There are loads of statistics about how women tend not to ask for what they want and need. Not in academic settings, not in the boardroom and, although no one’s talking about it, we know this one applies in the bedroom too. Actually, to be fair, research suggests that the vast majority of people undercommunicate when it comes to sex, even in long-term relationships. That said, we've heard a lot of stories from our female readers, and we know that women may have the hardest time voicing their desires. This month brought us International Women's Day and the them this year was gender parity. While we're all for gender parity in all areas of life, we're going to speak up about the one we're most passionate about: your sex life.

Maybe you have a hard time speaking up. Maybe you’re so concerned with your partner’s pleasure that you’ve forgotten about your own. Maybe you feel like if you do a really great job at pleasing your partner, he will figure out what you need and give it to you. Or … maybe not. Maybe you just don’t like getting into the sticky business of talking about sex. That’s common too.

But while it may be common, it isn’t a good thing. Because, of course, when we don’t ask for what we want, we often end up settling for very little. So how can women level the playing field in their sex lives and start asking for what they want? Here are our top tips for asking for the kind of sex you’ve always wanted – but were too afraid to ask for.

Explore Your Pleasure

You can’t draw a pleasure map for your partner if you’ve never made the journey yourself.The first step to getting what you need to enjoy a satisfying sex life is knowing what you need. And the only way to do that is to experiment on your own. Set aside some time to yourself to get comfortable, discover your anatomy and fantasize about things that turn you on. You might also want to incorporate a sex toy like a vibrator, or use pornography or erotic literature. (Learn more about the power of sex toys in 10 Ways Sex Toys Can Help You Drop Guilt and Sexual Shame.)

Own It

So, let’s say what you like is a little out there … or, at least, you think it might be. Are you weird? Is it OK to ask you partner to do that? The answer is absolutely yes - with one major caveat: That your objective is to put yourself out there and own your sexuality, not pressure your partner into action. The best sex is consensual, and comes from a place where partners respect each other’s boundaries. (Learn more in Yes! Why Consent Is Totally Sexy.)

Don’t Complain

There may be a fine line between a request and a complaint, but you definitely don’t want to cross it. Ever. Sex is closely tied to ego and identity, so steer clear of bashing your partner’s moves or whining about what you aren’t getting. The difference between “I hate it when you,” and “I’d love it if you would” is huge. One can help lead you down the path to feeling more satisfied with your sex life. The other can lead to serious problems with your partner. You pick.

Be Direct (But Kind)

Sex can be tricky for a lot of people to talk about, but euphemisms and coyness are a poor way to give directions – and often lead to misunderstandings. Ask for what you want by asking for what you want. Be clear and be direct, but also be kind and respectful of your partner’s feelings, and consider how your request might be interpreted. The key is to portray your request as something you’d like to add to your repertoire, not something you are feeling sore about missing out on.

Don’t Back Down

While your partner’s feelings (and consent) are crucial, sometimes you have to be tough. If you can’t fully enjoy sex without being tied up or enjoying G-spot play or having your ears twiddled … whatever … you need to make that clear to your partner. What you want is OK, and great sexual partners are interested in reciprocation, or at least some degree of negotiation. (Get some tips in Bedroom Negotiation: 3 Things to Keep in Mind.)

Go exploring! Check out LELO's top sex toys for women.

Take Charge

There's a common cultural narrative that suggests that sex is something that women accept or submit to. Well, we hope we aren't the first and last to say it, but that time-worn story is total bullshit. Even so, our upbringing and culture are powerful influencers, so you may be carrying this idea around anyway. If you are, it might be time to let it go. Sex is something women can (and do!) desire and love. Tune into your sexual self and dare to approach your love life with all the appetite and enthusiasm it deserves.

Be a Good Partner Yourself

Dan Savage has famously said that great sex comes from being good, giving and game. In other words, we should be good to our partners and treat them with respect, be giving when it comes to ensuring their pleasure and be game to try new things. It's really that simple: If you want to have great sex, the key is to give great sex. Whether you’re male, female or somewhere in between, that’s about as equal as it gets.

This content is brought to you by our partner, LELO.

Asking for It: 7 Tips to Getting the Sex Life You Always Wanted