There’s nothing wrong with having “vanilla”, or what’s considered conventional, sex. But if you’re feeling ready to start exploring sexually to take your bedroom activities to a new level, there are plenty of ways to get started. Whether you’re in a long-term relationship, keeping things casual, or playing solo, trying new things can help keep your sex life interesting. Here are ten things to try if you’re feeling ready to break out of your comfort zone to start a sexploration journey.
1. Use fantasy and masturbation to connect to your desires
Trying new things can be intimidating at first — especially if you’re not totally sure what you like. But solo sex can help you get in touch with what turns you on, whether you’re single or in a relationship. Author and sexologist Dr. Carol Queen recommends using masturbation and fantasy as a safe, low-pressure way to explore things you’re curious about. “When you masturbate, fantasize based on the things you've explored. See what really revs you up,” she tells O.school.
2. Use your words
When you’re having sex with a partner, communication is essential for establishing consent, determining boundaries, and building trust. Sex therapist Dr. Janet Brito tells O.school: “Consent is key. If you are interested in trying something new, make sure you discuss it with your partner, outside of the bedroom.” Talking before, during, and after sexual exploration can help you and your partner learn about each other’s preferences and boundaries — and may help you discover your own. Dirty talk can be a great way to communicate during sex, as well as a gateway to exploring fantasies.
3. Research what interests you
There are many great resources for the sexually curious. Dr. Queen recommends: “[Author and advice columnist] Dan Savage's column, Rich & Stoya's How to Do It on Slate, and oh yes, O.school!” She also suggests asking people you’re comfortable with about topics you might be interested in. Have a sexually adventurous bestie? A judgment-free therapist? Talking to someone you trust can be a great way to learn from others and explore your own interests. Dr. Queen reminds readers that consent is essential, even when just talking about sex: “watch your boundaries in the workplace and with people who might feel that it's difficult to say they don't want to talk about these things.”
4. Tune into erotica
Reading or listening to erotica can be a great way to deepen your exploration of what turns you on. Sex therapist and educator Dr. Juliana Hauser tells O.school, “There are a lot of audio books, podcasts, blogs and books that will help you explore sexual stories and journeys through literature. Find a good podcast, put in your headphones, close your eyes and take in the sexy words of another. Consider writing your own erotica and seeing how the story unfolds for you and where it takes you.”
5. Take a class
In person or online, there are lots of intro-level classes and educational events for couples and single folks who’d like to learn more about communication, kink, sexual techniques, relationships, and more. Dr. Queen recommends classes presented by sex toy shops Babeland and Good Vibrations.
6. Try sensation play
Stimulating all your senses and awakening your whole body — not just what you might think of as your sexy parts — is a great place to start when you’re exploring what turns you on. Try sensation play by experimenting with different kinds of touch, varying temperature and pressure, and experimenting with sounds, sights, and even tastes. Dr. Hauser advises O.school readers: “Do not underestimate the power of your senses when broadening your sexual horizons. Explore the turn ons and offs within each sense. Explore what you like to receive and what you like to give within your sensuality.”
Dr. Queen recommends pairing a blindfold and a massage candle as a great intro to trying out a variety of sensations and getting more deeply in touch with your body.
7. Try light bondage
Bondage encompasses a whole spectrum of kinky play and can be as simple as firmly holding your partner’s wrists. Dr. Queen suggests: “Play with light bondage via holding your partner's hand over their head [during sex] — or ask them to do that for you.” If you want to experiment with accessories, Dr. Queen tells O.school that “adjustable, wide cuffs” are “much safer as well as more comfy” than metal handcuffs or rope, which can both cause injury if used improperly.
8. Incorporate role play and power exchange
Power exchange — a type of play where one partner takes control as the dominant — is an element of many kink scenarios and can be a fun way to explore with a partner. Role play involves taking on different roles during sex. Dr. Hauser recommends: “[Playing] around with who is in control of what you do and when. Take turns with who makes decisions, who controls the speed of things, who is talking, who is directing.”
9. Go for impact
“Impact play” means consensually striking or hitting with your hand or a tool like a paddle or flogger. If you’re curious about impact play, spanking can be a good place to start. Dr. Hauser explains: “Spanking is an entry level to impact play. Play around with spanking with a hand, with firmness of spanking, placement of where the spanking lands on the body and using other objects to spank with (like a leather flog, a velvet piece of fabric).”
10. Experiment with toys
Whether you’re playing alone or with a partner, incorporating a variety of sex toys can be a fun way to change things up. Toys aren’t just for penises and vulvas: vibrators can be used on different parts of the body (nipples, butts, even feet!), and nipple clamps and butt plugs can be pleasurable for folks of all genders. Dr. Queen recommends that those interested in exploring toys, “Read up on toy play, notice when toys come up in your reading and watching, and (unless you have a very specific preference for something and know exactly what you want to do with it) choose a sex toy that has many potential ways it can be enjoyed. Then explore!”
The bottom line
Exploring new ways to be sexual can help to keep your sex life vibrant and exciting over the long term. If you have a partner, expanding your sexual horizons can also help strengthen your relationship. Starting slowly, checking in often, pursuing what interests you, and feeling empowered to take things off the table if you don’t enjoy them are great ways to make your sexual explorations safe and fun. Dr. Brito encourages readers: “Whatever your sexual preferences are, practice being non-judgmental. Embrace yourself as a whole being, expressing your sexuality!