When was the last time you had a real conversation about sex?
If you’re like most of us, it’s been a while—or maybe never. Our culture is saturated in sex—we use it to sell everything, our songs and movies are full of it, we joke about it—but we don’t actually talk much about it.
This really hit home for me 15 years ago when I was in graduate school to become a marriage and family therapist. One of our required courses was Human Sexuality, which packed a lot of information into a fairly short, intense time. When friends would ask me how things were going, I’d often get talking about what I learned in that class or my reactions to it. At parties, this had one of two effects: people would either quickly drift off in discomfort, or get really engaged and want the conversation to keep going and going. This was not a neutral topic. I realized how deep the hunger to talk about sexuality is, and yet how uncommon and uncomfortable it can be.
Since then, I’ve paid closer attention to whether, when, and how people talk about sexuality, both in social settings and in my therapy office. Some people are quite comfortable, but most are not. Some are completely tongue-tied. Yet sex is a near-universal part of the human experience. When we can’t talk about something so important, all kinds of problems can arise.
Many people don’t even talk much to their partners. They may complain about sex—about not getting enough, about things the partner does or doesn’t do in bed. But it’s much harder to talk about what we’d like, what it means to us when we make love (or when we don’t), what we’re scared of, what excites us. We may not even allow ourselves to acknowledge our own wishes, feelings, desires. Obviously, this creates a lot of opportunity for misunderstanding and disappointment.
It’s also difficult for many parents to talk to their kids about sexuality. Our own parents may not have done a great job on the subject, so we don’t have their model to fall back on. Plus, we may not be sure exactly what values we want to convey. Result: Little or nothing gets said, and kids miss out on important information and advice.
Recently, I’ve become more focused on changing all this. I would like us to have more and better conversations about sexuality with the people closest to us. I’ve started Keep The Talk Going to improve communication about all aspects of sexuality and relationships. I hope you’ll decide to be part of the conversation!