Asking for what you want in bed can improve your sex life and build your communication skills. Keep reading for our sexpert Steph’s five best ways to work out what you want and top five tips on how to actually ask a partner for it.
Importance of Asking for What You Want
1. You Deserve What You Want
You deserve to have great sex! It goes without saying that sex is supposed to be enjoyable for all parties. Sex shouldn’t be more pleasurable for one partner. Bad sex is not something you have to put up with. Your pleasure is your responsibility, not your partner’s. The sex you’re having should leave you wanting more, and everyone deserves to finish (pardon the pun) with that feeling.
2. Sex Can Always Get Better
Couples sometimes assume sexual incompatibility means the relationship should end but don’t actively try to work on it. Sex can always get better if you talk about it. Sexual communication is important in long-term partnerships as well as casual relationships. Even if it’s a one-night-stand and you think you'll never see the partner again, you deserve the freedom to give feedback that makes the sex better!
3. Everyone Likes Different Things
Sex is an assumed skill, but in reality, it takes practice to learn about how someone’s body works and responds to sexual stimuli. Everyone has different sexual interests, so every time you have sex with a new person, you are essentially having sex for the first time. Part of sexual communication is learning to take feedback from a partner on board without having it shatter your ego. Try to be grateful your partner feels safe enough to share how they feel, it’s a sign of a good relationship!
4. Don’t Settle for What You Don’t Want
Sexual communication is not only asking for what you want but also feeling confident enough to tell a partner what you don’t want. People with vulvas and people in minority groups are more likely to water down their wants and needs due to power imbalances in relationships and culturally induced shame. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable speaking up, especially to minimise the risk of sexual coercion or unwanted pain during sex. It can feel difficult and awkward at first but the more you practice sexual communication, the easier it becomes.
5. Build Relationship Communication Skills
Learning to ask for what you want sexually is good practice for communicating about other sex and relationship topics such as STI status or the dreaded “What are we?” question. Talking about sex and telling your partner what you do and don’t like sets a foundation of communication within your relationship more generally. When approached with care, expressing how you feel and setting boundaries with a partner will improve your sex life.
How to Work Out What You Want
1. Get To Know Your Body Through Masturbation
Self pleasure allows people to learn about their bodies in private and then transfer that knowledge into partnered sex. Pay attention to how your body feels when you touch it and what it responds well to. Work out a pace or rhythm that works for you. Focus on embodied pleasure: being 100% in your body and fully feeling its sensations.
2. Diversify Your Sexual Knowledge
You can learn a lot about different ways to have sex through media sources such as TV series and movies, pornography, audio erotica, or erotic books. Try a genre you wouldn’t normally go for and see how it makes you feel. Start a conversation with your friends about their least and most favourite parts of sex. Through talking, watching, listening, and reading, you might learn about new sex acts or positions that you never even thought of trying.
3. Start Viewing Sex as Play
Sex is essentially just playtime for adults. Instead of viewing sex as something with a script that starts with kissing and ends with a (typically male) orgasm, start thinking about sex in terms of play. Give yourself permission to play the way you really want to play. Dream big and ask yourself, “If I could have anything in the sexual world, what would it be?”, or “What is my ultimate sexual fantasy?”.
4. Experiment With Different Partners and Sex Acts
Another way to work out what you like is by trying a whole range of new things (or people). If you haven’t already had a “hoe phase”, perhaps it’s time to (safely) connect with that side of yourself. Everyone has sex in different ways, and you might learn something new from a new partner. If you’re in a monogamous relationship or don’t want to find any new partners right now, you can still work out what you like or dislike by reflecting on past experiences and asking yourself what made them good or bad.
5. Use the Red, Yellow, Green System
People in the kink community often use the red, yellow, green system to work out their sexual boundaries, but it’s a good activity for everyone to try. Write a list of red sex acts (things you would never do), yellow acts (things you would be willing to try in the right context), or green acts (things you love and are often down to do). A list like this can reduce the chance of someone suggesting something new in the bedroom and being rejected, because the couple can just stick to yellow or green sex acts.
How to Ask For What You Want
1. Have a Chat Outside the Bedroom
Rather than springing a new idea on your partner during sex, have a discussion beforehand. Choose a safe environment where no one feels vulnerable (e.g. not when someone is naked). A one-on-one dinner or a dog walk could be a good place to start the conversation. Talking in a non-sexual context gives your partner time to think and react before incorporating the tips or trying something new.
2. Focus on ‘I’, Not ‘You’
Choose your words wisely to avoid triggering insecurities in your partner or suggesting that you’re unhappy with your sex life. Frame your discussion around what you want in the bedroom, not what you think your partner isn’t doing well. Rather than “you never spend enough time on the clitoris during oral”, phrase it as “I really enjoy clitoral stimulation during head and I would love it if we could incorporate more of that into our sex life”.
3. Be Specific About What You Want
Being too vague with your feedback might not result in your desired change. Using unclear language might give your partner the impression that you’re not happy with your sex life in general, when in reality there are probably only a few things you want to change or add. When talking about receiving more clitoral stimulation during head, for example, make specific suggestions such as “I like a lot of pressure on the clitoris but a slow, sensual pace”.
4. Show, Don’t Tell
If the idea of verbalising your likes in person or online is still something you struggle with, you could try showing your partner how you want to be touched during sex. Put on a little show for them and demonstrate the way you normally touch yourself during self pleasure. If they’re comfortable with it, move their hand to where you want it, or adjust your body to a position that hits the spot a bit better. Don’t shy away from audible and visible signs you are or aren’t enjoying yourself; for example, making sound when they’re doing something right or changing it up when you’re not really vibing (we don’t fake orgasms around here).
5. Unleash Your Desires During Sexting
If you don’t feel confident talking about your wants and needs in person, do it online! Sexting is the one sexual context in which it's safe for people to ask for what they want in future sexual scenarios because there’s no pressure to actually do anything in the moment. For example, telling someone you want to have sex in the shower is not only a turn on during the sexting but actionable feedback that can be put into practice next time you have sex.
Go Forth and Get What You Want
Now that you know the reasons for communicating what you want, the tools to find out what that is, and tips for actually doing it, it’s time to put it all into practice. We give you permission to ask for what you want! You deserve it.