How do you initiate sex?
March 25, 2016 7:17 AM   Subscribe

I appreciate all the advice I've received so far. It's been very helpful. I do however have another question, if you're on a date, how exactly does one initiate sex?

I'm assuming it's not as simple as asking "do you want to have sex?"? Are there any clues that I should look for indicating that she's interested? How exactly do you know if a woman wants to make out vs wanting to have sex? Apart from my virginity, is there anything else one should talk about before having sex? Is there anything we should talk about before making out?
posted by Dynamo05 to Human Relations (29 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

I think it is that simple. "I'm really into you. Would you like to get naked together and have sex?" I think the biggest thing is just to be willing to hear "not yet" or "no."

Using words is hard but it helps so much in a relationship.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:31 AM on March 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

As someone who can be overly neurotic and question the little things, (as well as being a virgin until my late 20s), I can empathize with you! It can be tough to read signals on a date, but the easiest thing to tell is that if she's in to you, you'll know it. This does not mean that she may want to have sex that night, but you should be able to read the basic cues of attraction; good eye contact, constant smiles, a playful and flirty demeanor, her attempts to keep the conservation moving rather than you having to initiate things etc.

Once you have assessed that she is interested, you need a good transition to move somewhere private following drinks/dinner etc (assuming you are not already at one of your places). After a good date, saying "I had so much fun with you! Would you like to head back to my apartment and watch SNL/netflix/etc" is generally a subtle but clear enough indication you're looking to initiate things sexually. If she agrees, typically that means she can "read between the lines" and is open to some sort of romantic activity; most women who are not interested would not put themselves alone in an apartment with a man after a few drinks. (Disclaimer: just becomes she comes back to your place does not mean you are entitled to anything, you have just gotten one step closer to your goal. Obviously her consent is still most important).

Once you're on the couch/futon/whatever, keep things light and flirty. Physical contact is important before initiating any sort of kissing; holding her hand, gently touching her leg, putting your arm around her. If you have anxiety about these situations, a little (not too much!) alcohol can help, but keep calm and confident; reassure yourself, "if I've gotten this far she's in to me. No need to worry, I can be cool and just take things as they come." Even if deep down this is not the person you are, adapt this mantra. Tell yourself you're cool and calm, make yourself believe you can be as relaxed and cool and everything's going to work out okay. Once you have a good "break" in the moment, after a joke or laugh, look into her eyes and lean in for the kiss.

At this point, after some making out you can generally ask if she wants go into the bedroom; this is a direct line with little ambiguity which may not mean she wants INTERCOURSE but she is open to a progression of sexual activity and open to foreplay. As things progress and clothes are removed, generally the easiest line to initiate sex is "should I get a condom?" This covers all your bases; indicates you are clearly interested in sex, are smart enough to use protection, and is much smoother than saying "would you like to have sex now?" As you have properly gathered by now, asking that "would you like to have sex" question is awkward and that's why most people don't use it; most men agree asking if they should get a condom is one of the easier ways to move towards intercourse.

Re: anything you should talk about before making out/sex, unless she brings up things herself like she's inexperienced or nervous, there is NO reason to mention your own past and inexperience! Tell yourself that that information is not relevant to the situation at hand, and her knowledge of that is not necessary. There aren't any "rules" or "conditions" you need to agree to before kissing; you are both consenting adults using free will to engage in what feels good. It is nice that you appreciate and respect women to make sure that you are not taking advantage of them, but you have not pressured them to be in this situation- they have actively agreed to be there! Once you realize that, hopefully you can feel confident in yourself and be reassured that she is having just as a good a time as you. Good luck, relax and have fun!
posted by andruwjones26 at 7:57 AM on March 25, 2016 [32 favorites]

The excellent blog The Pervocracy has a bit about consent "scripts" for sex that you might find helpful:
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:09 AM on March 25, 2016 [7 favorites]

Also, depending on how good you are at massages, asking if someone would like a shoulder massage can be a way to get physical contact started when you are clearly on a date and both seem to want more romantic/sexual touch but you're feeling physically nervous/shy.

To be clear, not implying that saying yes to a shoulder massage is yes to sex, just that if you feel stuck a little, that might break the ice for you because it's a level of intimacy but not something that's only ever sexual, and thus not as foreign to you. And it's generally relaxing for at least one person.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:18 AM on March 25, 2016

I doubt that there is a lot of importance to being smooth. What you want to avoid is being presumptuous. It's OK to be clumsy and awkward.

"I hope I'm not getting ahead of things here, um..., but I'd like you ask you about the, er, you know, um...., sex thing.'
posted by SemiSalt at 8:35 AM on March 25, 2016 [8 favorites]

Don't. Just don't. When she is ready, she will let you know in a very clear manner. And she will like you better for being the one guy that didn't ask for it. Because they all do. Constantly.
posted by myselfasme at 8:40 AM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Please, if you think she might be interested in having sex or if you're already making out or whatever, just stop for a moment and ask if she wants to have sex with you. It really is that simple. Maybe you can even have a discussion on what that sex might involve and what you're both interested in on that particular occasion (penetrative intercourse? mutual masturbation? oral sex? anal sex? or one of the other bazillion possible ways that people can have sex with each other).

There is no one gesture that universally indicates that someone wants to have sex with another person. These gestures don't exist. The most we have to rely on are our words and what people SAY they want to do. There is no need to be coy, to use euphemisms or be indirect when talking about sex, the best thing is to allow for the opportunity to give BOTH partners the SPACE to express what they want and what they are looking for. Please do not re-enforce the harmful trope of women as sexual gatekeepers, give her the space to say an enthusiastic yes and to talk explicitly about what she wants!

I think the best advice I can offer you is to make no assumptions about whether or not another person wants to have sex. Contrary to what you may think, talking about sex and consent and boundaries is actually a HUGE turn on for a lot of women, it shows that you're respectful and self-aware and that you want to know what she wants.
posted by twill at 8:53 AM on March 25, 2016 [12 favorites]

In my experience it just sorta happens. From a male perspective it's usually like the woman shows she's interested in hanging out in her apartment ... watching a movie or something, and contact slowly builds up.

One woman initiated it while we were watching a movie, she sorta just snuggled up to me and things went from there. Another time I initiated it by testing the waters and seeing if she was interested ... mostly by noting that she wanted to keep spending time with me. So I held her hand, then I looked in her eyes to see how she felt about that, then went in for a kiss, and took it slowly from there so on and so forth.

It's all about having a respectful, attuned rhythm to the other person. Words aren't even necessary if you're good with body language and "vibe" and care about treating other people well (which I assume you do since you're asking this), but if you aren't great with those little bits of subconscious social stuff, then words will probably help.

To me it'd be like spraining your ankle while dancing, but we all have our different ways and the best solution is to adapt to your strengths and weaknesses in a way that balances your wants/needs and those of your partner for maximum fun.
posted by gehenna_lion at 9:12 AM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

What andruwjones26 said.

I would add, maybe reframe your expectation of how this works. Is it really a matter of one person "initiating" and the other one not? As described by some of the posters above, it's really a constant exchange of signals: some of them explicit, but most of them implied. So, ideally, it should be quite difficult to pick out who is really the "initiator": you both should play that role.

If this is right, then your plan might be to move away from the question "how do I initiate sex" and concentrate more on listening to her signals.

Be patient. Become attuned to how she communicates. Don't be shy to send out your own signals of course - verbal, physical, always in an affectionate, "light and flirty", respectful way. But even if things don't go as you hoped, never feel frustrated, because as long as your listening and learning, good things will come.
posted by Pechorin at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Another vote for just outright asking. Not only is it the best way Vis-à-vis consent; it will eliminate missed signals.
posted by Mitheral at 10:24 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Maybe don't worry about sex until after you have a couple or three (or more) dates. If it happens, she can lead you, especially if it's that early in dating (for the relationship, for both of you).

For the first date or few, maybe focus on causing her to smile. You can do this by finding out what delights or amuses her, and then finding/making/providing that. Making your date smile -- genuinely, repeatedly (never because you ask her to smile) -- is a great first goal. Some people don't believe in smiling, because they are serious or they're from a culture that interprets smiling differently; that's fine, just adjust your goal. See if you can get her to talk about herself, or something she cares about, with freedom and interest. This is a real victory, and a real way to connect with someone.

Then, maybe you can discover things together that make you smile. Try something basic like bowling; maybe you're terrible at it, but you can realize that being terrible at bowling means that you're a fun person who is fine being great at his job, or at cooking, or at talking about books, so you're fine being that dude who is awesome but hilariously bad at bowling, or mediocre at bowling. You could even be a dude who somehow charms a lady who is an amazing bowler, even if it's only for one evening. Maybe her excellence, or her willingness to try new things, or her fascinating taste in books or movies, would make you smile. Any evening where you learn something new, or smile yourself, is a victory. In fact, it's a huge victory.

Once you're comfortable enough to do these things, you may actually feel a little comfortable with her. It's OK if you still feel awkward generally, or if the idea of being blatant or forward is uncomfortable. Trust your feelings, listen to them, but don't be a slave to them.

If you can at least smile with her, you will be a lot closer to being able to just ask her awkward questions, like whether it's OK if you kiss her.

Don't put a lot of pressure on yourself on the first or second date. You don't have to figure everything out before you even begin.
posted by amtho at 10:34 AM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am all for honesty. You want to grow from where you are and i think that means being you where you are. So what would you naturally want to do? If it means "i dont want her to think..." stuff then look at that...why? if she knows your past is that bad? I personally as a woman would appreciate honesty about your nervousness. Going in to anything being disconnected from you just doesnt seem to work in the long run. That doesnt mean you need to say everything out loud, just know itfor yourself and see if you accept it about you, if not, why not....if you want sex, could you not just say I really would like to have sex with you rather than asking her if she does? What if asking her if she wants to is manipulative but not generally seen as such? Putting her in a position of saying no rather than you being upfront about what you want. Its honest and its vulnerable and its real. Being empowered can be a lengthy process and i think it starts with being honest about who you are and what you want, you can't hide it and hiding it just wrecks things you dont want to wreck.
posted by RelaxingOne at 10:43 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't get ahead of things. Don't even worry about your strategy for initiating sex before you've had a good first date, before you've kissed, before you've hung out somewhere alone and private together. Don't worry about initiating a makeout sesh before you feel relaxed and comfortable and like yourself around her (and does it seem like she feels relaxed and comfortable around you, too? Do you think you can tell?). If you get to the point where you're making out, take it for what it is, don't have the "is this going to turn into sex?" pot boiling in the back of your head the whole time.

Don't go looking for shortcuts. The time to ask is when it looks like things are already headed that way.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:52 AM on March 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

What is it with the advice about the talking? Talk about killing the vibe. You will know when the moment is there. Usually there's some steps: hands touching -> kissing --> heavier kissing --> touching all over --> { you are in a secluded area } -> you look at each other and you both know it -> sex.
posted by wolfr at 11:02 AM on March 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

When my boyfriend and I had sex for the first time (it was the first time for us both, in our twenties), we had made out a lot before that. For our third "date" (we also met on campus a lot) I invited him to my apartment for a home-cooked meal and a movie, and we started making out. He asked if he could kiss my neck, and the next thing I knew, I was topless because I wanted him to kiss more places. We didn't have sex until several weeks after that, but gradually progressed to more nudity and intimate touching, always asking "how would you feel about touching my penis?" or "would you like me to touch you there?" The sex just happened at one point when we had figured the contraception out and I asked, "so, do you wanna do it?"

It's totally okay to wait for her to suggest sex. She may even like that you're not pressuring her; even though asking is not pressuring, she might feel awkward to say no.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 11:18 AM on March 25, 2016 [9 favorites]

What is it with the advice about the talking? Talk about killing the vibe. You will know when the moment is there.

This is horrible advice. You might not know. She might not know. You might think you know, and be wrong. Use words. Clear consent is sexy.
posted by chaiminda at 11:58 AM on March 25, 2016 [30 favorites]

Andruwjones is on point.
posted by Diablevert at 12:06 PM on March 25, 2016

What is it wih the advice about the talking? Talk about killing the vibe

I feel like I've fallen into an ask vs. guess eddy here but I just wanted to be clear that for me, being asked is really sexy, intimate and close, respectful and a bunch of other things. I've been married a long time but even in my promiscuous days this was true. It's what the confident men taught me as opposed to the boys... That sex can be communicative, that it's fine to laugh together in bed, that it can be hard to lose the vibe...that if you lose the vibe, that's part of being in a relationship too and it will come back and be even better. And that the best way to build a sexual relationship is to be clear about wants and needs. Can I get a condom is pretty direct, sure.

Of course there's a huge difference between that and whining about "when are we going to do it?" But that is not what we're talking about here.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:09 PM on March 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

If you ever get advice about sex that amounts to "sex just happens!" please discount it.

Nthing if she doesn't make it abundantly clear, JUST ASK. "Would you like to... [do more intimate thing]?"
posted by zennie at 12:55 PM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

What is it with the advice about the talking? Talk about killing the vibe.

I find being asked extremely hot, even when I have an established relationship with the person and certainly the first time. I mean you don't want to go full Space Ghost like "would you like to have some of my... sex? With me?" But I have a partner who habitually says things like "I'm going to __ now, is that okay?" and "I think I want to ___" and it's much hotter than any other kind of dirty talk IMO. (If he said "I'm going to kiss you now" every time after two and a half years it would get annoying, but the first time, that would be hot too.)
posted by babelfish at 1:29 PM on March 25, 2016

Also, depending on how good you are at massages, asking if someone would like a shoulder massage can be a way to get physical contact started when you are clearly on a date and both seem to want more romantic/sexual touch but you're feeling physically nervous/shy.

Please don't do this. If you want to get closer sexually, then take the very good advice in this thread and kiss her, talk to her, flirt with her. Do not pretend to give her a massage when what you really want is sex. That goes for the first time, for after you've been married 20 years and for every time in between.
posted by headnsouth at 1:37 PM on March 25, 2016 [18 favorites]

Asking is great, but don't ask if she wants to have sex if you're like, standing in a restaurant and have only kissed. Take things one step at a time - the goal is to have a lovely time together, not to get your dick wet. So - tell her you'd like to kiss her, ask if she'd like to come to your place, ask "is this okay" a bunch, enjoy being close to her, if clothes start coming off then talk about safe sex / contraception / expectations. You are going to have more fun if you focus on having a pleasurable time in the moment rather than getting to PIV sex.

I generally have no idea if I'd like to have sex with someone without making out with them some first. It would put me off to be asked to consent to sex without some intermediate steps to give me context for what I'm signing on for.
posted by momus_window at 2:24 PM on March 25, 2016 [7 favorites]

I like being blunt and asking for what I want. I like that in a partner too. On your date, maybe bring up the topic of sex while you're at a restaurant. This way, your date won't feel trapped or scared. Just talk about sex in general and share your opinions/feelings. Let the conversation flow naturally and learn more about each other. The way the conversation unfolds will give you a sense of whether she's interested in sex with you.
posted by parakeetdog at 2:32 PM on March 25, 2016

On your date, maybe bring up the topic of sex while you're at a restaurant.

Really? See, depending on how many dates we'd been on (if it hadn't been that many), if my date brought it up for discussion in a restaurant, I would indeed feel trapped and a little scared, and he'd probably never hear from me again. To me, it would be creepy.

(I don't think there's a definitive answer, I think the way you learn how to do this stuff is with practice. Different people are different.)
posted by WesterbergHigh at 2:52 PM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm a big fan of doing step one as just getting to know the person in a low-key way at first.

Once you have spent a decent chunk of time together and you know she really enjoys your company, then I would ask if you could hold her hand. It may sound corny to some people, but having been on the end of a few surprise kisses in my life that were NOT wanted at all, I really think it is a much better strategy. It sets the stakes for touching really low, is intended as a gesture of intimacy, and you ask her first instead of just barging into her bodily autonomy.

I did the asking-to-hold-hands thing once with a guy I had met who I fancied, and he gently declined my offer to hold hands. I was bummed and the rest of our walk felt awkward, but it was low-stakes. I think it would have been way more awkward and even possibly humiliating if I had just said "hey let's have sex, how about it?" right off the bat, and he didn't go for it.
posted by megafauna at 6:43 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is not necessarily a fast or skilled-lover script, but if you are worried and inexperienced, I'll just give you a simple approach that's likely to work ok (and includes explicitly asking).

Make out a lot. A lot. Make out basically forever. Gradually get your hands and body involved -- and be attentive for signs of drawing away, wanting to stop, etc. -- but keep your clothes on and mostly done-up. Eventually if your partner is getting sexually aroused and is interested in sex with you, she will very likely start grinding herself against you, through her clothes. So wait for that, just keep making out, and after about ten minutes of that, it's no longer impolite to ask directly if she wants to have sex.

It's a bit highschool, but you're inexperienced, and it's 2016 and straight women are getting penis photos in their email, they are just as likely to be charmed by a little reservedness on your part. Which plays well, since you don't know what you're doing. And you should still proceed in stages, because people don't always mean PIV intercourse when they say sex. Might prefer hands or mouths or a variety of other things.

You should also verbally check in with your partner regularly during whatever-it-is-you-do, to ensure you're reading her enjoyment correctly. There's a bit of a script around men being the more-active party in straight sex, and we're also usually bigger and stronger and often kinda-on-top-of our partners, so the responsibility to be very attentive to discomfort, doing something your partner isn't into, or just wanting to take a break or change position is something you should take seriously.

Apart from my virginity, is there anything else one should talk about before having sex?

You don't have to discuss your virginity if you don't want to, but ...

You have to have a conversation about safer sex: birth control, STI barriers. It's not an easy topic to broach, but straight women are taking a lot of risks dealing with men and it's kind and responsible to take the lead on discussing this: what you have been tested for, what methods you typically use and know how to use, what your behaviour will be in the event of a problem (accidental pregnancy or disease transmission). Perhaps awkwardly, it's best to have the conversation well before your partner is aroused, so you're able to discuss it in a level-headed fashion without wanting to rush through and get back to the sex-having. That plus the fact that in the conversation you will probably not have much to disclose means that it might be easiest to approach by simply telling her you're a virgin. But regardless, you always have to have that conversation.

Good luck.
posted by ead at 8:58 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can start observing and learning more about non-verbal communication now. Watch how people, or even animals, communicate "come closer" or "I'm separate from you". Observe real-life social situations if possible, but good acting is worth watching if you don't have the opportunity to watch social situations.
posted by amtho at 3:33 AM on March 26, 2016

I don't think sex should be "initiated". The two of you should be engaged in mutual behaviours that should gradually lead down a path towards sex, and several times along the way, enthusiastic consent should be ascertained.

Say you're kissing and you want to touch her breasts. You can lightly touch her stomach or waist at the bottom of her shirt, as if you plan to pull up her shirt- but don't pull it up yet. Instead, say, "is this ok?" or you could say "I wish this shirt would go away forever" or something kind of silly like that. If she hesitates or says ummm then you STOP and back up-- say "that's ok, I want you to feel comfortable, is it ok if we kiss or should we stop?".

If she says yes to having your hand up her shirt, you can do that, and after a little while you can ask about her pants-- again, if she says a strong yes, go for it.

If she ever seems unsure (some people feel shy to say no, so look for hesitations, downcast eyes, stopping breathing, saying "maybe", or "umm" etc, or even if she says yes but sounds unsure-- then take that as a no. If she actually means yes, it will sound like YES.)

If you ever get a firm or unsure no, then you stop, say it's ok. Then back up and see if the previous step is still ok. "Should we stop? That's ok." She might want her shirt to stay on but to continue kissing. Or she might want to stop kissing too. If you get even a hint she's not into it, back off. Ask. "You sound like maybe you're not sure, that's ok, we can stop." If she wants more of whatever you're doing, she'll initiate it. Say all this stuff in a quiet, close, connected way- it doesn't have to feel clinical. It can be very sexy to get consent.

Anyway going along like this, some make-out partners will say or hint "no" and "let's stop" and oh well, you won't sleep with them. But eventually you will end up naked together with someone. You can say something like "oh man you are so hot- I really want to have sex with you" and again listen carefully to the response.

Yes sounds like yes. Anything else is a no.

One male friend of mine (who sleeps with a lot of women he doesn't know very well) told me about a practice he uses that I think is good- once they're at the point where sex seems inevitable, he kind of lies back and shuts up and he always lets the woman climb on top of him and start the actual sex, because having her do that is a better way to ensure consent.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:02 AM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

how exactly does one initiate sex?

As others have indicated, "initiate sex" is really an endpoint in a long chain of steps of successive and increasing levels of intimacy. At any point in the interaction, either partner can decide to stop it or attempt to move it forward.

Roughly speaking, I'd describe the succession stages as: verbal interaction -> hand touch of non-intimate areas (shoulder, hand, arm) -> kissing -> hand touch of intimate areas (breasts, genitals, buttocks) -> kissing of intimate areas -> oral-genital contact -> sexual intercourse (PIV). This isn't an exact science - you may spend a long time in one stage and skip another completely.

A woman who doesn't want you to touch her with your hands (an earlier step) is highly unlikely to consent to sex (a later step). On the other hand, her enjoying being touched by your hands is generally a necessary - but not sufficient - condition along the way to sex.

For both her benefit and yours, you definitely want to make sure that she's consenting to whatever is going on. For example, if you're making out, you put your hand on her waist under her shirt, and she uses her hand to move your hand away, that's a clear signal. Pay close attention to things like this. It doesn't mean that you aren't going to have sex with her, but it almost certainly means that she's not comfortable enough to move further toward sex at that point. Make sure she's comfortable with and enjoying whatever you're already doing before you try something more intimate.

How exactly do you know if a woman wants to make out vs wanting to have sex?

Generally speaking, showing interest in "later" stages suggests that a woman wants to have sex. If you're making out and reach under her shirt and touch her bare skin and she responds by unhooking her bra, that suggests she might be interested in more intimate activities, possibly in sex. Remember, though, agreeing in participating in one stage doesn't imply consent to later stages.

When your actions suggest a more intimate stage, pay close attention to your partner and her body language. Does she seem to be enjoying what you're doing? (that's good) Does she seem to be tense and disconnected? (that's not good) If you're really not sure, a quick verbal check in like "how's that?" or "is that cool?" can be a good idea.
posted by theorique at 2:55 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Robust and safe blog for whistleblowing?   |   Recipe Suggestions for Dish that will travel/keep... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.