Communication is the sexiest thing
Updated: Apr 26
Yes, it's oft-cited but hands down, communication is the hottest thing in and out of the bedroom. Why?
you can ask for the erotic experiences/touch/intimacy needs you actually want
you can learn how to better stimulate your lover/s
you can be sure you're always playing consensually
you can extend the duration of play by using negotiation as foreplay
you can cultivate more intimate understanding and connection with your partner/s
We hear it everywhere, "the key to .... requires good communication." But what does good communication sound like? And how do you develop the skills to become a better communicator?
Practice. It can feel clumsy and awkward at first as you try to find the right words and start noticing the effects they have. It can also feel very vulnerable revealing such intimate things about yourself. And it can feel edgy asking someone to be vulnerable with you. But believe me, the more you do it, the better you get at - like most things in life! Be kind to yourself as you practice. Few people have been taught these skills and imagine how much easier it would be if we had?! Don't stress though, it's never too late to learn and if you keep practicing, you'll notice the difference in not only your sex life, but most interpersonal relationships too. Remembering too, that communication is multi-way street, so it's up to all involved to contribute well for best results.
Sometimes the spontaneous collision of passion is enough to get two or more bodies engaged in raptures of pleasure. More often than not, it isn't. That's because we humans are complex bundles of thoughts, emotions, histories, habits, interests, pains (both mental and physical), stressors and distractions. Given all this, finding un-negotiated mutual alignment is a miracle!
It is possible to discuss things beforehand so you can feel confident that all players' needs and interests are understood and in a way that allows you to plan and get excited about what might unfold. It is said the mind is the biggest sex organ and thus it is a no brainer that using our cognitive communicative capacities will tap into a myriad of neural pathways.
So how do you do it?
Email or social messaging apps are great for this, if you're an advance planner (like me). I like to ask lots of questions as a starting point, although these will vary enormously depending on whether your playmate/s new or familiar, solo or in a group. They will also vary according to levels of experience and the types of play in the field of mutual interest.
What are you interested in exploring at the moment?
What kind of activities do you want to do?
What's your experience level with these kinds of play?
What kind of activities and body parts are no-go zones?
Do you have any hard limits?
Do we need to have safewords in place and if so, what are they?
What sort of play/words/touch really gets you excited?
What are our safer sex agreements and accessories?
What duration of play feels good for you? Start/end times?
What sort of aftercare is good for you? Phone call or text message? Food/physical needs?
If you're already in situ with a potential playmate, the above questions are all still relevant and important. Taking the time to clarify intentions takes the guess-work out of the play which allows you both/all to drop into the experience more fully. Worrying thoughts are distracting. Erotic thoughts can be complemented by our bodies when they are working together.
Some people think that talking during sex is distracting. However, asking questions, checking-in regularly, letting each other know when something feels great - or not, can be really hot and again, liberates our brains from worrying so we can relax and enjoy.
Below are a few 'communication starters' that can help you find a pathway to better communication during play. Please note there may be some differences if engaging in bdsm/power exchange/fetish - if you are interested in better communication skills for these types of play, I recommend kink coaching with me as it can be a lot more complex and nuanced ; ) Either way, it is still important to have the ability to check in with yourself and communicate what you need before, during and after, any type of play.
Identify your thoughts and body signals.
If you haven't done this before, it means pausing for a moment, turning your attention inward and noticing if you have any particular thoughts, tensions, twitches, openings, leanings or any other sensations that could be trying to tell you something. Listen to your body/mind, trust it and it will guide you towards the thing that you most need/want in that moment.
Name what you're noticing
Describe the thought/feeling using the most appropriate adjectives. The more range of adjectives you have in your vocabulary, the more you can hone what it is you are noticing and the resulting request.
Ask for an experience that matches what it is your body tells you it wants
Are you tired? Aching? Needing soft or hard or all-the-places-in between-touch? Need to be held? Want to change position or activity? Any and all of these things - and more - are part of a dynamic erotic engagement and all are valid things to want and request. When you ask, you give your partner/s clear cues so you get what you want and they know they're doing the best thing in that moment. That feels good for both of you (when you're both in agreement with said request - if not, see below for how to find mutual agreement/'enthusiastic consent'). And if you've had someone ask you for something, say 'thank you', because they've helped you create a more fulfilling experience and it gives them confidence to keep giving you cues.
Be precise in the language you use to describe what you want
Which body part are you referring to? Exactly how is it you want to be touched? Does it need to be faster, slower, tease more, be a different intensity? Do you want a particular movement or motion? Again, honing your language will enrich your experience.
Feel free to add/adapt/change/pause/stop the thing you've asked for as you go along
Just because you've asked for a certain thing doesn't mean you need to stick to that thing. Erotic engagement is a dynamic activity which means "characterised by constant change, activity, or progress." So of course, this means what feels good moment to moment is going to change. Express what you want as you notice yourself wanting it. Otherwise you may slip into tolerating something that may make the once pleasurable become unpleasant. Or, at worst, breach a boundary or consent agreement. Advocating for yourself moment to moment is foundational for ongoing, enthusiastic consent. You may have also just had a new idea pop into your bodymind and that is simply a signal to follow for increasing, ongoing pleasure.
Ask the other person/s for feedback and/or what they're feeling in their bodies
Asking for feedback and giving honest, yet considered and sensitive replies helps create a 'positive feedback loop'. You each know that the other is engaged congruently in the experience. If the feedback indicates something needs to change, it happens before distracting thoughts take one person out of their pleasure zone. Questions like:
"What are you noticing in your body right now?";
"How might I make this more perfect?";
"What pace/pressure/intensity/movement feels better for you?"
are open-ended invitations to stay in tune with each other.
Give each other permission to name distractions or desires as they arise
Thoughts that tug at our attention take us out of what we're feeling. Giving an instruction or request to you partner such as, "Hey, if you think of something you want me to do or if you have a thought getting in the way of enjoying what we're doing, I'd love you to tell me." When you name something, it can be addressed or, at the very least, acknowledges the thing so then you can hopefully move through it and drop back into what you're doing.
If a request is made that results in a 'maybe' or 'no', allow those answers to be named and ask questions to see if there's an adaptation that can enable play to happen/continue.
'Maybe' and 'No' are valid answers to a request and don't need any further justification. A 'No' is always a No'. Enjoy hearing a 'No' because that person has asserted themselves clearly and you both know exactly where you stand! Saying 'thank you' when when you get a 'no' is a great way to affirm each other which establishes trust which is vital to healthy, ongoing relationships.
A 'Maybe' is also a 'No'. Unless there is some adaptation that can be made to make the offer more appealing. Some extension questions can be asked like:
"Is there something you'd like to do instead?"
"What about this idea could be adapted to meet your energy/interest level?"
"Is that a "maybe" because you're just not interested in doing this with me or is there something else I need to know about where you're at right now?"
Learning to ask clearly for what you want and being able to respectfully receive a 'no' and 'maybe' - without taking it personally - are game changers. Lack of clarity from either side of the dynamic leads to murky feelings; acting out of obligation or fear of upset leads to crossed boundaries, which lead to resentment and confusion. Instead, congruent communication means everyone is operating within the zone of mutual happiness.
Debriefing with your partner/s after play is a really good way to learn more and get better at how you relate - with both words and actions. Whilst debrief can be as in depth as you fancy, 2 key questions I recommend are:
What did you really enjoy about that experience?
Was there anything you'd like to do differently next time?
The latter is a way to frame things that might not have worked so well in a positive way, highlighting the learning opportunity rather than focusing on what might be perceived as a 'negative' aspect.
The things that did work are important to remember so you can continue to build on those things in future.
And the great communication cycle continues...
Being heard and having one's needs and interests met are a sure fire way to keep a relationship tracking positively. Going off track will happen on occasion so don't obsess (blame/shame/guilt trip) about it when this happens. Try to always come back to finding the positive feedback loop, owning and learning from mistakes, speaking with honesty and asking questions. Questioning ourselves and our partners will always yield some useful information and the more we discover, the more we realise there is to discover. A curious communication style will help create a more stimulating life!