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Five Ways to Communicate About Sex

Sex: Ways to speak up without necessarily speaking

Sex, of course, is the most intimate of acts, but not surprisingly perhaps, so is talking about it. And that’s what can make it difficult. Though others can’t read our minds or even accurately interpret our body language, we expect them to. We want to say what we want, but feel stricken with embarrassment or fear. We grunt or allude or hold in our thoughts, eventually either settling for what we get or feeling resentful that may eventually come to a head. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Here are 5 ways of letting you partner know what you sexually like and don’t.

Talk. The obvious but also obviously not the easiest. Courage needed here. A good way to do this is by having a post-coital pillow-talk debriefing if the mood seems right, but keep it positive (I really like that you did this; next time you can…) no criticisms. Better is planning a short meeting / discussion at convenient time (no kids barging in, no end of work-day exhaustion) that gives time for both of you to prepare and feel a bit less awkward or naturally defensive. The rules here are for you both to just state in monologue fashion what you like and don’t ( “Here are 3 things that really turn me on”). Again no critiques about the other’s performance. Pretend you are at a business meeting at work. Keep it low key, factual. Questions are allowed but only for clarification (not sure what you meant by "be more gentle"), not defense ("I didn’t do that", "You didn’t…"). Take turns. This is truly a case where it’s all in details – I like it when you touch me here. Keep it short, keep it clear, be absolutely specific.

Write. A variation of the meeting and talking is writing. Both of you write down what you want to say and exchange letters. Like the meeting keep it simple and short but absolutely clear. Follow up with verbal or written clarifying questions (Did you mean this? Say more about that).


Go together to a bookstore with sex manuals (Barnes & Noble comes to mind), peruse through them. When you find something that you want to other person to do / know about, have him read it.


Watch. We’re talking porn here, not for arousal or entertainment but education. Find something with activities that are similar to your interests. Try amateur ones that feel a bit more real rather than pros . Watch together and point out what like or don’t like, or watch separately and, like the reading, then ask the other to watch a particular segment. Follow up with brief discussion (So what did you think? Is this something we could try?)


Show the person what you like and don’t like. What’s important here is taking turns – I’ll show you what I like, then you can show me what you like. Don’t try and do both at the same time. The person showing is in charge and the role of the other is to merely listen, watch, do, and learn. Sensate focus exercises are a good, safe way to start this (see my article Sex: Time to Recalibrate for more detailed instructions).


There you have it. You may find that one of you favors one approach over another, or you may try several. That’s fine – the goal here is communication. Finally, don’t forget to talk about the communicating itself – “Thanks for your letter, that was helpful;” “Talking was good on Saturday, but I was really tired and I’d like to talk about this more when I’m less tired,” etc.

As stated at the top, these conversations initially can feel awkward and outside your comfort zone – that’s a good sign that you are moving towards intimacy. But in the bigger picture, that’s what relationships are ultimately about – being honest and brave enough to say what needs to said, to not walk on eggshells, being sensitive while helping the other person learn what you need most.

More from Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.
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