How easy or difficult is it for you to talk about sex? Do you feel comfortable with starting a conversation about whether you want to have sex with your partner, or whether you would rather like to wait? Or, could you initiate a conversation about protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and birth control? Being able to talk honestly about sex can certainly be called a skill, and it is one with a high degree of difficulty.
There are at least two forms of sexual assertiveness, which are important for anyone to consider. The first includes telling a current or potential partner what you expect and want in your sexual relationship. However, saying openly and clearly what you desire can be hard: What if your partner interprets your request in the wrong way and sees it as criticism? What if you feel embarrassed about what you wish for?
A second and maybe even more important form of sexual assertiveness is reflected in the understanding that you do not have to have sex unless you want to, that it is not okay for anyone to touch or kiss you if you do not want them to, and that you do not have to do anything sexually with which you are not comfortable. So, for me, being sexual assertive means to state with assurance and self-confidence what you want and even more important what you DO NOT want in a sexual relationship.
Though I know we have various reasons why we do or do not want to say no. We might not want to disappoint our sexual partner, be afraid that they think badly of us, or that we jeopardise our relationship by stating our thoughts. Hence, and to make thinking about sexual assertiveness a little easier, I thought of a couple of guidelines that might be helpful in establishing our own power to say what we want:
- First of all, understand that you have sexual rights and most importantly the right to say NO. If you feel uncomfortable in any intimate situation or are not ready to do whatever you and your partner are thinking of doing, know that you can refuse sexual contact at any time regardless of how aroused your partner might be. You have the right to have your wishes respected.
- Try to think of and identify the ideas and beliefs that keep you from speaking up. Maybe you are under the impression that asking for a condom will kill the mood or that starting a conversation about STIs will scare your partner away. If you are aware of your beliefs, you can start replacing them with others that will encourage you to express your needs.
- Understand that there is a difference between being assertive and not respecting what your sexual partner desires. Therefore, when talking for example about what you do not want, you should acknowledge what the other person is feeling, clearly state which activity you do not want to engage in, and explain your reasons. For example, your partner might want to engage in sexual intercourse without a condom. Because you do not want to take the risk of transmission of STIs or pregnancy you do not want to agree to their request. By explaining your thoughts, you are validating your partner but simultaneously express your wishes, beliefs, and rights.
- A thing that I feel is one of the most important aspects of assertive communication is to say what YOU want. For instance, “I don’t want to have sex right now” as opposed to “You are pressuring me to have sex with you”. In my experience your request is much more likely to be heard if you state it as your request. Nevertheless, I’d urge you to speak up however you can! A simple no can be all you need.
- One last thing you might want to consider is discussing your sexual views, experiences, and desires with your partner before you actually engage in any kind of sexual activity. Being assertive can be much harder in the heat of the moment.
By being sexually assertive you do not only have the skills to tell your partner what you want but can express what you do not want – you have the power to say NO. Unquestionably, sexual assertiveness is a difficult skill to acquire but onCE established you will be able to protect yourself against STIs, unwanted pregnancy, or unwanted sexual advances.
AND, You will be able to enjoy sex for all its beautiful aspects.