Let’s face it: Many of us aren’t great at talking about sex. Even if you enjoy the physical act, discussing it candidly may still feel uncomfortable.
But without open communication, you could be missing out on better sex and a stronger connection with your partner.
Maybe you two have been together for a while, so you think you already know everything about each other’s past experiences, turn-ons and fantasies. But unless you’re asking thoughtful questions, you’re probably not as in-sync as you think.
Speaking to HuffPost, sex experts shared some questions that can help you get to know your partner on a deeper level.
1. What’s the best dirty dream you’ve ever had?
This is a great way to open the door to talking about your fantasies — and doing it through a dream “allows creativity to really take hold,” said Lisa Finn, a sex educator and brand manager at sex toy company Babeland.
“Follow up and ask what parts about it were the best. Of course, not everything in a dream can necessarily even be possible,” Finn said. “But you can use the opportunity to use some imagination. Plus, describing a fantasy is a great way to practice some dirty talk.”
2. What are your biggest turn-ons — and turn-offs?
Zachary Zane — the author of “Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto” and a sex expert with Momentum Intimacy, which sells condoms, lubricants and other products — recommends asking this question before you have sex with someone new.
“No one is a mind reader, and both people will feel safer and more comfortable knowing what their partner likes and dislikes,” he said. “Not to mention, it’ll be more pleasurable for both parties involved.”
“No one is a mind reader, and both people will feel safer and more comfortable knowing what their partner likes and dislikes.”
And because our sexuality is ever evolving, it’s worth checking in with each other on this periodically — even if you’ve discussed it in the past.
“What we find arousing today may not be what we found hot a year ago or 10 years ago,” Zane said. “So if you haven’t spoken about your sexual desires to your partner in a while and have just been doing the same thing, this gives you an opportunity to change up how you’ve been having sex.”
3. What things turn you on that aren’t overtly sexual?
By asking this question, you can discover the unexpected things that attract and excite your partner.
“Being turned on isn’t always about the desire to have sex; it could be about the desire to connect, to be intimate, to feel relaxed, to have fun or to feel sexy,” said sex and pleasure educator Luna Matatas.
Through this conversation, you’ll learn ways to increase the flirty energy between you and your partner “without the explicit intention of it leading to sex,” she added.
4. What do you think about when you masturbate?
Learning more about your partner’s solo sex routine can offer a glimpse into their sexuality.
This might include “what they like to imagine, how they like to touch themselves, if they use toys, and how they get themselves excited,” said sex therapist Jesse Kahn, the director of the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in New York City. “You know what they’re like with you, but learning more about their solo sex life can help you get to know their desires better and enrich your time shared.”
Approach the conversation from a place of curiosity rather than a feeling of obligation to act out these sexy scenarios, Matatas said. Focus on the story behind the fantasy and get into the nitty-gritty details.
“If they are into spanking fantasies: What positions? What implements? How do they want to feel? Are they being spanked or doing the spanking? Do they like it hard or playful?” Matatas said.
“Getting to know your partner’s erotic imagination can give you information on what kinds of activities, vibes, sensations or even dirty talk they get turned on by,” she added.
“You might even discover a new way to get turned on from their fantasies, share some of your own, or experience pleasure from hearing about their desires.”
5. When you search for porn or erotica, what do you look for?
Maybe your partner always gravitates toward stuff about threesomes, butt play or partner-swapping scenarios.
“See if there’s something in there that you’d both like to try, or a role-play that you can give a shot,” Finn said. “If you’re both interested, maybe even watch some together. You can even include some mutual masturbation if you’re feeling it.”
Keep in mind that some people enjoy these scenarios as fantasies in their mind without any desire to try them in real life, “so ask before you pull out those moves,” Finn said.
If your partner doesn’t watch porn, you can ask if there are romantic or sexual tropes in TV, films or books that they’re into.
For example, “are they super into the idea of enemies-to-lovers?” Finn said. “Do some scene negotiation around role-playing being bitter or snarky to one another throughout the day, until you finally give in to that passionate kiss mid-fake argument.”
6. Is there anything that makes you turn off porn you’re watching?
In other words, what would make them close a video or put down the erotic novel they’re reading? This can offer important information about your partner’s preferences and boundaries.
“In the same vein, often we focus on asking our partners what they’re into or what they’re curious about, but it’s just as important to know what doesn’t do it for them,” Finn said. “Maybe it’s something that just doesn’t turn them on, something that takes them out of the fantasy, or — importantly — a limit or boundary they have.”
7. What’s the most adventurous place you would like to have sex?
It’s easy to assume you’re well versed in each other’s erotic preferences. Asking questions that touch on sexual novelty “can deepen our understanding of them and bring more excitement to the relationship,” said Los Angeles sex therapist Nazanin Moali, who hosts the “Sexology” podcast.
“Emphasize that there’s no obligation to act on the adventurous scenario, but express curiosity about what makes it appealing to them,” she said. “Be open to discovering any overlapping interests that could be added to your mutual sexual bucket list.”
8. What do you like to do after sex is over?
See if your partner has any preferred post-sex rituals — perhaps something comforting or connecting, like sharing a snack, holding hands or having a good conversation. In some circles, this is known as “aftercare,” but everyone can benefit greatly from it.
“Aftercare preferences can vary greatly between individuals, so it’s essential to have open and honest conversations about what each partner needs and desires after intimate moments,” Moali said, adding that “a lack of aftercare can mar the entire experience” for some people.
“Do they want to cuddle? Are there specific activities, gestures or words that they find soothing?” she continued. “Ask about the duration of aftercare and any factors that might influence it.”
9. What do you feel anxious or insecure about right now?
Opening up about your vulnerabilities and anxieties can help build intimacy with a trusted partner, inside and outside of the bedroom.
“Many people have performance anxiety that shows up in fear of not being able to orgasm or orgasming too quickly, or body shame,” Matatas said. “Others find it hard to communicate during sex or worry if they have good sex skills.”
Candid conversations like this can create empathy, allow you to feel more present during sex, and “possibly open up ways for your partner to support you in feeling more confident,” she added.
Phrased another way, you might ask your partner what they’re feeling uneasy about at the moment and then see how you can help put them more at ease. This is a great question to ask in general, but “especially in a sexual context,” said sex educator Francisco Ramirez, a co-founder of the advice app OkaySo.
“The truth is that many of us have any number of anxieties or concerns that are in the back — or forefront — of our minds when we’re with a partner,” said Ramirez, ”from anxieties about our bodies, to being somewhat nervous about certain sexual activities, to being nervous we’ll be too loud for our roommate or neighbor next door, or even just having a lot of school- or work-related stressors on our minds.”
He added, “Giving breathing space to our anxieties, and allowing us a chance to name our needs, can be invaluable.”
10. Have you experienced trauma that may impact our intimate moments together?
Millions of people in the U.S. have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes. So, it’s possible that your partner may be one of them. Once you’ve established trust in the relationship, initiating a conversation about their history will allow your partner to open up, if they feel comfortable doing so. Just know that they may not be ready to get into details — or discuss the subject at all — and that’s OK, too.
“Understanding their past experiences can help you support your partner if trauma resurfaces during intimacy,” Moali said.
“If they are willing to share, ask them about specific triggers or situations that make them feel uncomfortable, but make sure you are respecting their privacy. Most importantly, inquire about how you can best support them during intimate moments. Remember, your goal is to gather enough information to ensure both you and your partner feel safe, not to resolve their trauma.”
If your partner does open up to you, be sure to listen without interrupting, validate their experience and be patient, as healing from this type of trauma can be a slow and difficult process. You can also help by encouraging them to consider working with a therapist if they aren’t already.
11. What role does sex play in our relationship?
You want to figure out how important sex is to each of you, and the role it plays in making you feel loved by and connected to your partner.
“For some people, sex is the glue that holds their romantic relationships together. It’s how they feel loved and desired by their partner,” Zane said. “These people may want to have sex every day or close to it. Others have a different relationship with sex. It’s something they can take or leave, and they feel closest to their partners when having heart-to-hearts.”
12. Would you be open to talking about our experiences with STI testing?
Ramirez recommended this phrasing for asking about sexually transmitted infections, instead of using more stigmatizing questions like “Are you clean?” or “You don’t have anything, do you?”
“When we ask if we can talk about our experiences, or feelings, about STI testing, we invite more of an open-ended conversation about testing and sexual health more broadly,” he said. “The question also invites nuance, and makes room for us to talk about our lived experiences around the subject.”
13. Do you like to be touched anywhere I don’t know about?
The genitals, breasts, nipples and butt are all common erogenous zones. But so are places like the neck, ears, wrists, inner thighs and lower back. You may not know all of your partner’s sexy spots unless you ask.
“Your partner might be sensitive on other parts of their body you wouldn’t think to pay attention to,” Kahn said. “They’ve had a lifetime to explore their body, so they likely have some insight you don’t. And if they aren’t sure, the two of you can plan some time to explore different types of touch on different areas on one another’s bodies to find out together.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.