Let it be known: one of the easiest ways to improve your sex life is to talk frankly about it with a sex partner. Part of a healthy relationship, communication is essential to making sure that you and your sex partner are on the same page about each others’ preferences, expectations and comfort zone. Sexual preferences vary considerably from person to person– and from partnership to partnership. Touching base about sex before and after a sexual relationship has begun is a great way to ensure that you and your partner are sexually satisfied.
Although the suggestion of “talking about sex” usually resonates with people, actually getting down to talking (about getting down) can be a daunting prospect. After all, sex is personal. So, it’s no surprise that the idea of talking about it with someone else can be a scary thought. That’s where we come in! Here are some tips for getting the conversation started, including questions you should consider asking your partner — and, of course, answering for yourself.
#1. “Do we want to have sex?”
One of the most important things to talk about is whether you’re ready to have sex at all. If you’re having sex for the first time with a partner, ask “Are we ready for this next step?”. To this end, remember that NOT having sex also perfectly reasonable. If you are considering having sex, think about whether you’re having sex because you want to, or if it’s actually for other reasons (“all my friends are having sex”, “I am going to lose this partner if I don’t have sex”, etc.). Also, asking “are we both down with having sex?” is not just something you ask a new sex partner. Whether with a new person or a partner of many years, be sure both partners are down every time you have sex. Still puzzled by how you get started talking about sex? Society provides tons of segues for you to capitalize on. There are loads of songs, shows, and news focused around sex which can provide the basis for a sex-related discussion (“…Um, speaking of ’16 and pregnant’…”).
#2. “What do we prefer sexually?”
When talking about sexual preferences, it’s often helpful to first talk about you and your partner have explored on your own. Have you or your partner explored what you like sexually, through masturbation or through other sexual partnerships? You can also talk about what types of things are and are not your favorite. What have you already done with your partner that you like? What has your partner liked so far? Has anything made you or your partner uncomfortable? What are you and your partner curious about trying (positions, incorporating sex toys, etc)? Are there any body parts that are off-limits? Remember that if you aren’t into a particular type of sexual experience or act, speak up! Equally, if there’s something you really enjoy, let that be clear to your partner, too. Also, although we recommend putting your foot down if you feel strongly about something, having a discussion about sex doesn’t have to be all serious. It’s OK to laugh and/or talk casually about these things.
#3. “What are our goals protection-wise?”
Talk about a plan for preventing sexually transmitted infections (STI) and pregnancy with your partner. Have you been tested for STI in the past? Has your partner? How many sex partners have you had since you’ve last been tested for STIs? To prevent STIs/HIV, condoms (for all types of sex) and dental dams (for oral sex) are very effective. To prevent pregnancy, many hormonal and non-hormonal contraception options are available. Come up with a plan to prevent STIs/pregnancy before you have sex. Talk openly about what you’ve used before as well as your comfort level with using contraception/protection. For example: Do you know where to get condoms/contraception? [SPOILER ALERT: You can get these at CWS]; Do you have experience with using condoms/contraception?; Who is going to pay for condoms/contraception? If you don’t feel super knowledgeable about what contraceptive/protection options are available to you, Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS) are available to talk things through with you.
#4. “What are our expectations?”
There are a lot of expectations about what sexual experiences should be, but it’s important to recognize that expectations can introduce stress into a sexual relationship. You and your partner can talk about what your expectations are, and perhaps more importantly – what you’re not necessarily expecting. In particular, expectations around orgasm can be especially stressful for couples. Remember that orgasms don’t have be a goal each time you and a partner have sex, and many partnerships benefit from making that clear from the beginning.
Remember that having a talk about sex shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Once you start talking about sex with your partner, keep talking!