LET'S TALK ABOUT IT: COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES
Sex is often considered to be taboo, so discussing it can be uncomfortable at first – and that’s okay! Simply put: to get more comfortable talking about sex, you have to talk about sex! Open and honest communication is the foundation of healthy sexual activity.
Before engaging in any sexual activity, always establish consent with your partner(s). Some additional conversations can be helpful to have before engaging in sexual activity. Find a time and place to talk where you feel safe and comfortable.
RECOMMENDED TOPICS TO DISCUSS
- ‘I was tested a month ago since being with my last partner and my results were negative, what about you?’
- ‘I am on PrEP and get tested every 3 months.’
- ‘Safety is really important to me, what types of safer sex supplies to do you prefer?’
- ‘I’m not on birth control and don’t have condoms so I only want to cuddle tonight.’
- ‘I have an IUD but I still want to use condoms to protect against STIs.’
- ‘I know you really like _____ but it isn’t something I enjoy. Is there something else we can try together?’
- ‘I’d like to be alone after work today. Could you please give me 10 minutes when I get home?’
- ‘I like spending time with you and want to see where this relationship goes. I don’t want to have sex at this point.’
- ‘I’m not looking for a long-term relationship right now and want to keep things casual.’
- ‘My values are important to me. Until I am married, I am only comfortable kissing.’
- ‘I had a negative experience a year ago and I am still trying to get comfortable with being sexually active again.’
Note: Asking more than once can be coercive, so indecision does not mean "convince me". Only yes means yes.
You may have heard one of the following myths about communication and body language:
- “You can tell when someone is uncomfortable.”
- “Talking through sex is a turn-off. It kills the mood.”
These beliefs are promoted through the media, which almost never show characters talking with potential partners about their sexual boundaries.
However, body language can be misleading. For example, a racing heart and heavy breathing may be signs someone is turned on, or signs someone is uneasy or scared. Laughter and lots of energy might be signs someone is having a good time, or signs someone is nervous and uncomfortable.
This is just one reason why checking in with your partner(s) after consent has been established is so important. Sexual activities are much more enjoyable when everyone is on the same page while feeling safe and comfortable. The clearest way to establish consent and determine what feels good to a partner is to ask – and get a yes.
Partners could have different likes and dislikes so it is important to know how to identify when people want two different things. When in doubt, check in with a partner for clarification!
If the other person is silent, uncomfortable, or says “no,” then back off and drop it. Silence, passivity or the absence of “no” are not consent. Consider doing non-sexual activities together instead – like watching a movie or listening to music together. If the other person says “maybe,” “um,” “okay” or is giving mixed signals, you should back off or gently ask clarifying questions.
A: “Would you like to have sex?”
B: “My roommate is coming home soon.”
This is ambiguous and could be a way that someone expresses that they don’t want to do something, so clarification is needed.
A: “So does that mean you don’t want to have sex? It’s fine if you don’t, I only want to if you’re into it.”
If the other person is hesitant or unsure, then drop it.
If the other person is enthusiastic and clearly says “yes,” then you can both start talking about and exploring sex. Refer back to the sex topics that you think are important to discuss.
Remember, “sex” includes a broad range of many sexual activities, and each person’s sexual preferences are unique. Ask specifically what your partner wants to do, and share your own desires, too. Ask about what sexual activity they are comfortable with. Specifically checking in throughout the sexual activity will also help you become a better sexual partner, because you will know what your partner wants and what they like.
|This means no:|
“Let’s just watch the movie”
“I’d rather just sleep”
|This means yes:|
“I’d love to”
Before engaging in sexual activity, ask yourself the following questions to
be sure you’re making the right choices for you.
- Am I following my personal beliefs and values?
- Do we both want the same thing (something casual, relationship, etc.)?
- How will I feel about this tomorrow?
- Am I letting alcohol, drug use, self-esteem, or peer pressure affect my decision?
- Have my partner and I talked about possible consequences, such as STIs and pregnancy?
- Do I know how to use condoms or other STI protection?
- Is this consensual and what do I want to consent to?
Still have questions? Call 706-542-8690 to schedule a time to meet with the Healthy Relationship & Sexual Health Coordinator for more information.
Adapted from: UC Davis Student Health & Counseling Services. (n.d.). Let’s talk about it! A guide to consent and successful communication. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1R_gmvsjtuP0GFF-rI0H6L_o5h2oXqaoC/view