I’ve got a few questions for you. Consider it a POP (or better yet, a “papa”) quiz.

In my two plus decades of coaching, how many of my clients do you think gushed over what an insightful and great sex conversation they had as a tween or teen with their parents? How many people even had the conversations? Hell, how many humans do you think are having taboo conversations with their parents today, as adults

Uh huh…

And even IF your parents happen to be one of those rarer, awesomely open breeds and had zippo problem talking about sex with you, then, come on, admit it, you were probably still embarrassed or in some reaction to their crossing boundaries or being too {fill in the blank}.

Do you know why? (No, it’s not just because “great” and “tween” in the same sentence is already an oxymoron.) It’s because it wasn’t only our parents who were uncomfortable with the topic – wait for it – we were, too.


We even had to find fault in the conversation and how it was had versus see OUR part in the discomfort. Welcome to us. Watch your step … and theirs … and theirs. We humans certainly are a funny lot when it comes to sex. Mind you, not in the ha ha funny sense, but in the AWKWARD sense.

Think about it: who, and how, are you really when it comes to sex, in and out of, the bedroom? Are you tongue-tied or self-aware? Are you simply curious or fully free? Are you wildly proud of how you are about sex or are you bound and gagged about it? Do you have a drawer or a favorite website or do you pretend you don’t even know what I’m talking about?

Still there?

Okay, to make this investigation (although, at this point, it might feel more like an interrogation!) possibly less awkward for you, I’ve put the levels of how awkward we ALL can be when it comes to sex in scale format.

Why a scale?

Turns out, I’m actually a big fan of scales as they allow my clients, before their very own eyes, to lay out their own evolution and ability to scale up their own thinking. Whenever I invent a new scale, I try and keep the scale broad, general, and gray-ish, so that everyone can easily find their unique selves within it. You see, I find it’s easier for us to cop to where we are about something – especially when it comes to a potentially awkward subject matter like sex– if we just give a number to it, instead of hiding about it or attaching something else to it … like shame or guilt.

Neither of humanity’s greatest go-to emotions.

Before we go through this particular scale, keep in mind (an open one), the only way to truly move up in any of these scales (our goal) is to honestly admit where you are in it in the first place. What the hell, even chuckle about it.

Fine, maybe the joculation is premature…

Awkward Scale

If you’re at the highest level of the awkward scale, a level 5, you’re open, honest, and wholly yourself when it comes to sex and discussing sex with a partner (or anyone, for that matter). In fact, you enjoy sharing stories. You say all, ask all, and honestly and respectfully want to know all. Sexually, you’ve tried anything you’re curious about, have a drawer, masturbate daily if you want, and know what you like and don’t like. You inspire others to be open, honest, and free as well, and recruit for the cause of humanity’s sexual freedom. You’re judgement-free. You can even recognize your own people.

Doesn’t that sound great … I’m not there either!

As you go down (smirk) on the awkward scale, the amount you can talk about sex and are free to ask and know what you want, also diminishes. If you’re a level 3 on the awkward scale, you can talk about sex, but certain topics still remain taboo. You most likely have fantasies, but a good percentage of them remain only in your head. You can only ask so much or tell so much until it gets hugely uncomfortable for you. You can ask for what you want in bed, but in a roundabout way, you know, with a sound or a cute voice. It’s more than likely much easier for you to say, “touch me here,” but you do not dare to step up into full-on director mode, as you worry more about a person’s feelings and your comfort level than the heat. Sure you masturbate, but the topic is pretty off limits. It’s easier to be liberal if you’re high or drunk. The idea of a 10-day seminar on tantric sex sounds pretty close to hell on earth to you.

Or … maybe just me.

At the lowest level of the awkward scale, a level 1, practically anything sexual is a taboo subject. You’re possibly the “everything falls under wrong or right” type. You hardly masturbate and might even still have a hard time just saying “penis” and “vagina.”  You may wonder what’s up with the world that so much significance is placed on sex and think it’s a plague. You may think opting to flatline in this area is possibly better than being hurt, sad, or embarrassed. You may have even turned this stance into something noble.

So really think about it: Where do YOU fall on the awkward scale?

Trust me, I know that most of us fall somewhere in the middle. I just threw as many variations into the scale as I could so you can easily and best find yourself within it. What’s important to remember is that YOU get to define what your own level 5 would look and feel like, so that YOU can scale your own freedom.

For those of you who are already a 4.5 to 5, that’s great. You can help the rest of the world lighten up a bit. But if you’re anywhere lower on the scale, or you don’t know where anyone in your life falls on this scale either, your job is to face it, get talking, and muster up the desire to climb. Because, like it or not, love, freedom, fun, and self-confidence is located on the UP e-scale-ator.

So, how do you get it up?

If you’ve rated yourself low on the awkward scale, you are going to first do a purge and a talkback about sex. Once you’re done with your purge and talkback, you’re going to make a promise to do at least one bold, out of your box action a week to up yourself on the scale. For example, if you’re tongue-tied when it comes to talking about sex, you’re going to initiate at least one conversation about sex with a close friend, your partner, or a sibling, etc. Or if you’re a one-position-only type, or the one way only you can orgasm-type, or you eye roll at how many orgasms your friend can have but you can’t-type, you’re going to fess it up to a close friend, buy a book, read a blog, watch a video, or take a workshop and expand your portfolio.

Personally, I can’t tell you how awesome, not to mention shockingly funny, it was to find out what my hard-to-buy-gifts-for parents REALLY wanted for Hanukkah …

Spoiler alert: PORN.

Imagine, if you will (or are willing), the cackling call my sister Marnie got from my mom, fessing that my dad couldn’t get the VCR (look it up, youngins!) to work in their bedroom, so they had to go into the dinette to watch their gift.


There’s a table in there!



Lauren Handel Zander is the Co-Founder and Chairwoman of Handel Group®, an international corporate consulting and life coaching company. Her coaching methodology, The Handel Method®, is taught in over 35 universities and institutes of learning around the world, including MIT, Stanford Graduate School of Business, NYU, and the New York City Public School System. Lauren is also the author of Maybe It’s You: Cut the Crap, Face Your Fears, Love Your Life (Published by Hachette Book Group, April 2017), a no-nonsense, practical manual that helps readers figure out not just what they want out of life, but how to actually get there. She has spent over 20 years coaching thousands of private and corporate clients, including executives at Vogue, BASF, and AOL. Lauren has been a featured expert in The New York Times, BBC, Forbes, Women’s Health, Dr. Oz, and Marie Claire and she is a regular contributor to Businessweek and the Huffington Post. Click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation with Handel Group.

Image courtesy of Tirachard Kumtanom.