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Overview

You don't have to wait until someone else mentions sex to talk about it. Take discussions about sexuality into your own hands. Chances are your peers, whether they are friends or sexual partners, have just as many questions and are thinking about it just as much as you are, so most will probably be relieved if you break the ice.

Being open and honest will hopefully encourage others to do the same. Conversations about sexuality have the potential to be educational, inspirational and empowering. Everyone has different ideas about and experiences with sexuality so make sure to acknowledge the backgrounds of your peers. Of course, these discussions may be met with negative reactions at first. Discussions of sexuality can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anger, fear, shame or simply awkward silences. This can be especially true of individuals in communities or populations where sexual behavior is rarely publicly acknowledged. Don't just keep chatting away when this occurs; acknowledge these reactions and pause to address them. For example, your spouse might feel that talking about your sexuality in a new way or talking about topics that have never really been brought up before means that you are implying they are an inadequate lover. They may become defensive or hurt. Acknowledge the legitimacy of these feelings while at the same time reassuring them of your true motives. What if you mention condom use to a friend and they suddenly clam up and become withdrawn or sullen? Once again, pause and acknowledge their discomfort. Say that you noticed their mood change and ask what may have triggered it. Some people may get defensive when discussing issues of sexual health, especially if their past behavior has been less than safe or they feel embarrassed by their lack of knowledge.   Assure your friend that you don't judge them, nor should they judge themselves. Assure them that you are right by their side navigating these issues just like they are. Luckily discussions of sexuality can also bring you closer to your friends or partners, allowing them to express their desires, questions and ideas about sexuality and sexual health.