Talking about sex with friends is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, being able to be open and honest about sex is critical to developing a healthy relationship with your sexuality. And sometimes you just need advice from your friends. On the other hand, your sex life is usually something you have in common with a partner a, and they don't get a say in what you reveal to your pals. When you think about one of your partners sharing information about you it makes you think twice about divulging all the juicy details to your friends, right?
Illustration by Jim Cooke.
Here are some etiquette guidelines for talking about sex with your friends.
Talk About Yourself All You Want
Feel free to share anything that relates only to your relationship with your body or your sexuality. For example, telling your friends you're having a hard time orgasming, or you're struggling to keep an erection, or are curious about an exhibitionistic fantasy — all fair game. Talking about your own sexuality (while keeping your partner's privacy in mind) with your friends will help you forge a stronger relationship with your own body, needs, and desires, and will probably help your friends examine their own sexuality too.
Remember the Golden Rule
Of course, it gets more complicated when you want to talk to your friends about something relating to your your partner. I'm going to get into specifics about what information should and shouldn't be shared, but the Golden Rule can be remarkably effective in helping you make your own decisions. Just ask yourself, "Would I feel comfortable if my partner shared this information about me with their friends?" If the answer is yes, go ahead. If it's no, it's probably best kept private.
Be Clear on Your Motivations
Why you want to share something with your friends matters, too, especially when it comes to sharing personal information about your partner. If you're genuinely struggling with something and in need of advice, it's understandable that you'd want to talk to one or two of your most trusted friends about it. If you just want to vent about your frustrations, you should think twice about how much to share. It's not fair to your partner's privacy. If you want to share something simply because it's scandalous or unusual, keep your mouth shut.
A few months ago, I was at a large dinner party where a guest I had just met loudly and boisterously talked about having sex with someone with a micropenis. This person's friends goaded them into telling "the story," so it was obvious that this was a tale that was repeated often, and for entertainment. Sharing intimate details in these types of situations is just cruel and unnecessary. Remember, there are real, living, breathing, human beings attached to the other end of these stories.
Keep Your Partner's Body Off Limits
A good rule of thumb is to not divulge any intimate details about the parts of your partner's body that are typically covered by a swimsuit. We're talking things like penis shape and size, inverted nipples, pubic hair style, labia colour or length, or genital odor. Keep that information private.
This is especially important for bodies that don't fit stereotypical "norms", like micropenises, enlarged clitorises, or enlarged breasts in men. If your partner is intersex or trans, but not publicly open about it, absolutely do not share that information with other people.
Performance Issues Should Be Private
Performance issues related to your partner's body should also be kept under wraps. Examples include:
- If your partner struggles to get or maintain an erection
- If your partner can't orgasm, or takes a really long time to orgasm
- If your partner orgasms too quickly
- If your partner isn't good in bed
This is very personal stuff that most of us don't want other people to know. (If you're in a situation where you need advice about how to manage your partner's performance issues, and other questions, I address that later.)
Be Cautious With Another Person's Sexual Desires
If your partner seems at all hesitant about sharing a fantasy with you, it's probably best to keep it private.
Share the Compliments
Anything complimentary is usually fine to share. Does your partner have amazing oral technique? Are they creative with sex positions? Share away! If it's a compliment related to the aforementioned body stuff, try to take the feelings of your partner into consideration.
If they're a very private or conservative person, they probably don't want all your friends knowing that they have the perfect penis or the most glorious vagina. If they're more open, those kinds of compliments may be OK to share. Just try not to go into too much detail. It's a compliment to share that your partner has a great arse, but it's weird to get into details about the colour of their anus and tightness of their rectum.
Ask for Advice in a General Way
If you want to ask your friends for advice about your sex life, try to keep it general. Focus on your response to the issue, and try not to share too many personal details about your partner. For example, let's say your partner isn't very good at giving you a hand job, and that tends to be your preferred way of having an orgasm. Rather than divulging that your partner doesn't know what the hell they're doing, you ask say something general, like, "How do you show your partner what you like?" or, "When your partner is giving you feedback, what's the most useful way for them to share it with you?"
Sometimes you can even pretend that you're talking about hypothetical situations. Let's say your partner shared that they have a threesome fantasy, and you're not sure what to do. You can tell a friend you stumbled across an article about threesomes, or have another friend who just had one, and open up a conversation that way.
If your friend pries for details, you can always be clear and say, "I don't want to share anything too personal about Steve. It's not my place to share."
Leave the Ultra-Private Stuff to a Professional
I'm obviously biased here since I'm a sex therapist, but if you're having a serious issue with your partner, I think it's best to talk to a professional about it. Your friends, unless they're very wise and deeply private, probably aren't going to be able to give you the most helpful advice about how you can help your partner overcome their early ejaculation issues. You might feel better venting about your sexual frustration for a few minutes, but any benefits will probably be outweighed by the guilt of sharing something so personal about your partner. If you want your sex life to change, see someone who is actually trained to help you do so.