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How To Talk Dirty Without Being Awkward

Here's how to tell your partner what you want (what you really, really want) with sex talk.

Dirty talk doesn’t have to be complicated. As sex columnist Dan Savage once summed it up, the best sex talk is simple and straightforward: “Tell ’em what you’re going to do, tell ’em what you’re doing, tell ’em what you did.”

Still, as simple as it can be, many of us freeze up in the moment, either saying something we heard on Pornhub that sounds unnatural, or something that’s awkward, weird or deeply unsexy.

We’re reminded of that scene in “Seinfeld,” where Jerry tells George what he’d told a woman the night before: “She’s talking about her panties, so, uh...so, I said, ‘You mean the panties your mother laid out for you?’”

″‘The panties your mother laid out for you?’” a flabbergasted George says. “What does that mean?”

Yeah, we don’t know either, but for those of us who struggle with dirty talk, the scene is a little too relatable.

Given the myriad ways it could go wrong, why even bother with dirty talk in the first place? It’s simple: When done right, and said by someone you’re incredibly attracted to, nothing’s sexier than vocal sex. The brain is our biggest sexual organ, so it makes sense that we’re turned on by what our partners say in the heat of the moment. (And vice versa; voicing the desires and fantasies you usually keep to yourself to a rapt audience can be a huge turn-on.)

At the heart of it, good, game-changing dirty talk takes us out of our humdrum regular lives and into the performance of sex, said Jenny Block, a dating expert and author ofO Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm.”

“Our bodies may be feeling something, but if our minds are disengaged, the pleasure reward will always fall short,” she said. “Dirty talk helps us to get out of our heads and into our bodies. Just the sounds and tones can help us forget all about the laundry and remember just how good our partner feels.”

Now that we’ve sold you on the gift of gab, let’s talk through a few ways to elevate your dirty talk game.

First, keep it simple.

No need to channel a porn star right out of the gate. Say what feels natural to you in the moment, and definitely don’t feel like you have to construct some elaborate sex narrative beforehand. This isn’t some weird sex monologue; you don’t have to talk the whole time. Even just a well placed “I can’t wait to feel you inside me” as you walk through the door or when you kiss can do the trick.

“I always tell people to think about your senses,” said sexologist Megan Stubbs, “and if profanity or vulgar language isn’t something that you commonly use, don’t feel pressured to use it. I mean, it might throw your partner off if you’re suddenly asking ‘master to fuck his little cum-dumpster.’”

Aim to be playful and start early. When your partner is off at work or running errands, drop some hints about how much you want to play later on.

“I suggest slowly building the anticipation of a sexual encounter,” Stubbs said. “Sending a text like, ‘I can’t wait for tonight...’ is an easy lead-in to dirty talk.” (On that note, you might want to read our primer on how to write a sext that doesn’t suck.)

Ask yourself: How do I want to feel? How do I want my partner to feel?

Dirty talk is pretty intimidating when you’re worried about how you might sound or if your partner is going to laugh. Don’t intellectualize it so much. Tap into the sensory side of sex. When you start to focus on how you want yourself and your partner to feel, you realize you have more in your sex talk arsenal than you know, said Heather McPherson, a sex therapist and owner of Respark Therapy in Austin, Texas, and Denver.

“You can also follow the simple Dan Savage formula,” she said. “Being playful and bringing a relaxed, confident attitude can also be helpful.”

Telling your partner what you want them to do to you can be exciting, experts say. 
Telling your partner what you want them to do to you can be exciting, experts say. 

Become a pro at giving instructions.

There are two types of dirty talk, said Kenneth Play, a sex educator and coach in Brooklyn, New York: One type builds anticipation (“I can’t wait to make you come later...”), the other type is purely instructional.

“Instructions and giving a little direction can be incredibly sexy for some people,” he said. “For example, say something like, ‘When you come home today, I want you to put on your favorite lingerie, then I want you to lay on the bed face down and wait for me to come home and play with you.’”

Get comfortable talking about sex outside the bedroom.

Research shows that people who are more comfortable talking about sex in their everyday lives have more satisfying sex lives. If you never talk about sex, it’s not necessarily going to be any easier getting chatty in bed, so don’t shy away from talking about it with your partner at other times.

“People get intimidated by dirty talk mostly because they don’t know what to say! We feel tongue-tied in the moment, or unsure how to express ourselves,” said sex therapist Vanessa Marin. “Most people don’t talk about sex openly, so they just need to get in the practice to feel comfortable.”

If you say something that doesn’t go over well, talk about it later.

A little nervous laughter is fine, but sometimes, you might say something that triggers your partner. They might not have the language to tell you why it bothered them in the moment, but if you get the sense that you pushed things too far, definitely talk about it later.

Discuss how you’re “carving out an erotic space where dirty talk is about fantasy,” not about how you feel about that person in reality, Play said. (Think: How some people get off at being called “daddy,” but it’s about authority and sexual dominance, not incestuous fantasies.)

“If you do make a mistake or go too far, quite simply, correct it,” Play said. “Honor that your partner doesn’t like it, honor why if they can share, and also let them know they don’t even need to tell you why it’s just not their thing and then you move on.”

It doesn’t have to be X-rated to be good.

Read the room. Don’t throw out anything super vulgar unless tonally all signs point to that being a good idea, Block said, calling on personal experience to illustrate her point.

“One time I used language that was far too X-rated, and it really turned the other person off,” she recalled. “My partner was very sweet about it and asked me to switch gears a little. I was still super-embarrassed.”

It was a nice moment in the end, and Block and the woman were able to giggle about it later. (Mutual laughter = great sex, in our book.)

“It became like a silly, intimate secret we shared,” she said. “All she cared about was the fact that I was willing to give it a go. The particulars were something we could work out along the way.”

And now, to make things even easier, here’s short list of lines you can use in a pinch, provided by our sex-perts:

  1. “I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with you...”

  2. “You taste so good.”

  3. “Right there. Touch my _____.”

  4. “Yes, please. More.”

  5. “When I walk in the door I want you in my favorite skirt with no underwear...”

  6. “It makes me crazy when you _____.”

  7. “I’m going to come for you.”

  8. “You taste so good.”

  9. “I want you to use me like a toy.”

  10. “I love it when you moan my name.”

  11. “Fuck me hard.”

Sex Ed for Grown-Ups is a series tackling everything you didn’t learn about sex in school — beyond the birds and the bees. Keep checking back for more expert-based articles and personal stories.

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