The first time the four bases were explained to me, I recoiled in disbelief. I remember wondering if something was wrong with me, because some of the bases, as described, sounded unnecessarily intrusive and not at all appealing. Still, thank you Julie from 8th grade for what would turn out to be pretty much it for my formal sex education unless you count a short stint in Junior High Sex Ed where I did not hear the word clitoris spoken even once.
Many of us were thrown into the deep end of the pool and figured out how to dog paddle to the side on our own. I actually think we’ve done quite well, considering. But if we’re not talking to our intimate partners about what we want in bed, we could be doing a lot better.
Is there a downside to being assertive about what we want sexually? Well, it’s complicated. Of course, we should be able to state clearly the what, where and how of what we want. Our partners won’t mistake our carefully chosen words for criticism. Except sometimes they do. And that’s not all. It can be very intimidating and scary to ask for what you want sexually. When you do, you put yourself in a vulnerable position and sometimes it can be difficult to find the right words.
If talking out loud about what you want sexually is a skill you've mastered, you probably stopped reading a couple of paragraphs ago. Kudos. As for the rest of us, there is no mystery to how we got here. In fact, I could do an entire post on the reasons women smile and moan through things that don't feel all that pleasurable. But whatever the case, here we are in our less-than-perfect sexual reality. So let's talk about making some changes.
First, can we all agree that it’s okay for pleasure to be a goal of our sexual encounters and that hers is as important as his? Let’s also agree that the only way he’s going to know what you like is for you to tell him. Remember everyone, compatibility does not mean that he knows what you like without you telling him.
Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling, if you're feeling a little tongue-tied ...
- Show him what makes you feel good. Surely you’ve heard that men enjoy watching women. Use that to your advantage.
- Be verbally descriptive, but in a way that’s sexy and playful as opposed to serious and instructive.
- Or do be instructive, if it’s more your style. We could certainly make a case for it being the most direct and assertive approach. Nothing’s wrong with that when you deliver the way you would want it delivered. In other words, "I don't like it when you rub me there so hard!" sounds like (and will be taken as) criticism where "I love the way you make me feel when you do that softly, like this" is easy to hear and will likely be welcome feedback.
- Try communicating in a nonverbal way like writing notes or texting.
- Read erotica together to stimulate your conversation and inspire your vocabulary.
If you opt for a discussion, the experts agree that things work out best when we’re thoughtful about time, place and tone. Maybe keep things low key so no one feels blindsided. Be complimentary, kind and clear. And talk about how you want to feel as opposed to highlighting what your partner is doing wrong. You get the idea.
As in all things, don't expect perfection and don't be hard on yourself, if things don't go as expected your first time out. It's a big change to reshuffle the deck in a way that makes you a priority. My advice is revisit rather than tangle, if things get testy. You want to keep this topic in a positive light.
This is definitely a two-way street. Encourage your partner to also talk about likes and dislikes, pleasure points and fantasies. And now it's your turn to be the listener. Be sure to pay close attention and take good mental notes about how he wants to feel.
Still nervous about telling him you want to be tickled with a feather duster? I get it, but trust me on this. Buy the feather duster and put it on your bed. If he doesn't immediately know what to do, pick it up and show him. The next thing you know, you're feather duster fantasy is a reality.
I realize that some feather dusters are trickier than others to navigate. But we all have a tendency to believe that we're on an island with our thoughts when it comes to the ones we don't express. The reality is that we are not alone, if we have sexual fantasies and want this touched instead of that. Not even close. So the effort and courage it takes to be a good sexual communicator is absolutely worth it, because it gets us closer to what we want, but also strengthens the ties that bind us.
Pun totally intended.
The Case For Telling Your Partner Exactly How You Want To Feel During Sex, Gigi Engle (certified sex coach, sexologist, educator and writer), SELF, May 8, 2019
How To Tell Him What You Want In Bed, Kate Lubimova, The V Club Blog
If You Want Better Sex, Tell Your Partner What You Want, Suzanne-Degges-White, Ph.D, LCPD, LPC, LMHC, NCC, Psychology Today, April 26, 2019
How To Ask For What You Want In Bed and During Sex, Lea Rose Emery, Cosmopolitan, April 14, 2020