The 5 Stages of Talking About Sex with Your Partner(s)

Most of us have a lot of shame attached to sex—mostly because we never talk about it.

In the same way the Internet blows up every now and then with a revelation about how half the world showers wrong or doesn't know how to wipe their butts like a human being, a healthy relationship will occasionally unearth some shameful sexual issue that threatens the very structure of romantic harmony. Whether you're ashamed to ask for sex, ashamed to refuse, ashamed to try something new, or ashamed to cut something from the established repertoire, it can be challenging to talk these issues out with the person or persons you care about, but having a roadmap can help.

The five stages listed here represent a basic guide to the usual pattern that a good sex conversation will take. Like the five stages of grief, these stages are not set in stone. You and your partner(s) may get stalled at any one of these stages, skip over a number of them, or bounce back and forth between a few. The order is based on general observation, but you can figure out your own way through it—and hopefully find your way through the whole process more quickly as you gain some experience with it.

Don't Talk About It


The first step to talking about sex is always not talking about sex. That's what all that culturally-instilled shame is for—to keep you from ever being satisfied with this part of your life. Instead of looking your partner in the eye and being open and honest with your concerns, you can use this stage to let your thoughts stew or steam or simmer. Basically, all the different stuff you can do with a pot of vegetables, now's your chance to do those things to your emotions. By not talking about them, you allow the heat and pressure to build up so that, by the time you pull the lid off, it all billows out in a violent burst that seems to come from nowhere. And it probably smells like farts, too.

Depersonalize It


Once you're done not talking about it—and probably lashing out as a result—it's time to default to the way you were taught to talk about sex by your parents and your Sex Ed. teacher. You and your significant other(s) are not really a part of the story, but there are hypothetical men/women who may at some point hypothetically have particular needs, and when those particular needs arise, it's time to participate in a particular sort of activity that those hypothetical men/women can really enjoy. And some lube and a recreational muscle relaxant will hypothetically make the whole process a lot smoother.

Be Silly With It

Silly couple

Okay, now that you're past the initial shame barrier, all this tip-toeing and hinting might start to feel a little silly. Time to double down on that. Start playing Salt-N-Peppa's "Let's Talk About Sex," and make up your own dance. Make a very serious face while saying words like ding-dong, hoo-ha, and vas deferens. Use a floppy dildo as a visual aid, or—if all your floppy dildos are in the shop—draw some childish diagrams with lots of labels. The more you make your partner(s) laugh, the easier it will be to pretend that none of this is really a big deal.

Intellectualize It


But it is a big deal! This stuff is actually very serious and important, and if we're going to talk about these issues, it's important to put them in the context of evolutionary biology, neurochemistry, and psychoanalysis. You might not think that you're qualified to expound on all these subjects, but by this stage you will find an article you half-read three years ago seems suddenly cogent and trenchant and apropos, and you will find yourself reconstructing its thesis from the hazy jumble in your memory, and you will actually be doing a better job with it than the original author. Because really, the thing about your so-called "fetish" is that it's actually a paraphilic impulse that stems from a quirk in the brain's neurosensory structure, and from a childhood experience of watching your mom's friend try on a new pair of high-heels—and that's why you want to dress up like a panda while you get pegged with fist-shaped strap-on.

Get Real

Real Talk

If you're lucky enough to ever get this far, congratulations! You are probably just too exhausted to bother with the mental effort of skirting the real issue, but the fact that you and your partner(s) had the patience to stick it through to the end means that you might actually be capable of a reasonably functional sexual relationship. Time to spill your guts and tell them what you want, what you need, and where you draw the line. Compromises will have to be made, but with a little luck, your prostate/G-spot/gimp suit is finally going to get the passionate attention it deserves. Just be prepared for more issues to arise down the line—and get ready to go through the whole ordeal again.

More from Trueself