How to Talk About Sex with a New Partner, According to Porn Stars

Communication is key.

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Dec 7 2018, 10:07am

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If you want to have good sex with a new partner, then you have to talk about sex. That goes for both relationships and one-night stands. Sure, some of your former partners may say you’re a sex god. But what worked for them, may not work for everyone. And chances are neither you nor your partner is a mind reader; even if you’re good with non-verbal cues, you may be missing out on more of your partner's wants, needs, and willingness than you’d imagine. As such, while you may get lucky while getting lucky now and then, all too often a lack of communication about the deed beforehand can lead to ineffective fumbling or quiet frustrations. So ideally sexual partners of any sort ought to talk about their sexual desires, expectations, boundaries, not to mention their sexual health status and current contraceptive options early. And those in long-term relationships usually benefit from talking often about how much sex they want, issues they encounter, and changes in their desire.

Unfortunately, talking about sex can feel awkward or scary for all too many people, whether in a one-off encounter or a long-term relationship—it can be an act of vulnerability that opens us up to the risk of deep pain or shame. Even those willing to give it a shot might not know how to talk about sex without coming off as demanding, critical, or (they might fear) depraved. What should be talked about, exactly? How much communication is too much? What is the best way to broach all of this in the first place?

A number of sexual health resources and publications have developed guides on talking with a new, or established, partner about sex. Many of these tutorials contain solid advice for those in doubt, especially when it comes to how to set up the conversation: Don’t spring it on someone who is totally unsuspecting, and try to plan out what you want to talk about beforehand. Use “I statements” and express desires, or make requests, rather than criticizing or demanding. Treat sexual conversations as a skill; accept that you might start out a little awkward, but that you will get better at having them the more you practice candid communications in general.

Some of these guides, though, can feel broad or clinical, and, by extension, vague. For those who want a more detailed (and explicit) primer on how to talk about sex, and how to have great sex, especially with a brand new partner, VICE recently reached out to some consummate pros for insights: adult performers.

Porn, to be clear, is a terrible guide to open, honest sexual communication, mainly because the characters within its fantasies almost never talk about their needs and idiosyncrasies. Instead, most porn reinforces the concept that we should all be able to instantly please a partner, reading their minds or exercising universally desired and effective sexual skills and tricks.

Those working in the adult industry, though, engage in candid sexual conversations all the time. Off screen, says trans performer Kimber Haven, porn stars acting with a new partner “discuss boundaries, likes, and dislikes, as well as stances on dirty talk and limits and so forth.” They also share, says male performer Lance Hart, “no lists.” “Everyone has something they prefer not to happen” in a scene, he says. “I don’t like deep throat blowjobs,” he adds as an example. Others no lists might include off-limits body parts, actions, or types of improvised dirty talk, he says.

Communication is especially important when setting up fetish scenes, filmed or live. “Whenever I’m about to have a scene with a new person,” says dominatrix Goddess Lilith, “I ask all of the basic safety questions: Are there any health issues, physical restrictions or mental health issues to be aware of? Then I get a little more in-depth and ask about things like pain tolerances, key phrases that could trigger them either positively or negatively. Things they really enjoy. Hard limits. And of course, a safe word or action they can use to communicate during the scene.”

This frequent practice often makes those in the adult industry, Goddess Lilith argues, uniquely aware of the importance of sexual communication, especially with new or short-term partners, and well versed in what needs to be covered. Their insights may not be relevant to everyone, given how diverse human sexual desires, and the contexts in which sex can occur, are. But a handful of performers recently shared a few thoughts on sexual communication with VICE that should act as a useful (and detailed) starting point or general guideline for many people.

What are the biggest barriers most people face in trying to talk to a partner about sex?

Goddess Lilith: Shyness and embarrassment. These are normal feelings everyone has.

Kimber Haven: The biggest barrier is society’s programming that makes people believe sex is nasty or something to be ashamed about… Most people [are] too worried about what their partner will think, so they suppress their [desires], and choose to be with a non-sexually compatible partner instead of sharing their [desires] with them.

How can people move past those barriers or inhibitions to talk about sex more openly?

Goddess Lilith: The only way to get through it is to just bite the bullet and be an adult. Just do it. Life is too short to not get what you really want, in bed or otherwise!

Lindsey Leigh : Change the preconceived notion that sex is dirty. Sex is a part of life.

Lance Hart: Accept that if you aren’t honest, you’re going to have trouble. The less desperate you are to have the sex, the more likely you are to be honest.

Kimber Haven: Talking about sex is like any other skill. It’s something you get better at and more comfortable with the more open about it you are. [Also] if you ever get a chance to attend a fetish party, I advise you to do so to observe all the people having fun in a judgment-free zone, able to be their sexual selves.

Goddess Lilith: Remember: If [honesty] doesn’t work out, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Better to be honest in the beginning and have someone accept you for who you are than have to reveal some big [sexual] secret later!

When should people start talking to a partner about sex? And how can they go about broaching the subject, especially if they feel nervous or embarrassed about doing so?

Kimber Haven: Sexuality needs to be discussed openly before it gets to the good part. Hell, I make it a discussion on the first date. Why bother talking over dinner and seeing if you have chemistry if you’re not sexually compatible? Discuss it up front and they will either be into it or not. But at least you won’t live a sexually unfulfilled life with someone. If you have a special someone already, open up. Let them see your freaky side…just go slow.

Goddess Lilith: Check in with your partner and their comfort levels from time to time. They’re going to tell you what they like, and that’s going to make your chemistry together even hotter!

Lance Hart: The trick is context. If you can frame a conversation with acceptance and open mindedness first, it’s way easier. Get your partner talking about ways they are proud of themselves for being open minded. You might find a window after that.

Goddess Lilith: If [talking about sex] in person is tough for you, another way to speak openly with less pressure is through text, or on the phone. When getting to know someone, a lot of it is done in these ways anyway. Just choose the method that is the most comfortable for you.

What are the first things partners absolutely need to bring up in a sexual discussion?

Goddess Lilith: First and foremost, any sexual health issues should be spoken about honestly. It’s not always a fun part of a new relationship, but it’s absolutely a necessity to play safe. If you have a communicable STD and don’t tell your partner, there’s a special place in hell for you. If there are any other odd quirks with your body—let’s say you’re that guy with two penises—you’re going to want to be up front about that before you get down, too.

Lance Hart: The first thing to talk about [in a relationship] is how much either person wants sex. There’s a lot more to relationships than sex. But if you need sex like five days a week, they need to know. If you only need it once or twice a week, or less, they also need to know, because they might want it more. If you don’t sync up there, someone is going to always be chasing and someone is going to always be having sex they don’t feel like having. It’s OK, but maybe look at other ways to scratch the itch. The person who doesn’t need sex as much better be OK with the other person getting off to porn or going to massage parlors. Otherwise, someone is going to start lying.

Do you have any other general advice when it comes to talking openly about sex, especially with a new partner or for those who are particularly nervous about it?

Kimber Haven: Working in the adult industry has made me see most [people] as horribly sexually repressed. It’s sad that so many could be enjoying sex more if they communicated their desires to their partner. Trust a porn star, guys and gals, your partner wants to rock your world. You just need to tell them how. Because we are all different and have different switches. If you don’t tell them how to turn on yours, not only are you denying yourself, it’s unfair to them, too.

Goddess Lilith: There are, indeed, very unusual fetishes out there. But radical acceptance of sexual perversions is at an all-time high. It really is one of the best times to be alive. I would recommend any anyone reading this just be straightforward.Usually, the truth eventually comes out anyway. Why not just skip all the unpleasantness [of hiding] and cut to the chase so you can start having more fun right away? A new relationship is like a brand new, clean slate. Take advantage of it! Otherwise, the quality of the relationship can, and will, suffer.

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This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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