Sex is hard to discuss. Many people feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or ashamed when the topic comes up in conversation. Some folks think they can talk about sex with anyone but the person they are having sex with.

Your comfort level discussing sex may depend on how you were educated about sex and how your family and peers handled the topic of sex while you were growing up. To work around the discomfort, we feel while talking about sex, many of us learned to talk about it through sports metaphors. We learned to use terms like “getting to first base” or “hitting a home run” to allude to various sexual activities; Ringing any bells?

Euphemisms like these make talking about sex less explicit, but they also reveal problematic beliefs about sex that perpetuate sexual harm and sideline mutual satisfaction and pleasure. When we think about sex as if it were baseball, the parties involved in the sexual experience become adversaries competing in an activity that results in one person winning and the other person losing.

Not to mention, this metaphor is primed for sexist, heterosexual beliefs about sex where assumed consent practices are normalized and male sexual pleasure and orgasm are the mark of a “successful” sexual experience.

Sex educator and author Al Vernacchio addresses this baseball metaphor for sex and proposes a new metaphor in his TED talk (URL at the bottom of page). Vernacchio suggests that “sex should be like ordering pizza.” The pizza metaphor emphasizes consent, communicating before sexual activity, exploring options and preferences, and achieving mutual satisfaction.

The important takeaway here is that language matters. How we talk about sex defines and reinforces what we believe about sex, influencing our sexual behaviors. I invite you to create your own metaphor for sex. What do you want sex to be for yourself and your partner(s)? Which of your own beliefs about sex do you wish to change?

Sex can be anything you want, and the language you use to talk about it can propel you into a more enriching sexual life. Are you interested in unpacking your feelings around sex? Contact us (URL at the bottom of the page) to hear more about our intimacy counseling services (URL at the bottom of the page).


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