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05 Aug 2021 (Last updated 05 Feb 2024)

How to initiate sex with a partner

Sexual Journey 6 min read
how to initiate sex

Let’s first distinguish that many things are on a spectrum, and this includes sexuality, as in, feelings of sexual attraction, arousal, and connection. We range from being asexual to sexual. For vulva owners that are sexual, many find themselves being the initiator less often, or not at all, especially in cisgender heterosexual relationships. This blog is to help women and non-binary folks that have vulvas who often wonder ‘why can’t I initiate sex? I want to, but I get stuck in the moment.’.

Vulva owners in many cultures have been taught that to want sex and to say it out loud means something about your humanity – that you’re a bad person, a dirty girl. That gets some people off, but others, it hinders them from even basic communication around sex. If you’ve held onto ideas that hold you back from being your most sexually confident self, it’s understandable, but you can let those ideas go with practice. Here’s a sex coach’s take on how to initiate sex without fear of rejection...

Why do people avoid initiating sex?

“Life in Lubbock, Texas taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth, and you should save it for someone you love.” – Butch Hancock, American Folk Musician

This perfectly illustrates two reasons people don’t initiate sex – fear and conditioning.

You fear something. Maybe it’s religious based, a repeat of a past bad experience, or your mind scrolls through scenes of things going wrong or your feelings being hurt. Your mind wants you to avoid pain and rejection at all costs, so you wait for a partner to approach you for sex.

Conditioning is from your life experiences up to this point. Some of those experiences and lessons serve us well; others hinder us. Our conditioning can block us from our true desires. You may want to pursue your lover more often, but then a month goes by, and you didn’t approach them once about having a good romp together.

When it comes to vulva owners, a huge factor in our conditioning stems from the virgin vs whore mentality. “Good girls don’t do that”. We are conditioned that it is not acceptable for a woman to own her sexuality. These thoughts can linger in the back of your mind or be a voice screaming “sluuuuuuut” in your head when you think of uttering a hot fantasy aloud. When you partner up or get married, it doesn’t suddenly become okay to talk about sex, even with the person you’re sharing your life with.

Why should you initiate sex more?

It’s been found that in long-term cishet relationships, men tend to underestimate how much their partners' are turned on and want some sexy time (Muise, et al). His bias may be stopping him from initiating out of respect for you or avoidance of rejection, but either way, it’s not putting you two in bed together. Learn to show your signals, ask for sex in sexy ways, and keep learning about each other. He will appreciate the pressure not being on him as much. Susan Sprecher, PhD, found in her research that couples who have equity in their sexual initiation report greater satisfaction with their sex lives.

Ways to initiate sex.

Overcoming the fear and conditioning to start initiating sex more often takes time, but you can become a master initiator, leaving behind old thought patterns that don’t serve you any longer. Here are two techniques to help you instigate sex and feel good about it.

1. The redirect.

Say you approach your partner for some sexy time, and they aren’t in the mood. You can:

  1. Take it personally, then pout or pressure them.
  2. Say “okay”, kiss them on the cheek and go masturbate and enjoy your own orgasm and go about your day, no harm, no foul.
  3. Ask for a raincheck.
  4. Check in to see if your partner wants some form of intimacy but not intercourse, then act from there.

What do you do? If you confidently answer anything but 1, you win! If you hesitantly answered 2-4 and chose it because it’s the logical answer compared to 1, which seemed childish and manipulative, but you’ve done that before and hope to not do it again but it’s hard in the moment to be mature sometimes… Stop! We’ve been there. Deep breath, here’s something to consider: You are both unique sexual beings. You have your own wants, needs, and desires. Sometimes you have sex alone, sometimes you have sex together. You are only responsible for your own orgasm. Acknowledge and embrace that.

The thing is, no matter how horny our lover is, there will be times that we want sex, and they don’t…and that’s okay. If they have been the initiator, they have certainly been turned down or redirected before by you, so remember - this is a two-way street!

Learning to simply let go and masturbate, ask for a raincheck, and/or see if there’s something besides intercourse they’d like to do, takes practice if you’ve never approached their “no” that way. Over time, you’ll notice the feelings of rejection subside as you get those rainchecks fulfilled, you enjoy your own orgasms, or you enjoy a little mutual masturbation or kissing session rather than having penetrative intercourse. “No” can become a “not now” or a “what about -fill in the blank- instead”. Our minds like “yes and” or “no but” way better than “no,” but sometimes it’s all about our mind choosing to process it in a positive way (“yes and” or “no but” rather than “no”). Talk to your partner about how you can both redirect when you’re not in the mood.

2. Sometimes you must “pop the clutch”.

So, that may be an old reference! To anyone who’s driven a manual transmission car, though, you know that if your battery dies, if you can get the car in motion, down a slight hill for instance, you can pop the clutch and start the engine. Well, vulva owners’ sexual response cycles are sort of like that.

Studies show that the beginning two phases of the sexual response cycle are often flipped for vulva owners and penis owners. What this means is that vulva owners are more reactive and penis owners are more spontaneous in their arousal. Or, more plainly, vulva owners get turned on after sexual play begins, penis owners get turned on before it begins.

For this reason, I recommend that vulva owners try initiating even when they have the quick thought of “eh, I’m not turned on right now.” There are times where you may find after you make out, cuddle and smell them, or they touch you in that one spot, you’re ready for action! And consider how this helps balance the sexual equity in your relationship. If they have been approaching you more often, the reciprocity will be appreciated. That makes them feel desired! You have been the benefactor of their initiation. Watch over time how initiating can help connect you more deeply to your partner as they feel more seen by you as a sexual being and what it will do for your erotic connection.

I also recommend you allow the space for all types of physical intimacy. It is possible for couples to kiss for a few minutes then go about their days! Or to have a quick oral session or mutually masturbate and get back to work. Sex isn’t just about penetrative intercourse - these moments of intimacy matter for couples and should be an integral part of your sexual connection to keep your sexual batteries charged.

Speaking of batteries, throw in a toy from Smile Makers (or 2 or 3) to help increase pleasure on your own and with your partner.


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