(Originally published in Elephant Journal)
When it comes to sex, everyone is a little different and we all want different things.
That's why in my practice as a desire and intimacy coach, I don't teach techniques and I don't give advice on new and novel moves to try out in the bedroom. Instead, I ask the people I work with to check in with themselves about what they want and how they feel. Our own desires and feelings are really the best tools we have in guiding us toward better sex.
So while we're all a little different, and there are no universal sure-win sex tips, I have found that no matter who you are and no matter who you're having sex with, saying the following three things always makes sex hotter...
1. "I feel..."
There are a couple of great reasons to talk about our feelings during sex. The first is that revealing what we're feeling helps us get connected. The second is that the best sex is the kind of sex where all the thoughts leave our mind and we find ourselves in a state of flow, fully in our bodies, moving without thinking. And we can't turn off our thoughts and get into flow until we clear the things that are weighing on our mind.
We can't be in our heads and in our bodies at the same time. The more we are thinking, the less sensation we'll be feeling. So when we go into sex with anything weighing on our minds, whether it's something left unsaid, a resentment we have with our partner, or maybe something external that's effecting our mood, any attention we have on that thing will detract from the amount of sensation we feel in our bodies. When we don't say the thing on our mind, whether it's positive or negative, our partner may not know the context for where we are energetically, physically, and mentally. As long as we try to proceed with sex before first clearing that thing, we will both be unable to fully drop into the realm of sensation and get into flow. Instead, one of us will be in our head thinking about the thing, the other will be in their head wondering what's going on, and both of us will feel disconnected from each other.
When it comes to sex, most people shy away from speaking too much. A lot of us might be cool with dirty talk but when it comes to feelings, there's a common attitude that any talk about that sort of thing during or leading up to sex is not hot. But most people don't realize the secret bonus to saying what we feel: When we do it we feel more connected to our partner, which leads to feeling more sensation in our bodies, which leads to getting more turned on, which leads to much hotter sex.
2. "I want..."
We don't all like sex the same way, that much is clear. There is no universal secret technique that if discovered, would make us all amazing lovers. However there is one surefire method to making sure our partner knows what we want: We can tell them.
Most of us have had that experience in sex where a frustrated voice in our head is running a dialog that goes something like "this isn't at all what I want! I wish they would just slow down a little bit, lighten up, change positions." And since we're not enjoying it or making any gestures of encouragement, inevitably our partner can feel something is off but they probably don't know what to do differently.
Likewise, we have all had the opposite experience where our partner is doing the exact combination of things that cranks up our arousal to epic levels. It's that zone where it's so good that we wish sex was always exactly like that moment, and we moan louder to let them know that we love what they're doing.
But here's the thing: In both of the above scenarios, our partner probably has no idea what it is about what they're doing that's either working or not working. What's crazy is that we could totally just tell them, but let's be honest; Most of us don't. Instead we hope and pray they got the hint. Instead, we continue day in and day out, sexual experience after sexual experience, without educating our partner as to exactly what feels good in our bodies, frustrated that we so rarely get to experience that deep nourishing feeling of being touched just the right way.
The solution is simple (though not necessarily easy): We describe in great detail what we like, we ask our partner to do the same, and we check in often with specific questions. It works best if we don't get shy an stop at vague questions such as "do you like this?" because the answer to those question won't give us much information. The answer is usually either "Yes" (which may be a lie to soothe our ego) or "No", neither of which are very helpful. Instead, we can get specific and ask questions that open the door for our partner to give us very detailed information about what they actually like. "Do you like it slower or faster? Lighter or deeper? Do you like it when I suck your nipples, or bite them, or flick them?" And we can check in as we go: "like this? like this? or like this?"
Or we can help our partner out and tell them exactly what we want. When asking for what we want, it's in everyone's best interest best to be very, very specific and honest. We do ourselves and our partner a favor by leaving no room for confusion.
Imagine all the things we've always thought we maybe, kinda knew about what turned our partner on. Imagine all the moments thinking "It seems like they like this but I can't tell for sure." And the moments of exasperation where we finally threw up our hands and gave up trying to figure it out.
All of that could be history with just a little open discussion.
3. "I think we've peaked"
Sex is a little like eating ice cream. The first bite is delicious, the second bite is, too. But when we keep eating until we've finished off the pint, something happens. If we compared the first bite we took to the last bite we took, I bet we'd notice that after a certain point each bite we take tasted less and less delicious. That point where a bite of ice cream begins to have diminishing returns in enjoyability is called a peak.
Of course if we take ourselves off autopilot and put our attention on what our bodies are telling us, we can stop eating ice cream the very moment we sense that the next bite will be less sensational than the previous. We can eat until we are satisfied and not a moment longer. This is called peaking and it's a principle that also applies to sex.
In our goal oriented (climax oriented) sex culture, stopping at the peak (which may very well be prior to climax) can feel like giving up, but there are a couple of great reasons to try it.
First, feeling the peak is always mutual. If one person feels it, the other will also be feeling it. A couple of indications we've already peaked are that we're slightly bored, we're suddenly thinking about our to-do list, or we simply aren't feeling as much in our bodies as we were before. Acknowledging a peak provides us with proof of how connected we really are to each other and has us feel even more connected when we discover that we weren't alone in what we were feeling. I tell my clients that continuing past the peak can even be harmful, as it creates disconnection and often leaves us feeling lonely in the experience.
Second, continuing past the peak is the "overeating" of sex. Stopping just when we've had enough to eat leaves us feeling nourished and energized but overeating can leave us feeling bloated and tired. Anyone who's ever eaten a whole pint of ice cream and sworn afterward that they'd never eat ice cream again will understand that it's much better to stop before you get full. It's the same in sex. Leaving room for desire feels much better than eating so much that our food has no flavor anymore and we never want to eat again.
Finally, when you're in the habit of calling the peak, you'll never be stuck having sex past the point where you feel like you've had enough. Calling the peak means that the minute you feel satisfied, you can stop. You'll never get stuck going longer than you want out of a sense of obligation, or because of an assumption that your partner wants to keep going. And you'll never have to worry that once you start, you have to keep going until it's "finished" because it's finished exactly when you decide it is.