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Sexual communication

Five things to talk to your partner about

1.  Turn-ons and turn-offs

What do you like? What kills the mood for you? Taking some time to think about these things, sharing them with your partner, and listening to their turn-ons and turn-offs is an important step in learning and growing with your partner.

 2. Sexually transmitted disease (STD) status

Talking about STDs with a partner is often thought of as a tough or embarrassing conversation to have — but it doesn’t need to be that way! STDs are actually very common; 1 in 2 sexually active people will get an STD before the age of 25 (American Sexual Health Association, 2019).

This means that if we are having sex, we also need to be talking about how we will practice safe sex and what our STD status is. You can get free and confidential testing STD testing done right here in the Quad Cities (and you don’t need insurance or to use your parents insurance.) Call The Project of the Quad Cities at 309-762-5433.

3. Safe sex practices

The best sex occurs when you aren’t worrying about the possibility of getting an STD or becoming pregnant. Since STDs are transmitted via oral, vaginal, and anal sex it is important to protect yourself no matter what type of sex you are having by using condoms or dental dams. You can get free condoms at The Project of the Quad Cities. There are also many birth control options, and it is important to choose the one that is right for you. Contact The Project at 309-762-5433 or Family Resources at 309-797-1777 for more info.

4. Consent and boundaries

How far do you want to go? How will you mutually decide what works for you and your partner? Remember consent is an ongoing process. Just because you consented to one thing doesn’t mean you are up for other things — and that is OK and needs to be respected. 

5. Expectations

We know this can be tricky, but establishing what type of relationship you are in (hook-up, friends with benefits, exclusive) helps you better decide how you want to navigate the relationship and expectations that you and your partner can share. 

(Friedman, 2011)

How do I communicate with my partner?

Here is the good news: there is no one right way! Sexual communication with your partner can vary depending on a lot of things like your communication style, personality, or comfort-level.

Tips for approaching a conversation about sex

  • What is your goal for the conversation? A clear goal will help you keep the convo on track.
  • Think about writing a “script.” What are some things you really need to say and what would be some good things for your partner to hear? Practice saying this script out loud so that saying the words become more comfortable to you. 
  • Plan when would be a good time to have this conversation. Aim for low-stress, private times before you are having sex. 
  • Remember to use good interpersonal communication skills like active listening, using “I” instead of “You” statements, avoiding defensiveness, blaming, or unhelpful nonverbals like rolling your eyes or raising your voice in anger.  
  • Ask your partner for their opinion and feedback, but also be firm in your goals when necessary. 

(Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies, 2011)

Ugh, that conversation felt weird/didn’t go great…

  • Try as much as possible to not take it personally
  • Did your partner make you feel lousy? If so, that tells you a lot about the quality of their character. It might be smart to think about if that is the right partner for you. 
  • As cliche as it sounds, the more you have these conversations, the easier they can become. Be kind to yourself and be proud of yourself for doing what was important to your well-being. 


How Do I Give Consent? What Does it Sound Like to Get (or not get) Consent from my Partner?

The following info comes from an article, "Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway" by Corinna (2018). 

Check your partner’s interest by asking

  • What do you think about… (doing…)?
  • I’ve been thinking about us (trying/doing)...what do you think?
  • What are some things you’d like us to do/try?
  • Remember, these are all conversation starters. Notice how they all end in a question so you and your partner can have a dialogue. 

Say yes to your partner by saying

  • YES!
  • Let’s do it!
  • That feels great.
  • I love you and I love this
  • I’m ready!

How your partner might be telling you no. This is when you should stop.  

  • No.
  • I’m scared.
  • Wait.
  • Maybe.
  • I don’t know. 
  • (Silence)
  • That hurts.
  • Stop. 

Nonverbal communication 

Sometimes people think that if they pay attention to someone’s body language or eye contact (their nonverbal communication) they have all the information they need to know if their partner is into the action. The tricky thing is that nonverbal communication is easily misinterpreted. Always get verbal consent before relying on body language--especially if you are with a new sexual partner or are in a relationship where you do not have open and healthy lines of communication and trust. Below are some possible signs of consent.

Here are some possible nonverbal signs of giving consent

  • Direct eye contact 
  • Pulling someone closer
  • Active touch
  • Sounds of pleasure

Here are some possible nonverbal signs of NONconsent:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Pushing away
  • Crying/looking sad/fearful/”just lying there” 
  • Silence