Do you have a fantasy you’ve always wanted to live out, but you don’t know how to bring it up with your partner(s)? Or maybe you saw or experienced something that sparked your imagination and you want to bring it into the bedroom, but you feel too shy to ask. Even the most confident and adventurous among us can find ourselves a little tongue-tied when it comes to sex.
We consulted with Dr. Dulcinea Pitagora, NYC psychotherapist and sex therapist, and put together some tips for getting over the hump (heh):
1. First try to clarify what you want
If possible, it’s really helpful to bring a specific proposal to the table, like “I want to see what it’s like having my hair pulled during sex. Are you up for trying that?” If you make a vague request, like “I’d like to experiment with being dominated,” you run the risk of leaving your partner feeling confused, pressured, and like they have to first read your mind then read the whole internet.
However, according to Dr. Pitagora, “If it feels safe to have an exploratory conversation with your partner, that can be fun and also really hot.” They recommend exploring ethically-produced porn or doing a yes/no/maybe activity together for inspiration.
2. Don’t bring it up in the middle of sex
Bringing up something new while you’re in the midst having sex can put pressure on your partner to agree to it, since it may feel like saying no or wanting to talk about it more first will derail the entire experience. It’s just not fair or particularly fun to spring something on your partner in the middle of sex.
Dr. Pitagora says, “I always suggest bringing up anything you or your partner might feel particularly vulnerable about in a neutral setting when everyone is at a good baseline place mood-wise (also well-rested, fed, and watered) and at a time that isn’t right before or right after you’re getting ready to have sex.” They go on to explain, “The ideal context for giving the topic the time and space it needs to gain the enthusiastic consent of both parties is a neutral setting.”
3. Make it part of a broader conversation
It’s good to check in regularly about how things are going sexually and otherwise. These check-ins can be a good time to ask about any fantasies or kinks your partner may not have shared yet and to share yours. According to Dr. Pitagora, “Many people feel awkward about having conversations about sex, but that usually goes away after the first few minutes. Once you get started (which can be as simple as saying, ‘I’ve been thinking about trying new kinds of sex with you, but I’m not sure exactly what’), the awkwardness tends to fall away.”
4. Write it down
For those suffering from an excess of self-consciousness or internalized stigma about pleasure, the idea of talking about any of this may just feel impossible, and that’s okay. Try writing it down—you can decide if you want to share it with your partner later. Writing it down enables you to get all your thoughts out without the risk of freaking out and changing your mind halfway through. It can also help you clarify what you want.
5. Look for enthusiastic consent
As always, look for enthusiastic consent from your partner. Just because you’ve made yourself vulnerable, that doesn’t mean you’re owed anything (besides respect and common decency). Communicating clearly from the outset that you’re not coming into the conversation with expectations can relieve any pressure your partner might feel.