EROTIC MAGAZINE FOR WOMEN AND COUPLES » Sex Tips and Insights » Sexual communication: a practical guide on how to talk about sex

Perhaps the most common piece of sex advice offered online (or anywhere else, for that matter) is ‘communicate’. We’re told that communication is key, and that is definitely true—not just in sex but throughout relationships as a whole. But rarely are we given advice on how to talk about sex. Living in a society where we’re discouraged from talking about sex can mean that when the time comes to actually communicate in the bedroom, many of us struggle to understand exactly how that should be done. This sex talk guide aims to take you through some key tips for better sexual communication with specific examples that will help you to have those conversations with your partner in ways that are not only fun but sexy as well. Here are some practical tips on how to talk about sex.

Communicating before sex: understanding and exploring your desires

One of the steps that is often missed when discussing communication in the bedroom is the important foundational one: understanding your own desires. Naturally, most adults have some idea of our inclinations—if we’re into power exchange, we know whether we might be dominant, submissive or switch. If we’re into dressing up, we’ll also probably have an idea of the kind of clothes we’d like to wear (latex? Lingerie? Nurse’s outfit?). However, articulating your own desires in detail can help you explain them better to a partner, as well as understand how to ask your partner about their own.

One of the most useful practical tips when it comes to communicating your desires is to use some basic ‘how/what/why/where/when’ questions to drill down into the details of fantasies. Think about not just what you want to do but why you want to do it, who might be doing it to you, how exactly they’re doing it, etc.

Let’s take bondage as an example. If you have always fantasised about being tied up, ask yourself a few of the following questions:

Why do you want to be tied up? Are you being tied and restrained so that someone can tease you? Or are you being restrained as punishment? There’s a big difference between restraint as a precursor to sex and restraint as something that is done to you so you can be whipped or spanked. This leads neatly into…

Who is tying you up? Perhaps the bondage is part of a more involved role-play scene—maybe you’re imagining your partner as a faceless kidnapper or authority figure who has captured you and is holding you while you await judgment or punishment.

How do you want to be tied up? Do you want to be bound in a way that encompasses your whole body (like shibari-style bondage where your body is a canvas for the rope as art), or are you happy with being restrained just at the wrists and/or ankles, because the point of being tied is to have something you can struggle against?

With what do you want to be tied? Does the tactile sensation of rope add to the pleasure for you? Or do you like the idea of being restrained swiftly and decisively, with something like bondage tape?

It might also help to run through some of your top sexual fantasies that feature this activity. Are there any common themes that emerge? Perhaps, when you run this scenario, you’re always tied to a bed or restrained face-down, maybe you’re usually tied to something while bent over. There are lots of possibilities.

The great thing about this practical communication tip is that once you’ve performed this exercise for your own fantasies, you’ll have a great grounding in how to ask your partner about theirs. The next time they raise an idea like “I think I’d like to try spanking”, you’ll now be well-versed in the kinds of questions to ask in order to tease out the details of how they’d like to be spanked, and why.

When to communicate sex talk with your partner 

Obviously good communication in a relationship doesn’t have a set time limit—ideally we’d all be communicating well with our partners at all times. But some conversations lend themselves to being had inside the bedroom, and others are best done outside it, so picking your moment is crucial. The more in-depth chats about fantasies, where you might want to explore things in detail, are usually best had when there isn’t immediate pressure to ‘get things right’. If you’re laying out the specifics of your bondage kink while your partner is struggling to get knots correct, that could add significant stress that turns the fun into something more awkward and tricky.

When you’re in the bedroom, though, there are other practical sexual communication tricks that can make in-the-moment comms a little easier and clearer for both you and your partner(s).

Giving feedback—sex talk basics

Many people baulk at the idea of having to do dirty talk—we aren’t all instinctive Casanovas, after all—and pouring out a smutty stream of consciousness while we’re naked and shagging is a tricky task for even the most experienced erotic pro. However, there are some basic words and phrases which you can embrace to instantly level up your sexual communication and help you to guide your partner towards the things that are working for you.

Not sure what to say? Here are five words/phrases for you to use…

  • More
  • Yes
  • Don’t stop
  • That’s good
  • Please

Note that each of them is designed to do one thing and one thing only: tell your partner that what they’re doing is working for you. An enthusiastic moan can usually have the same effect, but if your aim is better communication, these phrases can be a springboard for moving into more detailed in-the-moment comms. For instance, it’s a short step from ‘more’ to ‘harder’ or ‘slower’, a short step from ‘that’s good’ to ‘that’s great, up a bit’. The idea is to begin by using these affirmative words to get used to some sex talk during the moment and then gradually expand to giving more direction as you become a more confident dirty talker.

Asking your partner for feedback

Naturally, we hope your partner is giving you lots of ‘more’s and ‘yes’s of their own, but if you want to improve your listening in the bedroom or encourage the person you’re with to give you more specific direction, one of the simplest ways to do that is with Joan Price’s ‘eye chart’ method of sex communication. Sex educator Joan Price advises people to ask their partner questions in a similar way to how the optometrist checks your vision with you: giving two alternatives and asking ‘which is better, X or Y?’

For example, if you’re giving someone a hand job and you want to understand how much pressure you should be putting when you rub their clit/squeeze their dick, asking ‘which is better? This…? Or that…?’ If you’re giving them head, asking ‘this…? Or that…?’ when you vary your licking speed or direction or the pressure with which you suck. Often your partner may not have thought in detail about exactly how to direct you when pleasuring them, and many people find it uncomfortable to have to say, ‘actually, not like that but more like this…’ so by offering different options, you can open up a conversation that will help your partner guide you towards what they like the best.

Instigating some sex talk outside the bedroom

One of the most important things to do if you want to improve your sex comms is to try and foster an atmosphere of openness and curiosity about sex outside of the times when you’re busily engaged in it. This means talking to your partner in the afterglow about which parts of the shag worked best for you and asking them for their highlights in return. It also means initiating (or joining eagerly in with!) conversations about sex when they arise, being sure to approach them with an open mind and the awareness that your partner might have been taught to feel shame about their desires by our sex-negative society, so gentleness and understanding is key.

Keep an eye out for opportunities to discuss sex with your partner. If you read a particular piece of erotica that you love, watch an porn film that particularly does it for you, or listen to an audio erotica story, why not share it with them and ask if they’d like to discuss it with you? Or if they’re not into erotic material (or you’re not yet sure if you’re comfortable sharing that with them), sending links to articles about sex or opinion pieces and asking what they think can be a great way to nurture that conversation.

It can also help if you remember that this atmosphere—of curious, exploratory, playful sexual communication—is most easily fostered if you keep asking questions. Try not to assume what your partner thinks about any given sexual thing, and instead commit to asking questions in order to find out the details. The questions from section one in this guide to sexual communication should be a great start, and ideally these should be combined with an attitude that seeks to understand and empathise rather than shame or shut down. Remember, you don’t have to fulfil every single one of your partner’s fantasies—sometimes a fantasy is perfect for being enjoyed and explored inside someone’s head or during sexy chat, but it isn’t one they need to live out in real life. You probably have some of these fantasies yourself. Try to welcome your partner’s fantasies in the way you’d like them to welcome yours—with curiosity and empathy. If in doubt, when your partner opens up to you about sex or pleasure, embrace the following phrase: “tell me more.”

When they let you know that they fancy being spanked? “Tell me more.” If they tell you that they are struggling to find time and headspace to be horny right now? “Tell me more.” If they express an opinion about something you’ve been doing together in the bedroom? “Tell me more.”

One of the most common reasons why people stop communicating about sex is that they feel they already know what their partner wants and needs, so the natural curiosity that exists at the start of a relationship can ebb away. But remember: people don’t remain static throughout their lifetimes, and their sexual selves certainly aren’t set in stone. Your partner’s needs and desires may wax and wane over time, dipping into new kinks or ideas, or away from old ones, as the months and years pass by. Hopefully, this guide to sexual communication has given you plenty of practical tips to start these conversations and keep them going for a good long time. Fostering an environment of open sexual communication means that you can keep up with your changing needs and desires together and enjoy rediscovering sex over and over again!

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