Why and How to Ask for What You Want in Bed

Discussing your sexual desires isn’t as easy as, say, voicing your preferences for dinner. It’s incredibly common to experience a veil of hesitation around the topic. Sex/sexuality is such a personal aspect of our most vulnerable selves. We start learning to be private about it from the time we can talk. If this is what we’re taught all our lives, why should we speak up now?

Why It Matters

Everyone has preferences when it comes to sex. You won’t find a partner that aligns with each of your sexual desires and always knows exactly when/how/where you like it. No problem! You just have to get comfortable with discussing your likes and dislikes. Lots of people find this intimidating, fearing embarrassment, rejection, or humiliation if their partner doesn’t respond positively. These folks often end up keeping quiet about their true desires because it feels safer.

However, bottling it up can be detrimental to your relationship.

Sexual dissatisfaction is one of the leading causes of divorce in the US. If you don’t feel fulfilled, it can cultivate feelings of resentment and frustration. It has the capacity to grow, overtaking your relationship in areas outside of the bedroom, too. Are you increasingly agitated by little things your partner does that don’t typically bother you? Perhaps you are sexually dissatisfied. Voicing your wants and needs is something you have control over that can only do better for your relationship. 


Let your conversation unfold organically, but keep these in mind:

  1. Be direct and specific. Your partner isn’t a mind reader. If you want clitoral stimulation, tell them when, how, and with what. Be detailed: make circular motions with two fingers, use your tongue until just before climax. Don’t leave them guessing what feels good to you. 
  2. Show them. If it’s difficult to describe, show them by doing it to yourself/them or with a video that illustrates what you desire.
  3. Reciprocate! Ask your partner what they want. Yes or no questions like, “Do you like this” will give you minimal information. Keep it open-ended to gather more detail: “How can I make this feel better for you?”
  4. Make it an act of foreplay. Talking about sex is a turn-on for many folks. Try, “it would really turn me on tonight if you did X to my Y with Z.” This can help get you both in the mood while simultaneously telling your partner what you want.
  5. Play an intimate game. If you’re struggling to start the convo or come up with ideas, play a game that is designed to do just that! I recommend this Truth or Dare game for couples.
  6. Follow up. Get comfortable with talking about what worked and what didn’t. “When you did X to my Y, it really pushed me over the edge!” or, “I think I’d rather not try X again. But I love that we/you are trying new things. Exploring with you is so much fun!”
  7. Don’t yuck someone’s yum. When you show disgust towards someone else’s pleasure, it says that you don’t accept it or want anything to do with it. It also discourages them from sharing any other desires. You can politely decline while remaining respectful and positive. “I’m not sure that’s something I’d be comfortable doing. Can we find a compromise or something else to try?”

Remember: you deserve to feel sexually satisfied! Go ahead and advocate for yourself by telling your partner what you desire. 

Liz Mallers is a Charlotte-based sex educator with an M.Ed. in Human Sexuality Studies from Widener University. She specializes in women’s sexual health, intimacy, and pleasure, with an overarching goal to help people embrace their sexuality as a vital part of their overall health and well-being. Liz is often described as informative and entertaining with an upbeat and trustworthy personality. When she isn’t talking about sex, you can find Liz dancing at rock concerts, creating and appreciating art, and trying desperately to keep her plants alive.


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