A Guide to Dirty Talk for the Cripplingly Anxious
"Just don't do it," a German Bumble match once advised when I explained how uncomfortable I was with pontificating during intercourse (you know, typical first-date chitchat). My suitor then proceeded to confirm the validity of my biggest fear: He told me that he'd not only stopped sex cold when a partner made an off-color stab at sounding sexy in the sheets—he'd walked out on them. Multiple times, in fact.
As it turns out, my European date is not alone in his honest response to erotic language misfires. In a 2020 survey from U.K. remote healthcare provider Superdrug Online Doctor, 1 in 5 participants reported stopping sex in the act because an unsuccessful attempt at sexy repartee turned them off.
The brain is the mightiest sex organ in the body, playing a critical role in creating sex drive and sexual pleasure.
That's not exactly the kind of statistic that encourages you to dip your toe into dirty talking, especially if you're already anxious about it. But there are plenty of other statistics that make a compelling case for taking the plunge: According to a 2020 study conducted by Kinsey Institute fellow Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph.D., 93 percent of women fantasize about hearing provocative language in the bedroom, and 56 percent fantasize about it often. Sexy wordplay was nearly as popular across other demographics: Ninety percent of men said they fantasize about dirty talk, 43 percent of them fantasizing about it often; among nonbinary respondents, those numbers were 86 percent and 42 percent, respectively.
There's a science to why sexually explicit lines—while often petrifying to deliver—can be so seductive on the receiving end. When you hear erotic language, it excites the brain while your body is simultaneously getting stimulated. After all, the brain is the mightiest sex organ in the body, playing a critical role in creating sex drive and sexual pleasure.
And naughty tête-à-tête isn't just arousing, it can also benefit your relationship. "One of the major benefits of talking dirty is it works as a form of communication," said Tyomi Morgan, a certified sexologist and pleasure coach. "At the end of the day, dirty talk is simply telling your partner to do something, expressing your attraction to them or making an observation. The benefits of saying any of these things is to make your partner feel desired and also to help you get what you want out of sex."
Claudia Six, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist, agrees. "Dirty talk creates a kind of feedback loop of energy between you and your partner," she said. "If you're really feeling what you're saying, it's going to turn them on."
The two sexperts shared some tips for taking the plunge into dirty discourse, even if—or rather, especially if—the idea makes you squirm.
Use your own words
Do you enviously watch porn stars spout off dirty talk like it's their mother tongue? Don't worry—no one expects you to shout filthy things or whisper sweet obscenities with the same level of fluency.
"Watching porn can make dirty talk intimidating," said Morgan. "You think, 'I could never imagine myself saying something like that.'" While you can and should turn to porn and erotica for inspiration, you don't need to copy the script word for word. If you can't imagine yourself saying something, trying to do so can come out stiff and unnatural.
"When you try to be someone else, your partner will sense that you're faking it," cautioned Morgan. "Your partner wants to know whether you're actually enjoying yourself," and that everyone is expressing themselves authentically.
Since both sex professionals caution against using canned lines you've lifted from the script of "Naked Came the Stranger," Morgan advocates for brainstorming your own spicy catchphrases. That way, you don't have to think on your feet when you're busy being in the throes of passion.
"It's totally okay to have a backlog of phrases in your back pocket," she said. "That way, you can pull unique, authentic, true words from the back of your head instead of having to think of them on the spot."
She recommends sitting down and making a list of compliments, descriptions or requests that you feel comfortable saying. "Think, 'Okay, what things do I really enjoy about my partner?'" suggested Morgan. "'What are sexy things I have enjoyed in the past or want to experience with them in the future?'"
Want some inspiration? Try these sexy mad libs:
- "I love how your [noun] feels in my [noun]."
- "That feels so [adjective], you're going to make me [verb]."
- "I've been [naughty/nice/bad/good] all [period of time], so I deserve to be [passive verb] [adverb] like the [adjective][noun] I am!"
Don't take things personally
Are you—like me—terrified of being laughed at when trying out your outspoken alter ego in the sack? Take a breath. Laughter during sex is okay, because sex—which involves naked people covered in bodily fluids contorting into undignified positions—is funny, and any attempt to commentate the act is going to be similarly ridiculous.
"If you remember that your partner and you are on the same team—team pleasure," Morgan said, with a giggle herself, "and that your partner's not trying to do anything to hurt you or make you feel bad, it'll help you to not take it personally."
'At the end of the day, dirty talk is simply telling your partner to do something, expressing your attraction to them or making an observation.'
And if you do feel shut down by a partner's less-than-ideal response, it's okay to hit the brakes for a bit. "We have this idea that sex, once it's happening, shouldn't stop," Morgan mused. "But if, in the moment, you feel uncomfortable, it's okay to do a reset and totally be like, 'Hey, what's so funny?' to make sure you're on the same page before continuing."
Remember, dirty talk is not a requirement
My German gentleman caller was right about one thing: If dirty talk makes you super anxious or uncomfortable, rest assured that it is not a requirement. In fact, Six said, for some partners, dirty talk might actually be detrimental.
"Some people object to dirty talk because it puts them in their head," explained Six. "When they're no longer in their body, it's harder to stay turned on. It forces them to engage a part of their brain in a way that takes them out of the moment."
If soliloquizing during sex is not your thing, single words and vocalizations can be plenty sexy.
"Moans, groans and growls, 'oh my gods' and 'yeses' are all positive affirmations," said Morgan. "Dirty talk is all about positive affirmation and feedback, and all of these communicate that things are going right and feeling good."