How to Talk to a Partner About Your Sexual Exploration
It takes exceptional strength and confidence to share with a partner that you have a unique sexual desire that is not accepted by society. I used to muster all the courage I had to give my partner small sexual pointers, for example, that he lock me up in handcuffs or pull my hair roughly.
But what happens if you and your partner do not see eye to eye about what you find sexually exciting?
Firstly, no matter what floats your erotic boat, assuming it involves consenting adults, there is nothing wrong with you. Kinks are more common than you might think. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Sex Research indicated that almost half of the participants felt excitement toward some fetish or kink, and a third of participants had practiced this kink before.
Of course, some desires are easier to accommodate than others, but the only way to learn if your partner is interested in exploring your desires is by gaining the courage to talk to them.
How do you talk to your partner about your desires?
The best way to begin a discussion about your kinks is to ask open-ended questions about your partner's likes and dislikes. Start the conversation when you both have time, but don't bring it up during a sexual scenario because your partner may feel pressured to try something immediately without taking the time to process it. Instead, ask your partner about their desires and fantasies during the discussion and then share yours.
"Try to be playful and positive," said Nazanin Moali, Ph.D., a sex therapist in California. "Remember that how you present your likes and dislikes to your partner significantly impacts how they react to it."
The specifics of your late-night porn deep dives don't need to be revealed right away, but let your partner get an idea of what you are interested in and then gauge their response.
If they give verbal and nonverbal signals and they want to know more, be specific when describing what you want to explore.
"If they haven't heard about it, ask permission to give them further information," Moali suggested. "Keep in mind that sometimes, when we are nervous, we might give too much information prior to the person being ready to receive it."
If they give verbal and nonverbal signals and they want to know more, be specific when describing what you want to explore. Saying you are into BDSM, tantric sex or roleplay can mean many things. Instead, share that you enjoy getting spanked or whipped during sex or you would love to try impersonating a maid in costume.
It could even be helpful to find a porn video showing the type of dynamic you find exciting so you can give your partner a clear image of your fantasy.
What if you have different desires?
In a dream world, your partner fully embraces the kink you share with them. However, everyone has unique desires. Unless you are purposefully setting out to find someone who shares your fetish in the FetLife social network or other spaces, it is rare when sexual preferences fully align. If they don't align, it is not either partner's fault. However, mismatched desires may be something you need to navigate with care.
You do have alternatives to explore, however. You can deeply experiment with a kink or desire through fantasy and pornography. Not all fetishes can be acted out easily in real life, and if you don't currently have an interested partner, perhaps letting it remain a fantasy is enough for now.
Just because you are with a partner does not mean your whole sexual life needs to be connected to them. Having a desire that you explore by yourself can be an excellent outlet. You may need to weigh how much you need to explore this fetish in real life and how much you value your relationship when deciding how to move forward.
You know how you sometimes end up having Chinese food when you are craving Indian food to make your partner happy? The same can be true of sexual exploration. Of course, no one should engage in any activity if they do not want to participate. However, in relationships, sometimes a middle ground can be found.
"The more flexible you are about the different ranges of a particular behavior, the more likely it is that your partner might be open to engaging in that behavior, even if that is not part of their erotic template," Moali said.
Even two very different desires may have some points of intersection.
"Find where your interests can overlap," recommended Midori, a sexologist, educator and author in San Francisco. "Then a shared activity can mean different joys to each of the partners, and that can be intentionally created."
For example, if one partner is into feet and another partner enjoys being praised, perhaps foot play could be enjoyable to both partners for different reasons.
It is essential to find a way to connect the fetish to the partner without the fetish.
"A common mistake or misunderstanding I see with my coaching clients is that the emphasis gets put on the activity or object, leading the partner to feel inconsequential," Midori said. "I had a couple I worked with; he was a lingerie fetishist. His language and his actions made her feel like a clothes rack for the lingerie and that she didn't matter."
In this scenario, Midori suggested, that instead of focusing on how attractive the lingerie is, you should focus on your partner's relationship with the lingerie by saying something like, "You are amazingly hot - the lingerie frames you," thus, including your partner in your fantasy.
With the majority of kinks, there is a way to find a middle ground where both partners are not entirely living their sexual dreams. Say you are not interested in engaging in full-on BDSM, but you are open to dipping your toe into the scene. In this case, think about your boundaries and what you're open to trying: maybe some BDSM porn play during sex, being softly spanked or being called names during sex.
Relationships are complicated, especially when partners have mismatched desires. However, what is most important is that you can get to a place where both partners can honestly share what they are into and their boundaries so you can discuss options together. Open, honest communication makes finding a middle ground that works for both partners attainable.