ASK A SEX THERAPIST: 6 Reasons You're Not Asking For What You Want In Bed, And What To Do About Them
“Can you go down on me?”
Seems so simple, doesn’t it?
“I want to get on top.”
Asking for what you want in the bedroom seems like it should be so easy, yet many of us struggle with actually opening our mouths and letting the words out. Here's a list of some of the reasons why you may be tongue-tied, and how to get more comfortable making sexual requests.
Reason #1: You don’t know what you want.
This is perhaps the most common barrier to asking for what you want. I’ve worked with an awful lot of women who had no idea what they liked or needed sexually. It’s hard to make a request if you don’t know what to ask for.
There are a number of reasons why you may be clueless when it comes to your wants. You may not have ever learned what works and doesn’t work for you. Perhaps you’ve never had a sexual experience that was particularly pleasurable. You may have been sexually abused, and learned that sex was something to avoid before you had the chance to get curious about what you like. Or the things that used to be sure bets for you may not be working anymore.
What to do: There’s no shame in not knowing what you like; it just means that you have a wonderful journey ahead of you, with tons of exciting discoveries to come! During sexual interactions, be mindful that you’re trying to learn more about your body, and try to notice what feels most pleasurable.
One of the easiest ways to start learning what you like is by utilizing A/B testing. Compare two types of stimulation, and pick which one you like best. Picking one of two options feels much more manageable than trying to describe the entirety of what you like.
Reason #2: You’re afraid of hurting your partner’s feelings.
A lot of women don’t want to speak up about what they want because they’re afraid doing so will upset their partners. Your partner may be dealing with his own insecurities (perhaps premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction), and you might feel like asking for what you want would be kicking him when he’s down. Or you may be afraid of bruising her ego by insinuating that she’s not doing it for you.
What to do: Get curious about why you’re worried about your partner getting upset. Is this something that is based on your own history, or is it genuinely about this particular person?
Practice by starting with small asks, like, “Can you kiss me here?” Keep your tone kind and straightforward. Include compliments in your requests, like, “I love when you touch me like that. Please don’t stop!” It’s likely that the response you get will help you feel comfortable enough to try bigger requests. If you find yourself feeling nervous, preface your ask by telling your partner how you’re feeling. For example, “I’m a little embarrassed bringing this up, but I’d love it if you could go down on me more often.”
Reason #3: You’ve been faking it.
In a similar vein, you may be afraid to ask for what you want because you’ve been faking pleasure or orgasm. This happens all the time. Your partner may think that he or she has figured out what you like because it has “always worked” in the past. It may be hard for you to correct your partner since you’ve been carrying on this charade for so long.
What to do: It’s up to you to decide if you want to be honest about your faking. If you do decide to go the truthful route, share your original intentions for the faking. For example, “When we first started hooking up I was nervous because I was so into you, and I felt too shy to tell you what I wanted. Then I got so embarrassed that I’d faked it, and was worried about what you’d think.” If you don’t want to fess up to the faking, you can be more general and say you’re looking to explore new techniques. For example, “I’ve been noticing that I’m liking different things lately. Maybe we can do some more experimenting together?”
Reason #4: You freeze in the moment.
Some women simply get gun-shy in bed. You might know what you want and be willing to ask for it, but find yourself surprisingly paralyzed when the time comes to open your mouth.
What to do: If you catch yourself hesitating, take a deep breath and check in with yourself. See what particular emotions are coming up for you. Are you nervous? Scared? Frustrated? Confused?
You can also try coming up with a little pep talk-y reminder to give yourself in the moment, for example, “it’s OK to speak my mind,” or “This isn’t going to drive my partner away.” Or you can ask your partner to support you by soliciting your feedback.
Reason #5: You’re expecting your partner to read your mind.
So many of my female clients want their partners to know exactly what to do and when to do it. I get it; it’s really nice to have those moments when your partner seems to magically know what you want, no communication required. Those experiences are fine and dandy, but you still have to take some responsibility for your own pleasure. Wah wah, I know.
What to do: As an experiment, try having sex where you don’t give any sort of input whatsoever. The next time, put a little extra effort into asking for what you want. Compare the two experiences.
Reason #6: You’re afraid of killing the mood.
A lot of my clients are afraid that communicating during sex will ruin the moment. Many women feel awkward asking for what they want, and worry that their partner will be able to sense their discomfort. Communication is tricky in general, and the idea of communicating during your most intimate moments can feel a little overwhelming.
What to do: Try asking for what you want in a way that feels natural to you. On a separate occasion, play around with different words, tones, or sounds until you start to feel more like yourself. Bonus points if you can find ways to actually feel aroused while expressing your desires! Something like, “Would you be so kind as to administer a bit more pressure?” can feel awkward, but “Harder, please!" might feel pretty damn hot.