How to initiate sex: 5 signals to your partner that aren't awkward, according to a sex therapist

Couple walking with arm round each other/
Physical touch is a way that some people like to initiate sex.Alina Rudya/Bell Collective/Getty Images
  • Many people struggle with letting their partner know they want sex, a social psychologist said.

  • But being rejected is a part of our sex lives, a sex therapist said.

  • Couples can initiate sex in playful ways like making bets or having code words.

A sex therapist shared six ways to initiate sex with a partner, including coming up with a code word.

A lot of people struggle with letting their partner know they want to have sex, social psychologist Dr. Justin Lehmiller said on his "Sex and Psychology" podcast.

In an episode titled How to Initiate Sex, he told listeners that according to his own research, women fantasize more about initiating sex with a partner, while men fantasize about their partner initiating sex.

But people can avoid initiating sex because it puts them in the position of being turned down, and "we all hate being turned down," sex therapist Vanessa Marin told Lehmiller on the podcast.

She said that no matter how compatible people may be, rejection is a part of our sex lives and we need to get comfortable with that sting of rejection.

Marin and her husband Xander, who also appeared on the podcast, explained that when initiating sex, it should sound enticing and like something their partner would want to do.

She said some people might say: "Well… should we? It's been a while..." which sounds neither exciting nor interesting.

Here are Marin's suggestions for how to initiate sex with a partner.

Come up with a code word

This can be a fun way to talk about sex, especially for parents who might have kids around during the day, Marin said.

Some people might say they have to "do the taxes" or "plan Christmas presents," and can add "so no one can interrupt us," she said.

Use a song or a sign that you're in the mood

Marin said couples can agree on a "sexy song," which can be played to let the other know they're in the mood.

An agreed object or sign is an alternative: for example, putting a scrunchie hair tie on your bedside table to show you are interested in sex, she said.

Marin said that signs can be helpful for those who are nervous to initiate sex and don't feel comfortable planning a whole night of seduction.

Be playful

Marin said that she and Xander are playful and goofy people. This means they like to think outside the box when it comes to initiating sex.

In the past, they've made bets where the winner gets oral sex or goes on top. They said this works perfectly for their personalities.

Dr. Lehmiller added that different initiation techniques work for different people.

Give physical touch

Physical touch may seem like the obvious way to start something with a partner, but things don't have to kick off with a heavy make-out session, Marin and her husband said.

The signal could be as simple as a cuddle on the couch.

Xander said that this is dependent on the person's love language. He said he appreciates physical touch more than his wife, so sometimes having conversations about love languages can be helpful to assess what works for you.

Take care of your partner

For others, being taken care of can be just as sexy as a kiss.

This doesn't have to mean being explicitly sexual, but taking care of household chores and responsibilities which can help the partner feel like they have a teammate in the relationship, Marin said.

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