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Talking about sex

We all do it (well most of us do) so why can sex be so difficult to talk about with each other?

My partner and I had some marriage preparation classes in the lead up to The Big Day.

During the lunch break, the man leading the class called me over and drew my attention to a particular book in the ‘bookshop corner’ that he thought we might find useful. It was your classic 70’s ‘marriage guidance’ piece.

He wanted to draw my attention to a particular diagram labelled Fig, 7.1. ‘The squeeze-and-hold technique for premature ejaculation’.

We quickly found the money, paid for the book, fled out the door, found solace in our packed sandwich and proceeded to avoid eye contact for the rest of the day.

As odd as that behaviour was (HIS of course), it actually did us an enormous favour. I was only 25 and still found any level of talking about my body parts to anyone other than ‘the girls’, highly awkward. Due to this book we decided that each night on our honeymoon we were going to read out loud to each other, some chapter highlights. Clearly we did this in the ironic/piss-take style of ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’ but, despite this, it was so releasing to practise SAYING THE WORDS of our intimate body areas so early in our marriage.

Some of the things that can deter people from talking about sex are:

  • Knowing only Latin or ‘gutter’ words, may cause embarrassment – a lack of adequate language.
  • Sexual ignorance or naiveté
  • Family/cultural/religious confusion/distortion.
  • Unresolved sexual hurts or wounds.


There are 5 types of sexual language:

  • Childish language (whoopsie/willy)
  • Adult Slang (boobs, cum)
  • Euphemisms (front bottom, down there)
  • Clinical (penis/vagina)
  • Poetic (Lady garden)


It is interesting with using slang, that often the more ‘male’ slang is aggressive or shallow and the ‘female’ slang more seductive and silly. As a couple make sure you stay on the same page when using slang words and are aware of the feelings and messages they convey.

It is important that you develop a sexual language together and create a dialogue within your sex life. Keeping things light-hearted, playful, practical, useful, and intimate are crucial in creating a sexual language for a great sex life.

Non-Verbal Signals

These can make up the majority of meaningful sexual communication. Try to create ways of guiding and expressing excitement non-verbally, but don’t assume or completely rely on nonverbal language.

Great lovers keep a balanced mix of verbal and non-verbal.

Love Talk

Before: Fantasize, build and tease and anticipate.

During: Affirm partner and express feelings. Include partner in your feelings and desires.

After: Create an afterglow of reminiscing and affirming. Emotionally connect.

Initiating and Refusing

Initiating sex can open one up to rejection – so it would be great to suggest an alternative if refusing.

Resist pushing, controlling or objectifying – become sensitive to each others verbal and non-verbal cues – and find effective ways to initiate and refuse.

Communication is key

Overall it is vital you establish an attitude of love and safety. Empathise and become familiar, fluent even, in each others ‘language’. This can only work if you are brave enough to be vulnerable with one another.

In any relationship, whether it has been 2 months or 45 years, there will always be a need to gently and assertively coach and initiate your partner as to what you like and need. Male and female bodies change over time. Likes and dislikes change. Sensitivities in different areas change. Pain and chronic illness/disease change what is possible. Reading steamy novels (!) might affect what you might be open to. New technologies, or toys, coming on to the market can up the exploration game. Your sex life will constantly change if you are on the same road, communicating vulnerably together along the way.

*Create a sexual language and courageously practice.


I would like you to take a piece of paper, and a pen, each. Write these headers on the paper:


Initiating sex:

Female genitals:

Male genitals:


Under each heading, write every name/expression you can think of. Do this in private then swap sheets so you can read each-others answers. Discuss between you:

  • What were your feelings as you were doing this?
  • Where did you learn most of your sexual language?
  • What were some of your ‘take-away’s’ personally, from doing this exercise?
  • Which words/expressions did you most enjoy?


Reflecting on your own relationship:

  • What words turn you on?
  • What words turn you off?
  • What non-verbal cues do you use most as a couple? Are these effective?
  • Is there anything you and your partner can do to enhance your sexual language?


Now you just have to practise!

Susannah Baker

After giving up a senior nursing role spanning 14 years, and moving to Devon, Susannah is now the director of a holiday business; a founder and trustee of The Pickwell Foundation, a partner to Steve and a mum to two teenagers.

Keeping her hand in with the nursing side, she works as a Community First Responder for the South West Ambulance Service.

The question of 'what makes relationships great', together with a real curiosity of how people stay together for a life-time, has always caused much fascination.  

On a search to discover some answers for herself, One:Retreat was born.

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