Effective Sexual Communication for Partners
One of the key indicators for lifelong sexual satisfaction is the ability to give and receive candid sexual feedback. For many people who grew up with a shame-tinted view of sex, asking for what they want is uncomfortable. Approaching this topic with confidence and poise can mean the difference between a fulfilling, dynamic sexual experience and an experience that is lacking.
Why Broaching the Topic of Sexual Desire Is Daunting
Though conversations about our sexual wants and needs can be difficult, they are necessary in order to realize our full sexual potential. Opening up the conversation can be the most intimidating part, and sometimes, shame or stigma stand in the way of taking that first step. Even the existence of a sexual fantasy can feel like a betrayal to your partner—if you have a partner. For those without partners, sexual fantasies can cause self-consciousness due to their taboo nature. So, sometimes these fantasies stay locked away in our minds, and they remain undisclosed desires that keep sexual satisfaction just out of reach.
However, are these deep-seated fantasies necessarily taboo? Our society holds such a narrow definition of what normal, healthy sexuality looks like, and very few people can comfortably fit that mold.
Though both women and men may have grown up with safety-based sexual education rather than pleasure-based sexual education, men see their wants and desires normalized in movies, pornography, literature, and other high-visibility cultural representations. Men often get a significant portion of their sex education from pornography, which often shows women climaxing immediately from intercourse. Furthermore, our culture does not have a widespread understanding that pornography is often a poor representation of real sex and intimacy.
The difficulties women have attaining sexual pleasure are particularly challenging. Watching others’ experiences of sexuality can be helpful if they are positive and educational, but if they do not reflect your personal sexual desires, they can feel alienating. So, when women do not see their pleasure recognized or prioritized on screen, it can feel more stigmatizing to ask for what they want in real life. For some women, the stigma around arousal can make it difficult for them to understand their own desires, let alone vocalize them.
Tips for Identifying What You Want and Asking for It
If the situation above resonates with you, rectifying this is as simple as spending the time to find out what your body finds pleasurable. Masturbation is a great teacher, though depending on how you were raised, you may still have conflicting feelings about touching yourself. Overcoming these feelings and knowing what your body responds to are great first steps toward getting what you want in bed.
From that point, if you are comfortable with the idea, ask your partner to watch you masturbate. This will demonstrate to them the kinds of touch and rhythm that you use to bring yourself to orgasm. This request is especially powerful because it shifts the conversation from what your partner is doing wrong to the types of touch that feel right to you.
Another vital component of effective sexual communication is recognizing shame for what it is: sex-negative messaging often received during our childhood or sex education. When we can identify shame, we put ourselves in a better position to regulate our emotions around it, not blame our partner for it, and heal from that feeling. Knowing what we feel shameful about can remove the power that shame holds over sexuality. Further, verbalizing this to your partner can create a compelling connection and help them to better understand you as a sexual being.
How you structure the conversation is important, too. You can help your partner avoid becoming defensive by creating a calm environment where you voice your needs as something you’d like to explore together, rather than framing the issue as a deficiency in your partner’s sexual ability. This conversation can create more intimacy within your relationship if the focus is on curiosity and discovery rather than faulting your partner for what your sex life lacks.
Remember to examine the power dynamics of your relationship, too. Shifting these dynamics can be sexually exciting, especially if both partners are on the same page. Talking about why you’d like to try something new together is a lot more successful than talking about what is wrong with your current sexual relationship. When unspoken sexual fantasies continue to be neglected, resentment can build in one or both partners. Instead, when these desires are given space to become a priority, couples can use them to propel their relationship forward into new frontiers of connection and intimacy.
Try Talking to Someone You Trust
Sometimes specific situations—like past trauma—can make the journey toward sexual satisfaction exceptionally complex. If making strides to improve your sex life is a priority for you, consider speaking with a trusted friend or licensed therapist. They can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you would like to be.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform.