Negotiating sex – start with what feels safest

Slim white woman in lacy black underwear with a heart drawn on her stomach in red lipstick

First-time sex with a new partner can be electric and full of lovely exciting hormones. While many people feel great about the first time/hookup sex they have, many others struggle with feeling like they didn’t express their needs, boundaries or desires and come away feeling triggered, sad or ashamed of what happened. If you already feel great about first-time and hookup sex, then this isn’t the post for you.  Maybe spend some time looking at how to create more space for others to express their desires and needs in first-time sex, and how to make it easier for others to say ‘no’ or express boundaries. If you are someone that has more trouble with self-consent and having the sex you want in hookups and first times with a new partner, then this post is for you.

Where to start?

When we find something hard it is really easy to just ignore it and not spend time thinking about how to make it easier. I’m advocating the opposite approach. You can use this worksheet to make a note of sexual activities that you find easier or more difficult in general. This worksheet is about contexts that are easier or harder for you too. Many people get so focused on the things that they don’t like or don’t want in a sexual encounter that they forget about how many things they actually enjoy. It is also easy to forget what an important role context plays. For me, first-time sex in a public space such as a kink or sex club usually feels safer. Others may feel the complete opposite and find that exposing and really difficult. Neither is inherently better, but one is better for me. This process is designed to help you to recognise the activities and contexts that feel safest and most conducive to a great sexual experience.

What next?

Having your worksheets is all well and good, but you’re not particularly likely to have them with you when you hook up with someone at a bar and want to go home with them (or even at your third date with someone you met recently and you’ve decided to go home with). I’d recommend turning the things that are in your inner circle of awesome into a list on your phone. That way you can glance at it and remind yourself of the contexts that help you to feel best about sex, and the activities that you most enjoy. Obviously, it is unlikely that you will do all the activities on your list, but having it can help you to feel more confident in your knowledge of what you want and need to have a fulfilling sexual experience.

How to communicate

There are a lot of ways to communicate what feels best to you in a hookup or first-time sex, but I’m going to offer two options here. I really love Reid Mihalko’s elevator speech, which includes STI status, relationship structure, safer sex practices, desires and limits. If you’d like to know how to put together your elevator speech then you can find two articles about it on his blog here and here.

Another alternative is to share what you’re really enthusiastic about in sex, and ask the other person to do the same. That way you can figure out overlapping desires and enjoy those. This doesn’t need to be an awkward ‘you have permission to touch me on my chest, but not my knee’ conversation.  It could consist of describing something you’d find sexy to do to their body or have them do to yours, like ‘I’m getting really wet thinking of your mouth on my breast’ or ‘feeling your body against mine while I jerk you off would be so hot’. Find something that you’d find hot with them, and that is in your comfort zone and just express that desire. Bonus points if you can incorporate a question about whether it is something that would be hot for them too.

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