A blank sheet of paper with rose petals around it, inviting you to write your sexual wants on it.
Illustration by Marta Pucci

How to ask for what you want in bed

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness

So, what do you want?

Whether you’re pretty comfortable with your sexual desires or not, you might still have a hard time expressing them. Admitting to a need for something that could be considered anything from silly to morally questionable involves making yourself vulnerable. You might think vulnerability would be easier when it’s with one of the most important people in your life, your partner. But that can also be the situation with the highest stakes. If this person rejects your desires (and unintentionally, by extension...you?), that could feel awful. 

What we want isn’t who we are

We often believe our sexual needs and desires (both what they are and their existence) say something about who we are as a person. We assume that our identities line up very neatly; maybe wanting to be submissive means you can’t handle responsibility, or wanting to have ‘vanilla’ penis-in-vagina missionary sex means you’re secretly really boring? Fortunately, this is not true. Many parts of our identities are related but this isn’t automatic or guaranteed and our sexual interests may have very little relationship with the rest of our lives. Consider your preferences for food: we don’t usually attach a great deal of meaning to someone liking donuts over cake. That’s just how they are. Although, in this case, team cake all the way. 

And what do you NOT want?

Our sexual dislikes and discomforts are also very personal. Just as it’s never ok to shame someone for what they want in bed, it’s also never ok to make someone feel bad about what they don’t want or feel conflicted about. That includes yourself. It’s totally cool (of course!) to want to explore new things and broaden your horizons, but that’s best done from a place of curiosity and safety, not of fear or the desire to prove something about yourself. 

It can also be really hard to tell a partner that there’s something we don’t like. Maybe it’s something you know they’re keen to try and you don’t fancy it, or it’s something you’ve been doing together for a while and it’s stopped working for you (or it never really worked). A lot of us would rather endure something uncomfortable than risk hurting our partner’s feelings. It can be hard to feel like the ‘bad guy’ by being the one who brings something difficult into awareness. Not raising these issues protects them, but it also diminishes us, because it reinforces the idea that our desires are less important than theirs; this is never true. Never. 

Understanding your own desires:

  • Share porn or written erotica that you like with your partner - watching or reading together and talking about what you like about it. How does it make you feel? Is it the act, the attitude or identity of the participants, the role you’re taking or they’re taking, that decides this? 

Try to not judge your desires. Going back to the person who likes donuts over cake, cookies or ice-cream: maybe that’s because they were only exposed to donuts as a child and have never known anything else. And what’s wrong with that? If that person wants to change, they can try a bit of cake and see how they feel. But if not, that’s fine. Donuts are good too. 

Take yourself seriously. It can be tempting to downplay a sexual need, especially if it feels trivial. Maybe sex hurts a bit for you in your partner’s favourite position? Or you’d love for them to make more noise but it feels a bit demanding to ask. What would it be like to really indulge these wants, openly? 

Knowing what you want

It’s very difficult to communicate anything to anyone if you don’t know what you want. This isn’t just a case of just having no awareness of what feels good or not (although it might be!), but also making sense of this when it might shift or change, and communicating this unsureness might be especially challenging. 


  1. “I really like being spanked and would like to do this every time we have sex.”
  2. “I like being spanked, but only when I know my partner really well, and we’re alone in the house, and when I’m feeling especially submissive, and possibly only at certain points during sex but I’m not sure what those are yet. Oh, and this has changed from how I used to feel, when I just didn’t think I really liked being spanked but actually this was because the partner I used to do it with didn’t really fit the role I wanted them to during sex when they spanked me.”

The second one takes a lot more trial and error before you can be confident of it and communicate it to someone else. 

We also tend to hide parts of ourselves that feel unacceptable - sharing them with others might be challenging, being honest with ourselves about them could be even scarier sometimes. Below are a few things you’ll learn during your Blueheart plan that will help you with this. 

  1. Know what you want or don’t want (and being ok with these things) 
  2. Know how to say it and how to choose the words you want to use
  3. Be comfortable talking to your partner about sex in general and then about sex that involves the two of you
  4. Be ready for their response and prepared to give them a nice response too 
  5. Get to a stage where it feels safe to try new things and be open with this person to be playful. 

To learn more communication skills, and if you feel ready to get back in touch with sex again, check out how with the Blueheart app here.

Improve your sexual communication
Blueheart has helped numerous people improve their sexual communication by offering touch therapy and techniques to set boundaries and ask for what you want.
take the assessment