If you’ve struggled to ask for what you want sexually or aren’t even sure what to aim for, you are far from alone. Kait Scalisi, MPH, founder of Passion by Kait, grew up in a household where no conversation topics were taboo, but conflict was. She now helps others find freedom in pleasure.
I loved explore these topics and how to truly get what you want in bed (or wherever you wish to play!) for this week’s Girl Boner Radio episode.
Stream it on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify or below! Or read on for a lightly edited transcript.
“Getting the Sex You Want, with Kait Scalisi, MPH”
a lightly edited Girl Boner Radio transcript
By many folks’ standards, Kait Scalisi is an anomaly, as far as what she learned about sex growing up. Throughout her youth, her mom encouraged open communication about most everything, including sex. Kait is now a certified sex coach, educator and founder of Passion by Kait. And she’s passionate about inspiring the same for others, who didn’t have a similar upbringing.
Back then, that openness about sex didn’t just benefit her.
This was such a gift to me and my friends. And, you know, I can remember my friends turning to my mom to talk about boyfriend problems and things like that. She was the mom – I hate saying this, like she was the cool mom, right? [laughs]
But I think what’s also really interesting here is that alongside the openness around topics that were really taboo—because it wasn’t just sex, right—it was money, the whole suite of taboo topics, were just totally fair game in my house. And that was really cool.
And alongside that, though, I also heard messages about fighting in relationships and what fighting meant, and how fighting, any fighting was bad. And you’d never want to fight and conflict was bad and how do we avoid conflict at all costs?
And so on one hand, I was able to avoid a lot of that overt external shaming, right? Because it was, you know, “if you want to start having sex, we’ll go get birth control. It’s not a big deal. Just let me know. What questions do you have?” Me asking her what a boner was in the car after church when I was in like fourth or fifth grade. Like that was all welcome.
And then there was also this quite extensive conflict avoidance, to use a more jargony term, which is one of the things that I as an adult have really had to unlearn in my romantic partnership but also in my friendships and in work relationships and everywhere that conflict is not inherently bad.
You know, I totally understand where that perspective came from on the individual level. But I think it’s also worth naming that kind of on a systemic level. That’s a very white perspective, like white WASPy need to like avoid conflict, keep the peace, instead of understanding that when we are debating or arguing with someone it can be and isn’t always, right, not always, it can be just another form of communication, another avenue of sharing needs and desires. And sometimes it’s the only way we’re heard for better or worse.
And so on one hand, I had really open communication. On the other hand, I didn’t have a great role model when it came to navigating conflict or having strong boundaries.
As you can imagine, all of that set Kait up for positive and challenging experiences. One of her earliest sex-related memories encapsulates both:
So when I lost my virginity, if you will—my sexual debut, the first time I had PIV—I actually kept it hidden from my friends, not because of shame, though, right, which would be the typical reason someone might not share that information. But because there is friend drama. Who knows why there is friend drama? It was high school. But like, I didn’t want to rock the boat by introducing this new piece of information that I knew would rock the boat.
So while I was really open about like talking with my partner about sex and having sex, and, you know, throughout the course of our relationship deciding at what point we would want to have that type of sex and other types of sex, that felt really easy to me. I was really clear on like, “Here’s what my boundaries are. Here’s what I want, here’s what I don’t want.”
At the same time, I wasn’t willing to rock the boat by sharing that information with people because there’s already conflict in the mix. And that was just going to add more conflict.
And I look back and I have so much tenderness for that younger version of myself that kind of lacked those skills and they’re skills that, really, I’ve only started learning and developing in really recent years…and they’re hard. They’re hard, just the same way that talking about sex is hard.
One thing Kait hears frequently from clients is some version of, “I’m an adult. Shouldn’t I have figured this out by now? Why is it so hard to talk to my partner about sex?”
But if we’re never taught something, and we never see a role model, and we’re told that like great sex should just happen and their partners should be mind readers and like conflict is bad and fighting means your relationship is bad and these big blanket statements, then how the hell are we ever supposed to learn how to do it without the help of people who know, who do know how to do it, right? And the advice and wisdom and practice. We just can’t.
I recently asked my email list subscribers what they would most like to experience sexually that they haven’t and what, if anything, stands in the way. Several people replied that they don’t know what they want. They know they want better, to expand their sexual repertoire. But that’s kind of…it.
Kait said she runs into this a lot with her clients. So much of the advice we hear about communication is “you have to ask for what you want.” But as Kait pointed out:
You can’t ask for what you don’t know. So you need awareness first, before you can have communication. If you aren’t totally sure, that’s when you can turn to anything that can inspire you, right, with ideas for sex. So this can be things like romance novels and like pornography. Audio porn is really popular. Different types of erotica, romance novels—you know, pick your flavor—there’s something out there for everyone within those realms.
This can be doing some self mindfulness masturbation and exploring for yourself. You know, what is this body I have in this moment enjoy? What types of sensations does this body want more of?
It can be doing that exploration together. And I would say from the folks that I see, it’s like a 50/50 split. Some people really like to explore on their own and that’s where they feel safest and freest. And some people really much prefer to have their partner with them. It’s a little bit more efficient, they feel safer and freer.
She also pointed to Yes, No, Maybe lists as a useful tool for figuring out what you’re interested in, not interested in or curious about.
And it’s literally a checklist of sexual things that you can do. And it exists to inspire people, right, for when you don’t know. You have literally a checklist that you just go through and you check mark off to see like, Oh, you know, and I hadn’t thought about that. But you know, maybe I am into being spanked. Or like hmm what body parts do I want you to nibble?
Kait said that the important thing is finding what works well for you, given your life, your body, your relationship structure, your trauma history and more.
In the email survey I mentioned, I noticed several themes from folks who do know what they want to add to their sex life. The first that stood out to me was some form of anal sex. If you’re curious about trying some kind of butt play and want to bring it up to a partner, Kait suggested this:
The first piece is, you know, getting clear on what is, what type of anal play are you looking for and honestly, doing a little bit of research.
And one of the things that I encourage people to do is to think about, like, how does your partner learn and receive information best? Are they a facts and figures person? My partner is. Do they, like, want research studies and expert articles? Or are they just like, are they game to go along with whatever? Are they more interested in personal stories?
Perhaps doing a little bit of research. And this could be research on your own or maybe the ask is, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about this… Can we do some research together?” Thinking about how they learn best and receive information best.
And with anal, particularly, there is a lot of negative messaging here. And so it may help to think about, what are some of the negative messages you’ve received about this sex act? And what are some that your partner may have received, right?
So if we’re talking about something like pegging, where a cis male would be receiving anal penetration of some sort, there’s a lot there, right? There’s a lot to unpack there. So if you could kind of think, in advance, what are some of the things that might be present in the conversation, on that almost subconscious level.
There are, you know, men out there who would say like, “No..that makes me gay.” But I’m guessing as listeners to this podcast, [laughs] we’re probably not getting too much of that, right? But on a subconscious level, when you’ve been fed those narratives from basically the time we all were born, that’s going to be present in the conversation. So what can be brought to light, kind of on your own, in advance, that you can think through.
A few other people told me they want to experience some type of threesome. One person said an all-female threesome, another said male-female-male sex. Another said they’re nervous about bringing it up to their partner because they’re pretty sure they wouldn’t be into it and it might not land well.
So, so much to unpack. We can’t know without asking. And I also recognize, again, that asking can be really vulnerable, and that sometimes it may feel better to exist in that space of well, if I don’t ask, I can’t get rejected.
So one thing I really want to stress is that at the end of the day you have the autonomy to bring something up or not bring something up. But be honest with yourself around the pros and cons of each.
So this person, if it’s something they really want and it may lead to like resentment building up in the relationship in the long run, it may be worth taking that risk and asking, right? And thinking through, okay, if my partner says no, then what? Something that can be helpful, too, is if you have a friend, that you can, you know, share some of this with and then they can support you.
Within a relationship, you ask your partner for something like a threesome, and it’s really feels important to you. And if they say no, that can bring up a lot of feels, and your partner may not be the best person to support you in those feels. But you deserve to be supported in them. Anything that feels really vulnerable it’s kind of like, who else can you have on your team to be with you and to offer you support?
If you don’t ask and you don’t try, you’ll never know. You can do a lot, though, in advance of thinking through like what are some of the boundaries that you want to have? What are some of the hopes that each of you have out of this experience? And how can you take care of each other in the moment and after the fact?
When you have a desire that you’ve been thinking about for some time and you haven’t talked about it yet, it can start to feel increasingly high-pressure. Even when that’s the case, Kait said, it’s important to know that sharing a desire doesn’t have to be this huge confession. Let’s say you’re like another listener who said they really want to experience multiple orgasms.
It could just be like, “Hey, I really want to try for multiple orgasms the next time, like for two the next time we have sex. Would you be game?”
And most of the time, what I have found is partners are pretty game for a lot. And people are pretty game for a lot more than than we may think or give them credit for because that’s how shame operates, right? Shame wants us to stay silent, shame wants us to stay in our little boxes and our sticky webs and not say anything. We also don’t want to dismiss that a partner might be like, “Yeah, no. I don’t want that.”
And so how do we kind of plan for the worst and hope for the best? How can you plan to take care of yourself and your relationship? And how can you hope for and try for “Hey, you know what? Let’s see what happens.” Right? And I think another way that this particular scenario could go is maybe as soon as Partner A has their orgasm, Partner B is like, Cool, great. It’s time for me to go. So maybe restructuring in how you’re having sex might be supportive.
Sex is limitless is what just popped into my mind. There are so many different ways to play and be physically intimate and sexually intimate and have fun and pleasure together that there’s room for everyone [who wants to try new things to try new things].
That made me think of Stella Harris’s work and the recent episode here on threesomes. There are so many ways to delight in whatever your desires are. If you want to engage in a threesome and your partner doesn’t, for example, you could think about ways to bring in the element of a threesome that most gets you excited. Is it being watched? Maybe you could try web-camming together then, or filming yourselves having sex. Is it having another physical body? What about a sex doll or virtual reality porn? Fantasizing together or alone can also go far… Brain studies have shown that thinking about sex can be equally stimulating as physical acts for many people. For some folks, that’s even hotter.
Another common piece of sex advice is this: Don’t bring up your desires or concerns when in the heat of the moment, aka, during sex. And that can be helpful to keep in mind for certain situations. But it can also be hot, fun and helpful to talk about sex during sex. As Kait pointed out, the level of complexity matters.
Something more complicated like a threesome, right, like bringing additional partners in, not the greatest thing to talk about in the moment, when you’re like full of endorphins and naked and having fun together, right? Something like a new position can be something that gets brought up in the moment, right? And it could be, you know, “Oh my gosh. Can we try flipping.” Right? Or whatever it is.
And it also can be something that you may want to talk about with your clothes on, if you will, right outside of sexy times. And I would just think about, again, like, how do you like to communicate? How do you like to receive communication? How does your partner like to communicate? You, right?
I have some clients who are like, “Yeah, my partner like much prefers for like if just in the moment we try something new.” That wouldn’t work for some people, right? That doesn’t work for everyone. I’m particularly thinking about folks who have a history of sexual violence, like just switching things up in the middle of the moment without talking about it might not go so well. But there are people that that works great for.
You know when it comes to sex, there isn’t just like a normal or one right way. There’s just more and less common and what works best for you. And all of these tips, all of these tools are about taking you, which you know, best right? You as an individual. You have lived your life. You know yourself best. These are like an additional layer of expertise and guidance. And the magic really happens when you blend those two together, right?
So when you take a suggestion for a conversation starter and you use your own language. When you take an idea, like flipping the position in the middle of the moment, and say, “Ooh, hey, you know what? Actually, I think that’d be really hot.” Or, “Ooh, you know what? I think that might be a little triggering for me. And that’s, that’s just not going to be great.”
And I think with all of these, side-by-side conversations can be really great when you’re bringing up vulnerable stuff. In the car, on a hike, sitting next to each other watching TV, although TV, it can be really easy like if you’re on a couch to just like turn towards each other but it creates a little, teeny tiny bit of distance in a good way, right? A little bit of extra room for that vulnerability.
So that’s the other thing with all of these is, you know, that can be a little bit of an easier way to bring something up, especially, you know, if you’re driving, if you’re hiking, if you’re doing stuff like that. It’s like, “Oh, look at the pretty trees! Oh, look at that car. It has a really cool license plate.” So there’s just other things that are there that can just be like, “Oh, yeah, see? It’s like totally not a big deal. Like, how cool that cloud is? And also, would you like to try anal?” [laughs] Or, “Hey, that cloud looks like a butt what do you think about butt stuff?” [laughs]
When I asked Kait to share a communication tip that she feels is especially underrated or too seldom explored, she pointed to context. Sometimes it makes sense to talk about butt stuff during a road trip. And other times, sex is the last thing that makes sense to bring up.
Context matters. If you are coming at the end of a long day, and you are tired and stressed and your capacity is already zero—you’re out of spoons, if you’re someone who’s familiar with Spoon Theory—it’s not a great time to dive into a conversation that’s vulnerable and scary and big because you’re going to be operating from that place, right, from a stress response. And/or potentially from a more trauma response place, right, depending on you and who you are.
You’re not going to be in a place where you can really bring your best self, where you can kind of mind and take care of yourself as you’re having this conversation. And so the context in which you have the conversation matters almost as much, if not more—I would actually argue more to be perfectly honest—as the conversation itself. Just like with sex, right?
Heck, I was just running errands before we had this call and as I was walking through the parking lot, I got asked if I would like to learn how to speak Spanish from someone catcalling me outside of their window, right, their car windowIf I came home and my partner was like trying to be handsy with me, “Eew, no, thank you.” Because I’m still carrying with me that like just like icky experience.
What I often say with sex is like when you walk through the bedroom doors, the rest of the life and day doesn’t just like fade away and disappear. If you’re feeling shitty, that can come with you. And there’s a lot of things you can do to kind of help create that context but kind of in terms of the high level advice that I think doesn’t get talked about enough or gets talked about in a really limiting specific way that leaves no room for individual agency and/or preference.
I’m a little heated here. You asked me this question. You knew I was gonna get heated. [laughs] It’s like it has to look a certain way. And it’s like, no, it has to work for you and your partner. [claps hands] That’s all it has to do. And so don’t ignore the context.
You know, I think about that old adage of don’t go to bed angry. And I’m like, don’t disrupt your sleep. If you got to go to work the next day and school, and whatever, you can call a timeout. It’s okay to call a timeout, as long as both people, right, like, both gotta call the timeout. And I think that’s the same here. It’s like, it’s okay to reschedule the conversation if you need to.
Kait also stressed that feeling nervous about having sex conversations is common and to be expected, if it’s new for you. Everything new can feel daunting at first. But awareness and preparation, doing the research she talked about and aiming for the best context can go far. And if you’re really struggling with it, seek professional support, if you can.
You can also learn from Kait and her team at Passion by Kait. They’ve created a bunch of resources to help you get better at communication about sex and more. One new offering is called Six Strategies to Fix Failed Conversations About Sex.
This was inspired, again, by hearing more and more like, “Every time we try to talk about sex, we end up fighting. Someone’s feelings get hurt, someone’s crying, someone walks away.” The group of clients I was working with around late 2020, like the hot topic was communication. If they were even having the conversation, it was going bad, like they were going badly.
And to be really honest, I was experiencing a similar breakdown in my own relationship, right? The stress of the pandemic, my personal health issues.
There was kind of all of a sudden this just like wave of couples arguing. And every helping professional, every therapist, coach, etcetera, who works with couples was saying the same thing. And what I realized, right, so we were, my partner and I, my clients, like everyone was just more on edge, more snappish less patient.
And as we began to figure out, okay, where was the conversation going downhill? What was happening that was causing that, where in the past maybe it wouldn’t have done that? Or in past relationships that didn’t do that?
And as we began to make these small tweaks to the how of the communication, right, what happened was we all started having more fun with our partners again, right? Like there was new, deeper levels of love and intimacy. Other issues, sticky issues, as they came up, became much easier to navigate and much less fraught. Resentment began to dissipate. And sex became more fun, adventurous and satisfying, right? Communication changed everything.
And so I wanted to share some of those tips and those methods with everyone, [laughs] with the world, if you will, right? Because there’s again, and we’ve talked about some of them, particularly the context piece. Again, it’s, it’s lit– often these little things that can make a big impact. And it’s like if you could just shift the teeniest little bit of energy, it makes a big impact.
Kait told me she’s committed to making the tools her company offers practical and powerful, because we all live beautifully full lives. So she hopes you can find 30 or even 10 minutes a week to set aside to work on these practices with a partner.
To get access to the PbK Guide to Getting the Sex You Want and more resources, visit passionbykait.com (k a i t).
[a few bars of upbeat, acoustic music]
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