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Sex

Talking about sex

Communication is an essential part of having sex. It’s important to talk to your partner(s) about your desires and boundaries, and to establish consent. 

When it comes to sexuality, every person is different. We all have unique desires, boundaries and expectations of sex. As such, it’s likely that you and your partner(s) will share some desires and expectations but not others. This means that communication is key; it’s the best way to make sure you understand each other, and can engage in sexual activity in a way that is enjoyable, fulfilling and safe for everyone involved.  

Understanding your sexuality

In order to have great sex, you need to have a good understanding of what you actually want! Every person has a unique sexuality, which is made up of their sexual orientation, their sexual drive, and their wants and desires.   

It is important to understand your sexuality so you can recognise what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable, and have a clear idea of what kind of sex you want to be having, with who and how often. This understanding will then help you set healthy boundaries with your partners. 

A good way of getting to grips with your sexuality is by masturbating; it will help you understand what kinds of touch feel good for you, and will also help you explore fantasies and find out what turns you on. Read more about masturbation here. 

Find out more about how to have great sex, safely.

How to start the conversation 

It can be useful to map out the things you like for yourselves, and then talk about them together. This can help spark a conversation about where your wants and needs overlap, and where they differ, which will make it easier to get the most out of sex with each other. 

Think about how important – if at all – sex is to you. What kinds of sex, if any, do you really enjoy? What is the meaning of sex for you? Which things are important for you to have in a sexual experience? Which are less important?   

Think about what kinds of physical intimacy you and your partner(s) enjoy. It could be cuddling on the sofa, sharing a bath or giving each other back rubs. Make time to do those things together. Or just have a conversation about what kind of physical contact you like and don’t like.  

Write a paragraph about some sexual activity or physical intimacy that you’ve found really fulfilling. Then write another about something that didn’t feel fulfilling at all. Compare your descriptions of the two times. What are the key things that make sex and/or physical intimacy fulfilling for you?  

Talking about sex with your partner(s) is important for exploring consent. Everyone needs to feel comfortable and able to express what they do and don’t want from a sexual encounter, and to know that they will be listened to and their choices respected. 

Having a conversation about sex before any sexual activity takes place can help partners to understand each other’s boundaries and creates a space to share any concerns. 

Remember

When it comes to sexual activity, it’s important that everyone involved is consenting at all times – no one should ever feel they have to do something they are not comfortable with or don’t want to do. Just because you have consented to one thing doesn’t mean you have consented to something else, and it’s completely okay to say no or stop at any point if you don’t want to continue.  
 
Find out more about consent. 

When you and your partner want different things

Whatever your age, and however long you’ve been together, changes in a physical relationship are not uncommon. 

When it comes to sex, what we want and enjoy can change over the course of a relationship and can sometimes leave you and your partner(s) feeling out of sync. We may not want sex as much as we used to. Or we may want to try something different. There may be things we enjoy that we’ve never told our partner about or things that simply aren’t working for us anymore. Other things can have a bearing too, such as anxiety, stress or illness, or a major life event such as losing your job or bereavement.  

Whatever the reason, it’s important not to just soldier on if things aren’t working for you. The best way to deal with this is by being honest with yourself about what you want and need, communicating with each other, and exploring the different ways you can access intimacy together. It’s not always easy to talk about intimate things, but bit of patience and understanding on both sides can really help. 

The Enduring Love? research project showed that the types and amount of intimacy that individuals and couples enjoy can be different. It also showed that our levels of desire and what we enjoy are almost guaranteed to change over the course of a relationship. In fact, every couple who took part in the Enduring Love? research project said their physical intimacy had shifted and changed over time.

Find out more about the Enduring Love? project.

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