Talking about sex with your partner

Talking about sex with your partner might not always be the easiest thing to do but sexual communication is super important. It should be a completely normal part of people’s sex lives, without being weird or embarrassing. Read on as we explain why it matters and how to do it.

A young couple are sitting on the floor. They are talking about sex with their partner. This is a wide-angle image.

What IS sexual communication?

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

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

Talking about sex with your partner will make sex better

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. You get to know what they like and vice versa which means you can each fulfil the others wants and needs. Plus, if you can’t talk about sex then you may be putting yourself and others at risk.

It’s understandable if talking about your sex lives 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. In the infamous words of Salt-N-Pepa let’s talk about sex ba-by

How to go about talking about sex with your partner

How you approach things with your sexual partner when it’s time to talk will depend on your relationship and the things you want to bring up. But here are some basic rules if you need guidance:

  • Plan what you want to say, either on paper or in your head. Understand your own thoughts and feelings before expressing them to your partner.
  • Be savvy. Start by bringing up something you read, or saw in a TV show or porn. This can allow you to gauge their opinion before you dive in on your sexual fantasies.
  • 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 relaxed.
  • 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 them some time to work up the nerve to talk about it. They might want to try sex toys or a new postion you’re not keen on, but hear them out and then have a conversation about it. You’re allowed to say no, but be mindful of their feelings too.

How to give feedback without making your partner feel bad

Criticism isn’t bad if it’s constructive and phrased in the best way possible. Here are a couple of handy tips: 

  • 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 bottle bad feelings up and become the ‘AND ANOTHER THING’ person. Constant communication and nipping things in the bud is always the  best way to go about it.

How to 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 effective. 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. Creating this boundary will ensure everyone is more comfortable.

The old, non-verbal, guiding-their-hand-to-where-the-good-spot-is trick can never be underestimated, either. Your partner isn’t a mind-reader. Let loose with your body, too. Move it however feels good and let your face make all the shapes 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.

Talking about sexual consent with your partner

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 on sexual consent here to learn more about consent, how to obtain it, and how to say ‘no’.

What to do if you don’t want to have sex with your partner

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. It’s just part of being human. As long as you break it to them kindly, they’ll most likely understand.

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
  • 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 13-Nov-2021