I can confidently say that I feel comfortable talking about anything with my friends. Unsolved murders, the dog commercial I cried during, my incontrollable urge to move to Thailand. However, I rarely talk to my friends about sex and every time it comes up, I feel like we revert to our 14-year-old selves and giggle or completely divert the conversation. I think that for a lot of us it can take some work to confidently talk about our sexual experiences. Call this immaturity, but I blame this on social norms that taught us close to nothing about the mechanics of sex which has created stigma around the topic. We talk to each other about so many different issues but somehow this very natural and normal part of life is still labeled taboo. So, whether or not you are having sex, is it time to start speaking more openly about sex with our friends? After some research, I can say yes – it’s time.
Talking about sex creates new sexual norms
If we don’t talk about sex lives with people we trust, our knowledge will come from either sex ed (if you even had it) which is often outdated, not comprehensive and not inclusive, or, even worse, through mainstream porn which can portray horribly inaccurate information creating problematic expectations for all parties. According Suzannah Weiss, a L.A. based feminist writer and journalist “a lot of us feel embarrassed about sexual desires, preferences, experiences, or struggles that are actually common, but we don’t learn how common they are until we talk about them!” She adds, “Talking about sex can also teach us what’s not normal—that is, if we’re not being treated right in the bedroom by our partners.”
It will lead sex to not be taboo anymore
Openly talking about sex to those who you trust can take off a tremendous amount of stress by making us feel like we are not weird, disgusting or embarrassed for liking what we. The implication around sex can be dangerous because it leads us to be ashamed of our bodies and create a war with our sex drives. Additionally, this closes you off to your partner(s). By not talking about sex, we are teaching ourselves that sex is a bad or shameful thing. But it is not, sex is a normal and natural part of life and it’s time we start acting like it.
Talking about sex teaches you new things
Hearing more various points of view on sex might open new doors in your own sex life. Carol Queen, a sexologist and author of “The Sex and Pleasure Book” points out that the more diverse experiences you share and learn from, the broader your worldview will be, even beyond the bedroom and in our work and activist life. We can’t try it all (and might not want to), and everyone is different, but advice and recommendations from someone you trust can lead you to explore your own sexuality and preferences.
So how do we talk about sex with our friends?
Bring it up
Having “the talk” can be as simple as asking them if you can talk about sex. Additionally, use media or something that you saw as an ice breaker – here are some examples:
“Could I get your advice on something that came up in my sex life?”
“I had something happen to me during sex – would it be ok if I talked about it?”
“Did you see that ‘Broad City’ episode about pegging?
Generalize if needed
If something feels uncomfortable and not appropriate to share with details, or you feel nervous about bringing up something up, generalize it – like this:
Instead of: “My partner is having issues with orgasms” try something like “do you guys know of any way to make having an orgasm easier?”
Make sure that you have confirmed mutual comfort levels as well as clear boundaries. You want to let your friend know if there is anything you don’t want advice on or to talk about. Sometimes you just want someone to listen, and that’s ok too. It is so important to recognize that not everyone is having sex. Some friends have positive and negative experiences, or little to no experience – which is normal too!
Keep in mind your partner(s)’s privacy
Especially if you and your partner(s) have the same group of friends, be mindful of what you are sharing and how that can affect your partner(s) and their relationships. The goal is not to break your trust with your partner(s), but to build a stronger relationship with yourself and your friends. Ask yourself, “would I be comfortable if my partner(s) shared this with their friends?”
After a heavy conversation, I know I appreciate a check-in. A quick “how are you feeling about what we talked about” or “would you like to talk about it some more?” can make everyone feel a little extra love and validation. Just like any conversation dealing with deeply emotional and personal topics, remind your friends that you can talk about this at any time. Make sure that they feel like they have the support they need. I know I always do, and I mean it.
We can all learn something from each other regardless of experience, gender identify, sexual orientation, etc. And who knows, maybe you will learn something about yourself that you never knew!
For more information on consent, relationships, sexual health, and sexuality support and resources visit: