Have you ever wondered how films achieve an air of natural intimacy when producing scenes that involve nudity or simulated sex, especially while working with actors that may not know each other well or at all? Enter the intimacy coordinator, a hired professional that works with actors and directors to cultivate a safe and comfortable environment while ensuring that the director’s vision comes through.
Rebecca Johannsen, Ph.D., is a member of the Intimacy Professionals Association and has worked as an intimacy coordinator on several productions. “A lot of sexual unease comes from the anticipation of the unknown,” she says. “The more I can help bring the unknown into the known, the more comfortable I find that an intimate scene becomes for the performers.”
This strategy often applies to real-life sexual relationships as well, so talking out any uncertainty you may have when it comes to new sexual experiences, like having a new partner or trying out a new position, can help reduce anxiety-based awkwardness. However, even in the most certain of sexual situations, weirdness and awkwardness can still make their way into the bedroom. Here are Dr. Johannsen’s four pro tips on how to handle awkwardness during sex.
Much like cracking a joke can break the ice in an uneasy social situation, inviting humor into the bedroom can lighten up the mood. “Being physically out of sync with each other is one of the ways that seemly awkward things can happen,” Dr. Johannsen says. “But if you’re able to make light of it or laugh at the awkwardness, that can help you embrace the fact that sex is allowed to be funny and enjoy it more easily.”
Offer up some praise
Don’t be afraid to give your partner an honest compliment, especially if you know that they aren’t the most confident or certain about their sexual abilities. “A lot of younger performers that I work with get nervous that they’re not doing it the right way, but there’s no wrong way to do it,” explains Dr. Johannsen. “In terms of performance, you might have to adjust to what looks good on camera, but in life, sex is just about what feels authentic to you.”
Having sex can make people feel quite vulnerable, which can be intimidating! However, normalizing your partner’s sexual expression through honest praise will reassure and help them relax, making the experience less awkward for both you and them.
Pause for a check-in
“I’m a huge fan of slowing down and talking it out,” says Dr. Johannsen. An opportunity for a conversation break might even appear right in the middle of sex and can be an effective way to reset and restart more comfortably. “When you feel like you can clearly understand where a person is coming from and you can be open and honest with them in your communication, that’ll lead to a deeper physical connection, too.
Consider asking your partner how they’re doing or where they are emotionally in case you feel like they could be preoccupied or distracted by something on their mind. Or, you can get straight to the point and ask them about what they’re enjoying and not.
Read body-language cues—and ask questions
If you get the feeling that your partner may be allowing the stigma around sexual discomfort or awkwardness to prevent them from truly expressing their needs and desires, then intentionally zone in on their non-verbal cues for more insight. Even if their words may communicate that everything is fine, there still may be some underlying discomfort.
“You might suspect a hidden issue if they’re saying that they’re fine, but they won’t make eye contact with you, or their body language feels closed-off in any way,” says Dr. Johannsen. Remember not to rush to conclusions and instead try to ask questions like, “I noticed that you’re not making eye contact. I was wondering, why do you think that is?” This will give your partner the opportunity to fill in the blanks in an honest way, which will ultimately lead you both to a more comfortable sexual wavelength.