Wow! What a loaded topic!
This is a custom made deal, meaning what works for one person may be repulsive to another. So starting the intimate part of a dating experience can be tricky.
Even if you’re just looking for a friend with benefits situation, if you want it to be a lasting friendship, you still have to be able to make it worthwhile for the other person. By now, you’ve heard the dating advice that healthy communication is important if you’re looking for a strong relationship.
For most people, talking about sex in a matter of fact way is awkward. Communication by way of body language, flirting, or hinting feels most natural for most people. The problem with relying on signals is that it is so easy for signals to be misread, and there are definitely responsible conversations that should be had. So many of us avoid those and go right for the gold, it’s not always a mistake, but it is how mistakes happen.
So how do we talk about it? What are the most important points to communicate? And who’s to decide?
Consensual sex means both parties decide what is important. Each is responsible for voicing their input. The most important points are: Pregnancy, with hetero sex, if the woman is of childbearing age. Most sexually active women are of childbearing age. And sexually transmitted diseases. If you have one, you are obligated to tell a potential partner before the foreplay begins.
Beyond those seemingly important issues, comes the fact that some people have very specific things they do not want to do or do not want to have done to them.
So how do we talk about it?
Chances are you’ve probably had these kinds of conversations, and you may already know what works best for you. But for those who struggle, here are some helpful tips.
- Get the basics out of the way, talk either in person, video or on the phone, avoid having this conversation over text if possible. Talk about it before you have sex with the person. As soon as one of you brings it up and the other seems interested, that’s the best time to get all the necessary stuff out of the way. Once you agree on the basics, the flirting can resume, and you can enjoy the anticipation.
- Approach it sincerely. Maybe you have bad news, or you’re going to receive bad news from the other person. We all play a character on the dating stage and it’s fun to be sexy and flirty, but when it’s time to be serious, it will be appreciated if you are the one who breaks the ice by having a moment of realness. Take time out from the romantic version of yourself long enough to be the responsible version of yourself. You can quickly return to your sexy self, but give yourself that moment.
- Don’t talk about it while you’re out on a date. Remember, you haven’t had sex with this person yet, and even if you have, trying to have a conversation about sex in a public place can go, and has gone, awry. In the beginning, you have no idea how the other person responds to these kinds of discussions. Being out in public and having a really awkward moment makes it well, even more awkward. If your date brings it up at the restaurant, you can shut it down with a sweet promise to talk about it in private later on.
- If your crush shuts down and won’t talk, do be cautious. You can practice having this conversation before you have it, so when it comes up, you have a plan for how to discuss these details in a way that you feel confident. Some people are not comfortable or confident talking about the serious points like birth control, STDs, or boundaries with styles of sex. If the discussion isn’t going anywhere and you can’t get the important information, consider the fact that there are other fish in the sea. If your date is serious, they’ll eventually come around and try to communicate.
- LISTEN to what the other person is saying when they talk about sex. When you’re attracted, excited and in the lust phase of sexual anticipation it is so easy to only hear what we want to hear and only see what we want to see. PAY ATTENTION to the person’s words, tone, body language and see what is there in the total consideration of the other. One of the things that ruins the first impression with sex is when one person is a soft slow passionate type, and the other is a hard & fast passionate type. In other words, rough sex doesn’t work for everyone – but soft sex doesn’t work for everyone either. If there’s no chance both can meet in the middle, there’s no reason for these two types to be friends with benefits.
- Do not brag about how good you are. Take it from someone who knows, when a crush starts talking themselves up and can’t deliver – there’s no second chances. Bragging about anything when you’re getting to know someone is almost always going to be a turnoff to the other person, unless you’re bragging about how great you are in bed and the other person is getting turned on. Yet, even in long term relationships, there are times when the sex is great and other times when it is not as great and maybe even a few times when it flopped. If you think you’re good, there’s no obligation for the other person to agree, and the harsh reality is – they are the judge of whether or not you are good. Once you’re in it, you are not the one who decides how good you were. If you flop after boasting, it’s a bigger let down than being humble all the way through the experience.
- Do not anticipate how the other person will be in bed. Don’t try to guess, and for your own sake and theirs – don’t verbalize how you think they are going to be at sex. It’s so tempting to get into “sexy-talk” to set the mood. But if you’re getting ready for the first time together – laying out expectations is going to lead to both nerves and disappointment. It’s better to swim first, test the water, and then knowing what to expect next time you jump in. But that first time, when you’re talking up how that water is going to be the perfect warm temperature how you like it, and it ends up being ice cold – it’s awkward. Avoid awkward if you can when it comes to that first try.
- You can change your mind at any time. Once you’ve had the conversations and things seem to be moving in the direction of that first sexual encounter – keep in mind, either one of you can back out if things aren’t feeling right. Respect that choice if it is the other person who makes it. Some people have past trauma surrounding sex, some people have body image issues, and there are plenty of other issues a person can have surrounding intimacy – it is the most sensitive thing we share as humans. Intimacy requires a ton of vulnerability, which also requires trust. If you change you mind at any time, speak your mind and your truth.
- How to let them down if you need to. If you change your mind, or if you went through with that first time and you don’t want to revisit the experience, don’t ghost. If you’ve come this far with responsible communication about sex and intimacy, follow through with respectful communication to close it out. You may not get a respectful or kind response, as rejection is what we’re all trying to avoid in the dating realm, and people are not always their best selves when getting negative feedback. Let the other person know as gently as possible, that you feel your styles aren’t compatible, or that you’re not going to be intimate (again) because of your own feelings. Try not to make it about the other person, because in reality, it is about you making the choice that is best for you.
- How to cope with rejection if they let you down. It’s a heavy experience and often emotionally painful when we think we’ve had a great connection with the other person and they let us know – it’s not going to work for them. We feel deflated. It’s hard to get back up and date again because it’s a hit to our self confidence. However – it’s a normal and common experience for one person to back out. And that is again, about that person. It’s so hard not to take it personally but do not lash out at them. The last thing you want when your in the dating game is to be left bitter. Most dating experiences will not turn into long term relationships, so expect there to be a number of tries before you catch the fish you want and you end up being the fish they want.
The approach to new sex should be as natural as possible. When getting ready to start heading toward that first time – do what works for you to be relaxed before the dates and conversations. Maybe you meditate, maybe you exercise, maybe you clean, maybe you work on a project at home, maybe you read, or write – whatever you can do to clear your mind and get centered. We never know what’s going to happen but being clear and calm going in can help you respond to all of the possibilities with a little grace.
In the words of Forrest Gump’s mother: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”
The final word: Use protection until there’s a long standing commitment.