How To Initiate Sex

How To Initiate Sex

Sarah Riccio

Ever feel like initiating sex is the hardest part of sex? Maybe it feels awkward, abrupt, or you're just not sure how to get your partner in the mood.

Well, initiating is actually a little more complex than just tapping your partner on the shoulder and leading them to the bedroom. It's a process that takes communication, an understanding of what fuels your partner's responses, and a different kind of touching that can bring you closer and make initiating easier  and whole lot sexier. 

3 Ways To Initiate Sex

Practice non-sexual touching

One of the reasons initiating sex can feel uncomfortable is because you and your partner have stopped touching. Maybe you couldn't keep your hands off each other when you first met, but now, years later, you rarely touch unless it's time to have sex. This may be common, but it can make initiating sex feel unnatural. 

A long-term lack of non-sexual touching can even create what's called "the bristle reaction," when one of you literally flinches or recoils at the other's touch. This can create a cycle of rejection and resentment that can impact the sexual and emotional health of your relationship. 

Learn more: What Is The Bristle Reaction?

The solution? Touch more. A lot more. But you should touch without any expectation of sex. Hold hands, make out, cuddle, and leave it at that. Not all physical intimacy should result in sex or anything beyond the touch itself.

Non-sexual touching can include:

  • Sitting with your shoulders or legs touching while you watch TV
  • Walking with your arms around each other
  • A light touch on your partner's back when you walk by
  • Snuggling in bed
  • Kissing hello, goodbye, and goodnight
  • Stroking your partner's hair
  • Giving each other back or foot massages

Why is non-sexual touching essential? It re-introduces affection to your relationship and makes your partner's touch feel familiar again. Their touch will no longer mean I want to have sex with you, but I want to touch you. This creates less pressure around touch and makes it feel more loving and intimate. 

Find out if your partner has responsive desire or spontaneous desire

Desire is desire, right? Actually, no. These two types of desire are very different and will strongly impact how you choose to initiate sex. 

Someone with spontaneous desire might see how alluring their lover looks from across the room and be ready to jump into bed based on that alone. They don't need a lot of seduction before sex and will typically enjoy spontaneous sex without a lot of foreplay or anticipation. 

Someone with responsive desire will in the mood as a result of experiencing pleasure, not the other way around. Seduction, planning, and intimacy before sex are important to them, and are crucial to the way they experience desire. 

Think of it this way: a person with spontaneous desire wants sex before the touching starts. A person with responsive desire wants sex after the touching and seduction begin. 

Not sure if your partner is spontaneous or responsive? If they like quickies and often come to you already aroused, they're spontaneous. If they need warming up and touching before sex, they're responsive. If you're not sure, I'll give you a hint: most people are responsive. 

Find out more about the different types of sex toys for couples


Communication make sound like a relationship cliche, but when it comes to sex, nothing is more important. Talking about sex openly, honestly, and consistently demystifies it and makes it feel like another normal topic to discuss. Communicating about your needs and concerns can make initiating easier, bring you closer, and make sex more fulfilling.

Maybe the last time you talked about it, your partner told you they prefer to do it in the morning or they love when you nibble their ear. But now, maybe those things have changed. This is very common, especially if you've settled into a routine over time. It might be time to re-open the conversation and learn what turns them on NOW.

All of us change and grow over time, making it likely that our needs will change, too. When you communicate about sex and initiating with your partner, you can discuss directly what you want rather than relying on hints, which can be vague and difficult to interpret.

Learn more: How To Talk About Sex

Ideas for initiating sex 

Looking for some nuts and bolts advice about initiating? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Start with sexy texts during the day to let your partner know you're interested
  • Request their presence in the shower or tub
  • Contribute equally to domestic chores and childcare. Many people, women in particular, find a partner who contributes equally to be sexier and more appealing
  • Ask for their help choosing a sex toy
  • Undress in front of them
  • Do things you know they like. Bring them their favorite ice cream, buy flowers, give them a back rub, or wear something they love
  • Ask to try a different sex position
  • Give your partner positive affirmations. Make them feel loved and appreciated
  • Schedule sexy time in advance 
  • Wear a scent from when you first met
  • Make them dinner
  • Plan a staycation or weekend away together
  • Play music you both love
  • Wear very little while doing ordinary tasks around the house
  • Kiss the back of their neck or behind their ear
  • Laugh together
  • Play a sexy game