Let’s Talk About Sex

By Bobby Walker

When I’m at a party or social event and I tell people I’m a sex therapist, it’s only a matter of time before someone corners me to ask a sex-related question. Call me a workaholic, but I always welcome these conversations, even off the clock.

Despite sex seeming like it’s all around us in the media, so many people are living in silence, confusion and shame about one of life’s greatest pleasures. Having open and honest conversations about sex can help us break out of the scripts and habits that limit our sexual potential. Here are some common issues I get asked about.

My partner and I are so busy — it feels like we’re too tired and neither of us want to have sex. In the beginning, we were always in the mood. Why is it different now? How do we maintain a lasting sexual connection?

Contrary to what we see in TV and movies, good sex doesn’t usually happen spontaneously. The urge doesn’t hit us out of nowhere — especially when we’re stressed and rushing from one thing to the next. Fulfilling, playful sex lives with our long-term partners requires effort, open communication and scheduling.

Many of my clients relate, saying: “But we were just as busy in the beginning of our relationship, and we had tons of passionate sex without having to schedule it.” In the beginning you were scheduling sex, but you called it “planning a date.” You timed your Brazilian waxes, wore fancy underwear, made thoughtful dinner reservations and sent flirty texts in anticipation of your next rendez- vous. The spontaneous passion you felt in the early days was a byproduct of intentionally setting the mood and prioritizing your sexual connection.

Moving forward, ritualize your intimacy. Schedule a weekly date night. Make it somewhere new each time (novelty is good for eroticism!) where you show up fully present and focused on your relationship. You might be tempted to cancel these date nights if you’re having a bad day or aren’t feeling sexy or “in the mood.” The point isn’t to arrive already in the mood, or even to have sex — the point is to connect with your partner (giving compliments, kissing with tongue, showing them appreciation) and to talk openly about your sex life. Try sharing fantasies, your favorite sexual memory together and getting specific about your turn-ons. Do this, and you’ll cultivate an erotic mindset that is arousing and exciting, out of which your desire for sex can emerge.

My partner loves dirty talk and so do I, but I always feel awkward whenever I try to be more vocal. How do I get past this?

Dirty talk is less about what you say, and more about how you say it. Take the words lorem ipsum: on their own, they’re unsexy, mundane words. But what if you whispered them slowly? Or dragged out each syllable, enunciating every letter? You could pause for five seconds between each word, or repeat one or both words. They sound a lot dirtier now, don’t they?

Proximity also matters, so try to get close to your partner’s face or ear — you don’t want to say something sexy and your partner doesn’t hear it. When it comes to what to say, focus on narrating the sex you’re having out loud. Sex columnist Dan Savage provides a phenomenal template for dirty talk: tell the person what you’re doing, what you’re going to do and what you did. There is some amount of awkwardness you’ll have to tolerate, until you get more practice!

I faked my orgasms at the beginning of my relationship. Now my partner thinks I can orgasm just from penetration. What should I do?

First, faking orgasms is extremely common. Reasons for faking range anywhere from not knowing how to orgasm, to feeling embarrassed about how “long” it takes. Most of us are socialized into having performative sex, where our sole focus is on our partner’s pleasure. For years, I faked orgasms thinking it would make my partners feel like good lovers. Ultimately, this cost me my own pleasure, and now I am all for supporting people in having authentic, mutually-fulfilling sex.

Your first option is to be completely honest with your partner. In a neutral time and space (i.e., outside the bedroom), start by sharing what you love about your sex life. Then share that you have been faking your orgasms and why, and let them know you’re committed to experiencing authentic pleasure in your relationship. You can say you’re on a pleasure journey, and you’d like them to join you in discovering what helps you orgasm.

Your second option is to not tell your partner, but commit to no longer faking. Instead, focus on asking for what gives you the most pleasure. Say you’d like to play around with how you orgasm, and then let yourself enjoy the experience. If you didn’t orgasm, say you didn’t, without putting pressure on yourself or your partner to achieve one.

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