Sexual Communication for Queer Women, Femmes, and Gender Non-Conforming People: Top Ten Tips for Being Loud About Sex in a World that Wants to Keep You Quiet
We live in a world where, more often than not, the voices that are valued are those that come from cis men. Society allows men to have a commanding presence and it validates their assertiveness. They can say what they please and generally don’t get called bossy, or demanding, or needy for blatantly laying out needs. For everyone else, silence is thrust upon them. Women, femmes, and gender non-conforming people (WFGNC) are often not taught to speak up for themselves and they experience pressure from the world around them to be passive. This can come into play at work, in the social sphere, and in romantic and sexual relationships. Even in Queer relationships, which often supersede the boxes others place people in, socializations can sometimes hinder you from expressing sexual needs and concerns, and it sometimes affects more than one partner. If this hits home for you, keep on reading for some quick and dirty tips!
Tips for Being More Outspoken, Both Before and During Sex, About What You Want
Many WFGNC people struggle with this regardless of sexual orientation, though it may be especially pertinent to baby gays or those who have had sex or also still sex with men.
- Let go of expectations. Queer WFGNC, especially if they share the same body parts as you, are sometimes expected to automatically know what to do in bed. Having these expectations can prevent conversations about turn ons and feel good things, and then potentially create an awkward situation if one partner’s moves don’t work for the other.
- Have “Kitchen Table Talk.” Discussing sex outside of bedroom in neutral settings allows for clearer communication due to a lack of distraction. Initiating these conversations might feel weird, but your partner should be understanding. If someone isn’t comfortable talking to you about sex, there are other problems there that need to be worked out first. Also, feeling nervous to have conversations about sex is okay, and you can actually use disclosure of your anxiety to initiate the conversation, i.e. “I want to talk to you about sex, but I just wanted to let you know I’m feeling a little nervous about it.” You can also use articles or social media posts you read to start a sex talk, i.e. “I read this interesting article the other day, and I was hoping I could send it to you and we could talk about it!” It could be something about sexual communication (like this one), or something about turn ons, or sex tips, or really anything related to sex and sexuality. When each partner is aware of the others’ needs, positive consequences ensue, such as higher satisfaction.
- Have sex talk foreplay. As Queer people, we all know that the common definition of foreplay as all sexual activity besides penetration is eye-rollingly terrible. Because of that, I created a new definition of foreplay—any behavior that arouses you and/or your partner(s) that you participate in before initiating sexual contact. This can include talking about sex and is especially great for people in earlier stages of dating or hooking up. Talking about turn ons and things you like about sex can be really hot in the right setting. Perhaps you’re laying on the couch together and they’re lightly stroking your arm, which gives you goosebumps. You can then bring up how light touch like that really turns you on; then let the conversation progress naturally into more explicit desires and needs. This can also be accomplished through some steamy text messages. Having a sexy talk about what you like in bed when you’re not with someone can really build anticipation for when you do have sex.
- Be affirming while having sex. It’s often easier to tell a partner that something does feel good, rather than when it doesn’t. Always reinforce actions that work for you with sounds and words. Keep that same energy if they do something that doesn’t work for you, though. You can start moving your hips in the direction you want them to go, use your own hand to guide them if they’re using their hand or a toy, or say something like “You know what I really love? When you do insert sexy thing here, it really gets me going.” Also, set a good example by asking them questions about what they like and checking in to make sure that things feel good for them. Hearing you be explicit about caring about their pleasure might nudge them in the direction of being able to ask you about yours.
Tips for Navigation Gender/Body Dysphoria and Trauma
Conversations about sex become especially important if one or more partners experiences gender or body dysphoria or has experienced sexual trauma. Trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals often have unique relationships with their bodies which may affect how they like to be touched and what sexual practices they will participate in, and certain sexual activities can be triggering for people that have experienced sexual trauma.
- Ask before. These conversations should preferably begin before anyone takes their clothes off. If you’re having sex with someone you just met there’s less time to accomplish this, but it’s still possible. Simply saying something like, “I want to make sure you stay turned on and stay in the moment, is there anywhere I shouldn’t touch you, or any specific words I should use when referring to your body?” Sometimes people are unsure of how to exactly communicate their needs, so make sure you’re not putting pressure on them to provide you with information they may not be able to. If they can’t answer your questions fully, just let them know that that’s okay, and that you’ll figure it out together. You want to be affirming of your partner when discussing sex and bodies, not triggering.
- Check in. Sometimes things that trigger dysphoria or activate traumatic memories may change throughout a sexual encounter, so it’s important to keep checking in. These questions don’t have to be awkward or ruin the moment, especially if you frame them around really wanting to please your partner. If they then tell you they don’t like something, you can keep the mood up by asking what to do instead.
- Take the band-aid approach if you have dysphoria or past trauma. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable with someone by having sex with them knowing it might intensify dysphoria or trauma is not always easy. Expanding that vulnerability by initiating a conversation about it can be even less easy. The band-aid tactic is often the best one—coming right out and saying, “I need to let you know some stuff before we have sex.” If you can, be direct with your boundaries. You don’t have to give an explanation if you don’t want to. Similarly, informing your partner if they do something that triggers you during sex can be difficult, and you may not have exactly the right words. That’s okay. “I’d like to stop now,” and “I want to do something different” are complete sentences. Whether it’s before or during, if they get weirded out, annoyed, or act dismissive, chances are they aren’t a good match for you in bed.
General Sexual Communication Tips
- Sexual communication is active and ongoing. Most people have heard that consent is active and ongoing, and of course this is true. Consent is a part of sexual communication, though, and the active and ongoing nature doesn’t stop at consent. Sexual communication happens before, during, and after sex. Remembering this and remembering that sexual communication can be neutral, serious, or sexy, (depending on the context) can make it easier to initiate when you need to.
- Practice makes perfect. The more you have sexual communication the easier it gets. Is it going to feel weird at first? Yeah, maybe. It’s kind of like sex, in that way. It’s not going to be perfectly smooth the first few times you do it, but it’s going to get way better and much smoother as you do it again and again.
- If you need to, rehearse. We all know the old cliché of practicing in front of a mirror, but sometimes it works. You can also rehearse with Queer friends. Personally, I find this to be much more comfortable than asking a non-Queer friend to help you. You don’t have to get graphic with it the way you would with a partner (unless of course you want to), but just saying words out loud to another human who’s experienced similar things can be better than just using a mirror.
Be loud. Talk about what you need. Have a presence. Don’t be afraid of growth and change. Lastly, go forth and have awesome Queer sex.