How to Talk About Sex

How to Talk About Sex

How to talk about sex? When to talk about sex? These important questions matter in a romantic relationship. However, before we answer these general “how to” questions, it’s actually important to turn them into more personal questions. The answers to which will give you insights into how to make talking about sex much easier for you, and your partner or potential partner.

The personal questions help you see your own current habits and patterns. Seeing your patterns matters because when you know where you are starting from, you can make a plan to get where you want to go. In this case your destination might look like consciously and productively having a conversation about sex – about issues, challenges, needs, desires and the like.


Getting to know your internal sexual dialogue

Our conversations about sex usually take on one of four general variations: 1) we need to communication our needs and boundaries 2) we want to share our turn-on’s and/or turn-off’s 3) we want to share about an experience; maybe it was an amazing, mind-blowing experience or maybe it was an uncomfortable situation 4) we want to expand our capacity for physical pleasure by exploring new aspects of our sexual relationship. 

Then, of course, the last variation include avoidance and not actually talking about sex, even though some part of you wants to. 

So before we explore how to talk about sex with your partner, let’s explore how you talk about sex in your own mind.

When you think about or imagine talking about sex, what stories come up in your own awareness? What do you tell yourself? Do you tell yourself you’re weird or strange, too pure or too wild, too much? Do you ever make yourself wrong for wanting to talk about sex? Have you told yourself that your partner or potential partner will judge or reject you if you have an open honest conversation about sex?

It’s all ok. It’s simply important to notice what you tell yourself because this is what makes talking about sex with your partner, or potentail partner more difficult. 

Are you nervous, afraid, or ashamed?

To take your exploration a bit further, how and when do you currently talk about sex? Is it only after a glass of wine? Only in bed? Only when you’re truly mad or immensely frustrated?

Or, do you feel like you can talk about it freely, anytime, any place? 

Do you have rules about what you can or can’t say?

Do you get flush? Do you get embarrassed? Do you get a rush of energy? Do you blush?

If you’re like many people, you actually talk about sex, or your partner talks about sex, you probably notice things happening in your body – sensations, vibrations, turn-on, discomfort, even shutdown and withdrawn. 

When these bodily experiences arise, do you stop and notice what’s happening for you or just try to ignore them and push through? 

If it feels good in your body, do you let yourself enjoy, and even get inspiration from the experience in your body? 

If it doesn’t feel good, if it feels downright uncomfortable, are you present to that? 

All of our self-judgments, fear, and shame make it much harder when you want to know how to talk to your partner about sex. 


Starting a conversation about sex

When starting a conversation about sex it’s necessary to be present to our judgements, feelings and fears. Why? Because too many of us have been taught, if even subtly, that we’re not supposed to talk about sex. We’ve often felt like we had to hide it or whisper about it. Yet at the same time we know we want to or need to have these conversations. 

Knowing these conversations about sex are truly important, if we’re not present to ourselves, if we don’t tend to what we feel,, we’ll usually keep backing away, putting it off, and usually doing more harm to ourselves and our relationship or potential relationship. When we are present with ourselves and have the courage to share our inner experiences with our partner, it not only becomes possible to have a conversation about sex, it can be a good conversation and we can actually enjoy it. 

Our sexual energy is our life-force energy, our creative energy, our manifesting energy, and without it we have less vitality, less inspiration, less excitement and joy – and our intimate relationships suffer. Therefore it’s critical to learn how to talk to your partner about sex and to develop your comfort and capacity for honesty

Yet it is also normal to have edges and comfort zones. 

When starting a conversation about sex it’s absolutely critical that you give yourself permission to feel all that you feel, to be nervous, awkward, excited, even turned-on, and yes, also embarrassed. 

Because of the myriad of normal feelings, it’s often easiest to start a conversation about sex by honestly admitting to our partner that we really don’t know how to talk about sex. Not surprisingly, when we do this, in many cases, our partner will thank us for the honesty and admit they too don’t know how to talk about sex. That’s a powerful moment. 

When both people acknowledge their discomfort and nervousness, it can lighten the mood and even allow a bit of playfulness and innocence to join the conversation. That’s when it starts to get easier. 


How to talk about sex without being awkward

The awkwardness arises simply because of our fears and judgements. As we said above, you can transcend your awkwardness by being present to it rather than avoiding it. 

If you find you are uncomfortable – either from simply talking about sex or because you’re accepting the invitation to expand the edges of your comfort zones, bring your awareness directly to the point of your discomfort, to the place in your body where the discomfort feels the strongest, and notice if you can sense the source of your feelings. 

As we discussed earlier, notice, is it a should? A shouldn’t? A shame? A fear? A judgment? A belief about what something means? Once again, these are the internal conversations that get in the way of the fullness and potential of your external experiences – your satisfaction, your sense of safety, deeper orgasm, connection, bliss, surrender, relaxation, fun and confidence. When you change your internal conversations about sex, you can confidently know how to talk about sex with a partner without being awkward or needing to feel embarrassed.

Even though we rarely consciously chose our beliefs about sex and pleasure – they do dictate our experience, our capacity for pleasure, and our ability to talk about sex today.  

Yet, when we don’t know how to talk to our partner about sex, we tend to do things we’d rather not do and we tend to avoid conversations we should have. So, start out by sharing your fears, your stories, your beliefs with your partner. Let your partner share their internal dialog with you. This sets the foundation for much deeper and more honest conversations about your sexual relationship.  This creates an emotional intimacy that deepens your physical intimacy. 


Your happiness and health depend on your ability to authentically talk about sex 

It’s imperative for your health and happiness that you take one step at a time, sharing what you can each time. It will get easier and you’ll discover it is possible to speak out the truth within you. 

When it comes to long-term relationships, the quality and the longevity of your relationship depends on you developing your sexual vocabulary and the confidence to use it. Physical intimacy truly matters. Get support if you need it. 

The good news is when you leave your old fears and conditioning behind, you’ll discover the real potential of sex and pleasure for YOU.


How to talk about sex: The essentials

The truth is that having (or at least listening to) any conversation about sex will give you ample opportunity to see both where you allow and welcome your own sexuality, as well as where you cut it off, hide it, or even repress it. It will show you where you need to talk more. 

So have a conversation or two this week. If you’re really ready for a shift, talk about sex every day for a week.  

And, let’s give you some suggestions for getting started. 

First, know that your conversations don’t have to be long. You don’t have to make them a big deal. They can be a natural part of any conversation with your partner. 

With that being said, if the conversation feels especially important to you, if you want to talk because of an upset you are feeling, if it’s necessary to talk about a need you have or a boundary you need to set, and especially if you desire input and a response from your partner, then you’ll want to be intentional about when you have the conversation.

It’s best to ask your partner for a time to talk or to start the conversation when neither of you are distracted, or tired. In this case, it’s recommended that you have this conversation outside the bedroom. Then go slowly. 

You can stop the conversation at any time. And, here’s the cool thing. If you are the one who has the courage to bring up the conversation, your partner is likely going to thank you. They probably want to talk about it too, but they like you they may not have known how to talk about sex openly with you. 

Start off by sharing what you feel as you begin the conversation and let your partner share their feelings. Then, with as much self-honor and honesty as possible, share what you need to share with your partner about your sexual relationship or potential relationship. Throughout the conversation, without abandoning yourself, be as compassionate and honoring as you can be with your partner and their experience. 


How to talk about sex: Practice tips

If you simply want to build up your comfort with sexual conversations then a great way to get started is to just share a sentence or two at any opportune time. Your partner doesn’t even need to reply. 

Here are some quick ways to do that… . 

  1. Share a thought you’ve been having about your sex life.
  2. Whisper a desire 
  3. Ask your partner a question about sex (you need to pick the right time for this one)
  4. Share your favorite sexual memory
  5. Share something you’d like to try sexually
  6. Tell your partner one of your turn ons
  7. Tell your partner one of your turn offs (do this kindly if your partner happens to do the thing that turns you off.) 
  8. Tell your partner a boundary you have (even if you think they already know, because healthy boundaries are essential in any good relationship) 

When you are learning how to to talk about sex, your practice conversations can actually happen anytime, anywhere, with anyone. (Giving you plenty of chances to get comfortable and drop any awkward feelings.) Your conversations can, of course, happen with a spouse, longtime partner, or potential new partner. And they can also happen while talking to your buddy or best girlfriend. 

Whether you need to have an important conversation to take care of yourself, or whether you want to simply expand your comfort discussing sexual pleasure, remember, before starting a conversation about sex, pay attention to your body… notice your openness, your withdrawal, your  turn-on, what ever it is. Then ask yourself, what do I need right now? Support yourself gently and kindly as you embark on this new frontier of talking about sex.

Then remember not everyone is reading articles like these and may not be as ready as you are. So if you want to talk to someone new about sex, feel your intuition or ask for permission and agreement, to be sure it’s a welcome (if even uncomfortable) conversation.

As you learn how to talk about sex by developing your comfort, skill and capacity for intimate conversations, your relationship – present or future – will be so much better for it.


In the November Soulful Passion Retreat, we come together as men, women, singles and couples to talk about those intimate, vulnerable topics and truths of our relationship with sex and sexuality. We’ve had couples say, “We’ve been married twenty years and we’ve never been this honest and talked about this stuff.” There’s amazement that it’s not nearly as scary as they imagined and the truth is, in conscious company, they find the realness quite liberating!

*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.

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4 Comments

  1. Jack on February 25, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I know you're probably really busy with bigger questions … but can you suggest a few fun ways to get a conversation like this started if it IS awkward?

    Thanks

  2. Joanna on March 24, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Jack,

    One way I've found to get started is to ask your partner if he/she has any fantasies they'd be willing to share… Or, even simpler, "I'm curious about what turns you (or people – if you want to be less personal) on… what turns you on?" Or, last but not least, you an be super direct, call it like it is, and say "I'm nervous and I think it would be fun to talk about sex… are you willing?"

    ~Joanna

  3. Mynah on October 9, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    The problem is that the language is either campy or sleazy or demeaning, Not easy to express these things in good words. I’m not a poet, and if I were, there’s no knowing if it’s clear and straightforward enough for my partner to understand.

  4. jackson on April 15, 2024 at 12:22 pm

    A problem is I do not know what turns me on. My body mostly
    shuts down with physical contact as if being attacked not pleasured.
    Talks of expressing what I ‘want’ if something seems desirable leave
    me feeling what if I have to perform that which I want to express?
    I feel anxiety during those times not excitement.

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