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5 communication pitfalls to avoid when talking about sex

5 communication pitfalls to avoid when talking about sex

Judging or shaming

Sharing your desires with a partner takes a ton of bravery, and there are few things worse than admitting to a kink or fantasy only to have it become ammunition for judgement or ridicule. Think about it: wouldn’t you hate that if someone did it to you? Then never do it to anyone else.

It’s entirely possible to say “I don’t think I’d be into that” without making it sound like you think the activity being raised is disgusting or immoral. And if you want your partner to continue feeling comfortable communicating with you about sex, you’ll have to do exactly that.

Expecting vulnerability without being vulnerable yourself

It can be really hard to talk about sex, and that labor will ideally be shared between partners, rather than being one-sided. If your partner openly communicates their preferences and desires, fighting their way through any associated shame and embarrassment to do so, it can feel awful when you refuse to spill the beans similarly about your own fantasies.

Of course, you don’t have to reveal anything you’re not ready to reveal – but at least some effort to be vulnerable will make a big difference. You could, for example, show your partner a porn clip or erotica story featuring something you want to try, if you’re too ashamed to actually say the words just yet.

Saying no to requests immediately and automatically

Obviously you can say “no” any time you want, for any reason you want. That’s the bedrock of basic consent. But sometimes a “no” comes from an immediate gut reaction, and is uttered before you even take the time to ponder the idea that’s being presented to you.

It’s always okay to say, “Can I have some time to think about this before I respond?” In that time, you may want to do some research on the activity or kink your partner is interested in, ask them more questions about it, or just do some soul-searching to discover your own comfort level with what’s been suggested. If the answer is still “no,” well, your partner can at least appreciate that you thought it over.

Interpreting a request as a signal that you’re “not enough”

It’s understandable that if a partner suddenly says, “I want to tie you up,” or “I want you to flog me,” you might wonder in a panic if they have been hiding this from you all along and if they’ve secretly been dissatisfied with your sex life the entire time you’ve been together. But whoa, slow down there – that’s a whole lot of assumptions that probably have very little (if any) basis in reality.

Do your best to take it as a compliment that your partner trusted you enough to bring up their fantasy. They’ve just invited you to go on an exciting adventure with them in the bedroom. That doesn’t suggest you’re not enough – it suggests that you’re exactly the person they want to go on that adventure with.

Reacting from an emotional place

Good advice for any emotionally volatile situation in life, including conversations about sex: before you react with anger, sadness, or fear, take a moment (or several moments). Breathe. Do some things that reliably calm you down, like visualizing happy memories or slowly counting your breaths in your head. When your heart is no longer pumping at a terrifying rate and your neurotransmitters have calmed down a bit, you’ll be in a better place to respond.

Again, it is always valid to ask for a break in the conversation if you feel you’re unable to be your best self at the moment. It’s better to communicate slowly and kindly than to do so quickly and recklessly.

What sexual communication pitfalls have you run into before?



Kate Sloan is a journalist, blogger, podcaster, and educator who has been writing about sex online and in print for over five years. She writes about sex, kink, relationships, fashion, beauty, writing, and mental health. She has been voted a Sex Blogging Superhero for four years running, and her words reach over 22,000 sex nerds, weirdos and queerdos every month. As a journalist and essayist, Kate has written for Glamour, Teen Vogue, Daily Xtra, the Establishment, Maisonneuve, Herizons, the Plaid Zebra, xoJane, and more.

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