Talking to your partner about sex isn’t always easy—especially if you want to change things up. In an ideal world, you’d feel free to talk to your partner about anything. Unfortunately, we live in a society that fills our heads with all kinds of hang-ups and roadblocks that can make talking about sex less comfortable than, say, talking about your favorite music.
Think about it. We spend so much of our grade school, high school, and college years learning how to communicate effectively about everything but sex. For some, talking to your partner about abortion rights or gun control is easier than asking if they have a favorite sex toy. That’s because growing up, many of us weren’t given the space to learn how to talk about sex, let alone how to advocate for our own pleasure.
Talking to your partner about sex, and about trying new things in the bedroom, is all about compassionately disclosing your own preferences, desires, and boundaries, and encouraging them to do the same. That’s where we’ll start.
1. Approach With Compassion
Since we’re not often given space to learn and grow our ability to talk about sex, most of us end up getting stuck in ideas and attitudes we learned from movies, TV shows, games, music, and porn. Too often, these sources perpetuate the idea that women’s sexual needs are extra credit—something nice but not exactly the main course. Conversely, the media often reinforces the idea that men’s sexual desires begin and end in a race toward orgasm.
Talking openly about what you want out of sex means challenging these deeply rooted ideas, in yourself and in your partner (or partners), no matter what your gender is. Because we start to absorb these attitudes at such a young age, the part that holds on to them is a young part. That means it’s probably sensitive, feisty, and prone to being easily embarrassed. Have you ever fallen behind in a class? It can feel like that. So you hide it, pretend, and put on an act, but deep down you still have trouble advocating for your needs, curiosities, and boundaries.
No matter where you are on the comfort spectrum, have compassion for yourself and for your partner. Think about where they’re at, think about where you’re at, and approach them with kindness and understanding.
2. Know What You Want to Try
Next time you’re masturbating, pay attention to what really gets you going. What are you fantasizing about (or watching) that you really want to try with your partner? Write it down in a journal, in a note file on your phone, somewhere you won’t forget about it.
Make sure you’re specific. For instance, don’t just write down “rough stuff.” Write down spanking, hair pulling, bondage, etc. The more generic you are, the more room for confusion there is, and the more likely you are to be disappointed. We don’t want that. We want sex to be fun; we want talking about sex to be fun.
3. Talk During and After Sex
One of the best ways to break the ice and get comfier talking to your partner about sex is simple: Talk about sex. Being vocal during, after, and even before sex is one of the best ways to open the door to a world where you talk about sex as easily as you talk about what to have for dinner.
Tell him, her, or them how much you like doing what you’re doing, or how much you like what they’re doing. When you’re lying in the afterglow, mention something you liked. “It was so hot when you,” or “I loved when we.” It’s a good thing to practice because it opens the door to talking about things you liked outside the context of actually having sex.
4. Be Horny
Now that you have a good idea of what you want to try and you’re comfortable talking about sex during sex, it’s time to practice talking about sex outside of the bedroom. Start with little things like sexually charged compliments. “Your arms look so hot when you” or “Your butt looks so good in those” or “From this angle, I can see your,” and just leave it there. Not every horny comment is a prelude to sex; they definitely can be, but it’s pretty fun to just flirt with your partner and let that sexual tension sizzle on the back burner.
5. Pop the Question
Once you’re comfortable giving and receiving horny compliments and you are both feeling some of that ambient sexual tension, instead of giving a compliment, sidle up close and ask them a question. Something like “Would you ever want to do X, Y, or Z to me?” or “What do you think about being spanked?” This way there’s room for a conversation, and room for your partner to say yes, no, or maybe.
The nice thing about talking about it outside of the bedroom is that even if your partner is interested, you’re not in a situation where either of you feels pressured to try the new thing right now, and it can just sit in the back of the mind for a little bit. It’s something you’re both aware of, thinking about, and will probably try pretty soon. Then the next time you start getting frisky, if you’re ready, ask if they are, and go from there.
6. Leave Room for No
If your partner has a boundary around the thing you want to try, talking about it outside of sexual activity means you’re in a sexually open but not sexually vulnerable space to have that conversation. This is important. It’s hard to say no.
Saying no to someone you care about and want to make happy can be even harder—especially for women. Those same influences that give us so much of our early sex education reinforce the idea that women’s pleasure is secondary, and it’s really easy to internalize that without realizing it. That’s not to say that setting boundaries is easy for men either, it’s definitely not, for the same reasons. Leave yourself and your partner room to say no. Even if you don’t get to try the thing you want to explore, you still get to enjoy an all-new level of trust and communication with someone you care about.