While discussing sex is considered taboo by some, everyone should have open conversations about sexual health. These important exchanges help prevent unplanned pregnancies, the spreading and stigmatization of STIs, and unwanted sexual behaviors. Avoiding these crucial conversations could also cause shame and hesitation about sharing your feelings, questions, and needs.
Stepping into your truth and opening up can leave you feeling empowered, seen, and fulfilled. Nurturing honest dialogue around sex can also lead to deeper intimacy and more satisfaction in the bedroom. At the same time, talking about sex can feel uncomfortable if you’re not used to it, but it is never too late to lean in. Here’s how to have an open conversation about your sexual health.
1. Discuss Prevention Plans
You and your sexual partners will need to figure out plans to prevent unwanted pregnancies and potentially spreading sexually transmitted infections. Ask any new hookups about the last time they got tested for STIs, and be prepared to share the same information. Regular testing and wearing condoms are especially important if you sleep with multiple partners. Sexual health is a shared responsibility, so both parties should take the proper precautions and make informed decisions.
Before you start sleeping together, discuss with your partner which contraceptive method you plan to use to help avoid unplanned pregnancies. One of the last things you want in the heat of the moment is to realize you don’t have the prevention tools you need. Proper planning could mean stocking up on condoms or ordering birth control online to avoid a last-minute pharmacy run.
2. Avoid Stigmatizing and Judgmental Language
While conversations about sex aren’t as suppressed as they once were, there is still a stigma around the subject. When someone fears judgment or shame for thoughts, questions, or experiences about sexual health, they’re less likely to seek proper guidance and support. Avoiding these discussions with your partners could unintentionally spread misinformation, fear, and shame. Be careful what language you use when discussing sexual health, especially regarding sexually transmitted infections.
Using terms like “clean” and “dirty” when discussing STIs and testing can lead to further stigmatization. In some cases, this could lead individuals to avoid testing for infections so they don’t have to be labeled a certain way. This avoidance prevents people from getting the treatment they need and could further spread infections. Even the recent shift in terminology from STD to STI is an effort to destigmatize these conditions. Some sexual health experts believe people are more likely to get tested for and disclose an “infection” than a “disease.”
3. Share Your Preferences
A healthy sex life should be enjoyable and fulfilling, and that starts with open dialogue with your partners. You’ll need to be honest and direct about your preferences to achieve the pleasure you want. If you’re unsure of exactly what you desire in the bedroom, have fun exploring with your mate and trying new things. Remember that a foundation of trust and continued communication is key during your exploration.
Sharing what you need after the act is also essential for a healthy and happy sexual connection. Let your partner know if you’re the type of person that craves sweet affection after intercourse or if you prefer to have a bit of space. Not knowing what the other person wants afterward could lead to unintentional hurt feelings and resentment. Be sure to ask the best way to show up for the other person.
4. Define Your Boundaries
Boundaries are crucial in nearly every aspect of life, including sexual health. You’ll want to define any bedroom limits with your partner, preferably before you have sex for the first time. Sexual boundaries could include how to touch your body, how you want to be treated during sex, and what you’re comfortable doing to others. For example, dirty talk occasionally involves name calling, but you might not be comfortable with certain labels.
The type of sex you’re okay with — like oral sex, penetration, etc. — should also be made clear. Neither partner should ever feel pressured to participate in sexual activity they aren’t comfortable with. How soon in a relationship you want to start sleeping with each other is also helpful information to share. Boundaries shift over time, so it’s good to have regular conversations with your partner about how you feel about your physical relationship.
A Healthy Sex Life
A healthy sex life can bring tremendous pleasure and joy to your relationships, but it doesn’t happen without intention and communication. You’ll want to create a space where both parties feel safe expressing desires and boundaries. This honest environment fosters deep intimacy and connection with your partner, which benefits your relationship inside and outside the bedroom.
Productive conversations around sexual health can also help destigmatize misconceptions and reduce feelings of shame. Sharing accurate information and honest feelings breaks down the stigma surrounding one of the most essential and enjoyable parts of the human experience. The healthiest relationships are rooted in mutual respect, consent, and trust. Cultivating these spaces with your partner helps build a society that values sexual health and sees it as vital to a person’s overall well-being.