Let’s talk about sex

Illustration by John-Ross Boyce

The birds and the bees.

The garden and the watering hose.

The Crock-Pot and the Foreman Grill.

Whatever euphemism one chooses, it all comes down to the same thing: getting around the discomfort of talking about sex.

Actually, the last couple was how my LDS bishop explained the subject to my then-fiancé and me. He sat two adults down completely seriously and compared them to two kitchen appliances found in practically every college apartment. I sat imagining our wedding night and instead of seeing the face of the man I love, I saw the wonder of the George Forman grill, ready to cook my chicken breast within a minute of being plugged in.

There I was on the other side of the bed, hoping I would heat up to lukewarm soon, trying to get around my slow-cooker function.

Effective? Well, the point was made.

What could have been more effective, though, was if the bishop – who, despite this bad comparison, was a really decent guy —had just told us, “Hey, guys and girls work differently in the sack. Keep that in mind.”

He had the right idea though, talking about those differences up front. It is important in a relationship to have that discussion, even a series of discussions, before getting down to business. Not only can the physical differences cause frustration, but one’s personal values and beliefs also factor into how a sexual relationship will work.

According to the Montana State University Student Health Services website, the most important thing when starting a sexual relationship is telling one’s partner what they want from sex. They recommend analyzing where your boundaries are, what you want to do physically and emotionally, and what risks you may be willing to take.

“Ultimately, both partners should be on the ‘same page’ and you won’t know this unless you have the conversation before you start having sex,” said the officials at MSU. Second to the emotional aspect of sex, the health risks associated with it need to be considered and discussed by partners. Using condoms and birth control is a good start, but getting tested for STDs individually or as a couple is the responsible thing to do before becoming sexual partners. Discussing these things early in the relationship – before any kind of sex – prevents unanticipated problems arising after.

Here, though, unless one has had previous experience upon which to build, is where the awkwardness arises: How can one go about bringing the subject up with a potential partner, particularly in a place where a religion-based culture is almost conservative to a fault about the subject?

Talking about it in euphemisms might solve the problem of getting uncomfortably graphic or obscene, but it might seem a little crazy if you segue into the conversation with “You know, all girls have a garden and they need a big hose to water it – or a small hose, as long as it works – and the man takes his watering can and sprinkles it on the flower,” à la the movie Now and Then. Being straightforward about the subject may prove more effective and come with less frustration than an obscure reference from which they are supposed to catch the hint.

What is more, just as “the talk” for teenagers should really be a continuous discussion as they grow, sex should be talked about frequently in a growing relationship. Discuss what is working, what could improve and what one needs to get out of it to enjoy it.

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