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Being a better lover often has less to do with your bedroom skills. What often matters more is how you communicate and listen to your partner. It also helps to be confident and comfortable with sex.
Maybe your current boo told you to up your game (ouch). Maybe you’ve always harbored sneaking suspicions that you’re subpar in the sack. Or maybe you just want to join the Greats.
Regardless, you’re here because you think you’re bad in bed — or at the very least, could be better.
Well, we’ve got some good news: It’s actually not possible to be bad in bed. Really!
That said, it is possible for your communication skills to need an upgrade. Or for your sex life to need a little zhuzhing up. This guide can help on both fronts.
Got an FWB coming over in 30 minutes and want tips stat? Or planning to get your flirt (and freak) on at the bar tonight? These tips are for you.
Listen to your partner’s verbal and non-verbal cues
Carly S., pleasure expert and founder of Dildo or Dildon’t, says there’s one caveat to the “It’s not possible to be bad in bed” thesis statement.
“If you’re completely ignoring your partner’s attempts to communicate with you, and steamrolling them into doing whatever you want, you’re a bad lover,” she says. TBH, at this point, you’re not having sex with your partner — you’re violating them.
Your move: Tune into what your partner is saying with their words, mouths, hands, and body.
“Are they pulling you closer? Or are they pushing you away?” asks Megan Stubbs, EdD, a clinical sexologist and author of “Playing Without a Partner: A Singles’ Guide to Sex, Dating, and Happiness”.
“Are they shifting their hips away from you, or toward you?”
These body cues can give you insight into what they like and don’t like.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
“Your partner isn’t a mind-reader,” Stubbs says. “For them to know what you do and don’t like, you have to tell them.”
For the record, she says, communicating can be as simple as saying:
- “That feels good! How does it feel for you?”
- “Yes! That!”
- “A little more pressure, please!”
- “Is your tongue getting tired?”
- “Can you do that thing you were doing earlier instead?”
Check your ego at the door
If your ego is telling you, “If they need lube, it’s because they don’t like you” or “If they want a vibrator, it’s because you’re inadequate,” tell your ego to shut up.
“Sex toys and sexual wellness aids are inanimate objects that are designed to increase how pleasurable the sexual encounter is,” Carly says.
So, she says, if your partner expresses an interest in bringing those into the bedroom, your first thought shouldn’t be “I’m not good enough.” It should be “Wow! My partner wants to experience pleasure with me.”
Before we talk about the trees, let’s talk about the forest…
“Confidence is a work in progress for everybody — but it’s work worth doing especially, if you want to be a better lover,” Carly says.
Confidence, she says, is key to asking for what you want in bed, graciously receiving feedback from your partner, and more.
To build up confidence, she suggests:
- repeating a self-love mantra to yourself every morning
- curating your digital spaces and unfollowing people who make you question your worth
- writing a list of things you like about yourself every week
- leaving a partner who puts you down
- trying therapy
Sensing a common theme?
“[Communication] should be happening before, during, and after sex,” Stubbs says.
Before sex, talk about:
- what qualifies as sex for you
- your sexual health status
- what protection or pregnancy prevention methods you want to use, if any
- what having sex does, or will, mean for you
During sex, talk about:
- how it feels physically
- what you’re feeling emotionally or spiritually
- what you need to feel safe
- if or when you want it to end
After sex, talk about:
- how it felt emotionally and physically
- if it’s something you want to do again
- what you need in this exact moment (water, food, blankets, etc.)
Enthusiasm, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a strong excitement of feeling.
In other words, it’s the antithesis of apathy.
And who the heck wants to get it on with someone who’s acting *shrug emoji* about having sex with them? Specific kinks aside, very few pleasure seekers do.
Some ways to express enthusiasm during sex:
- Tell them you like how they look, smell, taste, or feel.
- Compliment them.
- Verbally and nonverbally affirm what feels good.
Want to give your new boo the Hozier treatment? (That’s a Better Love reference). Keep these tips in mind.
Don’t fake your orgasm
Faking your orgasm is the opposite of communicating what you want in bed, according to Stubbs. “Faking orgasms positively reinforces bad technique,” she says.
If you’ve been faking it up to this point, you could have an open and honest conversation. You might, for example, consider saying:
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you emotionally and physically. But, before we continue having sex, I want to be transparent about the fact that I’ve been faking my orgasms. It isn’t that the sex hasn’t felt good — it has! — but I’ve been too shy to ask for what I need to orgasm. Do you think next time it would be OK if I touched my clit during sex?”
Another option is to stop faking your orgasm, and start helping your partner bring you to orgasm.
Now that you’re getting laid, you might be tempted to let your solo sex life fall by the wayside.
“Having a masturbation practice makes it easier for you to know what you like sexually and easier to communicate that to your partner,” Carly says. In other words, solo sex might lend itself to better partnered sex.
There are ways to be a better lover to your new(ish) partner.
Begin talking about sex more
Specifically: When you’re fully clothed.
“Talking about sex outside the bedroom automatically makes it a lower stakes conversation,” Carly says. “Because of that, it can become easier for people to talk about their fantasies, desires, likes, dislikes, and more.”
You might do this by:
- asking your partner if they find a sex scene on the screen hot
- inviting your partner to help you pick out underwear
- watching a sexy music video together
- telling your partner when you feel randomly aroused
- sharing your sex dreams with your partner
Make a yes/no/maybe list together
Whether you and your partner see yourselves as being sexually adventurous, or not, Stubbs recommends spending an evening filling out a yes/no/maybe list (like this one or this one).
“Doing so will give you both an opportunity to talk about your desires openly,” she says, “which is something good lovers give their partner’s space to do.”
Take an online sex workshop together
Who says pandemic-friendly date nights are limited to take-out, Netflix, and physically distanced walks?
Try attending an online workshop together about sex, kink, or intimacy.
You might say:
- “Hey, are you free Saturday night? I found a fun Zoom event about [X]. I thought it could be fun!”
- “I’m going to attend this online workshop I found on Thursday. Any interest in attending with me? It’s going to be all about [X], which is something I want to learn more about!”
To find an event, you can search the #queersexeducator, #sexeducator, and #sexworkshop hashtags on Instagram and Twitter.
Want to be here for a long time and a good time (in bed)? Try these:
Start a book club with your partner(s)
“Reading a book about sex with your partner can help give you language for things in your sex life you want to talk about, but didn’t previously have the language for,” Stubbs says. “It’s also fun and can give you some new ideas.”
Some books you might read together:
- “She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman” by Ian Kerner
- “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life” by Emily Nagoski
- “A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability” by A. Andrews
- “Girl Sex 101: A Queer Pleasure Guide For Women and Their Lovers” by Allison Moon and illustrated by KD Diamond
- “The Game of Desire: 5 Surprising Secrets to Dating with Dominance — and Getting What You Want” by Shan Boodram
Listen to a podcast about sex with your partner
Don’t have the patience to sit down and scan 300 pages? Put on a sex podcast during the next long drive with your boo.
Some sex podcasts to look into:
- “Sex With Emily”
- “Why Are People Into That?!”
- “Sex With Dr. Jess”
- “Savage Lovecast”
- “Bad In Bed: The Queer Sex Podcast”
Scroll through an online sex shop together
Or, when physical distancing rules allow, go to one together IRL.
“Seeing which toys your partner wants to click on will tell you a lot about their interests and intrigues,” Stubbs says. “For example, maybe this is when you learn your partner is curious about anal play because they wanted to look at one of the butt plugs on the site.”
That one caveat withstanding, being bad in bed may not be possible.
But it doesn’t mean that improving your communication skills, learning to express your enthusiasm, working on your self-confidence and ego, and adding new “sextivities” to your repertoire can’t make you a better lover — they all can.
Don’t take our word for it. Try ’em out yourself. The proof will be in the
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.