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Top tips for how to initiate sex

Written by Alice Child, Somatic Sexologist

Sydney-based Somatic Sexologist and Sex & Intimacy Counsellor Alice Child gives her top tips for initiating sex and intimacy - with zero pressure!

Couple gazing into each others eyes in bed to initiate sex

This guide contains general advice only. If you need more tailored advice, please book in a session.

Stop thinking about your needs when you initiate sex - instead think about what would help your partner relax and get into the mood?

Why can initiating sex feel difficult?

Initiating sex can feel vulnerable and scary, and it makes many people feel a bit awkward. You may worry about rejection, saying or doing the wrong thing, or putting unwanted pressure on your partner. It can also be hard to know how to get enthusiastic consent without 'killing the moment'.

I hear these sorts of worries all the time in sessions, especially for couples who struggle with mismatched libido (ie where one person wants more sex than the other person). What 'used to work' to turn on their partner and get them in the mood has seemingly stopped working, and over time initiating sex can often become fraught with fears of rejection, pressure, and disconnection. Not exactly a fun or sexy place to be!

How to initiate sex?

If sex and intimacy is important to you, it's important for both people to know how to turn themselves on and each other and know how to initiate sex.

Here are some ways to make initiating intimacy fun, easy, and pressure free for all involved. After all, sex is about pleasure right?!

Tip 1: Remove pressure or expectation

Pressure or having sex out of obligation is never sexy.

Obviously when we initiate sex with a partner we hope it leads to great sex, pleasure and connection. But sometimes the stars just don't align (even when you follow every single tip in this guide!).

For a healthy and happy relationship, great initiating is not acting upset, defensive or rejected when you hear a 'no'. Because guess what that often leads to? Guilt, pressure, disconnection and broken consent.

Learn to hear 'yes' and 'no' with equal love and respect to create an ongoing relationship of safety, fun, and trust, where sex is about pleasure, not pressure.

When somebody says ‘no’ to something you’ve asked for see it as an opportunity to connect and build deep trust and connection. Lean forward - not away from each other.

For example, smile and say ‘thank you for telling me - is there anything else that could be fun to do instead?’

Tip 2: Learn about your turn ons and turn offs

A big mistake that many people make when initiating sex is thinking all about what THEY want when the mood hits them. Instead -think about what your partner likes and needs.

If you are feeling in the mood for sex, then you are likely 3 steps ahead of your partner!

Your role as the initiator is to help them feel relaxed, connected, turned on and in the mood for physical intimacy. What usually helps them feel relaxed and connected to you? What gets them in the mood? What helps them increase their desire for sex?

Remember - desire for sex can often be created with the right context, headspace, stimulus and time. You need to learn what works for yourself and for each other - with zero pressure.

If it builds to desire for sex - great! But if not you have had a more connective night either way.

Questions to ask yourself when initiating sex and intimacy...

  • Do they prefer morning or evening?

  • What turns them on?

  • What kind of intimacy do they love?

  • What gets them in the mood?

  • Are they tired or stressed?

  • Have I told/shown them I care today?

  • What is their love language?

  • What could I do to make their day better?

  • What makes us feel connected?

  • What turns them off?

  • How could I make our environment/ space feel more connected? Eg music, candles, warmth

If you are not sure of the answers to these questions, I really recommend playing Game 3 in Pillow Play (my online sex and intimacy games for couples!). It's called the Brakes and Accelerator Quiz and it helps you learn what you each need to get in the mood, trigger your desire, and initiate sex.

Tip 3: Foreplay is the whole relationship

As Esther Perel once said, foreplay starts when the last orgasm ends.

Show your partner you care about them beyond just sex. Nobody wants to feel 'used' for their body or that they only get affection or attention when their partner wants sex. Consistent, non-sexual affection helps reinforce that your connection is deeper and more meaningful.

Yes - physical intimacy is really important for many relationships, but sex is not the only way of connecting to our partner. Holding hands, cuddling, and sharing meaningful conversations all contribute to a strong, intimate bond. Everyone wants to feel wanted and desired - so show your partner you desire them every day.

Also, talk openly about sex. Couples who have great sexual communication are more likely to be great at initiating sex too.

Tip 4: Look out for 'brakes' and pick your moment

There are all sorts of reasons why people might not want sex or feel at all in the mood. For example, most people will not be in the mood if they feel stressed, tired, anxious, low in confidence, or generally feel disconnected from their partner or their body.

These are called your sexual 'brakes' (turns offs), as opposed to your sexual accelerators (turn ons).

When too many brakes are present, it's very common for people to experience low libido or low desire for sex.

It is for this reason that so many couples have great sex on holiday - they leave so many of their brakes at home!

Some tips for initiating sex:

  • Pick a moment to initiate when there are less brakes present (eg they are not stressed, tried, angry, busy)

  • Or try and help remove the brakes (for example by helping out around the house, ask if there is anything you can do to help)

  • Try and increase the accelerators  (eg offering to give a massage, putting on sensual music, watching a sexy film, help them get into their body with a bath/massage/mediation etc.)

  • Pick moments when you are both feeling well-rested, connected, stress-free

Tip 5: Ask what they are in the mood for

Sex and intimacy is not just penetration. There are so many different genres and flavours of great intimacy!

What would it be like to ask your partner what kind of sex or intimacy they are craving more of, and find something that you are both in the mood for? This is a great way to mix up routine sex, try something new and improve your sexual communication.

Sex is many things, for example

  • Sensual Touch or massage

  • Sharing a bath or shower together

  • Tantric sex

  • Erotic Massage

  • Sensation play

  • Fingering

  • Blowjobs /

  • Oral Sex / 69

  • Handjobs

  • Strip tease / erotic dance

  • Exploring a new fantasy

  • Using sex toys

  • Watching porn / reading smut together or alone

  • Dry humping / grinding

  • Mutually Masturbating / self pleasure

  • Shibari / bondage / rope

  • Spanking / kink

  • Taking nudes

  • Sexting / Dirty talk / Writing erotica

  • Role play

  • Anal

Tip 6: Find your middle ground

We often think the answer to initiating sex is as simple yes or no. But in reality, many times people want to want sex, but are not in the mood YET.

The answer to initiation can actually be many things. Learning how to navigate all of the below really helps remove any pressure and get to something fun that works for everyone.

  1. Yes! I'm in the mood too let's do it!

  2. I'm not in the mood right now but I want to be. Let's do XYZ things to see if that helps put me in the right headspace! (eg massage, put on lingerie, share a shower, have a romantic dinner together etc.)

  3. I'm not in the mood myself but it would be hot if you masturbate next to me while I watch.

  4. No - I'm not in the mood at all. BUT I will initiate something intimate in the next [insert time here that works for you!]

Tip 7: Combine verbal & non-verbal

Does your partner like verbal or non-verbal initiation? If you're not sure - ask!

I'm a big fan of verbal and non-verbal initiation together - it helps turn you both on and also makes your intentions and consent really clear,

Non verbal initiation examples:

  • sensual touching / exploring their body

  • drawing them a bath to share together

  • putting on music and sensually dancing together

  • getting into their favourite lingerie

  • Taking their hand and pulling them into the bedroom

  • Taking their hand and placing it on your body

  • kissing them deeply

  • giving them a massage

  • eye gazing

  • giving them a strip tease

Verbal initiation examples:

  • telling them something you want to do to them eg

    • "Would you be willing to give/receive a sensual massage tonight?"

    • "I'm really craving some intimacy tonight - what would you be in the mood for?"

    • "I'd love to have a date night on Friday - what sort of intimacy shall we plan?

    • Can I go down on you?

    • Can I kiss you?

    • Can I explore your body?

  • dirty talk / flirting

  • texting them a sexual fantasy you have been thinking about

Everybody is turned on by different types of initiations. So take the time to learn what your partner enjoys and by doing so can help create that spark and maintain sexual attraction within your relationship.

Tip 8: Equity matters

Lots of relationships have a dynamic where one person initiates sex MUCH more than the other person.

While this works for some people, it can also lead to a resentment building up which can affect contentment.

For example the partner who initiates more (often with a higher sex drive) might become more nervous, lazy or resentful with how they initiate. They may feel like their efforts are not appreciated or reciprocated, leading to frustration.

The partner who never or infrequently initiates (often with a lower sex drive) might feel pressured, resentful or guilty. They might struggle with feelings of inadequacy or worry that they are not fulfilling their partner's needs.

This is no fun for anyone and can create a cycle of misunderstanding!

Try and initiate some form of physical intimacy with each other (even if it's not sex e.g. cuddling, a long kiss) to show each other you care and reinforce your erotic bond.

By starting with small gestures, it can help navigate mismatched libidos, reduce the pressure, and lead to a more fulfilling sex life.

Tip 9: Get your needs met in other ways

It can be helpful to remember that when you're craving sex, you can actually get your needs met in LOTS of different ways. Don't use your partner to relieve your own needs - know the difference, feel the difference, and you will too.

For example:

  • If you're craving physical release - try masturbation , exercise

  • If you're craving emotional connection - suggest other things such as cuddles, love languages, dinner, meaningful time together

  • If you're craving physical touch - suggest massage, sensual touching, skin on skin time with zero pressure of sex

  • If you're craving sexual connection - try something new or talk about what kind of sex you're both craving


Alice x

Alice Child - Somatic Sexologist, Sex Therapy & Sex Counsellor - helps people achieve happier and healthier sex lives through 1:1 sex coaching, couples sex counselling, hens parties, and workshops. Book a session here.

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