If You Can’t Talk About It, You Probably Shouldn’t Be Doing It

I was browsing sexuality forums recently, and saw somebody giving the advice: “If you can’t talk about it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.” This notion intrigued me, so I decided to explore it further, considering how being able to verbalize one’s desires and actions can impact one’s sexual experiences and health.

First, there’s your sexual health to consider. If you’re not comfortable going to a doctor and saying “I have some red spots on my ___,” then you should think about whether you’re comfortable letting a potential partner touch your ___. We all have bodies, and any of our body parts might malfunction at any time due to accident or disease, so being able to name a reproductive body part without any shame is an important part of maintaining your overall health.

There are other obvious instances where your ability to talk about something (or not) is an indication of whether you should be doing it. Cheating on a committed partner is hurtful and is not socially acceptable, so it’s no surprise that people don’t say things like “Well, I guess I’ll go cheat on my wife/husband today.” Secrecy, in this instance, guards a destructive intention. In other cases, being close-lipped can take away from the overall experience. It’s irrational to believe that your partner should psychically anticipate your every want and need, so refraining from telling them what you want isn’t helpful.

Granted, a lot of people grow up with some sense of shame or secrecy surrounding their bodies. Nicknames are used for genitals… and the endearingly childish words like “pee-pee” and “wa-wa” probably won’t cut it in the bedroom. Thus, it’s important for sexually active adults to have a working vocabulary for body parts, their own and others’, as well as the actions that are sexually desirable to them. Using wordplay or slang is fine so long as it’s not so esoteric that the meaning will get lost.

What it comes down to, I think, is that both in relationships and in sex, you should be comfortable putting everything into words that you might consider doing. If you’re not comfortable talking about penetrative sex and its consequences, then don’t do it yet. If you really can’t bring yourself to use a word to describe someone’s genitals, then perhaps you shouldn’t be inserting/sucking/whatever-ing those genitals. I know I’m using a lot of “nots” and “don’ts” in this post, and I do believe in framing discussions constructively, so maybe we should be thinking in terms of desire as a presence, not as a lack: what DO you want? What CAN you verbalize? If you’re comfortable with your body and your desires, then the sky’s the limit!

Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. Follow Jeana, the author of this post, @foxyfolklorist.

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.

  • Ellie

    This is a great idea! And of course it reminds me of Arrested Development: “The mere fact that you call it [sexual relations] tells me that you’re ready.”

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    Ha. Haven’t seen the show, but that’s an amusing encapsulation of the issue.