sex talk: how to…

Q. How do I encourage my inhibited partner to be more comfortable talking about sex?

A. Whether it is in order to establish clear and enthusiastic consent, gauge sexual compatibility, or simply because it’s a turn-on, talking about sex with partners is so important!  That said, one of the most common emotions I’ve encountered in my experience as a sex educator, counsellor, and human person/friend/confidante, is shame.

So many of us, and if I could be so bold as to say, most of us, across identities, have been socialized around sex, rooted in shame.  Even if you grew up with sex-positive messages at home (YAY!), chances are if you’re an adult in 2019, all sorts of influences around you in your youth - school, peers, religion, tv - transmitted messages about sex/bodies which were regulatory at best and vilifying at worst.  As we develop a lot of our core values and ideas in youthhood, I believe this is a huge contributor to (sex) communication barriers for youth and adults alike.

This is not a revolutionary idea, BUT, the act of pausing at different points in adulthood and taking a meaningful inventory of all of one’s values, is not something everyone does or even thinks to do.  Which is fair! Our thoughts dress up as truths all the time! And a lot of our thoughts about sex are muddied up with a bunch of values and customs of behaviour that might not align with who we are today, who we want to be, or the relationships we want to have.

Short of a deep dive into your partner’s psyche, my suggestions are these:

Make an assessment of your partner’s communication and reasoning style.  If they communicate more openly using tools, such as text, email, letter writing - use those tools.  In a non-threatening, non-sexy time, let your partner know you would like to have more conversations about sex - and plan a conversation!  If they are super rational in their reasoning style, have facts-based points about why you want to talk more, ex. cultivating consent = healthier, happier sex lives.  If they are more emotional, tell them how it makes you feel to talk/not talk about sex. Start super small, set parameters, such as “Can we talk about X, for Y amount of time?”, and stick to that.  Making this kind of space can help to build trust, which can grow into less rigid, more fluid, and hopefully eventually, spicier convos. 

Emotional labour is required on your part to facilitate this shift, and this can be an example of an equity approach in a relationship. But, if your partner is resistant, invite them to reflect on what the barriers are for them and give them time to get back to you.  Whatever those barriers are, aren’t yours to work out.  At most, you can share with them if/how you’ve overcome your discomforts talking about sex, and encourage them to seek their own solutions.  

Communication can be hard.  Communication about stuff which can be front, back, and side to side, loaded with baggage - like sex and mental health - is even harder!  But, do not despair, the road of sexual liberation is tread one step at a time!

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