My path as an educator included earning a Masters in Human Sexuality Education, but you don’t have to go get a graduate degree in human sexuality to learn how to really talk openly about sex. Anyone who cares about having a fulfilling, meaningful sexual life, anyone who wants to improve their sexual life and start to get the things they really want, can learn the skillsets required to have that.
The problem with sex and sexual issues is that people keep them to themselves for the most part, not wanting to show the vulnerable or tender parts of themselves to the world. That means you don’t get to see other ways modeled, and it also means that if you are feeling some shame about some aspect of your sexuality or your sexual life that you will grow that shame and you’ll stay steeped in that shame all by yourself. That doesn’t make it easier to bring your sexual self forward more and get what you want. It keeps you where you are, it keeps you stuck, and it keeps you feeling alone. And that becomes even more difficult when you are ac tually in a relationship and yet you still feel so alone because sexually you are isolated and need more, but you don’t know how to get it. I think that is one of the most painful places for people—when they actually have a relationship and still feel isolated and alone.
The two biggest fears that block people from talking about sex are the fear of being rejected if you actually ask for what you want and the fear of being judged for your requests. These two things keep people totally silent about sex, trapped inside of themselves in fear of rejection and judgment. And yet, knowing that most people have at least one of these fears, if not both when it comes to talking about sex, what demands do we need to make of ourselves and of our relationships so that we can get off of the hamster wheel of fear and isolation and into the place of connection and deep fulfillment that most of us really want?
When I say demands, I don’t mean a 2-year old version of demands—stomping your feet and yelling, “I want this!” I mean a mature adult version of that: advocacy and coming from a place of total sexual agency over yourself, from an internal locus of control. You have to stop being afraid to ask for what you want. You have to show up more honestly about where you are and about your struggles so that you can work through those struggles together. You can’t do it alone! If you are in a relationship where your dynamic keeps you on your own islands, disconnected from one another sexually, emotionally and/or intimately you have to get on board with this together. Someone has to take the lead.
So how do you break the ice? How do you start the conversation? I’ve seen many people stop themselves with the mistaken belief that in order to talk about sex they have to have all the clarity and all the answers before they even bring it up. They put pressure on themselves to have it all figured out before raising the issue or admitting dissatisfaction to a partner. That alone will keep you silent about sex for years and years because if you stay in your own head about it, it will be challenging to actually get the clarity you are really seeking.
Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is just say what is really true right now.Here are some examples of what breaking the ice might look like:
“I am totally confused about what I want sexually, but I would really like to work on figuring it out with you. Would you be willing to explore that with me?”
“I’ve been thinking about our sex life, and I’d really like to feel closer and more connected with you. I’ve been thinking about some ways to do that. Could we make a time together to talk about how it’s going? I’d love to hear what you think.”
“I really want to talk more about sex with you, but I’m not sure how to start. Can we try that together?
“I have a lot of fears about sex and asking for what I want and I know that is getting in the way of having a better sexual life with you. Do you have fears about sex? Could we talk about that?”
What all of these examples have in common is that they state honestly and authentically where the person is right now and what is getting in the way, and they make a request. Making an inviting request is one of the keys to getting what you want sexually.
More often, what happens, is that people have built up anticipation and even resentment because they are not getting their needs met and so when they finally get to the point of asking for more, they blow up, they ask for it in a really uninviting way, they accuse their partners of things like not caring or being bad lovers. That is a recipe for disaster and I’m betting you may have experienced it at some point…. I know I have. Or they beat around the bush because directness feels too scary, so they never actually say the thing that really needs to be said, which keeps the relationship in a place of confusion and keeps both people on their islands. Neither approach will change the game.
So in order to externalize your sexual voice, you’ve got to first identify what is going on—even if it’s just an “I don’t know what’s not working” statement. Second, you’ve got to make a request so that you create partnership in the sexual relationship rather than an adversarial dynamic—which is what most people do when they’ve been stuck for a long time.
You must master the art of talking about sex in a way that invites the other person to come closer to you instead of pushing them farther away. And in doing so, you need to be someone whom people want to be close to. I hope that from reading this, you can start to see the skillsets that lie underneath the umbrella of “skillful sexual communication”:
- The art of identifying what you want and then making inviting requests.
- The skill of not taking things personally when other people can’t give it to you — knowing that that doesn’t reflect anything about the validity for YOUR ask.
- The power of knowing what’s really an authentic juicy YES for you… and how to give yourself permission to follow that.
- How to know what’s really a NO for you, and how to set boundaries without blaming or shaming the other person.
- How to approach someone new in a powerful, confident way.
- How to gracefully turn someone down.
- How to communicate in a way that shakes up the routine in your relationship, pushes the edges of the status quo and allows you to have new, exciting, joyous experiences together that expand your sense of what’s possible… and how to follow up afterwards.
So many things are possible when you uplevel your sexual communication. And the funny thing about this is that it actually goes SO far beyond what’s just going on in the bedroom. I know that when people have the sexual lives they want, they are happier, they have more of a kick in their step, they are more engaged at work, they are more productive and more creative. You move projects that have been stuck when you move your sexuality and as you accept more in your life sexually, you accept more financially. Communication takes understanding, tools and practice– it doesn’t take a master’s degree or require that you completely change your life and relationship. I hope this inspires you to break the ice, and I’d love t o hear how things go.