16 Small Ways to Make Vanilla Sex More Adventurous (But Not Wildly Freaky)

You can add plenty of novelty to what you know and love without going full kink.
couple in bed: Small Ways to Make Vanilla Sex More Adventurous (But Not Wildly Freaky)
Photo by Xuanyu Han via Getty Images
Advice on the finer points of having great sex.

Maybe you don’t typically enjoy kinky sex and are totally comfortable sticking to a more vanilla routine . That's fine if it's what you and your partner are into—we all like what we like, and that doesn't have to mean those tastes are more specific than "having sex in a bed in a limited set of positions." 

But if you sometimes think, Hm, maybe there's a few ways to adjust these limited positions from time to time, or otherwise have even the slightest impulse to switch things up, you have options. There are plenty of lo-fi ways to tweak your sex routine in order to add a little novelty to the basics that you know and love without heading into full freaky-deaky territory all of time. Some of these methods don't even involve actual sex-having—they're just ways to shift how you and your partner think and talk about sex and turn each other on. (Others definitely have to do with actual sex-having.)  Here are some ideas to make the regular sex you're into feel just a little bit more adventurous. 


1. Talk through joint fantasies.

Fantasizing with your partner about the same scenario—even one of your usual ways of doing it—can be the perfect team sport when it comes to making vanilla sex feel special. As sex educator Kaz Lucas suggested, "Take your time talking through the fantasy and indulging in the small details.” 

You can also talk about something you've maybe never done and see how that feels: Describing a fantasy threesome could be a great place to start. Together, envision what the third person would look like. What are they wearing when you meet them? What do they smell like? Take turns describing this mystery partner and how they would participate during sex with you. 

2. Make an audio recording of yourself masturbating and send it to your partner.

Sending voice notes to your partner can be the perfect form of foreplay while you’re apart, or even in the next room. 

This can feel lower-stakes than making a sex video for some people. “A recorded fantasy—by you or a sexual partner—can offer a [longer-lasting] form of arousal. It's less anxiety-provoking than video recording, and your hands are freed up for touching yourself,” said psychiatrist Travis Meadows, who specializes in sex counseling. Recorded fantasies take the pressure off feeling like you have to physically perform right then and there, too. Take your time, and send something that you feel great about. 


Try recording yourself orgasming during solo play or outlining exactly what you want from your partner once you're reunited. Depending on what you use to record and send them, many voice notes can be saved and replayed when you need a little inspiration for the next time. 

3. Watch porn together (or apart).

Need a little bit of inspiration? Watching other people have sex—even in vanilla ways—can make your own sex lives feel hot in its very nature, too. Added visual stimulation might also give you the confidence to finally try a thing you’ve been tiptoeing around. If you're not all the way ready to do this with someone else in person yet, and if your partner(s) is down for it, send them a link to your favorite porn clip to open up the conversation/go for the same effect without as much potential in-the-moment nervousness or shyness.  

4. Make and trade "will, won’t, maybe?" lists.

Lists aren’t typically associated with sexiness, but taking the time to actually write down what you would and wouldn't be into experimenting with or change within your sex life can help take some those thoughts from your head into reality. A 'will, won’t maybe' list is the perfect way for you to verbalize sexual acts that you’re open to trying versus things that are absolutely off limits, according to sex educator Janielle Bryan. “It’s a great way to ease into a conversation about new things to try [when you] compare both lists side to side and see what matches up,” she said.

Set a goal for how many things you write down. Most people can easily write out five things, but what about trying for 30? A longer list encourages you to think outside of the box and beyond your go-to sexual activities.


5. Use uncomplicated dirty talk.

Introducing dirty talk into the bedroom can ease a bit of anxiety that comes with trying new things. It’s the perfect foreplay before physicalizing anything that comes up together. If you're not sure where to start: Take turns saying different things that you’d like to do them, and vice versa. A good opening line is often something like, “I love it when you do X because Y.”

6. Get into basic sensory deprivation.

Have you ever realized that your sense of smell is incredibly strong after a stuffy nose? Or squinted into bright sunlight for a long time, then realized your vision was completely skewed? The same applies for your senses during sex. Using items you’re comfortable with, like a scarf or blindfold, try taking away specific senses. If you or your partner are unable to see or touch parts of each other's body, it can make for a more intense sexual encounter once you finally restore access—and intensify the way you experience sex through your other senses along the way.

7. Or: Add sensations.

If you think you’re more of a “let’s add” instead of “let’s take away” kind of person while you’re switching up your sex life, you’re in luck. “Folks can enjoy more well-rounded sexual play that engages their entire nervous system," explained sex therapist Michelle Herzog, by adding new sensory experiences to it. Try incorporating different fabrics into play (like lace, leather, or silk), or introducing some new smells (like candles or essential oils).

8. Give or get a hot massage.

While we're on the subject of candles: Pouring warm oil on yourself or partner during a hot massage can allow you to build upon sensation play. Investigating how you or your partner responds to different temperatures is a simple way to discover new sensitivities. Try using a candle that doubles as massage oil—these are different from regular candles because, instead of liquifying into hot wax, they're made of safe-for-your-body oils that melt slower and lower, so make sure you get one specifically formulated for this purpose to avoid truly unfortunate burns. 

9. Try a little biting as you lick and kiss.

Regardless of whether you or your partner are into rough sex, light biting can feel great in between kisses, both on the lips and on non-genital parts of your bodies.  For some people, gentle biting can feel good on the latter areas, too—maybe you up the ante over time if you like the buildup. 

10. Move things to a chair.

If you want some extra leverage during penetrative sex, having sex in a chair can make cowgirl position a little less conventional. Have the penetrating partner sit on the chair, while the other person faces them and sits on top. Using the support of the chair and your feet on the floor, the person on top has more control over the rhythm and a comfortable seat for longer sessions.

11. Use a vibrator.

If you typically use toys alone, or even if you're new to to sex toys, tossing a vibrator into the mix is a “sure way to raise the stakes during partnered sex,” said sex therapist Kamil Lewis. Vibrators can be used externally on the clitoris, anus, and nipples, or around the head of a penis. Use gentle (or hard) vibrations on these sensitive parts to see how they feel for you and your partner.  

12. Give or get a handless handjob.

A handless handjob is stimulation “without the use of hands, mouths, or throats on the genitals," said Meadows. "In not using hands or oral sex, it opens the door to learning creative ways to stimulate your partner (or your own) genitals.” The use of different body parts (nose, toes, etc.) in place of hands and mouths allows sexual exploration that can be surprisingly exciting. (Try it with a blindfold sometime, too.)

13. Focus on your (and their) nipples.

Depending on your comfort level and willingness to play with body parts that are on the more sensitive side, nipple biting and squeezing are ways to increase sensation beyond kissing. Maybe you rub them while your partner’s clothes are still on to build anticipation. Try licking your partner's nipples, then blowing on them for added stimulation.

14. Try out light BDSM.

Getting into BDSM doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to subscribe to the most extreme versions. Lucas suggested using your hands or household items to experiment with without the intimidation that whips or handcuffs might bring with them: No handcuffs? No problem. Use a scarf or piece of clothing.

Using your hands or different objects, you can experiment with varying levels of impact as you spank or slap each other's bodies. As Lucas recommended, “Start with your thighs or arms before moving on to more sensitive areas, like your face or butt.” Begin with a light touch, then gradually increase the weight of your impact once you and your partner are ready. 


15. Make a point out of having sex as slowly as you possibly can.

As Herzog said, “Slowing down sexual play is a simple, indulgent and erotic way towards stepping outside of the box.” Taking things slow doesn’t mean moving at a glacial pace. If you focus on each moment, stroke, and kiss, you may realize that there are aspects of them that you'd like to spend more time and attention on.

16. Get into edging.

If you’re looking for a sure way to increase your overall anticipation and excitement during foreplay or sex, try edging—a practice where you painstakingly build toward and refrain from orgasm right at the cusp—or edge—of climax. Start exploring an area with your mouth or hands, but stop before getting into it more intensely, instead building up stimulation as you go, including delaying orgasms when things get to that point. When you build up arousal and excitement, even the sex you normally have can feel brand-new.

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