Feeling in charge in the bedroom looks different for everyone—it’s not always the stereotypical fantasy of black leather and whips (though totally fine if that’s your thing). Figuring out how to take control in the bedroom in a way that makes you feel sexy as hell (and just like you’re reinacting some feminist porn scene) takes a little introspection.
We’re constantly bombarded with sex rules that frankly don’t exist—but imagine the mind-blowing time you could have without them. Taking control in bed means authentic expression in whatever form it may take. So, ask yourself: What empowers you? Here’s how to find it:
1. Drop the Labels
We’re all afraid of being “bad in bed”—which is often why one partner takes a back seat and lets the other drive. But the entire idea of “being a great lover, or ‘this good’ vs ‘this is bad’,” is harmful, says relationship and sexuality educator Logan Levkoff. What you want from sex is what you want from sex; stripping it of arbitrary judgements of what’s good is the first step to taking control over your sexual encounters.
2. Talk About Sex, Baby
It comes as no shock that many people—particularly women—struggle to ask for what they want in bed. Power dynamics are seemingly always present regardless of sex and gender. Sari Cooper, founder and director of the Center for Love and Sex, recommends navigating these ropes by holding a Q&A session with your partner on neutral ground. Maybe this sounds obvious: Tell my partner what I want and ask what they want—what a new idea! I know you’ve already thought of this, and I know it’s hard. That’s why Cooper recommends holding the Q&A in a non-sexual location—let’s say the canned foods aisle of the grocery store.
Begin by thinking of the questions you want to be asked. “The more detailed the questions the better, as to model a type of discussion that is flirty, but eager to learn,” says Cooper. Strictly enforce that the person answering the questions has the floor. After you’ve asked your partner about all the things they like, love, or want to try, you can answer the same questions. “This creates a neutral way to exchange information without any power struggle, intimidation and less fear while offering more vulnerability for both partners,” Cooper says.
One thing you don’t want to do is overwhelm your partner with an interrogation about your collective desires in the middle of the grocery store. So let it be casual and stick to one topic at a time: start with fantasies, next week try discussing orgasm, save kink for next month.
3. Embrace the Embarrassment
So you’re in the canned food aisle and you’ve just told your girlfriend that the thing she does with her tongue would be so much better if she just moved it a bit to the left—and you would please like the floor to open up and swallow you whole now, thanks. “No one is super cool and smooth when it comes to talking about these things,” says Levkoff.
Why are you expecting yourself to be so naturally good at talking about sex? Who is? Not to give you bad flashbacks to after-school piano lessons, but: Practice makes perfect. Do it once. Feel weird. Do it again. Feel even weirder. Still not getting what you want? Go ahead and blush to the point you’re sure you’re burning holes through your clothes. It’s okay. “Own the awkward right from the start,” says Levkoff. The embarrassment of talking about sex isn’t within your control—but how you handle it is.
4. Write it Down
That’s fine! Try making a list of what you do and don’t like in bed, says Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist at the Intimacy Institute in Colorado. “Categorize sexual acts into red, yellow, and green,” she says. “Red if you know you don’t want those parts of you touched, yellow if you’re tentative but willing to explore, and green for those areas that are strong yeses.” Maybe you read the list out loud to your partner—or maybe you don’t. Maybe you slip it under their pillow or maybe you text it to him or her when you’re feeling frisky after a night out. It’s up to you.
5. Make a Game Plan
Noah and Allie didn’t block off an afternoon on their iCals to scream at each other on a dock in a rainstorm before ripping each other’s soaking wet clothes off—but maybe they should’ve. Spontaneity is often overrated.