If you’re with a new partner, initiating sex can feel intimidating, especially if they never make the first move. While asking for sex might not feel natural to you, if you don’t try, things may never go in the direction you hope. Here are some tips on how to initiate sex in respectful ways that will hopefully get your partner in the mood.
1. Practice asking
If talking about sex is difficult and it’s keeping you from initiating, Dr. Joli Hamilton, CSE, AASECT certified sex educator, suggests to O.school that it can be a good idea to first practice just saying the words. She says, “Say them out loud alone, say them over and over again, try on different tones when you speak the words. Say…[them] so many times that when you are with a new person you can say these words with ease.”
2. Be straightforward
After some practice saying the words, try being open, honest, and direct about what you’d like. Dr. Hamilton says that, sometimes, the best way to initiate sex it to say it in the “simplest way possible” by asking, “Would you like to have sex?’”
If you are nervous that asking directly will ruin the mood, consider the reasons you might feel this way. Dr. Hamilton notes that “we are surrounded by shows, movies, books, and songs that depict sex happening without explicit consent. We see and hear so much innuendo re-branded as initiation that simply asking can feel awkward.” Such messages give us the idea that you aren’t supposed to ask for sex. But being straightforward can be hot and the best way to get your needs met.
3. Follow up by asking what ‘sex’ means for you and your partner
It’s important to remember that if you ask to have sex with a new partner, it doesn’t always mean they’ve agreed to the kind of sex you’re expecting or wanting. It’s important to talk about what sex means to each of you because every person has a different definition. For some people, sex means penetration, while for others sex might mean foreplay and oral sex. Other people may have a definition somewhere in between.
4. If it feels awkward to ask for sex, let your partner know
If it’s difficult for you to initiate sex because it feels awkward, Stella Harris, certified intimacy educator and coach and author of Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships and The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes tells O.school it can be helpful to identify the emotion. “Just sharing how you're feeling can make it less scary, and there's a good chance the other person is feeling that way too,” says Harris.
Harris recommends saying something like, “I'm feeling really shy about this, but I'd love to kiss you." You can also say, “I feel nervous saying this, but I’m really attracted to you and I want to have sex with you. What do you think of that?” or “It feels scary saying this, but I want to spend the night with you. How do you feel about that?”
5. Have a conversation outside of the bedroom
“I would say that if sex has become a tender issue for whatever reason, that it's important to have a conversation about that outside of a sexual context” Harris tells O.school.
Harris says a good way to have a conversation with your partner about sex is by “giv[ing] your partner a heads up about what you want to talk about and let them opt-in, so they can mentally prepare.” Doing this can help ensure “they aren't taken off guard. Surprising people with a sensitive topic can cause them to shut down or react with defensiveness.”
During this conversation, let your partner know what you’re feeling. If you want to tell them it’s difficult for you to talk about sex, you can say, “It feels really scary saying this, but I want to let you know that it’s hard for me to talk about sex, especially to initiate sex. I want to initiate sex more often and feel more confident doing it, but right now it feels difficult.”
If you want to talk to your partner about how you always initiate sex, you may say something like “I’ve noticed I’m usually the person who initiates sex. Sometimes, this makes me feel like you aren’t attracted to me or interested in me.” Or, if it feels applicable to you, you could say, ”I also feel concerned that you may feel pressure to have sex because I’m always the person who initiates.” You may finish your statement by asking how they feel. For example, “Could we talk about how it feels when I always initiate sex and how you feel about initiating sex?”
6. Ask you partner how they want you to initiate sex
Everyone has different preferences when it comes to how they’d like to be asked to have sex. Some people may need lots of time to prepare while others may want it to be more spontaneous. If you’re with a new partner and haven’t tested the waters to see what works and doesn’t, you may want to ask them what their preference is.
You may simply ask if they like things to be more spur of the moment or if they’d like to plan a date. You can ask what gets them in the mood, and what you can do to make them feel turned on and comfortable.
7. Set the mood before you see each other
Before setting the mood in the moment with your partner, try building some anticipation for when you do get together. You could do this by texting or sexting with your partner the day you have plans with them. For example, saying something like, “I’ve been thinking about how badly I want to kiss you all day. How would you feel about me kissing you tonight?” or “I can’t wait to see you tonight. Do you think you’re interested in spending the night?“ If you’ve had sex in the past, you can say something like, “I’ve been thinking about what we did the other night. I want to do __ to you again. What do you think about that?”
8. Then, set the mood when you’re together
After asking your partner what gets them in the mood, you can work on setting up a sexy atmosphere for when you’re together. For example, if your partner likes to feel taken care of and connected to you before sex, consider cooking a meal together or putting on a movie you both enjoy but don’t have to pay much attention to in case things get heated mid-way.
If your partner responds well to sensual touch, you can try giving them an erotic massage, Whatever it is that turns your partner on, or that they need in order to enjoy sex, create time for this — as long as you’re interested in it, too.
It’s also important to let your partner know you are doing these things without the expectation of sex. For some people, especially if they experience low libido, feeling pressure to have sex, or like you have done something kind in order to get sex in return, can be off-putting. So try to set the mood without creating an expectation for sex.
What to do if nothing is working
If you’ve tried several different ways of initiating sex with your partner, but nothing is working, it can be important to understand the root cause of the issue. Communicate directly with your partner about why they don’t seem to be interested in sex. While there are a plethora of reasons why this might be the case, here are just a few potential reasons and what to do.
- Your partner has a lower libido than you. You might find it is difficult to ask your partner for sex if you have mismatched libidos. Learning how libidos work and how having a lower or higher sex drive may impact the relationship can be a helpful first step toward finding compromises and solutions in your sex life.
If your partner has a lower libido and wants to find ways to increase their sex drive, for example, there are steps you can take with them to work on that. Of course, not everyone wants to change their sex drive and it’s important to recognize that any or no sex drive is normal. If your partner is happy with their sex drive, but you feel your needs are not being met, you might want to consider talking about alternative relationship structures with your partner or seeking a sex therapist to help you work through the issue. If you feel the issue cannot be resolved, and you prioritize sex in a relationship (which is okay!) you may want to consider if that relationship is right for you.
- Your partner wants to wait to have sex. If your partner communicates that they’d like to wait to have sex until they are more comfortable, or they are waiting to have sex until marriage, it’s important to respect this and not pressure them to change their mind or make them feel bad. If you’re struggling with feeling rejected because of this, consider processing these emotions with someone you trust. It’s also important to check in with yourself. Ask yourself if you’re okay being with someone who wants to wait. If that’s not what you’re looking for, you can respectfully let the other person know and exit the relationship if you think that’s best for you.
If you’d like to continue the relationship, know that you can still explore other ways of feeling emotionally and physically connected or experiencing pleasure together. You might begin to do this by talking about your needs and how each of you enjoy feeling connected and experiencing pleasure outside of sex.
- Your partner feels nervous to have sex because they are inexperienced. If your partner wants to wait because they feel nervous and inexperienced, ask them what you can do to make them feel more comfortable and assure them you will take things as slow as they need. Do not put pressure on them to try anything before they are ready and respect their boundaries.
Whether it is mismatched libidos, your partner isn’t interested in sex, or you feel awkward talking about sex, you may consider reaching out to a sex therapist, sex coach, or sex educator. These professionals can facilitate conversations between you and your partner, help you feel more comfortable talking about sex, or give other information and exercises to help you work through the issue.
The bottom line
While initiating sex can be intimidating — especially with a new partner — sometimes, simply having a straight-up conversation about what you’re hoping to get out of an interaction is the best plan of action. But if being direct is too difficult for you, you can try other strategies to ask for sex. Practicing these strategies will hopefully get you and your partner in the mood for some fun, sexy time.