Sex Talk and the Sexual Self

Sex Talk and the Sexual Self

Sex Talk Is Easier Than You Think

I can talk about sex with anyone. Which makes sense, since I’m a sex therapist and that’s what I do in the office all day. But I have to remind myself how difficult it can be for some individuals to talk frankly about their sexual feelings.

This year, Bustle’s Maria Yagoda (who in her own words “writes about the two most important topics in the world: food and sex”) convinced me to be interviewed for her March 2015 article, 7 Dos And Don’ts Of Communicating During Sex — Because We’re All Vulnerable In Bed.  I especially liked the second half of the title, which I think may have been inspired by our interview.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog article, On Talking During Sexgetting naked with a new partner can sometimes be a lot easier than speaking frankly to your long-time companion about what you’re really feeling in bed.  Many (if not most) couples take a “vow of silence” once lovemaking begins.

Sometimes keeping quiet during sex can be just the thing to make sure you don’t get distracted. But there are other times when speaking up about what you’re feeling and experiencing can help your partner avoid having to do a lot of guess-work.  Yet it’s remarkable how many couples refuse to do much talking while making love.

An Unexpected Intimacy

No, I’m not talking about dirty talk. Though that’s fine if it’s what you like. What I mean is just plain opening up to each other, as you would while doing anything else.

The first time I suggest to a new couple that they “go oral” in bed — that is, communicate verbally to each other during sex — they often look shocked. Most couples, having lived under the code of silence for so many years, assume that talking to each other while making love will be unromantic — or will spoil the mood.

But if I keep urging them to open up in bed, very often they end up telling me it’s a positive thing. Some couples grow to love it.  Many have told me they now realize much time they wasted doing things in bed that neither really enjoyed very much — because each thought the other wanted them.

There’s been much attention lately to the need for “affirmative consent” in college dating. If both partners have to say “yes” to a verbal request before anything can happen, there’s less misunderstanding later about whether or not both people really wanted to have sex. Just Google #yesmeansyes.

Affirmative Consent and The Antioch Rules

According to legend, the affirmative consent doctrine got started at Antioch University.  Students initially groaned that it would be the death of romance. But in fact the new rules reportedly made hookups more interesting . . . and more intimate.  Partners appreciated the courage it took to speak up and say, “May I unfasten your top now?”

For her article in Bustle, Yagoda wanted information about the best ways to verbalize your wants and needs while sex was actually happening.

I offered the following advice:

1.  Be prepared for it to feel a little weird at first. You’ve spent your whole erotic life obeying an unwritten “code of silence,” and in the beginning it may feel as if you’re learning a new language.

2.  Be kind to each other. The sexual mind needs a lot of praise and reassurance. So at first, limit yourself to positive and encouraging statements, such as “Oh, you feel so good. Can I tell you what would really turn me on right now?” All of us much more vulnerable and sensitive in bed, so avoid making overtly critical comments.

3.  Be prepared for it to feel more intimate than usual. Many couples worry that talking during sex will feel less romantic, but usually it’s the opposite!

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Our exchange led to item #4 in the article: “Don’t Say ‘Ew!’ or ‘Gross!’.”  (In other words, be at least somewhat positive).  Here it was noted that everyone needs a lot of praise and reassurance during lovemaking, because we’re all especially sensitive to criticism in bed.  An obvious point perhaps, but once worth repeating.

 

I was also pleased that my distinguished sex colleague Megan Andelloux was quoted in item #2: “DON’T Ask, ‘Did You Come Yet?’”  As Andelloux emphasizes, putting pressure on your partner to have an orgasm is generally a bad idea, since it might make them anxious. As I wrote in an earlier article on PsychologyToday, “Two Roads to Orgasm,” it’s usually best not to make orgasms such a big deal in the first place. Orgasm should be like dessert at the end of a good meal.

It’s fine to ask your partner whether they’ve had enough to eat. But best to leave it at that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skills

Posted on

November 15, 2015