Sustainable Love: Obstacles to Intimate Conversation

“Love is the answer, but while
you are waiting for the answer sex raises some pretty good questions” -Woody

Many people have trouble
talking about sexual topics, including me. I have never been successful using
the pornographic language often associated with sex, but medical terms feel just
as odd rolling off the tongue in the midst of a pleasurable act. Generally it is
easier to not discuss the topic at all, but then I often wonder if I might get
more of the experience that I want if I could figure out how to ask for it. This
tongue tied situation isn’t limited to just my partnership either; just this
weekend, my sons were talking about how disgusting the idea of oral sex seemed
to them and I found myself at a loss to respond. Even with all the work and
writing about sex that I do, I still find myself in awkward and uncomfortable
situations where I am unsure what words to use, how much to share or explain and
even whether it is my place to be the one explaining.

photo via

Ed Yourdon

Usually I break through my
discomfort, sometimes placing my foot squarely in my mouth, because I believe
that even more important than knowing the right words is the intention to break
the silence that weighs so heavily over our sexuality. This is an ironic
statement when you consider how much titillating, exhibitionist sexual talk
fills the Internet and even mainstream media. Yet when it comes to garden
variety discussions about improving intimate lives or even more, sharing sexual
health information with the next generation, we are all silenced. Thinking about
how to recognize and overcome some of the following obstacles might help you
develop an ease and vocabulary for having meaningful sexual conversations in
your relationship or with your kids.

Sex Myths
The biggest sex myth that is perpetrated, primarily because we don’t know how to
talk about our sexual desires, is that we must all cultivate the skill of mind
reading if we want to be great lovers. The idea that you should just know what
will turn on your partner without communicating does a great disservice to many
a relationship. Communication isn’t always about talking, but learning to feel
comfortable with anatomically correct language is a good start because it is
much easier than learning to read minds.

Sexual Fear
Many people walk around with a lot of fear associated with sexuality. High on
the list is the fear of being normal, which makes many people hide their
desires. A close second is the fear of sexual rejection, also known as making a
fool of one self. Considering how naked, literally and figuratively, our sexual
lives make us these fears are understandable, yet not helpful. Hiding our sexual
selves or feeling ashamed cuts us off from ourselves and strongly hinders

Negative Beliefs about Sex
 Most of us were raised with some negative sex beliefs. For some of us, these
are very personal, including bad feelings about one’s body (ugly, dirty, fat
etc) or the more universal and religious-based sanctions against sexual
pleasure. Whichever is your flavor, these beliefs are not strong openers for a
good sexual conversation. Combining two people that hold negative beliefs
greatly increases the potential for miscommunication because the message trying
to be conveyed is misinterpreted.

Lack of Sex Information
To be able to discuss sexual issues and concerns, it helps to have some basic
information. Unfortunately, many of us never benefited from any real sexual
education. Lacking accurate and basic knowledge of sexual organs and functioning
makes a real conversation difficult because there is no context for where to
begin. Not knowing the reasons you feel or don’t feel something can make the
topic all the more frightening and builds our fears and negative beliefs often
without our awareness.

Privacy and Boundaries
Sexuality is one of the areas that we hold most privately in our life,
especially as we get older. We all want to have good sex lives but we don’t want
anyone else to know about it. Creating the privacy you need to feel comfortable
about your sexuality should actually enhance your ability to communicate about
it. But using the lack of privacy as an excuse to avoid the conversations will
not get you closer to what you want. Additionally having a clear sense of your
personal boundaries is essential because sharing your sexual questions will
require you to be vulnerable in ways that are uncomfortable. Knowing your own
comfort zone might take crossing the line a few times, but feeling confident in
your ability to stretch within your boundaries will build your ability to

 It has been said that
language shapes the way we think and even determines what we can think about. 
By developing your comfort and vocabulary with your sexual language, you
actually expand your abilities to think about who you are sexually.  Breaking
through our own barriers to discovering and sharing our sexual selves is
liberating and gives access to one of the most essential and mysterious parts of
our humanity.   The more that I experiment and practice, the more gratified I am
to see how pornographic exclamations and anatomical pointers mix themselves
together with little effort, inventing a sexual language that communicates quite
effectively.   Open your dialogue here and I promise it will open your


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