In a culture that claims to be sexually liberated, many women struggle to talk honestly about their sex lives. There is pressure to exaggerate positive sexual experiences, as well as embarrassment around sexual struggles. In Christian circles, talking about sex can often feel shameful, even for married women. While there is a wealth of information available regarding how to achieve or avoid pregnancy, accurate information about achieving a full and satisfying sex life is woefully difficult to find. This is why it’s so important to talk openly about sex with trusted friends. As uncomfortable as it might be at first, there is a wealth of wisdom available to us through other women.
“What lubricants are conception-safe?”
“Is it bad if I usually don’t have an orgasm?”
“What kind of foreplay is allowed by the Church?”
“What sex positions work with a curved penis?”
These were just a few of the questions that emerged from a cardboard shoe box covered in pink and purple glitter. The “Question Box” is by far the best thing I’ve ever done at a bachelorette party, surpassing even the mechanical bull on 6th Street in downtown Austin.
The decorated shoebox sat unobtrusively on the kitchen counter next to a stack of notecards. Throughout the day, anyone was welcome to discreetly drop an anonymous question about sex into the box. Later that night, while enjoying a bottle of sparkling wine, we read the questions out loud, one by one, and tried to answer them as a group.
Some of the questions were funny, some were medical in nature, and some were genuinely thought-provoking. There was something almost sacred about a group of women coming together to share wisdom in a safe and supportive environment. It made me wonder why we don’t do this more often.
So, if you’d like to have a candid conversation with your female friends about sex, here are a few key guidelines:
1. Respect Boundaries
There will always be aspects of intimate relationships that are kept between husband and wife. Honest conversations about sex aren’t gossip columns or Cosmo cover stories. They don’t need to be salacious or obscene.
Different women will naturally have different levels of comfort when it comes to sharing personal details about their sex lives. Especially in Christian circles, it’s likely that this will be the first time that some women have shared anything about their intimate relationships. Don’t let curiosity tempt you into pressing for further details aside from what is absolutely necessary. And – this is essential – absolutely anything said in confidence needs to be kept in confidence. Make yourself worthy of your friends’ trust.
It’s also important to keep in mind the other party in any sexual relationship. Men are entitled to privacy and respect, as is everyone. Conversations that devolve into personal criticisms or even mocking of husbands aren’t healthy, kind, or empowering. A fruitful conversation isn’t only geared toward female bonding, but also toward stronger marriages and improved intimate relationships.
2. Be Intentional
Talking about sex can be awkward, especially for women who have been told for most of their lives that doing so is inappropriate. When starting a conversation with your friends, it can be tempting to wait until a moment when it “feels natural,” and then attempt to talk spontaneously. But this runs the risk of catching people off guard, which can lead to embarrassment and shutting down.
What worked so well about the “Question Box” was that it allowed everyone to warm up to the idea of having a conversation about sex. We had time to think about the questions we wanted to ask, and then we created a safe and comfortable environment in which to ask them.
Let your friends know that you would like to start a conversation about sex, and pick a suitable time and place to do so. A girls’ night at someone’s house, for example, is probably more appropriate than a restaurant or bar. Come to the conversation with a few of your own thoughts and questions already prepared, and set the tone for a respectful and vulnerable conversation. If you show that you are open, your friends will be more comfortable to open up, as well.
3. Normalize, Normalize, Normalize
No matter what topics are brought up in a conversation about sex, the most important thing is for women to know that they are not alone.
Many women who were raised in purity culture find themselves surprised by the nitty-gritty reality of sex. Others who experienced exposure to pornography may be surprised to learn just how difficult it can be to experience sexual pleasure.
No matter what the situation, assuring your friends that what they are going through is, in fact, extremely common can go a long way toward lifting the burden.
3. Follow Up
Once the first conversation has taken place, talking about sex will be easier and more natural. Hopefully, you can get to a point with your friends where it is appropriate to bring up sex within a casual conversation.
If you know a friend is struggling with a particularly difficult sexual issue, it’s good to follow up. This may be as simple as, “Hey, how are things going with that issue we talked about?” or “Did you ever visit that pelvic floor physical therapist I recommended?”
A one-and-done conversation is rarely enough to counteract a lifetime of embarrassment or shameful feelings around sexuality. Little by little though, these barriers can fall away. By keeping the lines of communication open, you can create a lasting support system and let your friends know that you really care.
4. Have Fun
Conversations about sex are going to evoke giggles. They’re going to result in a few shocked silences and a little nervous laughter. Allow this to happen.
As long as no one is being laughed at, embrace whatever emotions come up. This doesn’t have to be a deathly serious experience. It can – and should – be fun. Talking about sex will bring you closer to your friends and root you more in your femininity. There is joy in discovering ourselves more deeply, with respect and candor.
So go ahead and pour yourself a cocktail, light a candle, and bring out the snacks. It’s time for a little girl talk.