The Talk: How to approach sexual interests


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Shot of a happy young couple talking together while lying in bed

Editor’s note: This is part 6 in a weekly series called “The Talk.” This series goes into topic areas relating to sex and culture that some may find sensitive in nature.

For centuries, talking about sex has been seen in some communities as inappropriate, leading some people to become uncomfortable discussing their sex lives and their own sexual interests. Conversations surrounding sexual interests can be beneficial to individuals, partners and others.

According to Science Direct online, a sexual interest is, “The type of person (or thing) and/or type of activity with that person that is most likely to provoke sexual interest and arousal.” Science Direct also notes that many people assume our sexual interests are a choice but “in fact we do not choose what we find most sexually arousing.”

Sexual interests can be as simple as having a preferred gender for sexual relationships or being interested in people with a specific hair color or body type, but interests can also go much deeper. Allure online discusses some of the most popular types of sexual interests, such as impact play, also known as BDSM, which includes many forms of consensual striking. Another type of interest is role playing, a safe and healthy way to live out fantasies. While these two are some of the more popular sexual interests there are various types of interests, some less known than others.

“A sexual preference is just a particular sexual desire that a person has. It can be for a specific kind of person, for a specific object or body part or a specific behavior,” said David Wahl, sociology graduate student and assistant teacher.

Wahl also added a quote by Kenneth Plummer, professor in sociology at the University of Essex, which is, “Nothing is sexual but naming it makes it so.” Wahl explained how this quote points to how it takes a person naming a specific act or statement as “sexual” for its intended meaning or purpose to actually be a sexual one.

Some may be uncomfortable in situations when the discussion feels overly sexualized. One way to avoid this is to hold a conversation about sexual interactions or interests in an opinion and fact based setting, not making the conversation itself sexual.

“Dialogues about sex in our normal social circles are so restricted that it’s hard to learn anything. Get online, read some books, talk to people, try to hold judgment. It’s freeing,” said Aaron Kirch, junior in mechanical engineering and president of the Cuffs club.

Being able to discuss sex and sexual  interests in a social setting is important because it can not only educate others, but also opens a safe place to talk about topics that are often seen as taboo, giving people an opportunity to feel heard and less awkward about their own experiences and interests.

“People should be able to communicate with their partners or potential partners about what they like without fear of shame or stigmatization,” Wahl said. “Without that open communication, relationships are sometimes ruined or people live in relationships wherein they are never sexually satisfied.”

Wahl continued to explain people are uncomfortable about their sexual desires out of fear for being shamed.

“No one wants something they are interested in sexually called out as being ‘weird,’” Wahl said.

An open mind is important in a sexual relationship, especially when it comes to your partner’s interests.