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Sex Ed for Adults: How to Spill Sexual Secrets 

Sex Ed for Adults: How to Spill Sexual Secrets  Image

When we think about getting down to sexy time with a new person, it’s common to feel excitement, anticipation, and curiosity. It’s equally common to feel nervous or anxious — especially if you feel you have a “secret” you want to share with your partner.

Disclosing personal sexual information can be a nerve-wracking process. The social norm that talking about certain things — like a history of trauma, positive STI status, and even sexual fantasies — is taboo makes us more inclined to keep things to ourselves, even when sharing could be good for us.

That taboo around sharing our sexual histories makes us feel salacious or shameful, which doesn’t exactly lay the groundwork for positive conversations. 

Sexual disclosure (regardless of the topic) does two really important, good things: it allows your partners to be fully informed before they consent to certain things and it allows you to set expectations about your sexual needs, boundaries, and desires. 

So, if you have some sexual secrets that you would rather share, we’ve put together a guide to help you shed the stigma and get started. 

Do I Even Need to Disclose? 

In short, not necessarily. With a few exceptions (we’ll get to that in a bit) you don’t have to share most sexual information. 

Want to keep your history of sexual trauma to yourself? That’s fine. Don’t want your partner to know that this is your first time engaging in this particular sex act? That’s cool, too. 

Disclosure is your decision, but there are some situations where sharing gets a little more complicated. 

In 19 states, if you know that you have HIV, you’re legally required to tell your sexual partners about it. STI stigma is alive and well in the law, and not disclosing your status can have legal ramifications. So, if you’re planning on getting down to frisky business with someone for the first time and you know that you have a chronic STI like HIV, herpes, or HPV, you should plan to talk with your partner about it, because it may affect decisions that you make about barrier methods and other safer sex techniques. 

How to Decide if Sharing is the Right Thing to Do

If you’re on the fence about spilling your sexual secrets, here are some simple questions to help you decide if sharing is the right thing to do (and to what extent you want to do it). 

  • Why do I want to share with this particular person?
    Sexual disclosures aren’t just for the people you’re having sex with. You may also want to talk to your parents, close friends, and medical providers about what you’re experiencing. Sharing sexual information is a vulnerable experience, so go into those conversations knowing why you want to talk to that person about it. Maybe it’s really been affecting your mood, so you want your parents or close friends to know about it. Maybe you’re worried about how it could affect your health, and you want to talk to your doctor. Know what your purpose and intention is for speaking with that person will help you share relevant information.
  • Why do I want to share this information?
    Do you feel like disclosing will help that person understand you better? That the information you share could affect a potential partner’s comfort and consent? Just like knowing why you’re sharing with a particular person, knowing why you’re sharing particular details can help you tailor the conversation to be as positive as possible.
  • Do I feel safe sharing this information?
    Not just physically safe (essential), but emotionally safe. Does the person you’re disclosing to take the time to figure out how they feel before they react, or do they often have outsized and uncontrolled reactions to new information? Do they mock or judge other people? All of those things might shape your emotional comfort and safety, and knowing the answers can help you decide if this person is someone whom you want to disclose to — or not.
  • What do I hope will come out of sharing?
    Once the person knows, how do you hope they will treat you? How do you hope this information will affect your relationship? What conversations will it start?
  • What do I need to share?
    Your story probably has more layers than meets the eye. So, if you decide to disclose, know what is actually necessary for the story and what is extra. Start with the need-to-know points and assess the person’s reaction before you go further. Or, hold onto that extra information for another time when it might be less overwhelming for everyone involved.
  • Am I prepared to answer questions?
    If you don’t feel comfortable answering questions, that’s okay. If you feel comfortable sharing the basics, but don’t want to dive any deeper, let the other person know upfront. You can direct them to resources that might have the answers to their questions, or let them know that you want them to take some space to think before they ask you questions so that you can both have time to be as centered and calm as possible.

How to Share Sexual Information

Now that you’ve decided you want to do the dang thing, it’s time to plan out how it’s going to happen. You can’t plan for every possible scenario — that isn’t how human reactions work, unfortunately — but you can lay the groundwork for a positive and productive conversation. 

Plus, planning can help you feel a little bit more in control of the situation, which can help you approach the conversation calm, cool, and collected. 

Be prepared

This one may seem simple, but remember all of those decision-making considerations we talked about just a minute ago? Answering those questions for yourself can help you know your intent for the conversation, what you plan to share (and what you won’t share), and what questions you will and won’t answer.

You may not always have ample time to consider those things, but if you can make the time, I highly encourage it. Even a small bit of internal reflection, journaling, or talking with a therapist or friend in advance can help ease the anxiety that you may be feeling so that you can head into this conversation ready for (almost) anything.

Whether you’re sharing a sexual fantasy or sharing that you experience PTSD, it’s a good idea to give your conversational partner room to process. Let them know that you don’t expect them to have a reaction or response right now, and you want to give them time to consider how it might affect them or what questions they have.

This is one of the benefits of creating a neutral environment — taking space comes more naturally when we aren’t trying to navigate a sexual context while also taking in new information.

If you do give space for processing, it might be helpful to set a time to checkin with each other. Maybe it’ll be the next day or in a few days, but you want to allow enough space for the person to do research on their own or explore what questions they have without it being so long that tensions and anxiety build up.

Create a neutral environment.

It can be tempting to talk about sex when we’re about to have sex, but really, those conversations should first happen outside of the bedroom. When we have those conversations just before sex is expected to start, we set the tone that we expect sexy time to continue as if no conversation had happened.

The reality is that your partners may want time to process information, ask questions, and so research on their own, and they deserve the opportunity to take that time without pressure to continue onward with a sexual activity.

So, plan for the talk to happen in a space where everyone feels comfortable, like your home or your favorite park. It can be helpful to have a primary activity in place, too. For example, if you plan to talk about it at home, you may plan for it to happen over dinner. Or, if you want to hash it out in the fresh air, you might plan to go for a walk around your favorite park together. In each of those cases, eating a meal or taking a walk are your primary activities.

Having a primary activity planned gives everyone something to do while they listen, feel, think, and process. Plus, the movement can help diffuse nervous energy.

Know your boundaries.

Just as you considered your desired outcomes for this conversation, you should also consider what your boundaries are. Are there questions you aren’t willing to answer? Do you not want to have sex immediately after the conversation?

Your boundaries are your own, just like your partners’ are theirs. Know what yours are before you begin the conversation so you can guide it appropriately and say “I’m not comfortable answering that” gracefully.

Anticipate questions.

The person you’re speaking with will probably have some questions, even if they can’t immediately think of them. Those questions might be along the lines of “How does this affect our sex life?” or “How can I offer you support?” Those are helpful questions.

Unhelpful questions, or questions driven by curiosity, may make an appearance, too. Those are things like “How did you get this STI?” or “Why didn’t you file a report?”. Questions driven by curiosity don’t actually serve a useful purpose, and they can sometimes make us feel shame or embarrassment.

To be on the safe side, anticipate a combination of both — but set your boundaries and be prepared to answer only the ones you’re comfortable with. For the questions you aren’t comfortable responding to, you may want to come prepared with resources that can give reliable information so that the burden of answering isn’t on you. 
Of course, you can’t anticipate everything that someone might want to know — and they may not have any questions immediately, either.

Give space for processing.

Whether you’re sharing a sexual fantasy or sharing that you experience PTSD, it’s a good idea to give your conversational partner room to process. Let them know that you don’t expect them to have a reaction or response right now, and you want to give them time to consider how it might affect them or what questions they have.

This is one of the benefits of creating a neutral environment — taking space comes more naturally when we aren’t trying to navigate a sexual context while also taking in new information.

If you do give space for processing, it might be helpful to set a time to checkin with each other. Maybe it’ll be the next day or in a few days, but you want to allow enough space for the person to do research on their own or explore what questions they have without it being so long that tensions and anxiety build up.

Plan time for self-care afterward.

Regardless of what the information is, talking about our sexual histories can be a high-anxiety endeavor. We might feel worried about being stigmatized or not understood, or we might experience feelings of rejection. On the other hand, we may also feel seen, understood, and supported.

Regardless of the actual outcome of your conversation, if you were feeling worried, stressed, or anxious leading up to it, you should give your mind space to come back down and relax afterward. Plan for some structured self-care, whether that’s time spent exercising, lounging outside, or hanging out with friends. Do what makes you feel recharged and reaffirm that you deserve to feel good.

Talking about our sexual desires and history can be stress-inducing, but ultimately, those conversations also help us set boundaries, ask for support, and show our partners what positive sexual experiences mean to us. And, every time you talk about sex, it gets a little easier to do it next time. That’s how we eradicate stigma and shame — one conversation at a time. 

 

About the Author

Cassandra Corrado is an independent sex educator who teaches at colleges and universities across the United States. Formerly a victim advocate, she mostly teaches on topics related to un/healthy relationships, violence prevention, LGBTQ+ health, and sexual pleasure.

 

This blog pro­vides infor­ma­tion about telemed­i­cine, health and related sub­jects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be con­strued as a substitute for, med­ical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or per­son with a med­ical con­cern should con­sult with an appropriately-licensed physi­cian or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.

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