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Getting ‘close’ with a partner can be tricky. While representations of sex and pleasure may tell you that toe curling orgasms are easy enough to achieve, pursuing pleasure can be more complicated for many of us.

A big part of this comes down to communication. It can be easy enough to know how you may like to be touched, but knowing how to express this to a partner can be challenging. Lot’s of women feel worried that asking their partner to change up what they are doing may hurt their feelings, or simply feel too embarrassed to have that conversation in the first place. Equally, the idea of having to talk about what gets you in the mood may do the very opposite. You may find yourself feeling frustrated – like your partner should ‘know’ what you want them to do, without you having to explain things to them!

The truth is, when it comes to sex, we’re all unique. While it can be seductive to think things should simply ‘click’ physically with a new partner, it’s not always that straightforward. Moreover, if things aren’t quite connecting, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a full stop in your situationship. Although it can be vulnerable to express your sexual likes and dislikes it can also bring you closer together with a partner. The process doesn’t need to be boring either – it can actually be sexy in itself.

One way to work on increasing intimacy is to have a go at creating a sex menu with your significant other.

Essentially, a sex menu is a list of likes and dislikes that you can share with a partner. There are no rules when it comes to creating a sex menu, the most important thing is to be open with yourself. A good place to start is to take 20 minutes to reflect on the things that you like and equally dislike sexually. This doesn’t have to be X-rated or explicit, it can be intimate too. If handholding is something you enjoy, this can be at the top of your list!

Sexual educator Emily Morse advises thinking of a sex menu as like a “roadmap”. You create a checklist of everything you are curious to explore, swap the list with your partner and choose a few things to check off each other’s lists during your sexual encounters. You don’t have to reach an ultimate destination as the enjoyment can just be in taking that journey together. Plus, who doesn’t love checking things off a list?!

Equally, your sex menu doesn’t have to be divided into strict sections, however making a mental note of which things feel more like an appetizer or an entrée may help you to think about what you want to include in a single session. For example, perhaps sexting or snuggling feels more like a precursor to something like using a sex toy. Remember, there are no rules so whatever feels right for you is a good starting point. Sexual fantasies and scenarios can also be included in your menu along with kinks or fetishes that feel freeing!

Lots of people find that actively creating something like a sex menu helps them to feel empowered and more in control of their sex life. In answering yes, no, or maybe to a list of sex acts, you may find yourself discovering things you didn’t expect too. It can also be exciting to share these parts of yourself with a partner, helping to build trust and communication, especially if you find yourself struggling to get conversations around sex started.

You may also discover new things about an existing partner, or find yourselves both listing similar things you haven’t tried before! Whether you’re trialing something new or have been coupled and committed for years, you’d be surprised at what you can learn from making a menu.

Again, there are no rules here. You can write it out by hand, or curate a printable, however you want to draft it is up to you, the only important thing is to be entirely honest with yourself.

You want to consider what turns you on (think scents, sensations, and positions) as well as what turns you off. You always want to reflect on your boundaries. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to try something, but have felt nervous in the past. Think about why this may be and whether it feels right for you to open yourself up to this now. What acts you are interested in can vary from partner to partner – perhaps you feel safe and secure to explore a particular fantasy now, because of the person you’re dating.

In getting started think about the following:

Be open

Start with anything and everything no matter how big or small it may seem to you.

Take time

Remember, practice makes perfect. Try to think about your first attempt at writing a sex menu as a warmup – it doesn’t have to be a polished product and you can come back to it if you find yourself getting overwhelmed.

Be specific

Big Bridgerton fan? Always wanted to experience the sensation of having a corset ripped from top to bottom? Dress up is a definite do for you then! Having said this, be aware that corset ripping can prove costly.

Be vulnerable

There is no right or wrong and it is your pleasure you want to think about prioritizing. Equally it’s important to remind yourself if you never ask you’ll never know. Maybe the thing you are nervous to open up about is something your partner thinks about all the time!

Be accepting

A sex menu is something you are probably going to share. Go into the exercise with an open mind not only when it comes to your own desires, but to your partners too. Perhaps wearing a wonder woman onesie isn’t quite a hell yes for you, but try to think about how to be sensitive when it comes to vetoing a suggestion.

Still not sure where to start?

Your sex menu might look something like this:

Love: massage, eye contact, light spanking, giving oral sex, sensation play (hot and cold), sex with a partner who has just showered, watching a partner touch themselves.
Loathe: a lack of consent, overly enthusiastic touching, quiet or non-communicative sex, nipple play, hardcore bondage, watching porn with a partner, baby talk, penetrative sex.
Learn to like: role play, rope play (getting tied up), wearing leather or latex, sexting or sending images to a partner, receiving oral sex, using a sex toy.

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After you’ve created your menu it’s time to share it with your partner and get going!

Remember, steer clear of judgment and leave room for negotiation.

A sex menu should be a flexible guide designed to help make sex more pleasurable and encourage an explorative experience – it’s not a race to orgasm. Try to make sure you and your partner are supportive of one another. Many people struggle with internalized shame when it comes to expressing sexual desires, so ensuring the space is warm and welcoming goes a long way.

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Lauren Redfern Lauren RedfernFebruary 1, 2024

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