Reader question: When is the right time for me to ask for what I want in bed? How do I start that conversation without making things awkward?
Telling someone what you want in bed can definitely be a daunting experience — particularly if you are a woman fighting conditioning from society that says we don't need to orgasm for sex to be good. While this is true, the idea tends to prevent women from prioritising their pleasure.
It's key to remember a large amount of communication during sex is non-verbal. While I love a bit of direct dirty talk, I totally understand that a lot of people struggle with verbalising exactly what they want. Perhaps you don't even have the words to explain exactly what you need your partner to do, but you can show them!
We prioritise women's pleasure in this house, which means we, as women, must have agency and commit to vocalising our wants, needs and preferences. It also means that we don't fake anything — not moans, not sighs, certainly not orgasms. A huge reason why so many women have god-awful sex time and time again is because of the constant undeserved positive reinforcement our partners receive. It comes naturally to moan when a partner touches you in any way, to the point where this performance has become habitual. This, however, only benefits your partner's ego, and actually sends you into a feedback loop which prevents either of you from enjoying partnered sex to the fullest. Similarly, only responding positively when a partner touches you in a way that genuinely feels good will create a feedback loop of sex that gets better and better.
Something that I find to be fun to try with new partners is mutual masturbation, and it is COMPLETELY underrated. Masturbating together can be exciting and explorative, while also informative for both partners. Most of what I've learned about hand- and mouth-play has come from mutual masturbation. If you can't tell, show!
So, now that we have agreed to not fake any part of a sexual encounter ever again, how and when do we vocalise our needs? Well, that depends on the situation.
A really easy way to explain to someone what you want without breaking the mood is to describe your desires, with them as the focus of the sentence. Be descriptive — the more adjectives, the better.
Do you like slow sex? OK, well, instead of saying "I want slow sex," say "I want to feel you slowly slide yourself inside of me, feeling every inch." Hot, right? Instead of "Use more tongue while going down on me," you could say "I want to feel the pressure and heat of your wet tongue against me until I orgasm." Make it all about them, reminding them that you want whatever the hell you want from them specifically.
If You're Having a One-Night Stand
When to ask: The second it's clear the deed is being done. THE. SECOND.
SWEETIE, WE DO NOT HAVE TIME TO MESS AROUND HERE! Have zero shame, be blunt. What is the point of a one-night stand if not to have guaranteed mind-blowing, amazing sex? Get your preferences out in the open. You know what you enjoy in sex, so tell them. There is no point being shy or embarrassed. Say exactly what you want before and during sex. Be descriptive and straight to the point! There's no time like the present.
If things go downhill, honestly, it's time to take control of the situation. Get into a position that you know you will enjoy, and incorporate your partner. Tell them what to do — there's no need to beat around the bush with this one.
If You've Just Started Dating
When to ask: Within the first few times you have slept together.
While the earlier the better, I truly believe you have some time to tell someone what they can do to make sex enjoyable for you both. I understand that if you want to see someone again, or even if you're having sober and possibly emotional sex, it can be daunting asking for specifics.
If you're going to see this person regularly, I believe in giving them a few chances to show you what they've got. This is for a few reasons. Clearly, the first time you sleep with someone, things are usually going to be . . . clunky. You're adjusting to each other's bodies and rhythms and you're probably a little bit self-conscious and vulnerable. Take the pressure off and give yourself a few trial runs to get used to how your partner likes to have sex, and merge that with your desires. While you can do the one-night stand thing and essentially incorporate another human into masturbation, if you can wait a little while and get a feel for each other, you can have amazing sex that is mutually beneficial. I also think it's important to give your partner some space to show you how they have had great sex in the past. Once you're more comfortable with each other, they may try something you had never thought of that you absolutely love!
So, when you're building the foundations of a sexual relationship, practise positive reinforcement and enjoy the period of truly getting to know what you and your partner can offer one another. Approach sex as a form of play and exploration, being as open and vulnerable as you can, and I guarantee the sex will only improve from there!
If You're in a Long Term Relationship
When to ask: ASAP . . . though I know that is hard.
This is definitely the hardest one. Bringing up sexual incompatibility while in a long-term relationship can feel near impossible. The last thing you want to do is hurt someone you love, but a lack of sexual satisfaction can ruin relationships. As Kath Day-Knight would say, "Communication is koiy." This conversation is never going to be fun, but there is a way to frame your wants a needs to be received as an exciting possibility, rather than a problem.
I would have the conversation in a non-sexual setting, over dinner or while sitting on the couch. Start the conversation with something like "I've been thinking about XYZ a lot lately, and I'd love if we tried it out." Whether this is a new kink, or a different style of receiving oral, presenting the idea as a collaborative new journey will prevent your partner from feeling inadequate (which would easily kill the mood). Similarly, try not to frame your lack of satisfaction as your partner's problem — after all, they are not a mind reader! If you were faking orgasms or moaning at a touch two inches from the right spot, you have to take responsibility for teaching your partner what you actually enjoy.
Take some time together and make it all about play and enjoyment. This would be a great time to investigate exactly what your partner likes doing to you and what they want done to them. Show them how to use toys on you, show them how you masturbate, show them what porn you watch. If you both have an agreement to not get embarrassed or to feel shame around one another, this experience has the potential to only strengthen your relationship. Be open, be honest, and use those adjectives!
In short, the best time to tell someone what you want in bed is always day one, but sometimes that isn't possible. The best way to be able to have a partner please you is to be able to pleasure yourself. Get to know your own body, spend some self-care time understanding what you like and why you like it, then take that information to your partner and get to work!