How does sex usually begin in your relationship? Do you or your partner usually initiate it? Is it spontaneous or scheduled? How do you communicate desire, or when you’re not in the mood?

Initiating sex isn’t always simple, and it can cause issues in a relationship. According to Petra Zebroff Ph.D., author of The Erotic Brain, one of the major reasons for lack of sex in long term relationships is issues around initiating sex. Zebroff interviewed thousands of men and women and found that many were unhappy with the way their partner initiated sex, and each person had their own unique way they liked sex being initiated.

Talk About It

If something doesn’t feel right about the way sex is initiated then the first step is to talk about it, especially since it’s common for partners to have issues with the way sex is initiated.

Ask your partner how they feel about the way sex happens? Do they prefer it spontaneous or scheduled? Would they like a change in the dynamic of who initiates sex? Or in a heterosexual relationship is it the man always initiating because of cultural stereotypes of who should be making the moves?

Talking about it can also spark the potential for more fun ways to initiate sex. Does your partner have a longstanding fantasy of how they’d like sex to be initiated? Would they like you to answer the door naked when they come home from work, or be seduced while doing the washing up?

These ideas could be complete turn-offs, but done with agreement they may be what your partner is looking for to spice things up.

Read: Better Sex: 10 Things to Start Doing Right Now

The Direct Approach

Polyamorous comedian and feminist activist, Kate Smurthwaite recommends being straightforward about the way you initiate sex:

‘’We tend to be terrible at that when it comes to sex. Instead we put untold effort into dropping hints. Wandering about in underwear, making smutty jokes, slipping our hands into our partner’s pants...and actually if you’re not in the mood for sex all of that is pretty annoying. My advice is to start by asking directly. “Do you fancy getting an early night and cuddling up in bed this evening?” Or even mega-directly “I’ve got a blow job for you after dinner if you’re interested.” Then if they say no thanks, we can save all that effort, put on comfy pyjamas and get on with something else instead.’’

A direct approach can be wonderful, because it’s clear, unambiguous and completely consensual. It’s not about persuading your partner to get them in the mood, but simply asking a question.

Read: Sex Communication 101

More Than Just Signalling You Want Sex

Some experts take a different approach, and view initiating sex as more than simply signalling you are in the mood, but a way to cultivate desire.

Xanet Pailet, sex and intimacy coach and author of Living An Orgasmic Life, says that:

‘’Since it is likely that the partner that isn’t initiating does not have sex on their mind at that moment, the partner that desires sex needs to entice their partner and help them get into the mood. This does not look like grabbing your female partner’s breasts or genitals which is definitely non-consensual and will likely go nowhere.’’

Pailet suggests using ‘words of desire and affirmation whispered in a partner’s ear,’ like ‘’you’re looking so sexy right now, or ‘’I’m feeling really turned on by you.’’ Or a light sensual touch on arms legs, and necks.

Pailet also recommends building up desire throughout the day, for example a passionate kiss or sexy kiss in the morning. You could think of your day as one long foreplay session!

Read: How to Get Better at Sex

5 Senses Seduction

Bored certified sexologist and sex educator, Dr. Lanae St. John, came up with this wonderful way to utilize the five senses to turn your partner on:

  1. Hearing - You could try some sexy, “dirty” talk. or some sexy music. From Bolero by Ravel to Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye. Search for sexy music on Spotify and you’ll see some suggestions.
  2. Seeing - Perhaps you could visually seduce your partner. Either partner can dress in a provocative way to get the attention of their beloved. A while back, I discovered lace boxers for my partner and they’re SOOO sexy. A visual treat for me for sure.
  3. Taste - There are many foods that have aphrodisiac qualities. The proverbial champagne and strawberries can work. You can do some research and see which of the many work for you.
  4. Smell - Is there a smell that really turns your partner on? Is there a favorite scent of yours that when you wear it, it gives your partner that little smile where you know it’s “on”? Start with that.
  5. Touch – This one can be tricky. You have to know your partner really well to know if initiating with touch is something that turns them on. Touch can feel like a turn off.

Seduction can work well when there are boundaries and clear communication from both partners.

However, Smurthwaite sees a problematic side to the more drawn out ways of seducing a partner: that using a "fancy way of initiating is not so great because then it becomes harder to say no."

Again, it comes back to checking in with your partner about how they like sex to be initiated. They might like the building desire approach or it may come across as ‘persuasion’ to them. If you get clear signals that your partner isn’t in the mood then accept the 'no' graciously, as more attempts are likely to turn them off even more.

Read: What Consent Looks and Feels Like

Do Some Housework

This shouldn’t be a manipulative attempt to ‘get sex,’ but if your partner is constantly tired, stressed and not in the mood, while you’re full of energy and gagging for it, then look at what you can do to help. As Kate Smurthwaite points out:

"Instead of dropping hints; wash up, do the laundry, make dinner. Research says (straight) couples have more sex when the guy does more housework (working from the baseline that sadly even in 2020 on average it is still women who do most of it). Your partner will be much more receptive when they’ve had their feet up for a while and time to de-stress."

Housework may not seem fun and sexy, but looking beyond sex to other areas of your relationship can shift the dynamic in unexpected ways.

Is There Something More Going On?

Sometimes issues around initiating sex can be shifted quite easily with a bit more openness and honesty. However, sometimes there may be more going on, and if so it’s probably worth talking things through more deeply or seeing a therapist.

Desire is complicated, and there’s not always a quick fix. Either way, openness and honesty is the first step to making a change.

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