There is a sex debate that many of us get dragged into on occasion: is there bad sex? Someone will always take the pizza line of argument and argue that even bad sex is good sex. Other people will bring up personal experiences that range from gross violations to cringey embarrassment. These conversations will commonly veer wildly into oversharing and no one will change their initial opinions because people are stubborn creatures. Ultimately, all participants will walk away wondering if they are bad in bed.
We say that bad sex is a thing, and even too much mediocre sex can start to feel like it’s bad sex. Yet we also say that the difference between bad and good sex is (in most cases) communication. But why is it so damn difficult to have those conversations? If you are at a restaurant and your date asks if you want mushrooms on pizza, you simply say “No, thanks.” If you are in bed, it’s often easier to go on the sexual equivalent of a fungi bender rather than express what you want. One of the hardest parts of these conversations is getting vulnerable and telling a partner (or partners) that you want to try something a little daring, a lot less vanilla than your current erotic practices. We totally get that, and we have been there too. So, we brought in an expert to help you broach things like BDSM, group sex, sex tapes, anal sex, and fun (but often stigmatized) things of that nature.
Alicia Sinclair has been a presence in the sexual wellness industry for more than a decade and a half. Currently, she is challenging some outdated norms of the industry by creating inclusive brands (like b-Vibe, Le Wand, and The Cowgirl) with a focus on superior and heavily-researched products paired with approachable educational materials and extensive coaching and support. She has also completed in-depth courses in sexology, as well as clinical and coaching skills and competency training, from Sex Coach University.
As a result of her studies, Sinclair is a Certified Sex Educator, Certified Sexuality Coach, a member of the World Association of Sex Coaches and instructor of the expert course “Sex Toys in Today’s Market” at Sex Coach U. Not surprisingly, considering her credentials, she was super open-minded and informative as she laid down some guidelines for the big sexual ask, and we think her suggestions are perfect. Of course, if your partner isn’t down to do what you are asking, there isn’t an approach that will change that. But, following Sinclair’s advice should help open the doors to better convos about sex and, then, better sex as a result.
Don’t Have The Talk Right Before Sex
When giving any type of suggestion or talking about desire, do it in a non-pressure situation when, preferably, you’re outside the bedroom and not about to have sex. That’s a time when it can be really difficult. You’re getting ready to go into a sexual situation, and you’re bringing up something new. We really want to be able to give people room to think and process and also be in a situation where there’s not an immediate expectation of them. I think that’s really important to bring up.
It might sound counterintuitive to think that you wouldn’t have this conversation naturally during your common sexual experience, but that’s exactly what you want to avoid. You don’t want to bring something up and then expect that thing to happen immediately without some thought behind it beforehand. If you’re talking about having your first anal play experience or maybe exploring polyamory, before or during sex is not the time to do it.
It’s really important, specifically for the person who is asking or inviting a new type of sexuality into the scenario to get educated about it. That can be really fun, and it can be also something that’s done together as a couple. It could be so simple as, “I read this article about BDSM play,” or “I’ve read the Fifty Shades books,” or whatever. “I really found that erotic. Is that something you’d be willing to explore?”
And then exploring you can explore it together, making it something that’s an adventure. The two of you, or the three of you, or whatever that dynamic is, can go and do it together. That can be part of the process. It can be fun. It can be watching pornography if that’s what you’re into or going to a club where you’re able to explore those things. Getting educated about it before you participate in it, especially if it’s something that involves a new part of the body like the butt, can be pretty important. You want to make sure that experience is satisfying and it’s done in a way in that everybody knows what the rules of the game are.
Getting educated can be going to a workshop at Pleasure Chest, or reading a book, or taking a video or online course meant to enable couples to have these types of pleasurable experiences. I absolutely believe it’s super important for both. I think it’s important for the person asking to know what they’re asking for. That’s really important, and then even more so to get educated and to bring the partner along for that educational process once they’ve agreed that that’s something they want to experiment in.
There are so many opportunities and ways to connect with other people who are living lifestyles that are nonconforming, and there’s also a lot of support around that now. If that’s something that someone is interested in, even more so to get educated, and connected, and learn from other people’s past examples.
Frame Your Request As A Sexy Adventure
Make the ask sexy and pose it as an adventure, rather than “This is something that I want.” The way that we ask questions overall really affects the outcome of the answer. It needs to be in a way where it’s not whining or complaining about something that’s not being done. Asking it in a nice way, which also is inviting, is really important.
What is sexy will vary according to what your relationship dialogue is like. If you have a relationship that involves a lot of humor or if you’re on the more conservative or serious side, make sure that it’s within your standard dynamic.
Don’t Buy Supplies Before The Talk
Unless there’s been some form of clean negotiation or consent, it’s really important to respect somebody’s boundaries, and having already bought the rope or something is taking that first step without sort of getting that consent. I do think it is important to at least know beforehand that you’re respecting your partner’s boundaries and you’re not pressuring them to do something that they’re not ready to do. I do think that involving both partners in part of the process of taking out the rope could be also really fun.
It’s such a tricky situation with a lot of fine lines because part of what could be fun is a surprise. Being able to be open and read your partner is also part of the dynamic that is gonna make it successful. Testing the waters, right? If I bring this up and it’s a very cold response, that’s a big red light. If there’s some yellow, maybe it might be fun to experiment with a blindfold and some tie handcuffs before we bring out the rope.
We do a lot of education specifically around butt play, which applies really specifically. A lot of the common narratives that we hear, specifically with heterosexual couples is that a man will ask his female partner to have anal sex. At the moment, there will be no real prior negotiation, planning, or education and it will be a painful experience which she’ll never want to repeat. Because of that, it will create a dynamic where now that type of play is off the table, and the same can apply with BDSM.
If you spank somebody incorrectly, because there are correct ways to spank somebody, you might be ruining the possibility of that being a really awesome part of your sex life, long-term. It’s totally important to take baby steps, and respect people’s boundaries, and have some form of pre-negotiation. All of those things are important.
Don’t complain. Sex is really tied to ego and identity. Bashing your partner’s moves or making your ask sound like you’re not getting something you already need can hurt the other person’s feelings. It can create a conversation that isn’t going to have the turnout that you want it to. Emphasize “I love it when,” or “This makes me aroused,” or “I’d like us to try this,” making the asks very positive and reemphasizing how it can bring more positive dynamics into your sex life.
If you really are interested in BDSM play, after you’ve educated yourself, talk about how you think this will bring the two of you closer together, or how you feel you’re gonna be more aroused and more excited during sex, or it’s gonna add this new level of adventurous play into the bedroom. Really emphasizing the positive of what that will bring into your life is important, rather than talking about what you’renot getting. “I’m not feeling excited because we’re not doing this,” is not nearly as fun as, “I really think we would enjoy it.”
Be As Game As You Want Your Partner To Be
If you want great sex, the key is to give great sex. I think the point is to be open to whatever the other person needs because it might be that they have an ask, too, and so it’s also important to put all the cards on the table and even be more willing to be adventurous on your side of things, whatever that might mean to your partner.
You can always give lots of positive affirmations to somebody, lots of compliments. Look at all the good things that they do. If it’s, “Oh my god, you really make me feel so sexy and special when you do X, Y, and Z. I’m wondering if you would be open to trying this particular thing with me,” that doesn’t sound like there’s something missing. It’s an enhancement. We even talk about this with sex toys, like how hard it is sometimes for people to bring a vibrator into the bedroom because it feels like it might replace the partner and how there’s a lot of sensitivity ego around that. It’s about reemphasizing that it’s the chocolate sauce on the ice cream. It’s not the ice cream, itself.
It’s tricky, right? You’re working with ego and lots of stigma, especially with heteronormative men, There’s this understanding or this stereotype that they’re responsible for our pleasure. Give people lots of compliments when you’re introducing something new, to reward them for what they’re doing right when you’re asking for something.
Prepare What You Want To Say
Practice a couple times. Write it down, even. Say it to an empty chair. You say what you have to say to somebody a couple times before you say it. You get it out. You see how it sounds aloud. Then you’re prepared as if you were doing any public speaking. Gotta be a little brave to ask for what you want in the bedroom.