We Asked a Sex Educator Why Talking About Sex is So Awkward

Sex is everywhere, but talking about is still so taboo. Here’s how to begin to change that.
Gianna Bacio - woman with long wavy hair, wearing a mesh leopard print top and jeans and posing in front of a pink backdrop
Photo: Xenia Bluhm

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

Gianna Bacio makes a living doing something most people are uncomfortable with: talking about sex. And she’s been doing it day in, day out for the past 13 years, especially on Instagram and TikTok

Today, great TV shows like Sex Education have begun demystifying the topic, but we’re still very far from comfortable and positive discussions about what we like in bed. We asked Bacio why that is and what we can do about it.


VICE: Hey Gianna. When was the first time you talked about sex?
Gianna Bacio:
I was 4 years old. I was sitting in the back seat of my parents' car, playing with Barbie and Ken, when Barbie said, “Ken, let's fuck!” That's how my family still tells the story to this day.

People hate talking about sex, but for you, it seems fun.
I've always enjoyed it. I remember an evening with my friends, I was maybe 19 or 20, where we met up with plans to go out later. I just threw the question out there: “What do you do with the sperm after having sex?” 

Some friends found it totally gross and shut it down, but I thought it was an important question. I wanted to share my experiences and learn from others. Maybe I was just oversharing. 

Why do people get so embarrassed?
Shame is a crucial part of embarrassment. The ability to feel shame is innate, but it’s only later that it really kicks in with socialization. When children hear, “Yuck,” “That's gross,” or “Stop that,” they become insecure. Talking about personal preferences is considered shameful in our culture, just as opening your mouth in public is shameful in Japan, for example.

Does shame have any positive connotations?
Well, if we look at evolution, yes. For humans, group survival was crucial and bodily responses like blushing signal: “This is uncomfortable for me.” Today, it’s become unnecessary in many situations, though. 


So shame gets in the way of good sex. But it's only part of the explanation, right?
Yes, during sex, we are usually naked. This vulnerability should not be underestimated when talking about sex. We make ourselves vulnerable, we reveal something about ourselves. Plus, sex has long been considered forbidden and dirty. And that’s even more the case with female pleasure – we’ve only begun openly talking about it in the past few decades.

Why is that?
We haven't come very far in terms of gender equality. While there has been a revolution on women’s rights, the Church – which has had a huge influence in Europe for many centuries – made sex and masturbation taboo. Today, few people are religious, but we still don't learn to talk about sex.

Who should teach us? Parents? Teachers? The internet?
Parents, of course, are role models. People often ask me: When is the right time for sex education? I think there doesn't need to be a big moment. If you talk about sex openly, you'll notice when a child develops their curiosity. Then they’ll ask questions, and you can answer them.

You have a young son. What questions does he ask?
My son is almost 5 and is very curious. He sees many books at home dealing with the body. Recently, at the library, he held up a book about bodies and said, “Look Mom, you like these kinds of books.” Of course, he knows what I do for work and asks many questions.


What should schools teach about sex?
I was recently in a classroom and could feel the embarrassment. It manifested as a lot of giggling. But it was even worse in the teachers' lounge, there was even more giggling. 

The problem is, in school, you only learn how to protect yourself – whether from pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. The joyful, positive aspects of sex are rarely discussed.

In one of your Instagram posts, you wrote that good sex can be learned. How?
There's this assumption you should just be able to have sex, that it's innate. Either it works, or it doesn't. Some believe they just need the perfect partner. That's mostly nonsense.

I believe that if you’re willing to put in the effort, you can have good sex or a good relationship with anyone. You have to educate yourself, experiment, communicate, and figure out what pleases you.

How do you start doing that?
You have to get over yourself, of course. One strategy is to dive into the deep end. For example, you can say to your partner: “Hey, let's sit down tomorrow at 6PM and talk about sex.” This involves revealing intimate details, stating your own needs, and discussing preferences.

How do you even find out about your preferences?
That's not easy. Our attention and thoughts often focus on the other person and what they like. It can be worth asking yourself: Where do I want to be touched? What makes sex good to me? Opening up isn’t easy. People often message me about it.


What kinds of messages do you receive?
Sometimes women write to me that they've been faking an orgasm for years. They ask me: “How can I now say it was never real?”

What do you advise them?
Well, either they live with the lie or they overcome this hurdle. Often, I sense a desire for change in these messages. But you have to do something about it. It's probably awkward to talk about sex for the first time. But I promise: It gets easier over time. 

What helped you?
Repetition. And therapy.

Therapy isn’t always accessible, nor is jumping into the deep end. What else can you do to talk more about sex?
Perhaps with a game. Then, there's an external entity raising questions and stimulating reflection.

Are these topics harder for men or women?
Often for men.

This sounds like a stereotype, but unfortunately, men talk less and are less open. When they do talk about sex, it's more about performance. They don’t frequently ask themselves what they would like.

Not talking about sex is bad, but having sex without your partner’s consent is worse. How can we communicate more clearly about that?
Here we are again with the question: What do I like, and what do I want? It helps to listen to your gut feeling. When we don't want something, we notice it, and we should trust ourselves. If we don't, we also harm our self-esteem and confidence because we betray ourselves.