Personally, I blame movies. Those scenes where two hot people fall into bed together and everything works perfectly: Nothing is awkward, they climax at the same moment, and they fall asleep in each other’s arms.
If that’s been your experience, great. I’m jealous! Tell me your secrets. But for the rest of us, getting what you want out of sex is a bit more of a process, and too many people skip the crucial first step: You’ve got to figure out what you actually like, something that often requires some trial and error. After that, you can work on communicating those needs to your partner.
Bustle talked with several sex experts for advice on figuring out exactly what you want out of sex and how to ask for it.
Give Yourself Permission To Want
You deserve to have your needs met. “Women have been notoriously maligned for centuries for being openly expressive of their sexual interests, histories, and invitations in a patriarchal society,” says Sari Cooper, the director of The Center for Love and Sex, a therapy practice in New York City. It seems basic, but before you can be clear with your partners about your needs, you’ve got to establish with yourself that those are precisely that: needs.
After all, it’s hard to be honest about what you want in bed if you’re not honest with yourself about it. “I think somebody has to really work at developing a comfort level within themselves. Because if someone is not comfortable, sex is not going to come across as something that they feel they can be honest with their partner about,” Christina Mancuso, a psychotherapist at Clarity Therpay, recommends. Masturbating can be a good place to start.
Remember That Feeling Flummoxed Is Totally Natural
It’s normal to be shy at the start of a sexual relationship, especially if you’re feeling emotionally connected to the other person. What if they don’t want to do what you want to do? How do you even broach such a subject with this brand new adorable sex partner, and what if you hurt their feelings in the process? So many people worry that “if they are assertive about their sexual interests, their partner may feel insecure about living up to these requests,” Cooper says. These aren’t fun ways to feel, but at least they’re very normal.
Try Writing Things Down
If you’re the kind of person who feels better with your schedule written out in a planner, journaling could be a great place to start, says Jesse Kahn, director and sex therapist at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in New York City. You could start by tracking the details of your sexual encounters, noting what you like and dislike as if you’re assembling some kind of sexy pros and cons list. “Pay attention to what thoughts come up in your mind that turn you on, what your body responds to, and what you feel turned on by,” they say. From there, use that list to observe patterns until you know how to articulate your preferences.
Use Your Words (And Especially One Word In Particular)
You may not want to broach this delicate subject by telling your current partner about all the great stuff your former paramour used to do with you — and don’t feel like you have to, Cooper says. “What you have experienced with other partners is private,” she says. “You’re not required to share this history with a new partner.”
Instead, Cooper suggests you try saying something like this: I’d like to experiment with power exchange with you in which I tie your hands behind your back; is this something you’re curious to know more about? Obviously, swap in your own preferred sexual desire; the key is the latter half of the sentence. “By using the word ‘curious,’ you’re opening up a dialogue that doesn’t require a partner to agree or reject the activity but rather to learn more about it,” Cooper explains.
Don’t Have These Conversations In The Bedroom
If you wait until the heat of the moment, you’re not going to be in the right headspace to advocate for what you want. Instead, choose a lower pressure scenario, ideally one where you’re both clothed, says Cyndi Darnell, a New York-based sex therapist.
A real-life conversation is good, but not strictly necessary — a straightforward chat on a dating or hookup app is fine, too, she says. The point is to establish some guidelines in advance about what you’d like to do or have done to you, which will mean you and your partner will have a better idea of what’s in store when your clothes come off. From there, it’ll be easier for both of you to communicate more granular details during sex — things like speed or thrust.
This is not the time or place for subtlety. Multiple experts recommended the best way to get exactly what you want is to say exactly what you want. Sexual compatibility does not mean you never need to talk about what you want in bed — your partner, no matter how desirable, is not a mind reader.