Speaking the Unspeakable

Category: Advice

Author: Ella Dorval Hall

This month, communication is in the spotlight on Lustery with the launch of the ‘CUMmunication’ campaign. Each Sunday in September, Lustery will release a free video highlighting how real couples talk about sex – videos will only be free for a week, so don’t miss out. Plus, we’ve got a free CUMmincation kink list to get your conversation started.

Words like anus, vulva, humping, penis, cum, and nearly any other term that’s associated with sex used to be unbearable for me to say. I cringed in the doctor’s office when they asked routine sexual health questions, I went into panic when friends talked about sex, and I did everything I could to avoid talking about sex with hook-ups and partners. And damn, my sex life was suffering. I knew talking about sex with my partners would probably make sex better, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t know how to phrase it, I was worried I’d come off as inexperienced, and I was nervous they would judge me for what I wanted to do. I was most definitely not getting my needs met, let alone practicing consent.

Fast forward six years and I’m talking about discharge, erections, and anal play all over the internet. No sex topic goes unspoken about with my partner and I’m teaching other people how to ask for what they want in bed.

So, what changed?


While I would love to tell you a sappy saga about how I just decided to “communicate openly and honestly” as nearly all sex and relationship advice does, this is not what happened.

Learning to ask for what I want in bed, communicating about my fantasies and desires, and talking about sex without my palms sweating came from using strategies (some seemingly odd ones) that made talking about sex feel less awkward.

Some of the strategies I used, however, I didn’t see as “strategies” at the time—they were more like coping mechanisms. For example, with one person I dated, we used the word “practice” in place of “masturbating”. I cannot tell you why we landed on the word practice—it just sort of happened because we felt awkward saying “masturbation”.

While I look back on this and really wish I felt confident at the time saying “masturbation”, the reality is, I didn’t. In fact, I felt so uncomfortable saying the word “masturbation” that I didn’t have conversations about masturbation because of it. Using a word that we both felt comfortable saying opened up many, many conversations about sex and masturbating that we would not have otherwise had.

Substitute words that are too uncomfortable to say

Here’s my first tip: if there is a word that is unbearable to say, replace it with another word that you can say. While yes, one day it would be great to feel comfortable using the word, if saying it is keeping you from having an important conversation with a partner, it’s better to have the conversation with a substitute word than it is to not have a conversation at all.

Take a workshop with your partner(s)

Another thing I have tried with quite a bit of success was taking an online recorded workshop on dirty talk with my partner. While dirty talk itself is a fantastic communication tool for sex, the biggest help was having someone else start the s-e-x conversation that we were both nervous to have. Once someone else got the ball rolling, it was easy for us to keep the conversation going. Watching the recording together from the comfort of our bed, and pausing it every five minutes to debrief, also sparked fruitful conversations, to say the least.

Communicate in a comfortable setting

When you’re about to start a conversation about sex, consider the setting you’re in. Talking about it over an activity, so you don’t have to be face to face and you can have something in your hands to fiddle with, for example, can ease the nerves. You might bring it up while you’re cooking dinner, playing cards, or cleaning, depending on what works best for you. You can even talk about sex over text— for many people it’s easier to confess what’s eating at them in a text message.


Sit or stand back-to-back

If you’re really, really nervous to talk about sex, stand or sit back-to-back with your partner and tell them what you need to get off your chest. For some people, the thought of someone seeing their face or making eye contact as they say something vulnerable is unbearable, so if this is you, find a way you don’t have to be face to face.

Use one-word requests

As for communicating during sex, like asking for adjustments or saying you want to switch positions, I recommend starting with a technique I learned from Allison Moon, author of Girl Sex 101, called ‘one-word requests’. One-word requests are just that—one word you can use to request something from a partner, like “slower”, “deeper”, “harder”, “yes” or “more”. You can ask for quite a lot with just one word.

Try the compliment sandwich

If you want to tell a partner you’re not satisfied with their technique or give them feedback, do it sandwiched with compliments. Start by saying how much you love when they do [X] to you. Tell them you’d love it even more if they did it [X] way. And then re-affirm how good you think it would feel. This is known as the compliment sandwich and it’s great for disarming someone.


Practice with a massage

If you and your partner typically do not ask for adjustments or give each other feedback during sex, you can get into the habit of doing this by practicing during a massage. Choose a body part—arms, feet, legs, back—and take turns massaging each other. Practice telling each other exactly what you like and what you want them to do more of. Tell them how they can do something differently when it doesn’t feel good. Then, take this same way of giving feedback into sex. Oftentimes we are capable of recognizing how normal and useful it is to give and receive feedback in non-sexual situations, so practice giving each other feedback when you’re not between the sheets.

Watch another couple do it!

Sometimes even the sexiest, seemingly most confident and most adventurous couples (yes, I’m talking Lustery couples) do all the same things you do: they giggle, they blush, they feel unsure of how to ask for what they want, or if they even want that thing at all—and that’s okay! It’s also why Lustery launched their Cummunication campaign, giving couples a nifty list to use a starting point for discussing what they like and don’t like during sex. Check out what the couples had to say, and feel free to download it and try it out for yourself.

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