It’s mostly common knowledge that good sex demands good communication. Yet while many of us recognize this on an intellectual level, we still struggle to vocalize our sexual likes and dislikes….especially during the act, which can be an intimidating time to say, “Hey, I hate this.”
We’re all vulnerable mid-bone, which makes mid-bone communication a delicate thing to pull off—but it’s absolutely essential. A 2012 study in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that couples that had less anxiety about communicating during sex experienced a much higher level of sexual satisfaction overall.
Fortunately, there are proven methods for communicating with your partner—verbally or physically—that will make sex way more pleasurable for you. There are also methods you should definitely avoid. Here are some basic guidelines:
1. DO Let Your Hands Do Some Of The Talking.
Nonverbal communication can be just as powerful—and sometimes less threatening!—than verbal communication. Try a mix of verbal and nonverbal cues. In Psychology Today, social psychologist Amy Muise recommends guiding your partner with your hands and words in this simple exercise:
First, have your partner take your hand and move their finger in a circular direction around your palm. Then, tell them one thing you like and want them to keep doing (I like the pressure) and one thing you want them to do differently (I would like you to go slower).
2. DON’T Ask “Did You Come Yet?
Orgasms are clearly awesome, but reducing sex to the orgasm adds an unnecessary level of pressure to both partners. Worse, asking about the status of an orgasm can make a partner who has trouble climaxing feel even more anxious.
Sexologist and sexuality educator Megan Andelloux tells Men’s Health : “[P]lease stop asking if she came or saying that you want to see her come. That puts way too much pressure on her….It can be lovely…but it should not be the goal.”
3. DO Physically Show When You Like Something.
Communicating isn’t just about directing clueless partners towards the actual location of your clitoris. It’s also about communicating what feels amazing. Have fun with moaning, squirming, or whatever feels right in the moment—it’ll let your partner know that what he or she is doing is really, really working. For people nervous about speaking up, physical expression can be key.
“It could be perceived as being less threatening, so it might be easier to moan or to move in a certain way to communicate that I’m enjoying the sexual encounter than to say, ‘Hey, this feels really good, I like that,'” health communication expert Elizabeth Babin tells Live Science . “That might seem too direct for some people.”
4. DON’T Say “Ew!” Or “Gross!”
If you didn’t know these were inadvisable things to say mid-sex, you’re not ready to be having sex. When possible, try to communicate with positive statements. Let’s say you’re disgusted that your partner’s licking your ear (and very reasonably so). Rather than yelling, “THIS IS THE GROSSEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME OR ANYONE,” move your partner’s tongue to where you want it to be. Tell them what you want.
“The sexual mind needs a lot of praise and reassurance,” says Stephen Snyder MD, a New York City sex therapist, to Bustle. “At first, limit yourself to positive and encouraging statements, such as ‘Oh, you feel so good. Can I tell you what would really turn me on right now?’ Everyone is more vulnerable and sensitive in bed, so avoid making overtly critical comments.”
5. DO Experiment With Dirty Talk.
Dirty talk can be intimidating for several reasons. Will I sound like an idiot? is a common concern.
“Most people tend to avoid making much noise because they worry about saying something their partner doesn’t like, feeling like a poor imitation of a pornstar, or just not knowing what to say,” sex psychotherapist Vanessa Marin writes for Bustle . “So they settle for quiet sex because it seems like the lesser of two evils.”
Quiet sex isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but dirty talk can be an incredibly powerful tool. Marin counts the ways: “It keeps you present in the moment. It develops your communication abilities. It taps into your primal nature. It connects you to your sense of pleasure, and can actually help you feel even more turned on.”
6. DON’T Check Your Phone.
An essential part of effective communication is remaining present. Checking your phone or watch obsessively takes both partners out of the moment and can lead to a mood-killing disconnect.
“Making allusions to the idea that you don’t have much time to work with is a major mood-killer,” sexologist Gloria Brame tells Men’s Health . “If you absolutely must talk about somewhere that you need to be, or the fact that you’re in a rush, at least wait until afterward!”
7. DO Say “No” At Any Point, For Any Reason.
You should always feel comfortable saying “no” when something makes you uncomfortable. Period.