No, not the awkward sex talk with your parents. But the talk you have with your partner to tell them about you, your likes, desires, wishes and needs, and to maybe learn more about theirs! Open communication is a cornerstone of any healthy relationship, and this applies to telling your partner that while you love them cooking for you, you really just don’t like olives in everything, to telling your partner what you like in the bedroom.
Telling your partner about your sexual likes and dislikes can be a little scary, but just like talking about condom usage, it’s just as important. There are a million and one different ways that people can have sex, and a million and one fantasies that each individual has, and letting your partner know what you want is an important part of your relationship, and your sexual well being.
Sexual preferences can be anything from wanting to kiss on a couch, engage in intercourse, wear certain clothes during sex, engage in BDSM, or act out Star Wars scenes with glow in the dark condoms. Some of the preferences that people have that perceived as outside the “usual” practice of sex are often termed “kinks”. While this is the common vernacular- this word can be empowering, derogatory, or judgmental, and its meaning is often in the eye of the beholder. Due to this, I’m going to break kink into a more generic terminology, fantasies, interests, preferences, and desires, or FIPAD.
There are no right or wrong FIPADs necessarily, but communication with your partner is especially important when exploring the broader aspects of your sexuality with a partner. Some FIPADs can be riskier than others, and you want to make sure you’re engaging in acts with someone you trust and someone who knows your boundaries, and what you want.
How do I start the conversation?
For starters, you’re never going to get to enjoy your FIPADs if you don’t tell your partner about them! Wait until you feel ready, and bring it up at a time you both feel safe going more in depth about it. Pillow talk is a great time to bring up the conversation- during halftime of the basketball game, maybe not so much. There are many approaches to the conversation, so do some thinking and decide which is best for you.
The great thing about bringing up FIPADs is that is opens up the door to new things to try in your relationship, and provides your partner with insight into how they can make sure you’re getting your needs met and loving the sex you’re having. It also doesn’t have to be a conversation totally about you; many people find it helpful to start the conversation by asking their partner what kinds of things they’d want to try, and what could make the sexual and/or romantic relationship even better. And as Dan Savage advises: your FIPAD is awesome and is a great part of you that you’re sharing with your partner, just like your favorite cookie recipe. Taking such a risk to discuss and share something this personal can be a catalyst for deeper trust and greater intimacy in your relationship.
What if my partner doesn’t respond well?
Okay, so you told your partner and they weren’t thrilled, and not super into what you were putting on the table. That’s fair and this doesn’t mean you’re a freak with some weird fantasy. It just means that this particular partner isn’t into what you’re into. And this is okay.
Talk with your partner about how you can incorporate pieces of your FIPAD into your sex life, or other ways you can make sure to get your needs met. Also, don’t give up hope entirely. Not everyone loves Brussels sprouts the first time they try them, and this can be true for certain FIPADs as well. Ask your partner to keep an open mind and they may surprise you in the future wanting to explore this avenue again. If this revelation ends the relationship, while difficult, it may not have been the best relationship for you in the long run if you weren’t able to get all of your needs met.
Lastly, be safe with whatever your FIPAD is. There are some FIPADs that go beyond the limits of safety or consent. For example, breath play can lead to serious injury or death to you or your partner. Any sex act taken too far, and/or not done safely with mutual consent can result in injury or venture into illegal territory. There are some great resources on the internet describing ways to be safe, or go to your local sex resource store and talk to the owners about best materials to use to ensure you’re engaging in safe play that creates a win/win for all involved. And as always- use protection!