How do I tell my partner what I like sexually?
Sometimes you expect a new partner to know what to do sexually…then end up being disappointed when things just don’t feel that good. Luckily, there’s a pretty simple way to turn sex that’s just okay into a great experience: communication.
Everyone is different, so no matter how experienced your partner is, they may have no idea what makes you excited. You have to let your partner know what you like and what feels good. And it’s good to keep the lines of communication open even if you’ve been together awhile, because what feels good or what you’re interested in doing may change over time.
Some people figure out what they like by having sex with someone, and others get to know their bodies by masturbating. Learning how to have orgasms on your own can make it easier to have one with someone else.
Where do you want to be touched? How much pressure feels good? How fast or slow? You can show your partner what you like by guiding their hand, mouth, or other body part. Or you can tell them what feels good (or what doesn’t).
Talking about sex might feel a little scary or awkward, but it can also be a big turn-on. And your partner might really appreciate you for bringing it up. If you’re nervous, you can always start by asking them what feels good or what type of sexual activities they’re interested in. Then you can talk about what feels good to you. It’s also a good opportunity to let them know what your boundaries are and what types of sex you’re NOT interested in.
Protecting each other from unintended pregnancy and/or STDs shows you care, and it can even make your relationship better. It’s totally normal to feel embarrassed to bring it up, but you’ll feel better once you start talking. And your partner will probably be glad you brought it up. The best time to talk about safer sex is BEFORE you start having sex.
A good way to start is by telling your partner that you care about them and want to do everything you can to make sure you’re protecting them and your relationship. You can also talk about your own safer sex history first, which might make your partner feel more comfortable opening up. It’s also a great idea to suggest that you get tested together, so you can support each other.
Some good questions to ask someone before you have sex include:
- Which birth control method makes sense for us?
- When was the last time you were tested for STDs?
- Which STDs were you tested for?
- Do you usually use condoms and/or dental dams?
- Have you ever shared needles with someone for tattoos, piercings, or drugs? (You can get some STDs like HIV this way, and then they can be passed during sex.)
- Have you had any STDs before? Which ones? Did you get them treated?
If your partner won’t get tested or use protection, it may be a sign that your relationship isn’t healthy. When someone refuses to have safer sex when you want to, it means your health isn’t important to them — so they might not be the best person to have a relationship with or to have sex with. You deserve to be safe, healthy, and happy.
You have the right to say no to any kind of sexual activity. Don’t depend on body language or hope they get the hint that you’re not interested. If you don’t want to do something, say no. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex with them before, or what your reason is for not wanting to do it — no means no.
You also have the right to change your mind during sex. Maybe you started having sex and then decided you’re not comfortable doing it or it doesn’t feel right. You can stop any time you want, and your partner shouldn’t make you feel bad or guilty about it. If they do, it’s probably a sign that your relationship is unhealthy.
Sexual consent means saying “yes” — and meaning it. Without that “yes,” there’s no consent. If your partner forces you have sex, it’s rape. If you’re forced to do something else sexually, it’s sexual assault. And being raped or sexually assaulted is never your fault.
What is sexual arousal?
Arousal is the feeling of being turned on sexually. When you’re turned on, your body experiences physical and emotional changes. Your penis or clitoris may get erect (hard), engorged, and sensitive, and you may feel wetness on your vulva or vagina, or on the tip of your penis.
You can become aroused from sexual stimulation alone or with a partner, fantasizing or having sexual thoughts, or reading, watching, or listening to erotic materials (like porn). Arousal can also happen when certain parts of your body are touched that are very sensitive (also called “erogenous zones”). But not everyone feels sexually aroused from touch.
Feeling aroused can lead to many physical reactions or none at all. Some of the changes that can happen to your body when you’re aroused include:
- Your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and temperature goes up
- Your nipples, labia, and clitoris fill with blood and become more sensitive
- Your penis gets harder and stands up (this is also called getting an erection)
- Your vagina lubricates (gets wet) and expands
What’s a sex drive?
Your sex drive (sometimes called your “libido”) is when you feel desire to be sexual, or are mentally or physically excited about engaging in sexual activities — like masturbation, sexual thoughts, fantasies, or sexual contact with a partner.
How do I know if my sex drive is normal?
Everyone’s sex drive is different. There’s no “normal” amount you should want to have sex — everyone’s sexual desire and interest in sex is different, and it can change over time.
Your sex drive can change based on things like stress, medicines you take, and other physical, emotional, and lifestyle factors. Some people want to have sex every day or more than once a day, while some people rarely or never want to have sex. Some people need to have a strong emotional connection with someone in order to be interested in sex (sometimes called demisexual). Other people may not need or even want to have an emotional connection with the people they have sex with. People who don’t feel sexual attraction towards anyone may identify as asexual.
If you have a low sex drive and it bothers or upsets you, you may have something called Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. There are lots of things you can do to help increase your sex drive if you want to.
What are erogenous zones?
Some body parts have lots of nerve endings and make you feel excited or aroused when they’re touched — those are your erogenous zones. The biggest erogenous zone for most people is their genital area: the vulva, clitoris, labia, vagina, anus, perineum, penis, scrotum, and prostate. Other common erogenous zones include your breasts and nipples, neck, lips, mouth, tongue, back, fingers, toes, hands, feet, earlobes, buttocks, and thighs. But usually the penis and clitoris are the most sensitive.
Any part of your body can be considered sexual — everyone’s different, and so are their erogenous zones. What feels good to you might not feel good to your partners, so you have to ask them to find out!
What’s the sexual response cycle?
The sexual response cycle is how your body reacts to sexual stimulation. It can happen with a partner, by yourself…and even in your sleep! You don’t always go through all stages of the cycle — you can stop at any time.
The first step is desire, or having sexually arousing thoughts. That can lead to excitement, when your body gets ready for sex. Your heart rate goes up, your muscles tense, and blood flows to your genitals.
The next step is the plateau phase, when you’re really aroused and keep that feeling going by masturbating or having sex.
At the end of the plateau phase is orgasm, when the tension you built up is released in a series of muscle spasms that feel really good. Your body releases endorphins — hormones that make you feel happy and relaxed.
The resolution phase happens at the end of the sexual response cycle, whether you have an orgasm or not. Resolution means your body goes back to how it was before you got aroused.
What’s an orgasm?
An orgasm is what usually happens when you reach the height of sexual arousal. It usually feels really good. When you have an orgasm — aka cum or climax — sexual tension increases until it reaches a peak, and pressure in your body and genitals is released.
What happens when you have an orgasm?
Every person’s body is different, but there are a few physical signs of an orgasm. The most noticeable sign is a very intense, pleasurable feeling in your genitals and throughout your body. The muscles in your vagina or penis, as well as your anus, contract (squeeze) about once per second, 5-8 times. Your heart rate and breathing levels also go up.
During an orgasm, your penis usually squirts a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of semen (cum) — this is called ejaculation. It’s possible to have an orgasm without ejaculating or to ejaculate without having an orgasm, but they usually happen together.
It’s common for your vagina to get really wet before and during an orgasm. It’s also possible for a different fluid to squirt or dribble out of your vulva before or during an orgasm (this is sometimes called female ejaculation, or squirting). This fluid isn’t pee. Ejaculation from a vulva is less common than ejaculation from a penis — some people do it and some people don’t — either is totally normal.
Right after an orgasm, your clitoris or the glans (head) of your penis can feel very sensitive or uncomfortable to touch. You may have “sex flush” — your chest, neck, and face change color for a short amount of time. Orgasms release endorphins (feel-good hormones), so you might feel sleepy, relaxed, and happy afterwards — this is why some people orgasm to relieve pain, stress, or help them go to sleep.
Orgasms don’t feel the same for every person, or every time you have one — some are very intense, some are very mild, and some are in-between. They vary for a number of reasons, including how comfortable you are, how sexually excited you are, and how much sexual tension you built up before you had your orgasm.
How do you know how to orgasm?
Most orgasms happen during masturbation or sex (like vaginal sex), when you or a partner stimulates (touches or rubs) your genitals. People with vulvas usually have orgasms through stimulation of their clitoris, vagina. People with penises usually have orgasms through stimulation of their penis, testicles. A few people can have orgasms from other things, like nipple stimulation or even just thinking sexy thoughts.
Many things can impact your ability to have an orgasm, like your hormones, emotions, past experiences, beliefs, lifestyle, relationships, physical or mental health, taking certain medicines, and using alcohol or drugs.
Some people can have orgasms quickly and easily, others need more time and effort. You might be able to have an orgasm in some circumstances but not others, depending on who you’re with or what you’re doing. Everyone’s body is different and there’s not one “right” way to have an orgasm.
Some people need to have certain parts of their body stimulated in a very specific way or with certain objects (like vibrators) to have an orgasm. A lot of people with vulvas have orgasms by stimulating their clitorises, but not by penetrating their vaginas — some can’t have an orgasm through their vagina at all. All of these differences are normal. It may take time and practice to learn how to have an orgasm. Experimenting with what feels good can help you understand your body and what feels good for you.
Try not to put any pressure on yourself or your partner to have an orgasm. Not everybody can have orgasms during sex or with other people around. Or sometimes the circumstances just aren’t right (you’re nervous, tired, or distracted for example). Some people never have orgasms at all. If you and/or your partner don’t have an orgasm, it doesn’t mean you’re not into each other or you’re bad at sex. Sex and masturbation can be intimate, enjoyable, and fun with or without orgasms. If you’re struggling to have orgasms and it bothers you, you may have orgasm disorder. It’s really common, and there are treatments to help.
What are sex toys?
Sex toys — also called adult toys or “marital aids” — are objects people use to have more pleasure during sex or masturbation. Sometimes sex toys can also have medical uses if you have a sexual dysfunction or medical condition. There are many different types of sex toys, and people use them for lots of different reasons.
It’s totally normal to use sex toys, but it’s also totally normal not to — it’s a personal decision, and everyone’s different. As long as you’re using sex toys safely, there’s nothing harmful about it.