Couple in bed

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard sex educators say that a happy sexual relationship is all about “communication,” I’d be rich. Yes, of course, good communication is essential. But as tongues start dancing, many people become tongue-tied. Compared with negotiations about where to dine or which movie to see, it’s considerably more challenging to ask for, say, more or gentler oral sex—and most sexuality resources are pretty thin on suggestions for making such requests.

Part of the problem is the word “communication.” It’s vague and implies making speeches. Actually, orations are not necessary. Erotic requests can usually be made quite simply using very few words.

Sexual communication is a lot like athletic coaching. Once players understand the fundamentals, skilled coaches rarely need many words to make their points. Mutual sexual coaching is similar and not terribly difficult.

No One Can Read Your Mind

Many people, particularly those with little sexual experience, embrace the romantic notion that the moment lips lock, lovers somehow become clairvoyant and intuitively understand what the other person wants, needs, and enjoys. If he really loves me, he’ll know.

That’s naïve. Neither momentary infatuation nor falling deeply into life-long love bestows magical powers that turn couples into mind-readers. Unless you clearly state your likes and dislikes, your lover doesn’t know and can’t know which erotic moves excite—or repulse.

Unfortunately, erotic mind-reading is a staple of popular media. On television and in movies, lovers rarely, if ever discuss how they like to get it on and what they need for erotic satisfaction. Typically, they tear each other’s clothes off, jump into bed, and everything unfolds perfectly. The same goes for romance fiction. The women protagonists are so sexually charismatic that the powerful men who desire them know intuitively what they need and have no trouble providing it. And in porn, no one negotiates anything. After perfunctory hellos, the men unzip and the women fall to their knees with mouths wide open. With few exceptions, TV, movies, romance fiction, and porn all reinforce the absurd fantasy that lovers become psychic.

Of course, in the throes of passion, it’s often difficult to say anything, let alone ask your partner for sexual adjustments. If you’re critical, your honey might feel offended. Or think you’re carping. Or weird. Or perverted. As a result, many people who would like to request erotic adjustments can’t find the words. But clamming up means that your pleasure suffers and your partner remains in the dark about the moves that turn you on—and off.

Everyone is sexually unique. No two lovers are erotically identical. No one can read your erotic mind. No one can possibly know what you love and hate—unless you say so. For great sex, you must speak up while lying down. You’re responsible for your own sexual pleasure and orgasm. No one else. You and you alone.

Easier Coaching: Slow, Sober Sex

With all due respect to the occasional quickie, the best sex is usually slow sex. It takes most women 20 to 30 minutes of gentle, playful, whole-body massage to warm up to the clitoral caresses that produce their orgasms.

Men, particularly young men, typically heat up faster, but like most women, most penises of all ages usually prefer a leisurely pace. Slow sensual sex is key to firm erections, good ejaculatory control, and earthquake male orgasms.

A slow pace also contributes to productive coaching. When sex unfolds slowly, there’s plenty of time to check in about how things feel and how you want them to progress. A leisurely pace also allows time to discuss contraception and sexual infection prevention and to use condoms.

One more thing that facilitates coaching—sobriety. Now, many lovers enjoy drinking alcohol and/or using marijuana or other drugs before sex. Your recreational drug use is up to you. But there’s a big difference between a pleasant buzz and being blotto drunk or stoned out of your mind. If you feel dissatisfied with any element of your lovemaking and hope to make changes, minimize your drug use—and your lover’s—at least until your coaching resolves your issues.

Start with Compliments

It’s no fun feeling criticized. That goes double for sexual criticism. Assuming that you generally enjoy your partner’s lovemaking, before asking for changes, offer reassurance: “I love being with you.” “You’re so desirable.” “I can’t get enough of you.” “Sex with you feels so special.” Then say no more. That way your lover doesn’t automatically brace for a “but….”

By offering compliments without criticism, you also gain experience in sexual discussions. And people like being complimented. Without additional intervention, kudos often lead to hotter nookie.

Not that anyone should feel obligated to voice loving endearments during sex. Some enjoy them, others don’t. You don’t have to say anything. It’s up to you. But if the two of you typically say little or nothing, you might experiment with opening your mouths for more than kissing and oral sex. Everyone loves compliments, especially about their skills as lovers.

“About Our Kissing…”

Of course, after compliments, there often lurks a “but…” That’s fine. That’s life. No one knows what you want unless you say so.

To gain comfort and confidence with sexual coaching, start with suggestions about non-genital caresses, for example, kissing. Compared with genital play, kissing is rarely as challenging to discuss.

Many people feel particular about how they like to be kissed. You might begin by asking, “About the way I kiss—do you like it? Would you prefer my kissing you differently?” If your partner demurs, maybe you’re the perfect kisser, or perhaps you might probe bit more, “Do you like how I use my tongue? I could lick your lips or not. Or keep my tongue shallow in your mouth. Or slip it in deeper. Your thoughts?” Discussion of non-genital moves like kissing can help you both relax about discussing genital sex.

Many people prefer to start kissing with mouths closed, reserving open-mouth kissing and tongue play until things start to heat up. If a lover immediately slips you tongue, you might pull away momentarily and say: “I love our kissing, but I’d prefer mouths closed a little longer. Okay?” Or, “I love kissing you, but when we do it, I wish you’d breathe more deeply. I love that.” Clear communication also demonstrates that coaching is no big deal, just a routine, everyday element of making whoopee.

Recipients: Better Sex—Using Just Two Words

The words are “yes” and “oh.”

If you feel reluctant or unable to coach using whole sentences, here’s a simple, effective, one-word remedy. Simply say “yes” or “oh” when you enjoy what’s happening, and remain silent when you don’t. That’s all there is to it—and it works. Over a few months, just saying “yes” is quite likely to get you more of what you want and less of what you don’t.

Erotic arousal is contagious. The more you show that you feel turned on, the more turned on your lover is likely to become—and provide what arouses you. Sighs, moans, and groans may communicate arousal, but may also be misunderstood. You might moan in discomfort but your lover may misinterpret it as enjoyment. “Yes” and “Oh” are clearer and more articulate, especially when you say them with feeling: “Ohhh, yesss!” Lovers naturally provide more of whatever elicits those magic words, and less of what’s greeted by silence.

Saying “yes” or “oh” largely eliminate the need to utter words that are difficult to spit out: “no,” “don’t,” “not so intense” or “stop it, you’re hurting me!” It’s easier—and better for relationships—to keep things positive. And once you start saying “yes” or “oh,” your silence communicates that what’s happening isn’t ringing your bell.

In addition, if you hope to receive caresses your lover is nowhere near providing, “yes” and “oh” can also help. Say them when your partner does anything close to what you ultimately want. By reinforcing successive approximations of your goal caresses, your lover is likely to move incrementally in the direction you want.

Of course, talking during sex might also cause conflict. One of you might prefer sex in relative silence while the other enjoys a running commentary. One might prefer clinical terms—“penis” and “vagina”—while the other might prefer more colloquial terms. Discuss this. A good time for such conversations is shortly after your orgasms as you both cuddle together during afterglow (below).

Initiators: Check In Using Just a Few Words

Possibilities include, “Is this okay?” Or “Would you prefer it differently?”

At every erotic escalation, initiators should ask these questions. They’re easy to utter. They invite coaching. And they don’t interrupt anything. On the contrary, they reveal your humility. They show that you understand your partner’s erotic uniqueness, take it seriously, and are committed to providing your lover pleasure. Initiators might also follow up with corollary questions. “Less intensity? More?”

Don’t wait for recipients to declare that some move is a turn-off. They may not be sufficiently assertive to tell you. At every step up the erotic ladder, ask, “Is this okay? Would you prefer something different??

Creative Afterglow

Even if you become adept at saying, “Yes” or “Is this okay?” in the throes of passion, it still might feel difficult to provide coaching. But after your orgasms, when you’re both feeling dreamy, content, and close, it’s often easier to comment.

Begin with compliments. Highlight what you enjoyed, and ask for more of it. “Remember when you were giving me oral and you circled my clit with your tongue? That was great. I’d love that every time.” Or “I love it when you stroke my penis, but I’d like it even more if you yanked a little harder.”

In addition, try to be positive about negatives. If a lover does anything you really can’t stand, feel free to say so, but give it a loving spin. List a few moves you enjoy, then criticize the one you don’t. “I love it when you use lube on my vulva, but I don’t care for it on my nipples, okay?” “I really love the way you suck me, but when you suck on my balls, it kinda hurts. Can we leave that out from now on?”

Half A Loaf Is Often Enough

If you’re dissatisfied with any aspect of your sexual relationship, jot a list of everything you wish were different. Be specific. Not: I wish she acted sexier. That’s vague. Instead: I wish I didn’t have to place her hand on my penis. I wish she would take the initiative to fondle me.

When you have a list of specifics, rank them in order from most to least desired. Then focus on your number one desire, saying “Yes,” “Oh,” or “Is this okay?” as often as necessary to begin moving your lovemaking in that direction. With patience, good humor, and any luck, you should notice a shift toward what you want within a few rolls in the hay. Then proceed to your number two item, and invest another few months.

Chances are you won’t get everything you want. But for happy lovemaking, most people don’t need every wish granted. Noticeable progress is usually enough to make you feel that your lover takes your wants and needs seriously.

And if not, continue to coaching. If you reach an impasse, consider sex therapy. To find a sex therapist near you visit the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, the Society for Sex Therapy and Research, or the American Board of Sexology.

You may also be interested in reading Better Sex Fast: Using Just One Word, YES.

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