How to Talk Dirty Without Feeling Fake

Ask a lot of questions. Remember that confidence inspires confidence. Use porn GIFs to get the conversation started.
How to Talk Dirty Without Feeling Fake (illustration of smiling open mouth)
Illustration by Hunter French
Advice on the finer points of having great sex.

Whether you're separated from your partner, feeling things out (metaphorically!) with a new person you met on an app, or feeling like you want to make your sex life at home more exciting because, truly, very little else is at the moment: Now is the time to finesse your approach to talking dirty.

Talking about sex in a mutually hot way can be as simple as saying, "I want to X your Y so bad." Also? It can be so much more than that. We've all probably heard (and tried out) plenty of scripts adapted from porn, but we also have our own, personal filthy resources, aka, the specific people we are, and the way we each, individually, express that. Talking about sex to turn yourself and someone else on can be so much more fun when it feels like you saying smutty things, instead of a more generalized Horny Sex Person.


Keeping your sex talk fresh and invigorating often relies on storytelling that allows for the conversation to build and progress, allowing space for trial and error and  boundaries that outline what you and your partner(s) need to get off. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It's more fun, in fact, when it isn't! It leaves room for people to make it feel like something that's all their own—and that's probably the sexiest thing you could ask for.

So, whether you're getting together in person, sexting, or talking over the phone or on a video call: Where do you start? What do you like? How does consent figure into all of this? How do you shake off shyness in the service of extremely hot conversation? Here—let us whisper in your ear about it.

I. Before You Start

First, talk to yourself.

Before you get into it with another person, set aside some time to privately take stock of what you're into. What does great, fulfilling sex look and feel like for you? How would you describe it, in your own words?  Does the sexiest kind of conversation include goofiness? Innuendo? Romance? Think about how that might go, too!

The more information you have about yourself, the more you’re able to share with the person and give them the road map for how they can communicate with you in a way that feels good to you, said sex and relationships therapist Shadeen Francis. Going into it with a picture of what you want can help your partner(s) "see you the way you want to be seen and treat you the way you want to be treated," she said.


If you can identify specific markers or themes in how you think and talk about what you're into, share those with your partner when you're ready to get down to it. You can say something like: 

  • "I love it when someone is tender with me when they're telling me something hot.”

  • "If you're into it, I want to be told what to do in a bossy way, so feel free to tell me what to do as we go."

  • "I like a lot of build-up and teasing before we get really explicit—subtlety and tension are my favorite."

When you think about and try out some lines by yourself first, you can then use that information to set up any verbal sexual encounter with a partner later on. By leading with that, you're showing them what to tell. That can help them understand how you want to be seen and how to get you off by using the language you know you like.

If you're shy, or worried you'll get flustered (which isn't always a bad thing!), write some words and phrases down beforehand for reference.

A sometimes-intimidating reality of dirty talk: It's not always easy to be totally candid and off-the-cuff when it comes to what rolls off of your tongue when a conversation is heating up. Anxious about what you'll actually say in the moment? No big deal. Having a cheat sheet—even a mental one—doesn't mean throwing away spontaneity or authenticity.


According to sex educator Erica Smith, “Writing out an arousing script beforehand of how you envision your dirty talk unfolding is like being the author of your own erotica." Writing it all out can make it easier for you to stick with descriptors that mimic your everyday way of speaking and thinking—or hew more closely to a fantasy you're hoping to explore to a partner. 

If you're not sure where to start, try approaching it like a story and writing lines for the people involved in it. Who are the characters? What is your role? 

Think of the lines you put down as backup—or even the baseline!—if you feel a little shy at first with your partner and don't know where to start/continue/finish.

II. How to Get Going

Consent is necessary, even if you're just talking, so make sure it's the first part of any hot conversation.

Just as giving and receiving consent is a conversation that should be re-investigated each time you become physical with another person, getting a "yes" is crucial before pressing send on a sexy text or suddenly veering into explicit things on the phone.

Talking dirty when you're not physically together especially requires that you’re more assertive about getting the green light than in person because you are depending on language in a new way, said certified sex therapist Casey Tanner, who specializes in queer intimacy.


Tanner suggested naming where you are in a given moment when you want to get going by saying something like, “OK, I’m loving where this is headed,” followed by a quick check-in like, “How are you feeling about sexting?”

And! As your conversation progresses, there will probably be moments where you'll want to get clearance that it's cool with your partner to take things in a new direction—try something along the lines of, “Is this heading in a place that’s OK with you?” Once you've got clearance, you can get more specific, like, "Can I tell you about how oral sex turns me on, if you're into that, too?"

Checking in has the double benefit of making everyone feel less uncertain or shy about being raunchy together if they were feeling those things going into it.

Part of consent is making sure the time is right, so ask about that every time before you get started (unless you've directly, verbally set up an understanding otherwise).

Getting into dirty talk isn't just a matter of if someone wants to engage in hearing about your desires and have you hear about theirs, but also of having the mental capacity and, if you're not in the same place, being in the right environment for it. 

In this pandemic, especially as long as in-person meetups are less frequent and take more planning ahead, people (including you) may have a lot less social energy to respond to virtual foreplay or sex, no matter how enticing. 


Getting an explicit message at dinner with your family isn’t ideal (for most people, anyway). To head off awkwardness of that kind—and to make sure you're incorporating consent into the way you think about timing, too—try something like this:

  •  “Are you in a private place right now?"

If yes: 

  • "Can I tell you some hot things I've been thinking about and hear what you've been thinking about, too?"

  • “Would you be into hearing something sexy? It's totally OK if another time is better.”

If no: 

  • "Being with you was on my mind—I'll tell you about that if you're comfortable with it/if you feel ready another time."

State your own boundaries and ask about other people's, too.

"Boundaries aren’t something that spontaneously manifest,” said Francis—you have to work them out beforehand in order to know where they are for each person involved in order to respect them while you're talking about sex. “You can take some pressure off [of yourself and your partner(s) by being intentional about the conversations that you’re having,” she said, by assessing each other's boundaries with the help of questions like: 

  • "I love to role play, but I only like to go so far as human characters as I'm doing that."

  • "Is there anything you want me to know about getting into name-calling with you before we start?"


  • "I'm cool with talking about choking, but I wanted to check—how do you feel about that?"

III. What to Say and Do in the Moment

Use "yes, no, or maybe?" to see where your turn-ons overlap with the other person's (or people's).

Start by listing off a few questions to your partner to gage their interest and whether your fantasies are something they’d actually be down to try. The key to this lies in three words: "Yes," "no," and "maybe."

A "yes, no, or maybe?" prompt could look like: “Would you be open to me sending you a vibrator similar to mine so we can masturbate together? Yes, no, or maybe?” suggested Tanner. “Would you like it if I sent you a voice note of me having an orgasm?”

Setting parameters makes talking about sex feel less complicated by giving cues to the other person about how to simplify the conversation and back up their answers more concretely if they choose to.

If they're cool with it, show and tell your partner(s) what you like. 

After you start the conversation by describing what you like—and hearing what they like—see if it's OK to send porn videos or GIFs depicting something that you'd like to experiment with or explore together—or, of course, just describe to each other in excruciatingly sexy detail. As always, let them know that, if everyone feels good about it, they're welcome to do the same.

Say what you mean with confidence—if you seem comfortable, it'll help you and the other person or people you're talking to loosen up.

Entering a dirty conversation with a little insecurity is normal given our socialized experiences on how, when, and with whom you should engage sexually. “It’s good to practice owning what it is that you want, and then asking the person how they would feel about it,” said Tanner. 

This is particularly useful if you're not together in person. We can’t always rely on facial expressions or body language when talking dirty on the phone or by text, so instead of asking a lot of random questions to gauge the other person’s interests, be direct and authentic with setting up what you would like to happen in person, then invite them to do the same.

This is a foolproof way to explicitly express yourself in your own tone of voice, way of speaking, and personalized method of explaining exactly how you want it to go down. When you demonstrate to another person that you accept and feel good about pursuing your own desires, it gives them cues to do the same—and it allows you both to have a really… interesting (read: hot as hell) conversation, exactly in the ways that feel good for you as individual people, together.

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