How to talk to your partner about sex

How often do you talk to your partner about sex? Are you more comfortable doing the shagging rather than talking about it? Sexual communication is super important, and should be a completely normal part of sex, without being weird or embarrassing. Don't believe us? Read on...

couple in bed with duvet over mouths

Don't cover your mouth, use it!

What IS sexual communication?

It might sound like a silly question, but it’s totally valid to wonder what counts as sexual communication. Is it before sex, during sex, after sex? Words or gestures? An informal chat or meeting room booked for an hour with a strict agenda?

The truth is, it’s all of the above (bar the meeting room, probably). Sexual communication can encompass anything from talking about what you like in bed to making clear your concerns about consent and contraception.

Talking about sex is embarrassing though…

If you can open up your body to someone, as it were, then you should be able to open up your mind too. The best sexual experiences will come from talking about sex openly and honestly. If you can’t talk about sex then you may be putting yourself and others at risk.

It’s understandable if sex talk makes you blush, after all you’re opening up about something very intimate. But with a little practice, it should become empowering, fun, and completely normal.

Fair. But I’m still nervous, how can I start that conversation?

How you talk through things with your sexual partner will depend on your relationship and the things you want to bring up. But here are some basic rules if you’re worried:

  • Plan what you want to say, either on paper or in your head. Understand your thoughts and feelings before expecting your partner to.
  • Be savvy. Start by bringing up something you read, or saw in a TV show or porn. This can allow you to gauge opinion before you dive in.
  • Keep it light-hearted, if you can. Sex talk doesn’t have to be super scary and serious. Provided the conversation isn’t about anything too sensitive, throw in some jokes and keep the atmosphere chill.
  • Talk away from the bedroom when broaching more sensitive topics, this will help to make you both feel less exposed and vulnerable.
  • Stick to your feelings by using ‘I’ sentences rather than ‘You’. This immediately puts you in control and is less accusative. “I feel like this when you do that” rather than “You make me feel this by doing that”, for example.

If it’s your partner who brings something up, listen and be respectful. It’s probably taken some courage to bring it up. They might want to try something you’re not keen on, but hear them out then have a conversation about it. You’re allowed to say no, but be mindful of their feelings too.

How do I give feedback without making them feel bad…

Criticism isn’t bad if it’s constructive and phrased in the best way.

  • Always say something good before saying something bad so your partner doesn’t feel like a total failure.
  • Wait until you’ve finished having sex to give negative feedback. Saying, “This is doing nothing for me, what are you even doing,” as they’re doing it, isn’t the best shout.
  • Don’t store bad feelings up and become the ‘AND ANOTHER THING’ person. Constant communication and nipping things in the bud is always best.

How can I communicate DURING sex without killing the mood?

Communication during sex isn’t just about dirty talk. Not only can you actually talk normally during sex, but you can communicate non-verbally too. Plot twist.

Verbally, you can try out, “Can we try this position?” or “That feels good, keep doing that.” Positive affirmation is simple but useful. Sex noises are fine too and not just for porn. Just check your parents or housemates aren’t in first.

Remember your partner’s feelings too. Ask them how they’re doing, if they like that, or if you can try something out. Don’t just go ahead and do the new thing. This respect will ensure everyone is more comfortable.

Non-verbally, the ol’ guiding-their-hand-to-where-the-good-spot-is trick can never be underestimated. Your partner isn’t a mind-reader. Let loose with your body, too. Move it however feels good and let your faces make all the shapes it needs to give your partner a good indication of how you’re feeling.

But the most important thing to remember is that you come first (pun not intended). Never put ‘killing the mood’ before your safety.

Fancy taking part in our #PillowTalk campaign? Head here to share how you communicate in the bedroom, and help us continue the consent conversation.

I don’t want to have sex with them anymore, what should I do?

On that note, consent is the most important part of sexual communication. It needs to be established before any sexual activity takes place and during those activities too. You can read our article here to learn more about sexual consent, how to obtain it, and how to say ‘no’.

If you’ve been in a sexual relationship for a while, it can be tricky to say you don’t want their bits on your bits anymore, but if that’s how you feel, it’s got to be done. Pick a time away from the bedroom and say exactly what you want, without being too harsh and blunt. All kinds of relationships – friend, romantic, and sex based – can fizzle out. If they’re not a terrible person, they’ll understand.

If, after reading this, you need more support then you can get in touch with:

  • Our support team here at The Mix
  • Relate, the charity dealing with all things relationships
  • Brook, the sexual health charity
  • Rape Crisis, the charity supporting victims of rape and sexual assault

Remember that you’re never alone. There are always people out there to support you.

Next Steps

  • Relate is an affordable relationship and sex counselling service. 0300 100 1234
  • Brook provides free sexual health and wellbeing services for young people in the UK. Brook's services include local clinics and online digital sex and relationships tool.
  • Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. 0808 802 99 99
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 28-Mar-2017