Asking for what you want in bed, especially when you feel like your partner doesn’t prioritize your pleasure, can be nerve-wracking. Perhaps you're scared you're going to "kill the vibe" or mess things up. Maybe you don't want to sound demanding or come off as accusatory. The situation can be complicated because maybe you're having fun hooking up with your f*ck buddy or getting freaky with your partner, and you don't want to offend them, but you still feel like your pleasure isn't being considered.
The fact is, even though you may feel awkward, nervous, or upset at the thought of speaking up, you still deserve to have your sexual boundaries respected — or to experience the foreplay you crave, or get the chance to orgasm, or have your kinks indulged. Plus, your sexual satisfaction can also help improve your emotional well-being. "We can start to feel resentful of our partners because our needs aren't being met, and we can start to judge ourselves for not achieving the standards of pleasure we set for ourselves," sexuality doula and sex educator Ev'Yan Whitney tells Elite Daily. They explain that their clients who are women and non-binary people can feel sexually "inadequate" or disconnected, and often blame themselves.
"It's only when we dig deeper in our sessions together that we uncover that there's nothing wrong with them," Whitney says. "They've just never done the important work of figuring out what kind of sex they want to have and how to communicate that with their partner." And both are key when approaching your partner about prioritizing your pleasure.
Whitney recommends, first and foremost, that you really nail down what you like sexually. "Uncover what makes you feel good," they say. Ask yourself questions like: "What does pleasurable sex look like to me? How would that kind of sex make me feel? How do I want to be kissed? How do I want to be touched, and with what firmness?" When you feel like you have a good grasp on what good sex looks like, then you can communicate your desires and needs to your partner, Whitney says.
When having this conversation, Cyndi Darnell, a sex therapist and sex coach, says you should discuss the things they do in bed that you like — not just the things you dislike. "If you don't know what you like, make time to find out," Darnell tells Elite Daily. "Take pressure off by making orgasm not obligatory. Or emphasize it if one party would really like to experience it." Similarly, Whitney recommends talking about what your partner's already doing that gives pleasure, "then, talk about other things you like — things you’re curious about exploring, perhaps things you’ve been exploring within your own solo sex."
Whitney recommends downloading and filling out a yes-no-maybe list with your partner. Talk through various, sometimes kinky sexual acts, and mark your willingness to try them as a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe." These lists can give both you and your partner specifics on what you enjoy in bed, but in a playful way. "It's not enough to say, 'I wish you would go slower,'" they say. "Your partner needs to know and understand the reasons why. Where within your sexual interactions do you feel like your partner goes too quickly? And why do you need them to slow down? How does that slowness instigate your pleasure?"
Darnell says partners who care about each other's pleasure are those who share an understanding of what sex means for them and why they have it. "They take turns pleasing each other," she adds. "They schedule sex for times when they are both ready and willing to play, not when they are tired and grumpy at the end of a long day [and] not just using each other as masturbation devices, unless they're into that."
When you do talk to your sexual partner about prioritizing your pleasure, Darnell suggests saying something along the lines of, "Sex is an important part of our relationship and I want it to continue to be. I'd like for us to talk about what we're already enjoying, and what we might like to change or try. Is this something you'd be up for exploring?" She also adds that you should ask when would be a good time to talk about this further, because timing is key.
Conversations about sex, including this one, should be held when neither you nor your partner are horny, and "somewhere where you both feel comfortable and not excessively vulnerable," Darnell says. "Over lunch, driving in a car, out walking the dog. Not nude, in bed and about to get it on."
Perhaps your partner pesters you to do anal or never goes down on you. Maybe they always orgasm, but your orgasms are left in the dust. Or maybe you're not having sex as often as you want. Whatever the case may be, you deserve to have a mutually-satisfying sex life where everyone's physical and emotional needs are being tended to.
And remember: Because your relationship to sex will evolve, you'll probably have to revisit this discussion in the future, and that's OK. "Negotiating sex and pleasure is not just something that happens once," Darnell says. "It's an ongoing process and a crucial part of being a sexually responsible adult."
Cyndi Darnell, sex therapist and sex coach
Ev'Yan Whitney, sexuality doula and sexuality educator