When is OK to talk about being horny?

This year Mashable is celebrating the season of love with Horny on Main, an exploration of the many ways that thirsting for sex affects our lives.


It started as so many stories do: with a bag of Fleshlights in the office.

It was around lunchtime, and they sat out in the hallway by the elevator closest to my desk. As people came in and out, they caught sight of the bag and did a spectacular double take while exclaiming, “Shit, did you see that bag of Fleshlights?”

And, dear reader, everyone had. 

The talk of the Mashable office.

The talk of the Mashable office.

Image: Mashable

At Mashable, casual talk about sex is often part of the job. (Heck, this article is a part of a series called “Horny on Main.”) So it wasn’t that jarring when yet another person strolled in and mentioned the Fleshlights. But the work conversations we have about sex, while HILARIOUS, are usually very professional.

Still, there are times when the personal cannot be avoided — or, even trickier, when you don’t want to avoid it. Our work here often revolves around dating and sex, so it’s somewhat natural to bring in intimate details of our lives. And, on top of that, I’ve formed real friendships with some of my coworkers that carry over outside of work. 

So when you’re buzzed on G&Ts and talking about how you really, really, really want that British guy to text you back, is it OK — in these increasingly sex positive times — to talk about how horny you are? Where do you draw the line between general talk about sex and talk about your personal sex life and desires? 

Conversations with non-work friends, of course, are a little bit more easily navigated than when they intersect with office dynamics. But they don’t always have clear boundaries. Even your most sex-positive friends might have unspoken personal limits. For me, when deciding how deep into my desires I want to get, it’s more a question of who would want to listen to the details? And who would judge me?

The thorny topic of being horny

I’ve struggled with how to discuss horniness since 2015, when I first downloaded Tinder. I was in a new city, still a babe in the woods, and it was something I had never reckoned with before. Tinder taught me a lot really quickly. (Boy, did it ever!) And suddenly I found myself wanting to talk about everything I was experiencing. I loved sex. I enjoyed every minute, and I wanted to share it — and my desire for more of it — with friends. 

I didn’t really know how to do that, though. So, instead I wrote a four-part comic series about my Tinder dates. I drew myself naked, talked about being wet, and explored my most naive moments. It was a way to concisely say, “I enjoy sex and am horny, and I also I didn’t know what an uncircumcised penis looked like until recently.” 

My comics. (All these men ghosted me.)

My comics. (All these men ghosted me.)

Image: Mashable / Vicky Leta

Comics, of course, are quite different than actually talking to someone. You can pick up my comic and put it down if you don’t like it. You can stop reading if you’re uncomfortable. Learning to tell your friends directly that you’re just really fucking horny is something I am still figuring out. So I decided to do a little digging into how other people feel about bringing horniness out into the open and how to handle this incredibly thorny, but also totally vital, topic. 

I took to Instagram for a little outreach. In one story I asked, “Did a friend ever tell you too much about their sex life/horniness and accidentally make you uncomfortable?” In another story, I posed, “Do you limit your talk of sex and horniness to certain friends and peers in your life?”

The questions I posed on Instagram.

The questions I posed on Instagram.

Image: Vicky Leta

When is it OK to talk about being horny?

Image: vicky leta

The answers I got from my followers were a little nebulous, but they all revolved around the same idea: Friends are thrilled to hear a good news sex story, but they don’t like it when it catches them off guard. So basically, as with so many things in life, timing is everything.

The nuts and bolts of chatting about sex

First off, let’s revisit the limits of sexual talk in the office. It’s crucial that before you proceed with any discussion of sex or adjacent thoughts and feelings, you have a thorough understanding of what sexual harassment, power dynamics, and how to steer totally clear of making anyone uncomfortable. It’s never worth taking a risk in this area.

For men it can be an especially delicate line to walk. On Instagram, 32-year-old Greg* told me that he feared how he might come off when talking causally about sex. He said, “The conversational climate today makes me more cautious that talking about horniness would be perceived as… predatory or something?” He added, “Everyone should be allowed to be horny, but responsibly.”

It wasn’t just him, several other men I spoke to also hesitated to talk horniness, especially to female friends. “It’s very difficult for me because I’m horny a lot but I feel like I’m skeezing people out if it’s not, like, two of my guy friends,” said Josh, another of my Instagram respondents.

No matter who you’re talking to, the truth is that there are always layers to the conversation that you need to be mindful of. For instance, talking generally about being “horny” is very different than offering up the lurid details of sexual experiences in themselves. I’m at a point now where my stories aren’t of nameless jabronis from the West Village who ghosted me. My experiences are explicitly with one partner, a partner my friends know well, and I have to be aware that they may not want to visualize in him in his “entirety.”

One person who replied to my Instagram query, Joanna, who is 27, is someone who prefers a limited conversation: “I’m always very supportive and stoked for my friends getting some, but do I need to know exactly what his balls look like? Or where he put a finger? No, I don’t.”

Lindsay, 29, told me that she reserves her talk of horniness for certain friends. “I have two people that I can talk openly about my sexuality with. The reason is because they too are also very open about their sexuality.” She also shared her hesitation to expand beyond her circle of trusted confidants, “Being a woman, I always feel like there’s this shame of embracing your sexuality openly.”

Nichi Hodgson, author of The Curious History of Dating: from Jane Austen to Tinder, told me via email, ”Context is everything — so I think it’s clear that in an intimate platonic relationship with a friend you trust you will reveal things about your sexuality and your inner most feelings, hopes and anxieties and sex is just part and parcel of that.”

Not only is it normal to talk to your dear friends about your sex life, it can also be a bonding experience that deepens new friendships. Sasha, who identifies as asexual, told me “I think friends sharing their stories with me feels like them confiding in me and an exchange of trust. I feel included.”

Read the room

There’s a flip side of including people in sexual discussions. For Sasha, friends talking about sex can also be isolating: “I do find it incredibly lonely to just be an asexual in general in today’s extremely #horny culture where even our jokes and slang now are about being a top or a bottom or a dom or whatever. It’s just a constant reminder that I am ‘not normal.’” 

It can also make people squirm — not in a good way. Kate, 19, told me she was very uncomfortable when one of her friends relentlessly discussed her sex life in public. Kate said, “Despite us not seeming to be enthusiastic about the subject, she kept bringing it up and I didn’t have the heart to tell her to stop since I was happy she was finally in a good relationship.“

Hodgson emphasized that body language can be a clear signal: “If you say you feel horny and someone recoils, freezes, laughs nervously or changes the subject, you’ve crossed a line. Don’t pursue conversations where people don’t offer anything comfortably back. “

She also explained it comes down to how people pick up what we’re laying down. “The problem comes with the fact that many of us are not direct when we try and express our sexual desires towards someone in the first place,” she said, “which means that when some of us talk about sex, other things misinterpret this chat as an expression of our desire towards THEM.” 

Keeping your audience’s experiences in mind is an important factor in having an open conversation with a peer. “Is it appropriate to talk about feeling horny if they’ve just poured their heart out about the person that dumped them? What if they’re having problems at work and are worried about their finances? And what about if you know that friend has been the victim of abuse or sexual harassment?” Hodgson asked. “Think sensitively about the context into which you are speaking and then decide if it’s appropriate.”

She added, “Saying you are horny is no more revelatory really than saying you’re hungry. But if you walked into someone’s kitchen and said you were hungry they might think out of politeness they should offer you something to eat.”

Ask for consent

Ultimately I’ve concluded that, at least for me, the best way to raise the topic of horniness is to directly address the elephant in the room, by simply asking if it’s OK to talk about before I start. After you’re sure it’s an appropriate time and the person will likely be receptive, lay it out on the table. 

It’s also best to make it as easy as possible for them to opt out quickly if it’s not their thing. My dad taught me a great way to pose questions to people who may have a hard time saying no. You say, “I’m going to ask you something, but please feel free to say no.” 

Acknowledging that some friends might not want to hear every detail of your horny life is not a perfect solution. Opting out does not always seem like an option to close friends, but it’s far better to ask than to just barging ahead with a touchy topic.

The best case scenario, of course, if that you’ve found friends who when asked say, with eager consent, “Fuck yeah!” 

Just please don’t tell my dad I co-opted his polite method for talking about being horny. You don’t have to tell everyone everything, ya know. 

*Names have been changed to protect people’s privacy.

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