Sex talk and communication before, during and after sex is not always easy. But here are some tips to help you without killing the mood and also tips for when you should definitely kill the mood.
If you’ve seen this article about consensual handshakes then you’ll have an idea that for sex to feel good and for it to be consensual we need some communication. This piece gives ideas for people who might not be able to negotiate absolutely everything before sex but want to have enough communication for sex to go well.
These don’t all work for everyone and not everyone will be able to do them all (eg if you can’t see or hear) so there are lots of different kinds of ways to communicate you can try.
You’ll notice that in each section I’ll be saying that sometimes something might mean this, and sometimes it might mean something else. This means it’s important to use different methods of communication during sex, because then you’ll get a clearer idea of whether this is something everyone is into.
This also means that you might want to slow it down and also check in regularly. Sometimes that might not be the ‘sexy’ thing to do but it’s definitely the right thing to do. Sometimes in order to have consensual sex, you need to not have sex.
We can sometimes tell from looking into someone’s eyes whether they are into something – especially if it’s accompanied by a nod of the head, or a smile, or an ‘oh yeah.’ Sometimes people might do direct eye contact as if to say ‘yes’ and sometimes as if to say ‘no, I’m serious this has to stop’.
If someone is looking away it might mean that they aren’t that into what is happening, but it could also mean that they are in their own space and having a great time. It could also mean that they really don’t like eye contact. Some people find eye contact is a bit too intense.
This doesn’t just apply to sex, think of times when you might have had eye contact with someone and what that might mean. It doesn’t always mean the same thing for the same person.
Also people’s sex faces are different and can be confusing – if you’re confused, check with them.Being able to see people’s facial expressions, or being able to hear what they are saying (or lip read what they are saying) is important if you are new to sex with each other. This is why I recommend having sex in a face to face position (and you can read more about that in my ‘best sex positions for you’ article)
If you can’t see their facial expression very well, either because it’s dark or because you can’t see, you could try some of these other methods.
Sometimes people make lots of noise when they’re enjoying sex and sometimes not. Some people might be more shy about being vocal than others. This means that if some people are quiet then things might still be going well for them.
Other people do like to make a lot of noise: it’s a very personal thing. Sometimes a pleasure sound can sound like a pain sound and this can be very confusing when you are new to sex. So if you’re confused about what someone’s noise means then it’s a good idea to stop and check in with them. Better to be safe than sorry.
Just because someone isn’t shouting ‘no’ or ‘stop’ doesn’t mean that they are happy continuing.
Ideally, people would be talking quite a lot before they have sex about the kinds of sex that they want to have (and here’s a guide on different kinds of sex and how to work out what you want). Some people are quite comfortable talking about what they want and don’t want from sex.
However it’s more difficult for other people. So what a lot of people do is ‘to see how they get on’ and chat during sex. Once things get going you can use short phrases to say what you want. You can also encourage your partner to do what feels good. Short phrases are easier to say. You can also whisper in someone’s ear which may also be easier.
Also listen to their breathing. A sharp intake of breath might mean that something hurts, or was a surprise. A long exhale might mean that someone is really relaxed and enjoying it (or they might be unconscious).
You’re allowed to use your hands if you want – sex isn’t football. You can move someone’s hand if they’re touching you in a place or in a way you aren’t keen on. Or you can put their hand on your hand and guide them to where you like to be touched and how.
A ‘tap’ on the shoulder might mean that they’ve had enough of that thing. Or hand being placed on your chest to hold you back might mean ‘give me a sec’. If someone is holding you in place that might mean ‘right there’ or ‘just like that’ or ‘don’t stop’.
Talking about what these different hand signals means to you would be a great idea. Especially if you don’t like talking, or if you have disabilities that make it difficult communicating by sight or sound.
If people’s bodies move towards each other or copy or mirror what each other is doing then this is a sign they are enjoying what each other are doing. If someone moves away, becomes very passive or leaves the room it’s a sign someone isn’t happy.
Look out for if people shudder, or twitch, or tense up: because that might be a sign that something is wrong. If someone trembles, or shakes, that might be a sign that it’s going well. However, everyone reacts in different ways and that’s true when sex is consensual and also not consensual (a sexual assault).
Sending sexy texts is a great way of communicating what you like or don’t like. Just remember not to send images if you under 18 as this is against the law. Sexts are easier because you can spend some time getting the wording right.
It’s a good way of asking for something specific or for pointing out what you really aren’t into. If you do this in combination with talking about what sex you want then this can be really effective. You can even tell each other sexy stories – which also counts as sex, even if you aren’t together.
This is also a great way to communicate after sex, which I think is a great idea. It can be a lovely and sexy thing to do to chat about the sex, what went well and what you’d like to do differently next time. Think of it like being post-match analysis (though hopefully without all those dodgy offside decisions, or lbws).
When to stop
There are times when you need to kill the mood, stop everything and actually talk.
- If they are looking unhappy or not engaging
- If you are wanting to do something different to what you’ve already done
- If sex is getting uncomfortable or painful for you or you think it might be for them
- Remember someone should only have to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ or ‘wait’ once, if so please stop.
If something non-consensual happened to you here’s where you can get support and advice
Comment below if you like. I moderate all comments before they appear, so don’t be cheeky!
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.