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Illustration by Marta Pucci

How to Initiate Sex

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
10/11/2022
Last updated:
11/24/2022
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
10/11/2022
Last updated:
11/24/2022

Tl;dr

  • Statistically in heterosexual relationships, it is said men are twice as likely to initiate sex as women.
  • Initiating sends a clear signal to your partner that you find them attractive and want to be with them. 
  • This is definitely something that gets easier over time the more you do it and the more you receive that positive response from your partner.
  • Don't take it personally if you finally pluck up the courage to initiate sex and your partner is not in the mood. Initiation doesn’t guarantee sex will happen that time. 

Many couples have one person who tends to initiate sex more than the other, but that doesn’t mean things have to stay that way. Anecdotally, men tell us they’d love for their partner to initiate more and in many cases it’s one of the top things they would change about their relationship.

Why bother to initiate?

By initiating sexual activity, it sends out a clear message to your romantic partner about how much you like them, that you find them attractive and want to be with them. And that feeling of being desired is a powerful thing in terms of relationship satisfaction.

So why don’t we all initiate more when we’re in the mood? Well for many people who admit they’re not so good at this stuff, it’s simply that they feel awkward about it or don’t know where to start.

That’s where we can help.

Initiating sex can feel daunting if it’s not something you’re used to doing, particularly if it’s with a long-term partner. You’re with them for a reason, right? So, if you haven’t instigated sexual intercourse for a while… or at all… it might feel daunting, especially if it's out of your comfort zone. But it can also be liberating to feel vulnerable and express your love for your partner while having those feelings heard and maybe even reciprocated. It just takes practice. Think of it like public speaking: the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll be.

In fact, there are some quick ways to get started. And who knows where it might lead.

Our top tips for initiating sex

Set the mood

After time, we can lose the sexual cues we had in our relationship early on, for instance, maybe you often had sex after a date. But when the dates go, so do the sexual cues. So if you're thinking tonight is the night, maybe consider setting up some non-verbal sexual cues for your partner, like candles, nice wine, selecting the right playlist and getting the bedroom ready.

Get the timing right

If you’re nervous anyway the last thing you want to do is choose a time when you’re likely to get the brush off. If your partner is stressed or preoccupied with a big work crisis, they may not be so receptive to the idea.

Or they might.

Take some time to read their body language.

Signs like prolonged eye contact, little touches on the arm, or a hand on the thigh can all signal your partner is open to the idea of more. And you can use similar signals to show what you want too. But if it’s you who’s feeling stressed, maybe this is not the right time for you, either. You need to make sure that you are OK as well. 

Setting the scene

Cook their favorite meal, wear that outfit they love and spritz on some of the posh scent you save only for special occasions. If you know your partner's love languages, think of ways you can use that to demonstrate a genuine appreciation and connection.

By showing your partner you mean business and letting on you have a special evening in mind, the actual initiation part might well just happen naturally.

But a top tip: it’s better not to try and initiate sex while your partner is doing the washing-up! You’d be surprised how often we hear stories of people who have sidled up sexily behind their partner who is elbow deep in suds… only to brushed off. We tend not to feel at our sexiest when we’re doing the chores!

Take the pressure off

Try not to make everything about sex. In fact, if that feels like too much pressure don’t even think about it. Instead, instigate cuddles on the sofa or handholding on a walk home from the pub. Get in the habit of coming up to them for a hug during your daily life together or offer them a foot rub after a hard day's work. Little moments of touch will set the scene for you, without you having to be direct if that makes you nervous. It also sets your partner up for intimate moments, rather than having a full day of barely touching or talking and then going in for the big time at bed time.

Unsure? There are plenty of other ways you can get closer to your partner beyond sex.

Just do it!

Sometimes the best thing to do is just go for it once you’ve noticed you’re in the mood. If you want to, you’ll always find a reason why it's not the right time. One more phone call to make, one more email to answer, the dishwasher to unload. If you feel tempted to initiate sex just do it!

Be direct, let your partner know what you’d like and allow them to respond. Never pressure them into anything, but make it clear that you are there for them and open to getting intimate. Even if they say they’re not in the mood, you’ve communicated successfully to them that you are feeling sexual and attracted to them, and that’s a great thing in itself. 

It doesn’t have to be like a film

Start with small, gentle steps. If you're both good at opening up and talking to one another perhaps just be honest. Say, "I recognize that I never initiate sex and I want you to know that I want that to be a part of our sex life. But I'm a bit nervous about it and it's taking me a while to pluck up the courage." Chances are, you'll gain star points from your partner and they'll just be happy you're keen to redress the balance, even if it takes you a little while longer.

Finally, make sure you don’t take it personally. If you do get outside your comfort zone to initiate and your partner politely declines, remember it’s not a slight on you. It’s likely there have been times when your partner was in the mood and you were anything but, so don’t be upset if they turn you down too. Certainly, don't take it as a reason not to try again.

You’ll soon gain that confidence you’ve been seeking that will help you initiate touch, sex and intimacy in your relationship, and help you feel more empowered to express your needs, wants and desires. 

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