Talking about sex can be just as exciting and arousing as having sex. But it can also be intimidating. Despite the fact that we are surrounded by depictions of sex and sexual messages, these popular portrayals are often at odds with our own desires and lived experiences.
Book excerpt from The Ultimate Guide to Seduction & Foreplay.
The bodies, positions, interactions, and responses you see in porn, for example, may not reflect the types of sex you genuinely desire; similarly the storylines, relationships, and connections depicted in rom-coms are unlikely to mirror those you’ve encountered in real life. If you are a person of colour, queer, kinky, consensually non monogamous, a person with a disability, older, and/or fat, your experiences with sex and relationships are even less likely to be acknowledged and celebrated in popular media.
It follows that we have to unlearn commonly accepted sexual stereotypes (and help our partners to do the same).Dr. Jess
This is why talking about sex is essential. Communication is not only a form of seduction (we’ll get to this very soon, we promise!), but a precursor that lays the foundation for more meaningful, fulfilling, and pleasurable sex.
If, however, you are uncomfortable talking about sex with your lover, know that you are not alone. Without exception, we all struggle to communicate our needs, boundaries, preferences, and desires at times. No matter how con dent you are, sex can be a challenging topic to address, as it is both highly personal and socially stigmatized. It intersects with so many other components of our identities, from the political and personal to the social and physical. Even as so-called experts in the eld, we sometimes find ourselves at a loss for words in our personal relationships. But we know we need to push through the discomfort, as these intense conversations are invaluable. They not only have the potential to heighten intimacy and pleasure, but they also improve the overall quality of relationships.
If you are struggling to start a conversation about sex or feel uncomfortable asking for what you want, consider this three-part approach that you can adjust to suit your needs.
- Highlight the positive.
- Ask questions and/or make an offer.
- Make your request.
Highlight the positive and begin with lighter topics. Start by talking about what you already enjoy about your sex life, and offer genuine compliments whenever possible. This initial conversation doesn’t need to lead immediately to requests and critiques and it is not a one-shot deal. You can break the discussions up over the course of several days or weeks so that sex-related communication becomes the norm. Ideally, your comfort levels will increase, and sex talk will become a regular part of your interactions, as opposed to awkward discussions you have when you encounter problems in your sex life. By regularly acknowledging and appreciating the positive elements of your sex life, you normalize sexual conversations as constructive and ongoing, as opposed to reactionary.
Here are a few lines to get you started with positive sex talk:
I really love when you . . .
You are the best at . . .
I’ll never forget how you . . .
One thing that I really like is . . .
Do you remember that time when you . . . ? That felt so good!
The most charming thing you do is . . .
Your __________ is nothing but perfect. You are the greatest when you . . .
I genuinely love your approach to . . .
Asking questions to learn more about your lover’s needs and feelings also improves sexual understanding, communication, pleasure, and seduction. No person is a universally great lover, but a willingness to listen and learn goes a long way.
With most skill-based activities, we receive formal instruction from our parents, teachers, experts, and peers. This learning might include courses, demonstrations, videos, formal practice, evaluation, and ongoing feedback. Sex, however, is an exception. We are expected to engage in hot, fulfilling sex without any formal education and with very few (if any) opportunities for observation.
Most of us have never had the opportunity to watch live, unscripted sex, so we make assumptions about what our partners want based on what we’ve seen in porn. But porn is primarily intended to entertain and titillate and is not produced with educational outcomes in mind. Just as you cannot learn to drive from watching NASCAR or The Fast and the Furious, you will not learn about the diversity and nuances of sex from porn. And you certainly will not learn about what your partner wants unless you ask them.
Some questions to start or continue your sexual conversation might include:
Do you like when I . . . ?
Show me how you like it in this position . . .
What can I do for you right now?
What did you think about that scene in a lm or TV show we watched together?
If I were to seduce you tomorrow, what would you want me to do? Is there anything you would like me to do to make sex more enjoyable for you?
Where do you like to be touched?
What words do you want me to use/avoid?
After you climax, how do you want to be touched/held? What would you like to do after we have sex?
Making offers and acknowledging that you’re willing to consider feedback and make adaptations to meet your partner’s needs can increase the likelihood that they’ll want to do the same. When you admit that you don’t know it all, your partner is likely to follow suit, and expressions of vulnerability—of any kind—tend to bring you closer together.
Sex talk will be easier and more fruitful if it’s a two-way exchange, as opposed to a one-directional lecture. If you are more naturally inclined toward verbal expression than your partner, take a step back and encourage them to open up so the conversations are not one-sided. Listen intently and ask for clarification as needed. Look to yourself first to identify opportunities for growth, rather than asking your partner to change to meet your needs; you will get more of what you want if you focus on what you are willing to give first.
Making requests and setting boundaries will become easier as you become accustomed to highlighting the positive and asking questions, and your comfort level talking about sex will likely increase. Expressing your desires and interests with care and tact can be a challenge, and you can expect your lover to be sensitive to your speech, tone, and body language. If your lover becomes defensive when you make a request, offer reassurance that your requests do not reflect a deficit, but are an indication of your love, commitment, and attraction. You may want to encourage your lover to share their requests first so that you can model receptiveness to their needs.
And always consider how your approach affects your partner’s response. Are you really making a request or are you lodging a complaint? Have you considered how you can make changes (cognitive or behavioural) to meet your own needs first or have you placed the onus of responsibility on your partner alone? Do you balance requests with positive reinforcement and do you ensure that incidents of the latter far outweigh the former? Oftentimes, we become frustrated with our partner’s reactions to our requests without considering how our approach contributed to eliciting their reaction. So if you want something from your partner, ensure that your request isn’t really a veiled complaint or criticism. You have a right to ask for what you want, but you want to be mindful of your partner’s feelings too.
Consider trying these conversation starters when making sexual requests:
I would love more _____________. You are so good at it.
I had a dream about trying _____________ with you, and it got me thinking . . .
I read an article about _____________. What do you think of that?
I have the best orgasms when you _____________.
In an ideal world, I’d like to have sex (however you define it) X times per week. What can we do to make more time/ find a balance?
One thing I’d like to work on is . . .
I would like to explore this type of fantasy. Are you open to that?
Why or why not?
Talking about sex isn’t a one-shot deal. It is an ongoing conversation that can include laughter, tension, and awkward moments. It is the tension and awkwardness that will only intensify passion and attraction later on. So relax, take a deep breath, and start talking! You will be glad you did.
Fill out the following questionnaire on your own in your journal. Notice how you respond to the questions when you read them for the first time. Have you considered these questions in the past, and why might you have avoided them?
Set a reminder in your calendar to revisit your notes in three months, six months, and/or one year. Consider why things have changed over time. Why do you think your answers might be the same or different? Are there any new sexual fantasies that have arisen? Our bodies, feelings, and ideas change over time, so it can be helpful to come back to this questionnaire every once in a while to reevaluate.
- Do you remember the very first time you talked about sex with a partner? How have you changed and grown since that conversation?
- When did you last start a conversation about sex? How did you initiate the discussion and what might you do differently?
- Can you recall a time your partner(s) talked to you about sex? How did you respond? If you could go back in time, how would you adjust your response?
- When do you usually talk about sex? Is there a time that might work better?
- Where do you usually talk about sex? Is there a place that might work better?
- What makes talking about sex easier?
- What holds you back from opening up about sex?
- If you could ask your partner(s) one thing related to sex, what would it be?
- What could you do differently to enhance your sex life?
More Insights: Check out this great article on why sex is good for your health.
Author: Dr. Jessica O’Reilly is a teacher, author and sex educator whose doctoral research focussed on brief interventions designed to improve teachers’ knowledge and comfort level with sexual health education. Her practical relationship advice reaches millions each month and she travels extensively across the globe to work with couples to transform their relationships.