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How to Ask for the Sex You Want

The key to great sex? Great communication!

Talking about sex and asking for what you want can be daunting. But it’s an essential part of nurturing healthy relationships and crafting sexual encounters that are pleasurable for you and your partners. And if you make good communication practices a habit, you’ll be on your way to having truly mind-blowing, life-affirming sex. Totally worth it, right?

Two women on a bed, one with her head in the others lap, talking.

In this post, we’ll go through some of the main questions and discussion points you’ll ideally want to cover when an encounter looks like it’s turning sexual. There’s a lot here, which might feel overwhelming, but remember - you don’t have to cover everything in a single conversation. You might have multiple conversations, covering different topics at different times. In fact, since our needs, wants and circumstances are constantly evolving, it’s a good idea to regularly revisit the conversation to ensure you’re still on the same page as your partner. 

If you want a little help building these skills , consider booking a sex and relationship coaching session with our certified holistic sex educator.

Your Current State and Wellbeing

It’s important to assess where you and your partner are emotionally, physically and mentally. Why? To determine whether you are able to consent right now and to have the best chance of communicating effectively and respectfully. Questions to consider:

  • Are you under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Being intoxicated can lower our inhibitions and lead us to make decisions we might not make sober, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and save the conversation and the activities until you are both clear-headed and sober. (Or at least sober-ish!)

  • What is your emotional state? Are you in a heightened or activated state right now (perhaps due to receiving bad news or having a recent stressful experience)? If so, your judgment may be impaired and you’re more likely to do or say something you’ll regret.

  • Is there anything else that might be causing your (or your partner’s)  judgment to be impaired right now?

What you want to do 

People who are not used to communicating what they want sexually may make assumptions about what their partner will want, or fall back on a ‘sexual script’ where a set of specific activities (such as penis-in-vagina intercourse) is assumed. But this might not be the kind of sex you or your partner actually want!

Good sexual communication has three parts. Remember, you don't have to have these nailed before you can go get nailed: practice makes perfect, and good enough is good enough. It's OK to be uncertain of what you want; but if you hear uncertainty from your partner ("maybe", "I don't know"), it's best to treat that as a "no for now". 

Do you know what you want? Think about these questions:

  • What sort of activities do you like, in your sexual encounters? Anything you don't like to do?

  • How do you like to be touched? Are there kinds of touch you don't like, or parts of your body to avoid?

  • Do you have any physical limitations? If so, how can you and your partners work within those limitations?

  • Do you have any other boundaries?

  • What sort of aftercare do you want? (E.g. do you prefer to snuggle after sex, or do you want space?)

How do you talk about what you want? Try some of these starting points:

  • I really love it when...

  • I think it's really hot when you...

  • That feels nice, but it would feel even better if..

  • I have a fantasy about...

And how can you encourage your partners to tell you what they want? These questions can be simple and direct, they can be teasing, and you can (with consent) turn them into dirty talk or a game in their own right ("Tell me exactly what you want me to do to you... and say please.")

  • What do you like in bed? 

  • Any turn-offs or boundaries I should know about?

  • Where do you want me to touch you?

  • Tell me about a fantasy.

  • How will I know you are feeling good?

  • How will I know you are feeling bad/want to stop?

Remember, the aim here is not to ‘get them to a yes’ (as that’s potentially coercion) - it’s to figure out what, if anything, you both want to do. It’s possible that you’ll figure out that your wants and needs aren’t compatible - communicating well enough to figure this out should absolutely be considered a win! It’s much better to go your separate ways with no harm done than to engage in sexual activity that you or the other person doesn’t actually want, which could be extremely damaging.

Be wary of renegotiating any boundaries during the encounter itself. For example, if you’ve agreed to use condoms, it’s a bad idea to ask in the heat of the moment if you can have sex without them. We're not always thinking straight when we're aroused, and it’s best to save those conversations for afterwards, when you can reflect and plan for next time.

Sexual Health & Contraception

Sex can be amazing, but avoiding unwanted health consequences is important. To reduce your risk of unwanted pregnancy (if that is a possibility) or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), you can ask:

  • What (if any) contraception do you use or want to use? What do you want to do if the contraception we use fails? 

  • What does your STI testing protocol look like? (E.g. how often and how recently have you tested for STIs, what infections have you been tested for, and what were the results?)

  • What does your recent sexual history look like? (Number of partners, whether and what protection was used, whether you have had any known exposures to STIs)

  • If you are positive for an STI, are you currently experiencing symptoms and what steps do you take to mitigate the risk of transmitting it to your partners? (e.g. taking antivirals for HSV or HIV, testing viral load regularly) 

  • Are you vaccinated against HPV? Or Mpox?

  • Are you on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention?

  • What (if any) barriers do you want to use for intercourse? For oral sex? For digital sex (hand job/fingering)?

Avoid shaming someone if they disclose that they have an STI. STIs can happen to anyone and most are curable or treatable. It’s totally fine to decide not to engage sexually with someone who has an STI if you don’t feel comfortable, but it’s not fine to make someone feel bad for doing the right thing and disclosing their status. And avoid saying you are ‘clean’ if you have recently tested negative, as this implies that someone who has an STI is ‘dirty’. 

Relationship Considerations

Being explicit about what you are looking for in a relationship and what the sexual encounter means to you can help avoid a lot of hurt feelings. Try to avoid making assumptions about what your partner wants or expects. Instead, try asking some of the following questions:

  • What is your relationship status? (e.g. are you single or partnered, monogamous or polyamorous etc.)

  • Are we on the same page about what this interaction means for us both? (E.g. is this an escalation to a romantic partnership? If so, does that mean you want or expect monogamy?)

  • What are your expectations for this relationship? (Is this a romantic relationship, a friends-with-benefits situation, a casual hookup etc.)

  • Do you have other partners? If so, what do those relationships look like, and how do they affect what you have to offer in this partnership?

  • Is there anything else I should know about that might affect how our relationship develops (E.g. do you have kids, or a stressful, busy job?) 

  • Is there anything else you need to know about me before we do this?

Some people are happy to go with the flow or simply don’t know what they want from a partnership and that’s fine. But others have a clear idea what they want and, for example, may not want to get sexually involved with someone who is not romantically available. Decide what matters to you, ask the questions you need to ask to figure out if you feel good about the encounter and only move forward if you do.

Close up of a young mixed gender couple's faces kissing


Talking about sex can be hard if you’re not used to it, but it’s super important if you want to have sex that’s really good for you and your partner(s). And we promise, it gets easier the more you do it! The questions here are just a starting point - you can edit or add to them to better reflect what is important to you. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and advocate for the sex you want!

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