We all know we should be comfortable sharing our sexual likes and dislikes with our partners. But let’s be real—it can sometimes feel awkward AF to ask for what you really want in the bedroom. What if you hurt their feelings? What if they think your fantasy is weird? What if you aren’t really sure what you like?
Asking for more of this and less of that can feel intimidating—especially when egos are involved. But the benefits far outweigh the risks. A study from the Kinsey Institute found that compared to women who orgasm less frequently, women who experience more pleasure during sexual encounters are more likely to vocalize their needs—asking for what they want in bed, acting out fantasies and praising their partner for something they did.
“Your partner wants to please you—which is why talking about what you like and don’t like is the fastest route to getting what you want in bed,” says Emily Morse, sexologist and host of the Sex with Emily podcast. “Expressing your fantasies and desires can give you a better understanding of each other and be a huge turn on at the same time.”
Whether you’re single or going steady, here are six ways to speak up about what’s going down in the bedroom.
Start with the good stuff
To avoid putting your partner on the defensive, lead by sharing something you do like about your sex life—then add on with something you’d like to try. “For example, you could say, ‘I love when we make out, so it’d be really hot if you started to kiss my neck and moved slowly down my body,’” says Morse. “That makes it more of a talk of exploration rather than a bruise on their ego.”
Improve your timing
It may seem counterintuitive, but don’t vocalize in the bedroom what you want in the bedroom. “Bringing it up in the middle of sex (or right after) can make your partner feel insecure and attacked because you’re already in a sensitive state, which can cause them to associate your feedback with arousal in a negative way,” says Morse. “Instead of having these talks in bed, have them in a neutral environment, like at the dinner table or watching TV.”
Make a sexual bucket list
Need an ice breaker? Come up with a fun game you can play to divulge your desires. “Have you and your partner both write down three things you’ve been wanting to try and then exchange lists to see what you both would be okay with,” says Morse.
If you’re having trouble bringing up the subject, let someone else do it for you. “Couples listen to my podcast together, so they can blame me for bringing up topic that might be hard to discuss,” says Morse. “Referencing an article or book you read can also make it less of an ego bruise because it won’t seem like the sex was unsatisfying before and you were searching for something new.”
Learn your pleasure points
One of the best ways to figure out what you like is to masturbate, but with a purpose. “I call it mindful masturbation,” says Morse. “The more you explore yourself, your body, and what feels good to you, the more you’re going to be able to communicate that to someone else.” Even better: Let your partner watch. “Mutual masturbation is a great learning tool, because you can see exactly how your partner touches themselves (and vis versa),” adds Morse.
Return the favor
If you have unmet needs in the bedroom, it’s likely your partner does too. “This conversation should never be one-sided nor feel like criticisms,” says Morse. “It’s an open dialogue between two people who want to grow sexually with each other.” Bonus: Showing a willingness to indulge in your partner’s sexual interests will make them more open to exploring yours.