Talking about Sex (and Sexual Health)

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Twitter Chat September 4 at 2:00 PM


"Imagine going to a restaurant where the chef served you whatever he or she felt like fixing instead of giving you a choice.  Imagine a gardener who never asked, 'How do you like your bushes trimmed?' Yet when it comes to sex many of us assume that we know what our partner wants, or we clam up instead of giving feedback."
-- Paul Joannides, Psy.D., The Guide to Getting It On(6th ed.) 

It is perfectly okay to keep some things private, especially fantasies that you enjoy on your own and do not care to share with someone else.  But in any relationship, whether for one night or many years, there are things about which you do need to communicate.  Talking openly makes for relationships that are more fun and satisfying.

You can’t expect a partner to know what you like unless you tell them.  People sometimes think that if their partner really loved them or cared about them the other person would do exactly what they wanted.  But none of us is a mind reader!   No two people want the same things, have the same fantasies, or want to be touched in the same ways.

Remember that whether you feel physical pleasure in response to something a partner does is not an indicator of their “skill” as a lover. What a previous partner liked may not be what gets you off, since each of us is different.

What is there to talk about?

Type of relationship that you want: Committed or non-committed?  Friendly or romantic?  Sexual or non-sexual?  Monogamous or non-monogamous?

STI status: When were you last tested for STIs, and what were the results?  Which STIs were you tested for?  Not tested for?  How many sexual partners have you had since your last round of testing?  What were the STI statuses of those partners?  What is your history of STI infection?

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If you have been diagnosed with an STI, you will need to share this information with potential partners. The more positive, honest, and straight-forward you can be, the more positively your partner will hear you. Having an STI does not mean the end of a good sex life, but if you feel ashamed of your STI your partner will likely pick up on this. Gather as much factual information as you can about both your STI(s), including transmission, prevention, treatment, and the actual physical effects of the infection. Allow them to ask you questions, and do your best to answer them all honestly and without getting defensive. Remember that this is new news to your partner, and it may take him or her some time to adjust. It's a great idea to have a pamphlet or book from ASHA's library to give them to read, as well.

Couple negotiating condom use

Birth control: Are you currently using birth control?  Are you open to the possibility of pregnancy?  What birth control precautions do you want to use?

“Safer Sex” precautions: What barriers do you want to use?  What kind of sexual activities are you willing to enjoy without barriers?

Sexual pleasure: What kind of touch feels good to you?  Where are the places that you especially enjoy being touched?  How do you want to be touched, caressed, kissed, and/or held?  The more you explore and know your own body through masturbation, the clearer you can be about what kind of touch you enjoy.

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One way to communicate what you enjoy is by showing your partner how you like to touch yourself. Masturbating in front of a partner is both hot and informative! If your partner can watch the way you stroke your penis/rub your clitoris or use a sex toy, he or she can touch you in similar ways.

Sexual desires: What are sexual activities you know you like and want to do?  Ones you have never done but think you might like to try?  Ones you might be willing to try?  Do you have fantasies you would like to talk about, role play (pretend to act out), or act out?

Sexual boundaries: What are the sexual activities or fantasies you are not willing to explore?  Are there places on your body that you do not want to be touched?

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Make a Yes-No-Maybe chart: Off by yourself, make a list of the things you like to do (Yes!), are not open to trying or don't want to try again (No!), and things you might like to consider doing (Maybe!). Then get together and share your lists. You might both find some happy surprises!

But . . . how do I start the conversation? Keep reading to learn more.