimes talking about sex is hard because most of the words we know sound either cold and clinical (like vagina and erection) or vulgar and pornographic (like cunt or pussy).
Of course, there’s nothing about these words that makes them inherently wrong or weird to use, and many people do enjoy using them. But if we’re used to seeing them in the context of a high school health textbook or a terribly inappropriate OKCupid message, it might be hard to use them in a more positive way.
3. Cultural Scripts About Sex
In romantic films, the couple usually has an amazingly passionate and satisfying first hook up without ever talking to each other about what they like in bed.
Although we understand that movies aren’t real life, many of us nevertheless end up believing on some level that there’s no need to talk about sex explicitly, and that if the couple “really” clicks, they’ll automatically connect sexually without any prior discussion.
That’s just one example of sexual scripts and how they influence our behavior.
4. Bad Previous Experiences
Some of us are initially enthusiastic about discussing sex openly with partners, but after some bad reactions from others, we lose that openness.
I’ve had partners shut down in response to my attempts to tell them what I like or ask them what they like, or respond with “Uh, that’s weird.”
If this has ever happened to you, I can see why you might not feel too confident about talking about sex anymore.
When it comes to setting sexual boundaries, you may fear that the person will get angry or push you away because that may well have happened in the past.
5. Past Trauma
If you have a history of sexual trauma, sex may not be a topic that you can discuss casually, even with someone you’re close to. Conversations about sex may be triggering or just deeply scary and unpleasant.
But whatever the reason discussing sex is tough for you (whether it’s one of these or one of many more), the good news is that there are ways to make it easier.
Here are a few you can try.
Read the rest here.