Photo: Rekha Garton
Sex is something that's difficult to ignore in our lives because it's everywhere in our culture; it's reflected in magazine and TV advertising, fashion, music, TV series and movies. You'd think we would all be open, relaxed and comfortable with it, but often the opposite is true.
In fact, many people find it extremely difficult to talk about sex; it can be a sensitive and awkward topic that raises feelings of embarrassment, shame or inadequacy.
Given all the negative messages that most of us received about sex when we were young, this shouldn't be a surprise. Unfortunately, a lack of sex education means most of us don't even have relatively basic information. In our society sex is just not an acceptable topic for conversation. To be silent about sex keeps us ignorant and it's vitally important that we talk openly about sex as a society, preferably starting at school level.
Sexual communication involves a degree of risk by talking about sex with our intimate partners; we can become vulnerable to judgment, criticism or sometimes rejection. Revealing your sexual wants and desires to your partner can be scary, especially when your partner's reaction is not positive, which can make you feel ashamed or humiliated. There is also the fear of hurting each other's feelings.
Many of my clients tell me that they think that they are the only ones who find it difficult – they believe most of their friends are having great sex lives.
We are led to believe that sex is something that comes naturally and we should be instinctively good at it, which just isn't true. We are taught from a young age how to perform most basic human tasks and when older, we learn how to study and get a job. But we are just supposed to know how to have sex. In reality the key to becoming a good lover is to have good communication with your partner.
Having sex is an extremely intimate act; we can feel very vulnerable and uneasy, and find it difficult to have a dialogue. Fear of rejection, not performing well enough, body insecurities or anxiety about disclosing an unusual sexual desire can stop us from communicating freely.
Therefore, talking about sex is the only way to have better sex. Educate yourself more; books, magazines and videos might help you get to know your way around female/male sexual anatomy, sexual positions, techniques and so on.
Avoid looking at porn which gives us a very unrealistic vision of what sex is about.
If you don't have the right sexual vocabulary, your communication will be much more difficult. Expressing appreciation to your partner is critical for him or her to feel confident.
You may find that increased intimacy can result in a more passionate and connected relationship. Sex is important; it energises a relationship, restores intimacy and can make each person feel desirable.
Researching this subject I came across a TED talk presented by sex educator Debby Herbenick from the Kinsey Institute of Sex, titled Make Sex Normal. By "normal" she means making sex, bodies and gender, ordinary parts of every conversation. She believes if people are more comfortable talking about sex, they will be more in touch with their own sexuality and be able to discuss their sexual likes, dislikes and boundaries with their romantic partners.
Herbenick says: "Too many of us don't know how to talk about sex and sexual health on a personal level, with partners, our children, physicians or friends. As a result, relationships and health can suffer and important information doesn't get to the people who need it.
"We need to make sure that people, especially young people, have access to good accurate information, and we need to promote tolerant, inclusive attitudes towards everyone regardless of their sexual preferences or orientation."
She would like to encourage people to talk about sex like "it's not a big deal"; and I can't agree more.