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What do vibrators, iPhones, and toaster ovens have in common? You can turn them on with the push of a button. Your body, fam, isn’t on that list.
“Mainstream movies and TV make it seem like spontaneous desire — in which you’re suddenly or randomly turned on — is the norm,” says Jill McDevitt, CalExotics’ resident sexologist.
“And while it certainly happens — especially at the start of relationships — it’s not the only way for good or healthy sex to start.”
In fact, most folks experience something called “responsive desire.”
“That’s when the desire to have sex comes as a result of intentionally using sexual physical or mental stimuli like kissing, massage, reading erotica, or watching porn to get in the mood,” she says.
Below, tips on intentionally turning yourself — and your partner, if you have one — on.
“There’s a huge difference between needing a little nudge to get in the mood and being coerced by your partner to have sex you don’t want to have,” says certified sex educator Alicia Sinclair, CEO of COTR, Inc., the manufacturer of b-Vibe, Le Wand, and The Cowgirl.
“If one partner is saying ‘no’ or physically recoiling, it’s important to take those cues to stop seriously,” she says.
Failing to stop when your partner doesn’t enthusiastically consent isn’t sex. It’s assault.
If you think planned sex is the antithesis of good sex, think about how fun it’d be to be in your feel-good lace, briefs, or binder when your partner undresses you — as opposed to day-old boxers or period panties.
Schedule a weekly sex date
Clear at least 60 minutes in your calendar once a week for a reoccurring sex date.
“The key is to keep the commitment to explore your body and your partner’s body the way you’d keep a work call or hair appointment,” says sex educator Sarah Sloane, who’s been coaching sex toy classes at Good Vibrations and Pleasure Chest since 200l.
FYI, this tip applies for solo sex, too. Scheduled masturbation slaps.
Lean into lusty learning
Plan a date to your local sex shop. Go see a live recording of Tina Horn’s “Why Are People Into That?!” podcast. Go to The Sex Museum. Attend an erotic storytelling event.
“In long-term sexual relationships, creating a sense of novelty and newness can be the difference between being turned on and feeling like you’re doing a chore,” says Sinclair.
One of the best ways to do this is to go to a sex-focused event and see what convos and interests arise after, she says.
Go on a sexy getaway
Also known as vacation… where you have sex.
It’s not about putting pressure on yourself to get it on. It’s about spending quality time together, without the interruption of work/kids/pets/parents.
If you end up bang-a-langing, great! Somebody else will wash the lube-stained sheets! If not, no biggie, you’ll still benefit from the QT.
To reiterate: Human bodies don’t turn on with the push of a button. That sh*t takes time.
Explore wearable sex toys
Ideally, ones can come with a remote control.
“Try having one partner wearing a vibrator, like the Lock-N-Play Panty Teaser by CalExotics, which your partner can control with a remote,” suggests McDevitt.
“The buildup will have you jumping each other’s bones when you get home.”
Think about how H-O-T an anticipatory sext session could be. Before you’re going to see your partner, tell them exactly what you want to do to them.
Some lines to borrow:
- “I can’t wait to lick along the seam of your…”
- “I keep thinking about the way you looked when I first pressed into you last week…”
- “Tonight I want to hear you moan my name into my mouth…”
Build anticipation in other creative ways
Some suggestions from Sinclair:
- Leave a sexy note for your partner.
- Hang special lingerie in a place where your partner will see it.
- Whisper something dirty in their ear right before leaving for work.
- Go shopping for new bondage gear or sex toys together (and maybe tell each other ways you would like to use them!).
Your libido’s enemy is likely your number one constant: stress. Bust some of that stress with the following techniques.
Another option: Try tantric yoga, which is basically sensual yoga.
TBH, you don’t know true intimacy until you’ve matched your inhales and exhales with a boo’s inhales and exhales.
Practice doing a few minutes of meditation to clear your mind before you engage in a sexual exchange, suggest McDevitt.
“Just don’t make getting in the mood for sex the goal of stress-reduction, because it will backfire. Saying, ‘I need to meditate so I’m less stressed and want sex’ is a surefire way to stress yourself out even more,” she says. Noted!
Take a shower or bath
Muscle-relaxing heat. The sensual slip of soap on your skin. Naked bodies. Yep, the shower and bath are perfect for getting turned on.
The goal isn’t to have sex in the shower, just to de-stress, sensually. But (!) if one thing leads to another, don’t forget to use lube.
“The best sex is sex where there is clear, direct communication and openness between partners,” says Sinclair.
“And if you’re fighting, mad at, or frustrated with your partner, it can cause you to put your walls up, which isn’t a conducive mood or attitude for happy play.”
Your move: Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more in order to resolve (and maybe even copulate).
Feeling angry, frustrated, or annoyed with yourself can also block your libido.
“Your surroundings can sometimes be key to getting out of a bad mood and into a sexy one,” says Sinclair.
Try cleaning your sex space, dimming the lights, lighting your favorite candle, playing some soft music, laying out an aphrodisiac food platter (or just a chocolate bar), or turning on your fav-O-rite R-rated movie.
What do sex and games have in common? They’re both fun. Together it’s like fun x10.
You can kiss. That’s it! No hair pulling, nipple tweaking, finger teasing, ball cupping, or bum spanking allowed.
The first person to use their hands and touch the other person loses.
Your move: Use your teeth, tongue, and lips to bite, suck, kiss, and lick your partner’s mouth at a rhythm that’s so pleasurable they can’t help but to pull you into them.
(If you don’t think this is hot, you clearly haven’t seen everyone’s fave The L Word couple Carmen and Shane play it in season 2, episode 3.)
Roll the die
Ah, sex dice — which you can find online — may sound corny AF, but it can be seriously hot.
Roll the dice and let them tell you whether to bite, suck, lick, smack, or kiss your partners butt, clit, cock, or mouth.
If you and your partner are into kink and BDSM, you might try this kink-focused set.
Pick a card, any card
You go, I go
“This exercise is all about playing Giver and then playing Receiver,” explains Sinclair.
Start by setting a timer. For a set period of time (like 30 minutes), the Giver is to touch the Receiver wherever and however they’d like to be touched, starting with nonsexual touches. Once the time is up, switch.
“This is a great way to get focused on giving and receiving pleasure, and communicating what feels good before sex even begins,” she says.
Instead of going from 0-to-O (that’s zero to orgasm), why not use your eyes and ears to set the mood?
Explore audio porn
Cue it up on your phone on the way back from dinner and hand bae one of the earbuds.
Watch porn together
Also hot: Turning on a lengthier porn film and flipping the screen around so that you can hear the huffs, moans, and mews in the background (CrashPadSeries has some very sexy moan-filled vids).
Get wild with words
Flip through a comic book
Visual learners to the front! “Graphic novels and comic books, like Fantagraphics, are an imaginative and fun way to explore new parts of your sexuality,” says Sinclair.
It’s perfectly healthy and normal if it takes a little work to get in the mood for sex. There are, as is demonstrated above, plentyyyy of ways to do so.
Also, it’s OK if you can’t get in the mood! You should never feel pressured to have sex if you don’t want to.
Your genitals and other erogenous zones aren’t a “use ‘em or lose ‘em” situation — they’ll still be there for you when you’re either in, or have time to get in, the mood.
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.