Whether you’ve been with your partner for years, are a long-time married couple, or are just starting out with a new hookup, sexual communication is an important aspect of our sexual relationships. Finding ways to tend to and improve upon your sexual communication skills — no matter what stage of your relationship you’re in — can do wonders for your sex life and overall connection.
And if you’re unsure where to start, don’t worry — Foria is here to guide you.
What Is Sexual Communication?
Sexual communication is all about discussing your sexual preferences, likes and dislikes, sexual desires, erotic fantasies, and boundaries with your partners. Centering open and honest communication as a key component of your relationship can help you and your partner engage in safer sex, keep you on the same page, and deepen your connection while also allowing you to experience more intense sexual gratification.
Sexual conversations can include topics such as the use of contraception or birth control, sexual health and STI testing, or kinks and fetishes. When it comes to sex, we encourage you to discuss everything and anything you are interested. Try discussing the little things you think go without saying and move on to the bigger convos that may feel super vulnerable.
We know this can be intimidating, though, so read on for our go-to tips.
What Are the Benefits of Sexual Communication?
Opening up to your partner about your expectations, interests, and desires can help you achieve greater sexual satisfaction and allow them the chance to do the same.
Engaging in this type of verbal communication can be extremely rewarding, leading you to feel more secure in sexual encounters, build trust and intimacy, and boost overall relationship satisfaction. Studies show that sexual communication correlates with higher sexual pleasure.
These conversations can spill over outside the bedroom and boost your communication skills to help you and your partner thrive in other aspects of your relationship. And knowing that you’re able to ask for what you want and name your desires and boundaries even when it feels awkward or intimidating can feel all types of empowering, helping to elevate your self-esteem in all areas of your life.
How Can You Improve Your Sexual Communication Skills?
If you’re a rom-com aficionado like us, you may be familiar with those wonderful movie magic tropes — one of which being how when the will-they-won’t-they couple finally get together, their sexual connection is immediately off the charts, with both of them seemingly knowing the other one’s exact turn-ons and desires, no questions asked.
And, while we love an effortlessly steamy scene as much as the next person, this isn’t a particularly accurate depiction of how sexual communication is built. Skipping out on communication also prevents you from experiencing transformative conversations that boost trust, connection, and intimacy with your partners.
So, what can help build sexual communication in the real world when we aren’t mind readers and don’t already magically know what our partner likes and dislikes? Let’s get into it!
Start Outside the Bedroom
Good sex is all about communication, and you don’t need to wait until your clothes are off to broach the topic of what your turn-ons, fantasies, and sexual boundaries are — in fact, sharing them ahead of time is best.
We know that starting these conversations can feel uncomfortable, but they are key to setting the scene for effective communication. By leaning into these convos before the sexual activity begins, you can set clear expectations and reduce the risk of miscommunications once the clothes do come off.
It’s always a good idea early on to let your partner know if there is anything you are not comfortable with, what contraception and lube you use (like our Intimacy Sex Oil) or will want on hand, and have a clear consent process for sexual behavior in place.
When you’re ready, you can also discuss what type of foreplay you enjoy, how you feel about dirty talk, any sex toys you’d want to use together, and your kinks or erotic fantasies that you may want to explore.
Laying the groundwork for clear and ongoing communication can also include research on how to play out certain types of sexual fantasies, such as the safe use of bondage and choosing a safeword ahead of time if planning on engaging in kinky sex. It can help to have a visible or touch-based signal if verbal communication may be difficult. Checking in after the fact to share what you like, what you didn’t, and what you may want to try next time is essential.
Make sure you set aside plenty of time for these conversations so you can really delve into everything, ask questions, and ensure you are clear on each other’s expectations and boundaries. If you’re nervous, that’s normal! Let your partner know how you’re feeling, and support each other through it with humor, positive affirmations, and honesty.
Of course, to know what sexual desires you want to share with a partner, it’s important to know what your sexual desires are. Masturbation, watching porn, researching, and exploring your own erogenous zones can all help you build a better sense of your turn-ons and interests.
This can help lead you towards more active and informed decision-making to create a dynamic of equal power balance in your sexual relationship so that even if your turn-on is a form of uneven power balance, you hold the power to share this desire with your partner and seek it out safely and consensually.
Take It Slow
Sometimes, we may expect our new lover to know exactly how we like to be touched and then feel frustrated or disappointed when they don’t hit the mark. But, what matters most isn’t that they get it one hundred percent right from the start but that they are willing to communicate, listen, and learn.
In a healthy relationship, you should feel comfortable saying, “no, try touching here instead”or “yes, keep doing that,” and your partner should be open to listening. So, rather than expecting each other to come in already an expert on the other’s body and preferences, we encourage you to provide one another with grace and allow time for a learning curve.
By taking the time to fully explore each other at your own pace, you’ll each start to get a sense of what makes each other moan, when their back arches in response to your touch, and what motion or phrase causes you to take a sharp intake of breath.
And, while gauging body language is important, make sure you include check-ins and verbal communication before, during, and after sexual encounters, too. Confirming consent, asking how something feels, or naming when something feels good versus when you want to try something else can help reduce the risk of miscommunication and allow you to address any misunderstandings that occur quickly.
It can also help to remember that you don’t need to discuss everything at once. Approaching your sexual partner(s) with everything all at once may feel overwhelming for you both, so don’t be afraid to slow it down and spread it out.
Starting by sharing some of your more basic interests, like how often you like having sex or whether you enjoy oral sex or like the lights on or off and what your hard limits are, and then working your way up to sharing fantasies you may want to play out once more trust has been built can help make these sexual conversations less intimidating.
You may want to try something and then, in the moment, find that it is overwhelming, unpleasant, or that you want to stop. Establishing trust through sexual communication can help you feel more comfortable stopping a sexual encounter. Your partner should always respect that and be open to discussing when you are ready, so you can shift your boundaries before next time.
By taking time to learn each other’s sexual preferences and thinking of sexual communication as an ongoing foundation of your relationship rather than a one-and-done conversation, you can deepen trust and pave the way for ongoing sexual pleasure that can change and grow as you and your relationship do, too.
Make a Safe Space
These conversations can feel awkward, and working towards more fulfilling sexual satisfaction can be uncomfortable or nerve-wracking at times, especially if you haven’t talked about sex much in the past or if you are trying to figure out how to share a kink or fantasy with a new partner for the first time (we are in your corner encouraging you to be honest about your desires). And remember, they likely aren’t as unusual as you may think.
This is why it’s important for you and your partner to approach these conversations with compassion, patience, support, and desire to understand your partner and their sexual needs better. Listen to one another actively without judgment and without formulating your response instead of providing each other with your full attention.
Ask follow-up questions for clarification, and remind each other that you are excited to learn more about their desires. Creating a safe atmosphere for sexual communication also involves finding ways to limit hurtful comments or defensiveness.
Hearing that something you tried didn’t work for your partner (or vice versa) can lead to feelings of vulnerability and rejection. It may help to include what did work, name the positive, and share more constructive feedback.
And if you tell your partner something they are trying isn’t working for you, they shouldn’t get defensive or accusatory or make you feel guilty for your honesty. If you're nervous about sharing your desires or not sure how to express them, be honest about how you’re feeling.
Tell your partner if this is new to you, that you may struggle to find the words, or even that it’s something you fantasize about but aren’t sure how you’d handle in practice. All these feelings and potential contradictions are extremely normal and are bound to arise when sex is concerned.
There are mental, physical, physiological, and emotional components all tied up in sex. That’s why talking through it all is key!
The Bottom Line
Sexual communication is vital to building sexual connection and trust with a partner, be it a budding romance or a long-term relationship. When it feels awkward or uncomfortable, remember that these conversations are part of how you and your partner can show your care for one another and strive towards enhanced sexual pleasure that centers the fulfillment and overall well-being of everyone involved.
Sexual communication can carry over and help you thrive in other aspects of your relationship, too. You’ve got this.
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