What NOT to Say to Your Partner When Talking About Sex

Young attractive couple intimate cuddling in bed

“Let’s talk about our sex life.” 

Stop me if you’ve heard these words before: “we need to talk.”

Four little words that strike fear into the hearts of everyone – including your partners. But what if you actually do need to talk about your sex life? How do you have a productive conversation, one that leaves you both feeling seen and collaborative, rather than insulted or hurt?

To pull it off, I suggest you avoid these four phrases below. All of them are incredibly common, and potentially destructive. For a healthier, sexier conversation with your partner, leave these phrases alone – and try kinder alternatives.

1. “You never do __” (oral sex, dirty talk, etc.)

This is an accusation, which has a high likelihood of making your partner feel attacked. And while it may be factually true, it probably isn’t going to help your case. What’s much more likely is that they’ll end up feeling defensive and self-protective, and distance themselves further from the act. We do sexual things largely because they feel good, not because someone demands them from us.

Try instead: “I’d love to explore ___ more with you, and I know there’s some hesitation there. Can we talk about that?” 

This is a way of expressing your desires, while demonstrating to your partner that you care about their feelings. The truth is, they may still clam up, even if you pose this question to them gently. But at the very least, you’ve created a dynamic of emotional safety: you still have your desires, but they don’t eclipse your partner’s (perhaps justifiable!) hesitations. Once you open that channel of conversation, there’s much more ease for them to open up over time. You’re showing them that you’re a safe person who’s not going to coerce them, and two-way safety lays the groundwork for sexual freedom.

2. “LOL nope! I’m never doing that.” 

Here’s the flip side of that conversation. Let’s say your partner asks you, “hey, ever wanna try anal together?” and you laugh in their face. It’s a pretty surefire way to make someone feel ashamed of their desires! Even if you don’t intend to engage in that desire anytime soon. 

You do NOT have to say yes, but you can say no (or not yet) without hurting their feelings. Here’s how. 

Try instead: “I’m not sure if it’s for me, but tell me more about why you find it so hot.”

Again, this is a way of demonstrating care for your partner’s feelings, and who knows? Maybe you’ll get aroused hearing the deeper emotional material behind their turn-on. But I want to reiterate that you don’t have to go along with the act to appease them. Rather, a moment like this is an opportunity to deepen emotional intimacy and trust, which fuels the sexual connection.

You could even take it a step further, and say: “While I’m not there yet, I’m down to help you experience this.” Back to the anal example, why not help them shop for a toy? This anal training kit is great for beginner play, and this is my go-to prostate massager recommendation. It will be affirming to them that you care about their pleasure, and want them to experience it.

3. “You don’t make me come during sex.” 

Uh, ouch. I hear this one from hetero couples a lot, and because the orgasm gap is real, I understand the complaint behind it. But it’s also an accusation, which gets you nowhere. On top of that, I’m a big believer in everyone being responsible for his or her own orgasm: you’re responsible for yours, I’m responsible for mine. It’s no one’s job to “make” our bodies do anything. But we can get to know our own bodies, and understand what we need to reach orgasm more easily.  

Try instead: “I’d love to come during sex more often. Could we try a few things out and see what works?

Here’s a way to express the same desire, but turn it into a moment of erotic collaboration. I’m going to be honest with you: a lot of people with vulvas rely on foreplay and toys to orgasm! And that’s totally OK. The nerve endings that trigger orgasm are deep inside the body, and toys simply stimulate more of them. I’ve known plenty of couples whose sex lives were transformed by a vibrating penis ring, or alternatively, a wearable vulva vibe that stimulates the G-spot and clitoris simultaneously, while still leaving room for a penis or finger to penetrate.

4. “Why do you like sex toys so much?”

Other variants of this question include: “am I not enough to satisfy you?” “Why do you masturbate so often?” “Do we always have to use toys during sex?” The subtext of all these questions is insecurity. And to an extent, I understand why it’s there. Most of us haven’t been educated on genital anatomy – remember it was just a few years ago we discovered how large the clitoris actually is. Once you realize that, it becomes very logical why someone uses toys to orgasm. As I mentioned earlier, the nerve endings triggering orgasm – especially for those with a vulva – are tucked super deep inside. It’s not that your penis isn’t big enough, or that you aren’t moving your fingers the right way, or etc. It’s simply that vibration itself reaches more of this vital organ, via indirect stimulation, and it feels amazing.

There’s something else going on with this type of question though, and it’s usually suspicion around masturbation. Are they thinking about someone else why they do it? Why masturbate, when they could have sex with you? I go into depth on this one in Smart Sex, but the bottom line is: solo sex and partnered sex fulfill two different, equally valid sets of needs. We don’t get to police our partner’s sexual fantasies. They are entitled to their own thoughts and their own self-touch. If they masturbate but never want to have sex with you, that’s another scenario – but regardless, making them feel guilty for using toys or masturbating doesn’t help. 

Try instead: Getting curious! If you want to know more about your partner’s sex toys, you can of course ask about them in a respectful way. If they use toys during sex, you could also ask to be part of the action…using the toys to tease them, for example. (PS, this is a fun teasing toy.) But hopefully the explanation above lays out the near-universal appeal of toys. They are your co-conspirators, not your competition. 

To make any sex talk more successful, take a look at my Timing Tone Turf guide (download it here). I’d love to continue this conversation, and here how you conduct a productive sex talk! Come find me on Instagram @sexwithemily, and let’s keep the convo going.

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