6 of the Most Important Questions to Ask a New Sexual Partner
- Start open and honest communication with a new sexual partner by asking the right questions and making note of each other's preferences.
- Some questions can include discussing STD/STI status and exploring boundaries and desires.
- Everyone has different needs and communication styles when it comes to sex, but individuals would do best to adapt their conversations to their partner's preferences and comfort level.
So you started dating someone new and you're ready to get physical. Or perhaps you're meeting a dating app match and you're both ready to go home for some fun.
No matter the specifics, having good sex relies on care, consent, communication and knowing your partner's preferences. However, this can prove awkward and difficult. And it may be inappropriate if you're meeting someone for the very first time. Even so, it's never too soon to consider this conversation.
If you're adequately prepared, then you'll have a much better idea of how to ask about their likes and dislikes. You also likely have thought about how you will answer the same questions and how you will explain your own likes and dislikes. Then there's the tricky moment when one of you brings up the topic of STDs and STIs.
Our experts have come up with six of the most important questions to ask a new sexual partner. In addition, they explain exactly why the questions are important and offer some advice about how to casually slip them into conversation. (Well, maybe not that last bit. It's usually best to bite the bullet and simply ask!)
Six of the best
It would be great if there existed a sure-fire list of six questions that get you all the information you need before you start having enjoyable sex. But it's not so simple.
People have different needs, preferences and communication styles, and your relationship with each new partner will inevitably be different. For this reason, the most important questions will differ from person to person.
However, most people know how vulnerable you can feel and how difficult it can be to have open, honest and non-judgmental conversations about sex with someone you've just met. If that's the case for you, it can be helpful to have a starting point.
A lot of people regurgitate the "communication is key" maxim, but most people are not taught how to do that. Nor are they taught to create specific questions that target safety, help you understand your partner's preferences and still set the mood for a fun sexual encounter.
Given those caveats, here are six of the most important questions to ask a new sexual partner. And, please note, review the answers before you get sexy.
1. How do you like to be touched?
When it comes to consent or learning how to communicate about sex, most people are encouraged to ask simple questions such as, "Could I do [blank]?" or "Is it OK if I [blank]?" A majority of people are not taught how to ask questions that prioritize pleasure, enjoyment or connecting with your body, according to Sarah Casper, a New York-based consent educator and founder of Comprehensive Consent.
"While questions like, 'Is it OK if I…?' and 'Can I..?' will provide you with the baseline permission you need for an encounter to be consensual, consent is a low bar," she said. "If you want your partner to have a pleasurable experience—and you should want that—go beyond rote consent with a different kind of question. Instead of finding out what they'll tolerate, take the time to learn what they'll enjoy."
She suggested asking, "How do you like to be touched?" or "What would make you feel good?" Visual learners can ask, "Will you show me how you like to be touched?"
2. Are you aware of your STD/STI status?
"Talk with your partner about your STD/STI status, the last time you were tested, what you were tested for and which (if any) suppressive medications you are on," Casper said. "These conversations will allow you and your partner to make more informed decisions about the risks involved."
When talking about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), remember that the most important thing is not necessarily whether someone has an STD or STI. It's how they're managing any infections they do have and what their testing routine is. Several STDs and STIs, for example, are untransmittable when taking suppressive medications.
On the other hand, there's chlamydia, an STD that's easily treated with a short round of antibiotics and cannot be passed on once treatment is completed.
Casper said this is a great time to share what kinds of barrier methods you each want to use to prevent STDs/STIs and pregnancy if that's relevant.
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3. What is a 'hard no' and 'big yes?'
Asking the question about what you hate and what you love can give your partner a clearer picture of what's off the table and what might make you feel good. A hard no is the limit, somewhere they don't want to go. Most people have many hard nos and they're to be abided by if trust is going to be a strong factor in your relationship.
A big yes is something someone likes. That could be touching particular body parts, sex techniques that feel good, words that are spoken, roleplay that turns you on and, of course, sex toys. When you're talking about your big yes items, make sure you understand them before you get in bed. If you're unsure, ask for details so you know what they like.
Of course, if someone tells you they're a big yes to an activity before sex and you want to make doubly sure, you can ask permission to do the activity in the heat of the moment. If they say they don't need you to ask for permission, check in with yourself to see if you want to ask for permission, so you both feel safer about what you're doing.
On the contrary, even if it was voted the biggest yes beforehand and they tell you no in the height of passion, the no wins out. Stop doing it before you start.
When talking about hard nos, ask if any body parts are off-limits and share your off-limit body parts. Most people have places on their bodies they don't like being touched. Also, having a conversation about off-limits body parts can help you both ease into which body parts feel the best when they're touched.
4. How do you like to feel during sex?
"I like to ask this question with partners because it gives me an idea of not only how they like to be touched but how they like to be treated," said Nat DiFrank, M.Ed., a sexuality and gender educator in Philadelphia.
Many people focus on their technique and physical stimulation to create a good sexual experience, but sex is as much about your mental state as it is the physical technique you're using.
Asking your partner how they want to feel can provide insights into the words you choose to use, the way you'll carry yourself and the energy of the experience you're creating together. If they want to feel powerful, you're likely to use different words, tones or energy than if they say they want to feel innocent, for example. Other examples are feeling worshiped, adored, submissive, creative, dominant or free.
"It helps a lot for folks who are into BDSM [bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism] as a way to figure out what kinks they might have and how they may like to talk and play," DiFrank said. "As someone who tends toward being a top, it helps to start this conversation with hard nos and yeses and may naturally lead to creating a scene together."
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5. How comfortable do you feel saying no or asking for what you want?
People often assume that communicating about sex is as simple as asking a question and getting a response. It may be for some people, but for many it's not.
It's common to be apprehensive about expressing what you want. People may be nervous or unsure of what they want. They may feel ashamed of their desires or be so preoccupied with their partner's desires that they don't even consider their own.
These factors, and many more, can lead to feeling too uncomfortable, or maybe even unable, to tell someone what they want. Asking how comfortable your partner is to communicate their preferences can create space for them to be honest and share what they need to be comfortable. It can also give you information as to what sexual activities you're both comfortable trying.
If you're with someone who isn't very comfortable expressing their limits, for example, you might want to take it more slowly, until you're both more confident expressing your yeses and nos.
6. What words do you like to use for your body parts?
Everyone has different words they like to use and hear for their body parts. For example: tits, chest, breasts or boobs. And that's just the cleaned-up tip of the iceberg for names of one body part.
Knowing what your partner likes is important for creating a safe and sexy experience. Hearing someone use a word for your body that you don't like can quickly kill the mood or even create gender dysphoria. Listen for what words they use for their genitals and other erogenous zones, or even for things like mobility aids if that's relevant.
The bottom line
The reality is these six questions are just the beginning. They will all springboard you into other conversations and other questions. And that's a good thing.
You should also consider adding some questions that feel relevant to your own life. These are generic questions, but a few follow-up questions based on your own experience are just as important if not more so.
Casper recommended asking, "What are your expectations within this relationship?" Another great question she suggested before having sex: "What does aftercare look like for you?"
Remember, the questions you ask will depend on your communication style and preferences. And, of course, a crowded bar may not be the best venue for this kind of communication. Initial conversations might be more effective over text, FaceTime or Zoom, followed by a much easier discussion when you get to meet face-to-face.