How to talk about sex

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It seems that everyone is talking about sex except the people who are actually having sex. It's perplexing because if we are comfortable getting naked with someone, why is it so uncomfortable talking about what we want (and don't) from the experience?

Frankly, we just don't have a lot of experience. One of the best tools that sex ed could provide would be to help young people learn how to express their sexuality in healthy ways, including by verbalizing their desires, boundaries, and how to negotiate when a partner has differing ideas. We have also been sold simplistic generalizations about what "all" men want and what "all" women need. It's easier to make assumptions or avoid hurting someone's feelings by just not talking about it.

Me at Spank!
  • Me at Spank!

I hosted an advanced screening of Don Jon last week. The film, which premiers to a wide audience today, looks at how porn influences our expectations about sex and love. In the movie, Don Jon is the ultimate player, yet no women can compare to the satisfaction he gets from jacking off to porn - multiple times per day. His girlfriend is a "perfect 10" and he doesn't want to risk losing her so he lies and masterbates it in secret. But her ideal love story mirrors the ones she sees in Hollywood romcoms, which makes her expectations just as misguided.

While this film isn't based on a true story, it mirrors a story going on in countless homes.

It's important to note that it's not always the case that men want more sex and women want more romance. I recently saw a performance of Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody at the McGlohon Theater. It was crazy fun. It tells the story of EBJ, a bored wife and mother, alone for the weekend and furiously documenting her innermost yearnings for rough passionate sex with a mysterious and well-endowed younger man. What made the play funny, in addition to it poking fun at the plot (or lack thereof) in Fifty Shades, is that it tapped into a lust that many women of a certain age can relate to. Women aren't the only ones who get bored having sex with the same person year after year. Men crave novelty, and so do women, dammit!

So in the interest of helping you have better sex by being better able to talk about what kind of sex you want, here are a few tips:

Don't assume
Women will tell me, "My boyfriend would never watch porn." Yet, she has never asked him if he does, and if he does how often he does, and what he likes to watch when he does. Instead, she assumes what she wants to be true - that he is so in love with her that he has no desire to see other women naked. What's that saying about "never assume"? Oh yeah, it makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me." When we assume, and especially when we voice that assumption, it makes it difficult for the person to state the contrary. Even if they haven't discussed porn with their lover, a lot of men will tell me "I know she'd be upset if she knew, so I just make sure she never finds out." Which, in turn, has him assuming he knows what her response will be. What could be a meaningful conversation is instead silence and ignorance.

Don't take it personally
Fantasies are just that - fantasies. Just because I fantasize about ditching my day job and spending next week sipping fruity cocktails on a Caribbean beach does not mean I intend to. It does not mean I dislike my job or my co-workers. It simply means that it feels good to imagine a stress-free scenario in which my only obligation is self-indulgent pleasure. Sometimes what makes a fantasy so enjoyable is knowing that it won't happen. If your partner fantasizes about sex with someone else, it doesn't necessarily mean they are unhappy having sex with you. It may simply mean that they enjoy imagining alternatives.

Keep a sense of humor
What both Don Jon and Spank! did was to provide a forum for us to laugh about sex - to see the absurdity in it. Sex doesn't have to be a serious endeavor all the time. Often our longings and fears can be comical, and that's OK. Cultivate a playful attitude about sex. Be curious. You'll never have it all figured out, so see it as a never-ending adventure. The best weapons against a boring sex life are creativity and a willing spirit!

Keep talking
Just as our tastes in music or food may change, our tastes in sex may change too. What your partner wanted last year (or even yesterday) may not be what she wants today. Keep the dialogue going and check in with your partner on occasion. Is there something she'd like to try? Does she have a new favorite fantasy? Is there a position that is most pleasurable for her?

Basically, the key to talking about sex is simple - TALK! Become skilled in verbalizing what you want and don't want. You can't expect to read your partner's mind or for them to read yours. You don't have to tell each other everything, but develop an ability to communicate your sexual beliefs, attitudes, preferences, and boundaries. How else will you have the sex life you want and deserve?


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