Let's Talk About Sex: How to Communicate Your Wants, Boundaries, and More

By: Lily Ostler, LMSW

Communication is arguably one of the most important parts of our lives: it’s the basis of our relationships and how we share our thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants. It’s also the foundation of hot sex! Communication around sex has a bad reputation for killing the mood, but that’s wrong! Communication opens the door to making sure everyone involved feels good, safe, comfortable, and engaged, which is important for stepping on our sexual “gas” and becoming even more turned on! 

Step 1: Building intention and awareness.

Communication is just like exercise– you get better and stronger with practice. Whether it’s your first time having sex or your millionth, there are ways you can practice communcation with your partner. First, you need to bring attention to why you want to communicate and what you want to communicate. You can’t clearly state something without yet knowing what it is you need to share. Spend some time exploring what it is that you’d like your partner to know…

  • What feels good for me during sex? 
  • What would I like to experience more of during sex? Less of?
  • Is there something new I want to try?
  • What makes me feel comfortable? Uncomfortable? 
  • What makes me feel excited? Engaged? Disengaged? Less aroused?
  • What is my goal in sharing this? What is my intention? Hope? 

Spend some time exploring these questions, you’ll have a clearer understanding of your hopes, wishes, and desires, and you’ll be able to better communicate this with your partner.

Step 2: When and how? 

So you know what you want to share and you know why you want to share it, and now it’s time to figure out when and how to share it. Is this a conversation you’d like to have outside of a sexual context, before you have sex?  Or do you want to offer guidance and insight during sex? This is ultimately a personal decision based on your communication style and your relationship. Some general examples I’d suggest for a sit down conversation versus mid-sex communication are:

  • If you want to begin having sex with a partner, try a new kink (role play, bondage, etc.), if you are feeling uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the sex, or overall want to check in about the sex you’re having, I’d recommend having a sit down conversation with your partner
  • If you want them to continue doing something, switch positions, try a new position, or give encouragement, then I’d recommend communicating this during sex. (It doesn’t have to be a turn off either– your partner will probably love to hear that they are doing something right!) 

Step 3: Communicate!

You want to be clear and kind when you are communicating. Here are some strategies we recommend for communicating with your partner: 

  • Use “I” statements, especially for conversations that are happening outside of sex (ex. “I feel x when y; I feel hot when we have spooning sex; I like it when we cuddle after sex; I want to try using handcuffs”)
  •  If you’re discussing new kinks you’d like to try or to begin having sex, chat with your partner about consent and boundaries, and continue to check-in regularly as you begin to engage in this new relationship. 
  • If you are offering a critique or feedback regarding what is not working for you, a “compliment sandwich” can always be helpful to ease into the feedback. An example would be, “I really love having sex with you. I don’t love it when we do doggy style. I’d like to keep having sex”. You start with positive feedback, offer the feedback/critique, and then follow up with another positive!
  •  Finally, your communication can be sexy and hot, especially in the moment. Dirty talk can be an effective way of sharing what you like and encouraging ongoing engagement (“Oh baby I love when you touch me there, it feels good, don’t stop”). This is also a great way to continually make sure you’re getting consent (“Does that feel good for you?” “You look so hot when we do reverse cowgirl, do you like it?” “I want to make you feel good, how can I make you feel good?”). 

Remember, the hottest thing is both of you feeling good and connected and communicating will make sure that happens!