Writing about sex requires a leap of faith – carefully selecting words and sculpting sentences in an attempt to convey some message or insight. But it’s when my work leads to intimate conversations with individuals, couples and small groups that communicating clearly about sex demonstrates its full potential, and understanding is more than a sum total of the words exchanged – the kind of understanding that raises the skin in goosebumps, or causes eyes to become glassy – where you receive messages you can feel.
I recently had the opportunity to speak at a music and arts festival, and true to form, the engagement provided plenty of opportunities for intimate conversations at various times throughout the four-day event. It was after speaking with a couple that I found myself watching them as they walked away and thinking, “they’re going to have some good sex tonight!”, when it occurred to me that I had had the exact same thought with two previous couples I spoke with earlier. Intimacy is a reliable aphrodisiac, and it became clear that the conversations we shared were the catalysts for intimate connection.
Clear communication is fundamental to great sex after all, and improving communication skills, or more commonly expressed, having more communication, is among the standard list of advice given by relationship and sexuality coaches, therapists and the like. But despite the repeated messages to “tell him what works and what doesn’t”, or “share your fantasies with her”, it seemed apparent that these couples were talking about sex in a manner that they never had before.
Talking about sex can be difficult, especially if the message you’re trying to convey has anything to do with improving the sex you’re having with a current lover. Looking for improvement suggests dissatisfaction, which may very well be true, and anything that suggests a lack of sexual skill or abilities can virtually guarantee hurt feelings. Yet despite this conditioning, the conversations I am having with couples about sex almost always end up with them addressing their most personal issues and fantasies, and a common goal of increased pleasure with a grace and ease that clearly shows in their tender eyes and smiling faces.
Because the conversations almost always start the same way, and follow a familiar pattern, I decided to take that leap of faith once more, and offer an opinion regarding the elements and characteristics of our discussions that made them so successful, for use by anyone interested in improving their sexual communication skills. Even more specifically, for anyone interested in convincing a partner that it’s time to put some effort into improving your sex-lives together.
Consider this “typical” scenario with an imaginary couple and what we might learn from it:
Conversations start like many do, until the topics of sex and my blog or presentation come up, and people want to know what particular “twist” I put on the subject – what’s my message, and so on. And so it begins, with me sharing my story, and many of the ideas and opinions I express in my writing.
Our imaginary couple begins to talk about sex in neutral territory, as a subject of great interest, but without it being about them. No criticisms or difficult conversations, only mutual interest in an exciting topic.
People warm quickly to the subject matter, become engaged and noticeably excited by the possibilities as stories of exploration and discovery are shared. Core values such as understanding and overcoming the sources of embarrassment and shame, and that sex is something to be learned as well as experienced are discussed.
The focus of our couple’s attention is on learning about sex together, as opposed to improving their sex-lives. They can bypass the analysis and assessment portion that is all too often a part of determining what’s wrong, and achieve the goal of improving their sex-lives by learning about and exploring the wonderful world of sex together.
Guards come down when a safe environment is established, and we consider the future with talk of “advanced play”, fantasy and desire. In time, my new friends abide by these messages as they begin to share their experiences, interests and desires.
Our couple has established a positive dialog, in an environment that is free of shame, embarrassment or judgment of any kind. Because of what they have learned through the stories, experiences and opinions we discussed, our couple is free to share their true thoughts on the subject without fear of embarrassment or hurt feelings. Learning about sex normalizes any experience, desire or interest.
When the glow of these messages becomes evident, I use the occasion to acknowledge the sexual energy that is present … and the learning continues.
Open minds, open hearts when intimacy ushers in and demonstrates the first lessons in cultivating and sharing sexual energy.
When the conversation ends, and you can imagine our couple walking off to their camp for some delicious, festival sex, take a pause to consider the level of sexual communication you are capable of delivering in your own life; it’s a skill that serves anyone interested in exploring all that our sexuality has to offer. And if you happen to find it a difficult subject to address, or you simply want to increase the dialog you’re having with your lover, take a lesson from the many couples I have shared such positive, and sexy, conversations with over the years:
- Begin in neutral territory – if you find it difficult to talk about your sexual wants and needs, begin a discussion by sharing a book, movie or blog on the subject to get the ball rolling.
- Shift the focus to learning – put any concern you have about improving your sex life to rest, and shift the focus to learning about sex. There are countless sources of good material to read and share with your partner on every aspect of the subject. Dive in and it won’t take long before the conversations lead to increased intimacy and better sex.
- Create a safe environment – learning about and exploring the wonderful world of sex will test boundaries and old conditioning. Ease any fears or apprehensions by practicing a policy of no shame, guilt or judgements.
There is some irony, I suppose, in the observation that many seem to find it easier to share the intimacy of sex, than it is for them to talk about it; that many find it easy to share their bodies, but find it difficult to ask an aggressive lover to slow down or be more tender, or to ask a placid one to be more engaged or aggressive. But if you start the dialog early, even before actually having sex, you will find that it gets easier and easier with practice, and before long, talking freely about sex will be sending messages of intimacy, pleasure and joy.