Sex 101: A Little Pillow Talk Can Go a Long Way

Couple lying in bed together, smilingA long time ago, far, far away, I lived in the country and raised llamas. There is little photo documentation remaining of this time in my life, save one snapshot of me helping Apache, our male llama, guide his penis into one of our females. This is called, in agricultural parlance, “settling.”

People have asked why he needed this assistance, since dogs, cats, and other farm animals don’t seem to need help. The answer, I explain, is that Apache grew up with no opportunity to observe other llamas having sex. So he required my “helping hand”!

Like poor Apache, humans grow up with no opportunity to watch our neighbors get it on. We’re the only critters who (usually) have our sex indoors and in private. Our brains are huge; our minds have a lot of room for pondering sex. But when it comes to verbalizing those thoughts and feelings, our big brains are useless—we just don’t know how it’s done.

So this post explores talking to your sweetheart about sex. Getting naked emotionally and verbally is far more important than whipping off all your clothes.

Julia Hutton, author of Good Sex: Real Stories from Real People (Cleis Press, 1992), interviewed dozens of couples to learn how each person defined “good sex.” She writes: “These interviews suggest that sexual savvy depends less upon how-tos than on self-knowledge, which evolves slowly, awkwardly, and through many different routes.”

What we assume should be a mystical, mind-blowing experience can be so much better when we talk about it!

Many of us harbor a significant amount of guilt and shame about what turns us on—our “arousal template.” Many of us would have much more fun in bed if we simply talked with our partner about what feels good and what doesn’t. I remember “advice” that I read years ago as a teenager in one of the teen magazines. Something about French kissing: “Let the boy (heterosexist assumption here!) explore your mouth with his tongue. He’ll know what to do!”

And where, I ask in 2014, would teenage boys in the 1960s have learned about French kissing? In locker rooms? Watching movies? A colleague recently suggested that, these days, teenage boys learn about sex from looking at whatever comes up after hitting the “FREE TOUR!” buttons on X-rated websites.

Imagine two people about to have intercourse for the first time. “Uh, shall I …?” “OK.” Intercourse commences, and there’s the final verbal exchange. “That was great.” “Yeah.” Cavemen were probably more expressive. Most of us aren’t ashamed to have sex, but we hit walls when it comes to talking about it.

Finding words that work can be difficult. “Would you like me to perform cunnilingus on you?” “Want me to eat you out?” Neither the formal terminology nor the down-home slang feels particularly comfortable or appropriate.

For those of us who are partnered or married, it can help to find a comfortable name or term for your genitals. Sex therapist Paul Joannides had us all roaring with laughter at a conference years ago about this subject. When he encouraged an angry couple to try this, the wife dubbed her vagina “Jewel Box.” “Considering the state of their relationship,” Paul quipped, “she should have named it Jaws.” (I don’t remember what her husband named his penis.)

So why are guys or gals—of any age—supposed to know what to do? Why aren’t we encouraged to explore and learn together, teaching each other what feels good?

I know couples who spend a lot of time reading and poring over material about wine, gardening, travel, and home decorating. They value, appreciate, and discuss these topics with their beloved. Not so often with sex. Many couples talk less and less about sex once they’re mating in domesticity. Sexual desires go underground, and we feel embarrassed to talk about kinky stuff.

If your sex life is dandy right now, hopefully your good fortune will hold. I often see or hear from couples who had roaring sex lives years before. Intimacy fades when we take it for granted, and the healing process isn’t always easy. So talk, talk, talk. Even if you’re too tired to do anything, talk. Talk about what you will do, what you might do, or …

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jill Denton, LMFT, CSAT, CCS, therapist in Los Osos, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Charlotte

    Charlotte

    December 2nd, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    I was raised in a super conservative household where the idea of talking about sex, much less the act itself was forbidden, and quite frankly I would have rather stuck a fork in my eye than to ever have to ask either of my parents anything about sex!
    Needless to say it has been hard to let down my guard a little since getting married, realizing that while it is important to have the ability to talk about these things with my husband it might never be the easiest conversation in the world for me to have because of how I was brought up.

  • Winifred

    Winifred

    December 2nd, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    Oh Charlotte I beg you to give it a try! There is nothing to get you and your man in the mood like a little pillow talk!

  • audra

    audra

    December 3rd, 2014 at 3:43 AM

    Why is it that we are so embarrassed about the good stuff? I mean, if anything this is going to be the one aspect of your life that you will share solely with your spouse- shouldn’t this then be the one person in whom you can trust the most and feel free to share all of your sexual feelings? I promise you, if this is s a person who loves you, then nothing should ever be off limits conversationally.

  • Jose

    Jose

    December 3rd, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    Do you think that much of this applies to men, because it feels like women are the ones who need a little more of this kind of talk to get in the mood for sex. For me, I am always ready to have sex with my wife, I don’t need so much of the talking, but I know that she enjoys it so I do try to do that with her. But I think that mostly, and I am sure that there are men who break the norm, I still think that this is mostly something that women enjoy much more than we do. Thoughts?

  • M. L. P.

    M. L. P.

    December 18th, 2014 at 2:04 AM

    So interesting, Jose. I think a lot of men would absolutely agree with you. There’s one perspective in sex therapy that “mechanical sex” (what it sounds like you’re describing but forgive me if I’m wrong) is an aversion of intimacy. Evolutionarily speaking, we are ALL social/emotional beings because connection with others created groups that ensured our survival against predators; Men and women both! While we have evolved to develop frontal lobes that offers many advantages, one of the downsides is that it can become a coping skill to avoid the discomfort of emotional vulnerability (not to mention the societal pressure that’s put on men to be “strong”). But make no mistake…all humans have emotions, feelings, etc.Tthey don’t go anywhere. Sex can be an exhilarating way to experience the tension that’s created by that vulnerability. Of course, men don’t “communicate” in the same way women do (generally speaking). However, conveying your connection to your spouse doesn’t have to be verbal. I would challenge you to notice the subtleties that you love about your spouse…does she have a nervous laugh? A childhood scar? A ticklish spot? Does she sing in the shower? Is there a scent/smell that reminds you of her? Taking the time to notice those small things, if only to yourself, is a form of communication on a much deeper level. The same sex therapy perspective I mentioned above also maintains that when we have hit a plateau in either the quality or frequency of sex, we’ve stopped delving into the depths of ourSELF. In other words, we can’t grow as individuals, so we can’t grow as a lover. Not sure if that resonates with you at all, but it just came to my mind when I read your post. Best of luck!

  • ALeX

    ALeX

    December 3rd, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    I think it’s kind of cute when my boyfriend just wants to cuddle and talk in bed. It kind of takes some of the pressure off of both of us when we just want to unwind and be with each other.

  • jon

    jon

    December 3rd, 2014 at 8:44 PM

    I guess this comes easy to some people more than others. I have no problem talking to my girlfriend about this, and am lucky to have her be the same way. I have heard friends saying they can never bring themselves or at times their partner to talk about this. Intercourse on a regular basis, yes, but talk about it? No! That makes no sense if you ask me!

  • skylar

    skylar

    December 4th, 2014 at 3:48 AM

    it all used to be great but the longer we have been together the more it is now just roll over and go to sleep. I want the other back, the old relationship that we used to have!!
    how can i work on that without making him feel too bad?

  • Calista

    Calista

    December 9th, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    Just one of the many things that you and your spouse will share that no one else will ever have access (hopefully) to.

    I think that that is kind of cool when you think about something that is just so special ad sacred in some ways to just the two of you. It’s like a sweet little secret that no one else ever gets to be in on.

  • Sara

    Sara

    January 27th, 2015 at 8:29 AM

    After some turbulent years….I was advised strongly to express my “needs and desires”. The answer I got: “I never did that before, why should I do it now.” How do you deal with someone like this????

  • HellFire

    HellFire

    February 8th, 2015 at 1:45 PM

    Talking about sexuality is one of the best ways ive found to spike the hormones and even throw them into overdrive…

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