5 Tips for Making Sex and Birth Control Less Awkward

I recently hit the streets of New York with a big sign that said “Let’s Talk About Sex.” As the granddaughter of a southern woman who avoided even saying the word—she would say ‘seg’ if she absolutely had to reference the act—I had come a long way in finding my sexual voice as I waved women over to be interviewed for a web series. So I’m excited to share a few secrets I’ve learned for discussing sex or birth control with anyone—including your mother and your boo.

Because, seriously, it doesn’t have to be this awkward:

1. Embrace your sexual self.

If you were born and raised on a desert island, you wouldn’t miss your iPhone or know that the Internet exists. But you would still have four natural desires every human is born with: for food, water, sleep, and sex. Part of the reason talking birth control can be awkward is it forces us to acknowledge our own sex drives.

Get comfortable embracing the fact you were born a sexual being—even if that means setting a monthly date on your Google calendar to explore your sensuality. The more you engage with your own sexual identity, the more empowered you’ll be to take charge in and outside the bedroom. There’s nothing sexier than being responsible for your own destiny.

2. Remember, everyone else is sexual too.

Finding out your grandma was called “buttered biscuit” may be a bit much to take in, but the truth is all of our grandmothers had sex! While embracing your own sexuality, remember that everyone else is sexual too. So if your aunt or older sister bring up getting it on or getting on birth control, take it as an opportunity to ask about their experiences. Or feel free to bring it up yourself—they probably have great insight to share.

Now that I’m well into my twenties, my mother and I have more woman-to-woman chats. In one of our conversations a few years ago, we started to talk about birth control. She let me know she got pregnant with me as soon as she took out her IUD. It was an eye-opener that more than 20 years ago she had used a birth control method I had looked into trying myself and I hadn’t even thought to ask to her about it.

3. Use birth control to bond with your partner.

My boyfriend and I have shared many laughs over our adventures in condom buying. There was the time a sales associate announced over the mic that he needed access to the locked condom shelf and the embarrassing moment when I was visiting family down south and stocking up at Walmart, only to have my aunt come over as the sales associate rang up four boxes.

Discussing your body and future is way more revealing than taking off your clothes, so talking with my boyfriend about protecting ourselves from unplanned pregnancy has only increased our intimacy. It also forces both of us to actively contribute to our birth control plan since we know we’d both be responsible for a baby.

4. Break the ice on your birth control convos.

All that said, bringing up sex and birth control isn’t always easy at first. So it’s totally fine to talk about hookup scenes on True Blood or the latest celebrity baby as an icebreaker to transition to your own sex life and questions.

Technology can also be used to your advantage to email or text quick questions. “Got condoms?” is worth the ask before accepting your winter mister’s invite. And remember, if you are comfortable enough with someone to get sexually intimate, it should be okay to ask if they’ve been tested and insist that a condom is used. For more serious talks, you might want to give a heads up beforehand that you want to have a private discussion soon.

5. Find your birth control council.

For many of us, the most important birth control conversation to have is with our health care provider. Make the most of your time together by already having questions in mind and not being afraid to speak up. With my gynecologist, I always bring up things I’ve heard from friends and family to get her perspective, since someone else’s perfect method might not be a fit for me—and their problems may not apply to my individual situation.

And speaking of friends and family, they can be your own focus group on birth control. The next time you’re at brunch or girls night, bring it up. You may be surprised what information you discover and the variety of birth control methods and myths you’ve collectively had experiences with. (Say no Saran wrap!) Why not kick off the conversation by seeing how many different types of birth control each of you can name?

There is no shame in taking charge of your future. And let’s be honest: sex is more enjoyable when you aren’t stressed about a surprise pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection. If the thought of talking about birth control still makes you uncomfortable, click around Bedsider for answers to your biggest birth control and sex questions. One of my favorite features is real women and men sharing their experiences—because we all have a birth control story to tell.


Charreah K. Jackson, relationships editor for ESSENCE Magazine.

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Originally published on bedsider.org.


Kamia C.
Kamia T3 years ago

I still don't understand why talking about birth control would be an issue. If you want to have sex with me, you obviously wouldn't want to have a child when you're not ready, and neither of us would be looking forward to having any STDs, so what's awkward about discussing the issues?

Nimue Pendragon

Weird how this is still an issue in this day and age, the mind boggles...

Nimue Pendragon

Weird how this is still an issue in this day and age, the mind boggles...

Morrigna Pavietre

It is sad how people are ashamed of their own anatomy.. especially women...

Robert O.
Robert O4 years ago

Whatever works and encourages thoughtful discussion.

Scott haakon
Scott haakon4 years ago

The article could be much more than use condom. Big deal. What is necessary is a program that birth control including tubal,esseure and vasectomies are free. Include the male pill or othe birth control as they become available.

Anna Wang
Anna Meng Wang4 years ago


Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

Good info...

Sara Sezun
Sara S4 years ago

The point is to be open about discussing sex with people you know. This makes everyone feel more comfortable about it.

Cat Smith
Cat S4 years ago

I'm not exactly sure what this article's trying to advise. Is it talking to your partner about birth control? Why would that even be an issue? If you're having sex with someone, contraception is part of that (unless you actually WANT to get pregnant or get a disease!). Or is it about talking to everyone around you about birth control, like your friends or your granny?! Birth control should be a normal part of life for people having sex, and not something to be embarrassed about. I'm just not sure how helpful this article is.

Anne G and Tara B, I agree the article makes untrue general statements like "everyone is a sexual being", but I don't think they were trying to marginalise asexuality. After all, the article is on birth control which is something people only need if they are having sex, thus it doesn't affect asexual people which is why they're not mentioned. It would be like if the article was about "5 Great Recipes for Oranges", it wouldn't be dismissing or erasing people who don't like oranges but rather specifically aimed at people who do.