Do you know when your partner is initiating sex?

I’ve never been very good at foreplay. At least, not the kind of foreplay that involves subtle touches and gradual escalation of intimacy, building to a natural moment when both of you go ‘let’s do it.’ I have a tendency to just get horny, tell someone I’m horny, then ask if they’re up for it. It works pretty well if my partner happens to be horny too, but he has occasionally rolled his eyes at me if I ambush him while he’s doing the laundry and simply say “fancy a shag?”

I’m getting a bit better, and one of the reasons I’m getting better is because he’s very good at communicating what he needs: a gentle touch here, a kiss or a cuddle there, a squeeze of his bum at an opportune moment… All these things seem to work a little better than me just steaming in all guns blazing with a demand to “take your pants off and bend me over the sofa.”

As a foreplay novice, I was especially interested in a story which popped up on my newsfeed this morning about initiating sex with your partner. Recent research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships has learned that in heterosexual relationships, people struggle to identify when their partner is initiating sex. In the abstract, researchers explain that:

“women consistently overestimated their partner’s sexual advances, whereas men underestimated or showed no bias”

Apparently heterosexual women like me are likely to overestimate the number of times their partners are trying to get it on: interpreting more touches and hugs and kisses as the start of sexytimes, when in fact all their partner is after is a little physical affection. And men get things wrong the other way round: they tend to misattribute some sexual signals and assume their other half just wants affection, when in fact they’re really hankering for a shag.

So why is it that we’re so bad at this? And how can we get a little better?

My theory on why we suck at recognising signals is all about what we’ve been taught about relationships and dating. Namely: we’re often told that sexual skill means never having to talk about stuff. Think about all the rom coms you’ve seen where the leading man leans in for a kiss – he rarely ever asks if the person he’s kissing is up for it. Dating and relationship advice often talks about reading body-language and signs, obscuring the fact that it’s usually much more simple to just ask and communicate directly. And elsewhere, in porn, the negotiation of what’s going to happen next, what each person wants to do, and how they’re going to go about shagging, usually happens off-camera before the action really starts. This can give quite a skewed idea of how we’re supposed to initiate sex – and it’s not surprising that many people have gone away with the idea that if they’re going to be sexy and romantic, they need to just know this stuff via some sort of telepathy.

Given that none of us is actually psychic, how can we initiate sex in a way that’s hot and also makes our intentions clear? I’ve got a few ideas.

Sexy ways to initiate sex

The pre-shag sext

I love this one, and I do it quite a lot: texting my partner when I’m coming home from a night out to tell him I’m horny and ask if he’d like to shag me

“On way home, if you’re horny why not start wanking now so when I get in I can immediately sit on your hard cock?”

Or the other way around:

“Had a hard day at work, when I get in I want you on your knees next to the sofa, ready to give me a blow job.”

The fact that these are both texts means that the other person has a bit of time before the sex happens, so they can work out if they’re in the mood too. It also means that it’s easier (in my opinion) for someone to turn down the opportunity if they don’t fancy it – like sending a quick reply that says ‘I love you and you’re hot, but I’m just not feeling it right now. How about we watch some Netflix then see how I feel at bedtime?’

The chat about fantasies

This is one of my favourite ways to initiate sex, because you can build up gradually. Begin by asking your partner about some of their sexual fantasies, or letting them in on the details of one of yours. It might be new sex toys you’d like to try, an idea you had for a new sex position, or reliving one of your favourite shags from the past. They can join in with the discussion, and if they sound keen you can slip in that the conversation’s made you really horny, before asking if they’d like to join you upstairs and crack out the lube for a nice long shagging session.

The ‘date night’

This one might be a little controversial if you dislike the idea of scheduling sex. But scheduling sex can be one of the best ways to initiate, if you’re struggling to find the time to get intimate with each other. Setting aside one evening a week to spend a few hours with your phones off and enjoying each other’s company means you get to appreciate intimacy and touch without feeling like you’re rushing through it because you have other things to get on with. And on top of that, of course, the fact that it’s scheduled means you both have time to look forward to it and build up, so by the time ‘date night’ rolls round you’re hopefully brimming with enthusiasm for what you’re about to do. It might be a bit of sexy massage, trying out that new couples vibrator, or if you decide sex isn’t what you fancy you could just enjoy spending time cuddling or having a bath together.

Whatever way you choose to initiate sex, take a tip from this latest research and recognise where you and your partner might be misreading each other’s cues. Have a chat about what each of you tend to do when you’re horny, and how best to get each other in the mood. You never know, you might have been missing out on some of their subtler signals, so by talking about the topic you could learn some sexy new things – and open up new opportunities in the future!

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