How to Talk About Sex Without “Dying of Awkwardness”

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By Chiara Atik | Cosmopolitan

The first time Amelia, 30, a playwright from Brooklyn, had an orgasm with a boyfriend, it was by accident. “It just happened. I hadn’t told him what to do,” she says. Until then, Amelia, like many women in the early stages of their sexual history, didn’t care about her satisfaction enough to risk the awkwardness of talking about sex with her partner. But the orgasm changed everything: She’d had it, she liked it, and now she wanted to replicate it.

Related Article: 12 Things Every Man Should Know About the Female Orgasm


 “I would get crazy enthusiastic when I got close,” she recalls. “‘Yes! Keep doing that!'” But rather than give him direction, Amelia would wait for him to start doing…whatever he decided and hope she’d climax again. Because for Amelia, and women everywhere, talking about sex, even with a trusted sexual partner, is tough.

We watch movies about sex, listen to musicians sing about it, and gossip with our friends about it over brunch—we’re a nation obsessed. And yet there’s one place where we’re surprisingly silent on the issue: the bedroom.

Most of us know communicating about sex is key to sexual satisfaction. It’s a feedback loop: You tell your partner what you like, he or she does that, and you have sex you like. But shockingly, the average adult knows only 26 percent of their partner’s sexual dislikes, and we aren’t much more informed about what they do like, according to research by Sandra Byers, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of New Brunswick.

“There’s a very prevalent myth that if our partners love us or understand us, they should be able to read our minds and know exactly what we like in bed,” explains Byers. The truth is, just because they figure it out once, doesn’t mean they have your O on lock. “Even if your partner understands you well, they still can’t know what you want at this moment. The only person who knows that is you.” And the only way for your partner to know what you want is for you to—yep—say it. And yet, whether it’s the love of your life or guy of the moment, telling someone they rock your world but could they please try more of X and not Y and maybe softer/a little higher/with less saliva can be awkward AF, especially when a fragile ego is involved.

Related Article: 10 Climatic Quotes From Famous Women Who Told the Truth About Orgasms in 2015

But the benefits so outweigh the costs. Take Charly, 29, a writer and graduate student from New York. Her first relationship was in college, and the sex was just okay, although she never spoke up. “I was scared,” she remembers. So she resigned herself to a routine that was totally meh and put up with it for years. By the time Charly graduated (and broke up with that BF), she was ready to take a less passive approach to her sex life. So with her next boyfriend, she psyched herself up to talk about it. “I was scared the first time I broached the topic,” she says. “But the more we talked about it together, the easier it became. I realized that by telling him my preferences, I had the power to make sex more enjoyable for me.” And Charly’s new boyfriend was more than up for a little tutoring. “Making it good for me turns him on! That blew my mind.”

Related Article: Orgasms are Good for You: 12 Health Benefits of Sexual Climax

Communicating your sexual likes and dislikes is just as important if you’re single with casual partners. Eventually, Amelia, of the elusive orgasm, got fed up with her lackluster sex life. Step one was learning how to get herself off. Step two was relaying that knowledge to her partners. “Now I can confidently say, ‘This works, this doesn’t work all the time, and this doesn’t work at all.'” That long-awaited orgasm? Achieved (and not just with one guy).

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