Wow. It is hard to believe it's Vagina Month again on YouBeauty. One of the reasons that this monthly theme makes you sit up and take notice is that vaginas (and penises for that matter) are just not a common topic of conversation. In many cultures, and the United States in particular, we don’t talk that openly about sex. And we talk about the body parts associated with sex even less often.
Many people prefer to keep the details of their sexuality private. There are two reasons for this. First, many people are uncomfortable disclosing information about their sex lives and their bodies with other people. Second, even if a particular person is comfortable talking about aspects of their sexuality, most listeners are uncomfortable hearing the details. So, even if someone wanted to disclose information, there is a real social barrier to starting a conversation.
There are several reasons to want to open up more avenues for people to discuss their sexuality more freely.
First, many people have anxiety about their sex lives. People worry about whether they are having too little sex or too much. They may experience discomfort and not know whether that is normal. They may be ashamed of some of their own sexual desires and fantasies.
Without discussion, everyone feels unique. If people felt more free about discussing their sex lives, it would probably reduce a lot of anxiety. My friend and colleague Jesse Bering has written a fascinating and witty book called Perv in which he explores a variety of sexual desires and fantasies. An important point about his book, though, is that there is an enormous range of things that excite people, and that if we were willing to talk more about the things that stoke our desires, we might be more tolerant of the differences among people in their fantasies and practices. His core point is that, if it doesn’t harm anyone else, it isn’t so bad.
Think about the people in your life. Who can you talk to? Find a few people in your life you would be willing to open up to. Work toward getting more comfortable talking about intimate details of your life with someone.
There is a tendency for people to be more likely to disclose information on the Internet. The web creates distance between people that may make it easier to say things that you would not say to someone face-to-face. In addition, many websites allow users to be anonymous (or to adopt fictitious identities). If you can only talk about sensitive topics with the distance and veil of the web, then you are not really disclosing information about yourself. Many of the benefits of disclosure are ones designed to bring you closer to other people. So, you need to engage with them. You might need to start the conversation by email or text, but eventually that discussion ought to involve some real conversation.
More open discussion can also improve your sex life. Not everyone is comfortable talking about what makes them feel good and what doesn’t. But, if you don’t communicate with your partner(s) about what you enjoy, you may end up enjoying sex less than you could.
In order to create an open environment for disclosure, you need to create a safe environment based on trust. That means that you need to set aside good private time to talk. Put aside the phone and the computer. Light a candle. Sit down with your partner and talk about what you want, what you need, and what you fear. Ultimately, if you cannot engage in that conversation with a partner, you ought to think twice about whether you want to be having sex with that person.
Finally, it is valuable to create more open discussion so that you create a healthier sexual environment. A healthy sex life is an important part of a fulfilled life. But, sex can also pose serious risks. Both partners need to be open about what they are and are not willing to do. It is important for partners to protect themselves from STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Without a willingness to talk frankly about sex, it is hard to create a safe sexual environment.
Of course, social norms are not going to change overnight. So, for the moment, you need to take your own initiative to take sex talk beyond the taboos. Get to know yourself. Do you tend to be quick to disclose information to others, or do you focus on maintaining your privacy? Practice admitting details that feel embarrassing, or saying words or phrases that might make you squeamish. It may be difficult at first, but a little more disclosure in your life can make you happier, healthier and more satisfied.