Barriers to Good Sexual Communication Featured

Barriers to Good Sexual Communication

Why It’s Hard to Talk About Sex

At some point in life, everyone has trouble talking about sex. Discussing sex can feel awkward to impossible, whether it’s answering a question from your children about sex, talking to your partner about a sexual problem, or asking your doctor a medical sex question.

However, silence about sex keeps us in the dark and can lead to adverse sexual health consequences (which can range from simply having bad sex to acquiring sexually transmitted infections). Silence about the topic of sex also allows us to perpetuate sex myths that rarely match the facts, but ring true in the absence of honest and open sexual dialogue. Keep these common barriers to successful sexual communication in mind if you want to improve your sexual communication skills:

Myths about sex

The myths we are told about sex are a major obstacle to effective sexual communication. Many sex myths lead us to believe that excellent lovers must be mind readers rather than communicators.
Communication does not always have to do with talking, but I can assure you that the ability to communicate about sex is one of the secrets to having wonderful sex. I can also guarantee you that learning to talk about sex is much easier than learning to read other people’s minds.

Sexual fears

Fears of sexual rejection, being ridiculed, and expressing politically or socially “wrong” sexual impulses are important barriers to successful sexual communication. While these fears are often valid, we live in a culture that is quick and harsh to condemn those who do not preserve the status quo, making it difficult for us to openly discuss sex with those around us.

Sex-Related Negative beliefs

With few exceptions, we are all brought up with some negative beliefs about sexuality. These can be very personal (you are told your body is ugly, dirty, or should only be used for procreation) or more general (sex is bad, it leads to immorality, people who have sex end up single, are depressed, etc.). These beliefs act as a strong disincentive to talking about sex. When two people each have their own negative beliefs about sex, the likelihood of miscommunication increases.

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Sex Information Deficit

It is helpful to have some basic knowledge about sex when talking about sex. Unfortunately, the lack of comprehensive sex education means that most of us lack even basic knowledge, which is another barrier to effective sexual communication. If you do not know where to start a sex chat, it’s hard to know where to start.

Lack of basic knowledge about sex makes talking about sex much more difficult, which is related to the aforementioned fears, myths, and negative beliefs about sex.

Sexual terminology

Many of us do not have a proper sexual lexicon when we are young. Accurate terminology for genitals is rarely taught to children, and this extends to sexual activities, orientations, and identities as they grow older. With the increase of sexual content online and in mainstream media, this is changing, but there are still people who find it difficult to talk about sex because they lack the words to communicate what they want to say. It can be easier to talk about sex when you have a basic sexual vocabulary.

It is also encouraging to learn that there are words for how we feel and that others have had similar feelings and experiences.


We are taught that sex is a private thing, so even talking about it requires seclusion.

However, many of us lack privacy, and as a result, our sexual communication deteriorates.
Sexual privacy

Whether you live in a group home and can not lock your door, or you have kids, weak walls, and no money for a babysitter, the fear of strangers overhearing your conversations makes talking about sex even more difficult. In truth, most people just adapt and learn to make the most of the privacy they have. However, if you can get some privacy, both in terms of space and time, your sexual conversations will go a little more smoothly.


One of the reasons it can feel dangerous to talk about sex is that you are “outing” yourself. Therefore, a clear understanding of personal boundaries is often a prerequisite for healthy sexual communication.

Without them, you might say things you do not want to say, or take on more responsibility for the person you are talking to than you should.

Setting boundaries does not happen overnight and is often a process of pushing your limits to figure out what you are comfortable with. Good sexual communication, on the other hand, should never feel like it’s crossing the line.

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

Amie is your go-to gal for all things related to sex and sexual well-being.

A certified sex educator and award-winning sex toy reviewer, Amie has spent her career empowering individuals and couples to embrace their sexuality.

With a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and an ever-growing collection of over 200 vibrators, she's got the knowledge and experience to guide you on your pleasure-seeking journey.

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