fbpx What Did You Just Call Me? How to Navigate Talking Dirty

Sex - Exploration | July 13, 2022, 6:00 CDT

What Did You Just Call Me? How to Navigate Talking Dirty
While getting verbally naughty can help elevate the erotic mood, it can also go horribly wrong.
Tabby Kibugi

Written by

Tabby Kibugi
A tweet about talking dirty is over a pink, speckled background
Illustration by Josh Christensen

Jen, 31, from New York, had always fantasized about roleplaying with her partner. After three months of dating, the pair decided they wanted to try "pup play." Jen dressed up as a puppy while her partner roleplayed as her owner. In the midst of the scene, Jen's partner began "talking dirty" by asking her about "pup school," how her grades were faring and what else she planned to do with her life other than chase balls in the park.

"The statement about some imaginary pup school was extremely nonerotic and it turned me off," explained Jen, who asked that her full name not be used. "I immediately made up some excuse about wanting to go home. That was the last time I saw him and we haven't talked ever since."

Many of us have been in similar situations. You're having sex with your partner when all of a sudden, one of you says something that completely kills the mood.

In a viral Twitter moment in May 2022, stories of the most cringe-worthy things people had been told during sex abounded. One Black Twitter user wrote that her white partner wanted her to call him master, while another user said her ex referred to her nipples as "fun buttons."

Like Jen, about 20 percent of people have brought sex to a halt because they were turned off by their partner's sexual talk, according to results from a 2020 survey conducted by Superdrug Online Doctor, a remote healthcare provider in the United Kingdom. Of that group, 41 percent said the sexual talk made them feel uncomfortable.

A great way to boost sex

Dirty talk during sex can be a great way to heighten the mood. While a grunt or moan aids in letting your partner know they are doing everything right (and should probably continue), dirty talk helps communicate exactly what you're feeling and gives feedback to your partner.

"Whether it's a sexy whisper or a firm command, a bit of vocalizing can go a long way towards turning up the heat," explained Indigo Stray Conger, a sex therapist who is certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and works at Mile High Psychotherapy in Denver. "If a few minutes ago you were navigating parenting or asking your partner to take out the trash, getting in the zone with some dirty talk can switch the context to sexual excitement more quickly."

For people who enjoy erotic humiliation, hearing phrases like "dirty little slut" from their partner may be a great turn-on. And for folks who are into praise kinks, statements like "You make me want you so much" may be extremely erotic.

The importance of safe words

Getting into dirty talk may require some experimentation, so chances are your words won't always land as hoped the first time at bat. Eric Ridenour, of Los Angeles, discovered this truth when trying out a line with a girl he'd been dating for two weeks.

"We were in the middle of foreplay and since she had said before how much she loved to give oral sex, I began prompting her for it, which bothered her," Ridenour explained.

In such instances, having a predetermined safe word is helpful to indicate to your partner that you'd like to take a break from the current activity.

"A safe word is not just something to use in extreme situations," Conger explained. "It can be a great way to gently let your partner know that a phrase felt off for one or both of you. Otherwise, you might not know that your partner isn't into what you're whispering in their ear or shouting at their backside."

Tell them why it felt wrong

If you don't have a safe word, find another way to let your partner gently know you need a pause.

"Instead of having a discussion immediately, try to physiologically connect in a nonsexual way, like cuddling first before phrasing your comment as an 'I' statement and not about something they did wrong or a rejection," Conger said.

For example, you might explain, "I don't know what it is about that particular word, but I felt myself tense up and I need to think a little more about it. Let's take that one off the table for now"; or, "Something about the tone felt a little intense to me. I just need a break and maybe we can try the same talk a bit softer next time."

"During such conversations, try to find out what dirty talk they would have preferred instead," said Elizabeth Dell, a certified sex educator and the founder of the intimacy app Amorus, based in California. Next time, she explained, you may be more knowledgeable about what to say and what to avoid.

Phrases that were a sure libido enhancer with one partner may send the situation sideways with another. It's best to set aside time outside the sexual context to discuss your turn-ons and turnoffs before spouting off your darkest fantasies. And be careful if your dirty talk is impulsive.

"Know that some dirty talk, like really explicit name-calling, can be triggering, so have a conversation before calling someone anything like 'whore' or 'slut' or 'toy,'" Dell said.

Staying curious about the type of dirty talk your partner likes can go a long way toward ensuring your next attempt at talking dirty won't be a complete disaster

Tabby Kibugi

Written by

Tabby Kibugi

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