Throughout lockdown, both singles and couples have seen their sex lives turned upside down.
Thankfully, with restrictions loosening in recent weeks, we are once again getting our freak on with others.
If you’ve been starved of sex for the duration of the pandemic, the first time back in the sheets will probably be hot and heavy… but, what if it isn’t?
What is the sex is awkward or just plain boring?
Look, bad sex happens – it’s not the end of the world, but it’s important to address it because you deserve to have mind-blowing sex, regardless of if it’s with a partner or a temporary sex bubble.
Communicate with the person you’re sleeping with. If you don’t, you’re only depriving yourself of a good time, and if you’re in a serious relationship, it could have a damaging effect on your connection in the long-run.
It can be an uncomfortable conversation to have, especially if you’re afraid of hurting your sexual partner’s feelings.
With that in mind, here are top tips from sex experts on how to best broach the subject.
Beware of criticism
Even if the sex was awful, remember that the other person deserves your respect and kindness when you discuss how to improve matters.
Tread carefully and choose your words wisely.
‘Sexual connection is a domain in which we are more vulnerable to criticism, whether it’s body image, or knowing how to please our partners, or exploring the edges of our kinkier side,’ Megwyn White, director of education at tech sexual wellness brand Satisfyer, tells us.
‘Knowing when and how to communicate with our partners becomes incredibly important in avoiding feelings being hurt.
‘The first thing I tell couples is that it’s important to think of love-making as a creative act between two people.
‘The goal is to create pleasure that is mutually experienced, so it’s always important to share when something feels off or uncomfortable.
‘As a couple you are always creating pleasure that is a “joy” in progress, and there is always room to grow and learn. If you hold this intention in mind, the sharing can be something that is fun, and exploratory as opposed to feeling like you are being criticised or not a good lover.’
Focus on what turns you on, not what turns you off
Unless you truly loathe something very specific that your partner does (nibbles on your nipples after you orgasm, rubs your penis too hard, whatever it is), try to avoid phrases like ‘I hate when you do X, Y, Z’.
Swap this for ‘Instead of rubbing my penis this way, I would really love it if you did X, Y, Z’.
See the difference?
‘When it comes to owning your sexual desires, open communication and mutual respect are vital,’ Asa Baav, sex expert and founder of Tailor Matched, tells us.
‘If you’re nervous, start slow and ease into it. Simply share with each other some things that really get you off.
‘Focus on what is going well, what is working and what we like – this will lead to your partner (s) doing more of that.’
Choose your moment wisely
Once you’ve worked up the courage to have a chat with your other half, choose the right environment in which to do so.
‘Make sure you have the full attention of your partner, that he/she is not in the middle of being busy with something else,’ Sofia Sundari, tantra teacher and founder of the Serpent Mystery School and the Priestess School, tells us.
‘Say something like: “I’d like to share with you something important for me, it will take about 15 minutes, is it a good time?”
‘If the answer is no, don’t be offended, ask when would be the right time.
‘The fear of the unknown often prevents us to take steps towards change and trying something new. On top of that, with many couples there exists an issue with opening up to deep levels of intimacy.
‘Avoid blaming and pointing fingers. Stay with owning your needs and desires.’
And please, don’t just blurt out: ‘I hate our sex life’ in the supermarket aisle or while you’re naked in bed together.
‘When we are in a sexual or intimate space we can feel quite vulnerable or exposed, so often the best time to have these conversations is outside the bedroom where there is time and space to process and discuss, and no pressure to act on the discussion immediately,’ says Kate Moyle, sex and relationship expert at Lelo.
Use your hands
If talking feels too difficult, another option is to guide your lover where you want him/her/them to go.
For instance, if your clitoris is very sensitive and they always rub it too hard, gently grab their hand and show them how you like to be touched.
Or enjoy mutual masturbation – this way, you’ll both get to see exactly how the other person makes themselves orgasm, and can replicate it later.
Make a list of what you like and tick it off
If you don’t feel ready to have this kind of conversation, there’s something else you could try: a wish list.
Asa adds: ‘Another helpful way to start a conversation about your turn-ons, fantasies, and boundaries, is to try making a “yes/no/maybe” list.
‘Write down any sexual acts that come to mind, and then both you and your partner take turns marking each as a yes, no, or maybe.
‘This can be a sexy and fun way to get to know each other better and explore things you may not have considered before.
‘Remember to play with it and not take it too seriously. If something doesn’t land, laugh it off and move on.’
There are lots of sex quizzes online that you can take together, too.
Play a sex game
If the sex is already decent but starting to lose some of its lustre or getting repetitive, a great way to explore sexual boundaries is to play a game.
From fantasy fulfilment, strip poker and truth or dare, there’s lots to try – here is our nifty guide.
You could also reference a sexy move that you’ve seen in a movie or read about in a book, and use that as a stepping stone to heating things up in the bedroom.
Kate adds: ‘If you feel nervous about starting the conversation, then use a prompt like an article or podcast episode and share that with your partner or start by talking about it with them.
‘Try and also tell them about the specifics of what you would like to try, it’s much harder for you to both understand if what you are saying is vague. E.g.”I think playing with the senses sounds like fun, how about we try a blindfold”, rather than “I want to mix things up”.
‘If you both understand each other clearly then it will create less hesitation or anxiety around trying to interpret each other’s thoughts and reactions.’