Communicating about sexual health, sexuality, and relationships can feel tricky. In many ways we are taught that our bodies are shameful and mysterious, and we feel embarrassed to talk openly about sexual desire. How we sexualize others in society and talk about sex can lead to harm and unequal power imbalances. In many families, these conversations also may be taboo. TV shows, movies, and other kinds of media often do not model positive communication. Additionally, many people simply don’t often have the opportunity to practice positive communication and build skills around these subjects. Because of these complexities, it can be very confusing how to talk to each other about these important matters.
Some examples of communication about sexuality might include:
- Intergenerational Communication: parents/caregivers answering questions about where babies come from, body parts, etc., offering information about relationships, puberty, safer sex, etc.
- Relationship Communication: resolving conflict with a partner, ending a relationship, etc.
- Sexual Communication: asking for/giving consent, communicating about sexual satisfaction and desires, etc.
Even if you may feel nervous or embarrassed, we recommend talking about sex and sexuality with your loved ones as often as you can. The more you discuss it together the easier it will be.
For parents and caregivers, we have a page outlining some tips on talking about sexuality here.
As consent is required for all sexual activity, it is important to talk to each other in clear ways before engaging in any sexual activity, including touch or sexy talk. We recommend talking clearly about each person’s desires, interests, and boundaries. Nobody should ever feel forced or pressured into any type of sexual activity. Time should also be taken to talk about protecting yourself and each other from possible STI transmission, or from pregnancy risk if engaging in penis-vagina sex. Be sure every person involved in the sexual activity provides clear consent for all activities listed. Remember, each person can decide they do not want to participate at any point and withdraw consent, and each partner needs to respect this choice.
Regardless of the topic,, communication is made more effective when people are open, honest, and use words that are positive and helpful. It is helpful to take your time, and think before you speak. During times of conflict, it is helpful to show that you have thought through the problem and can offer solutions. Be sure to listen to the person that you’re communicating with. Finally, it’s important to make the time to communicate and connect with the people in your life.