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How to Initiate Sex With Your Partner

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Written by Erica Garza

Published 05/31/2024

When a male hooded seal wants to mate with a female, he’ll inflate his elastic nasal cavities into a red balloon-like appendage and flash it around. For human males, figuring out how to initiate sex can take a little more work.

Sex doesn’t just feel good — it also has health benefits. Medical studies show that having sex more often is linked to better mental health, improved heart health, and a lower mortality risk.

Initiating sex can be tough for various reasons. Maybe you’re in a new relationship, maybe you’ve been rejected in the past, or maybe you struggle with a problem like erectile dysfunction (ED) or premature ejaculation (PE).

If you’re not sure how to initiate sex as a man, keep reading for simple ways to overcome obstacles and make your partner say (or scream) yes.

Figuring out how to initiate sex isn’t a selfish pursuit. Sure, there’s something in it for you, but physical touch can also enhance your partner’s well-being and strengthen your bond.

Studies show that physical touch can provide support in difficult situations and lower stress by reducing cortisol (a stress hormone). It can also reduce pain through its effects on opioids and serotonin levels and convey crucial info about your feelings and intentions toward your partner.

Both men and women can make the first move, but the truth is, the ball still tends to land in the guy’s court. Research suggests men suggest sex almost twice as often as women. This is likely due to outdated gender roles about who should be dominant and who should be passive.

Initiating sex in a new relationship can be challenging as you learn your partner’s turn-ons and turn-offs. But it can be just as daunting in a long-term relationship. This is especially true if you’ve been in a dry spell for a while.

As daily life hits you and your partner with unsexy tasks like the weekly grocery shop and school pickup, it’s common for intimate moments to take the backseat. But a decline in sex doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a lack of sexual desire.

In a small 2020 study, 15 women in long-term relationships all reported that sexual desire for their long-term partners sharply declined over the course of their relationships. But when both partners felt safe to openly and honestly talk about their needs, they were able to come up with “creative ways for creating closeness,” often leading to sex.

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The following ten tips will help you get more creative with initiating sexual experiences, whether you’re in a new relationship or you’ve been married for decades.

We’ll also share what you can do if you feel like ED or premature ejaculation is holding you back from a fulfilling sex life.

1. Be Direct, But Don’t Pressure

As the 2020 study showed, open communication pays off. Before you outdo yourself with creative gestures, try the most obvious: Be direct.

“Want to have sex?” may sound pretty boring or formal, but it can also be effective. You can take it even further by being specific about what you want and how you want it. Just be sure you’re willing to hear your partner’s desires too. 

This is also a good way to get verbal consent.

Some research suggests that even in long-term relationships, people admit only knowing 62 percent of what their partners find sexually pleasing and 26 percent of what they don’t find pleasing. But when partners are willing to have quality conversations about their sexual needs (e.g., open and satisfying), both relationship and sexual satisfaction increase.

Being direct doesn’t mean laying on the pressure. When your partner feels obligated, it’s more likely to lead to relationship conflict than great sex.

Can’t find the right words to express what you want? You can still be direct without having to say a word. Brush up on your dirty talk via sexting or send a (solicited) photo or two.

2. Try Non-Verbal Cues

You don’t have to wear a mime suit (unless you’re into cosplay), but you can emulate a mime’s non-verbal finesse.

Non-verbal cues can be pretty much anything, maybe a secret hand squeeze or eyebrow dance only you two see as a cue.

Other non-verbal cues to consider:

  • Brush against them in the hallway, even if there’s plenty of room to get by.

  • Flash a flirtatious look.

  • Opt for a passionate kiss over a quick peck.

  • Treat them to a massage.

It can be helpful to establish cues beforehand so your partner knows what you mean when you bust out the secret DTF handshake. 

Non-verbal cues can also be useful if you (or your partner) simply aren’t that comfortable talking about sex.

3. Invest in Emotional Intimacy

Lighting some candles and curating a sexy playlist are great and all — but have you asked about your partner’s day?

Studies show that higher levels of emotional intimacy are linked to higher sexual desire. This indirectly increases sexual intimacy. Emotional intimacy can look different in every relationship, but it mostly involves a sense of connection and warmth.

While asking about your partner’s day is one way to foster emotional intimacy, doing the dishes is another.

In a study that looked at gender and sexual negotiation in long-term marriages, female partners reported lower levels of marital quality when the division of domestic labor was unequal. And this inequality impacted whether they were willing to have sex with their partner. So learning how to initiate sex with your wife is about more than just setting the mood.

4. Build Up Sexual Tension All Day Long

If you want to have sex tonight, make it an all-day pursuit.

Think of creative ways to build up sexual tension throughout the day. This could involve sending flirty sexts or squeezing in a video call if you’re not in the same place.

If you are in the same place, touch and make out often, even if you’re not planning on having sex at that very moment.

In fact, being physically affectionate and interested in your partner outside of the bedroom can lead to more affection in the bedroom later. If you only offer such gestures right before sex, your partner might feel objectified. Think of foreplay as something that begins outside of the bedroom.

5. Redefine Foreplay

It’s okay to have your go-to moves, but foreplay comes in all different flavors — and it can be thrilling to try something new.

Here’s what you can try:

  • Listen to a sexy podcast together.

  • Reminisce about sexual experiences from early in your relationship.

  • Share a new sexual fantasy.

  • Watch porn together.

  • Start in the shower.

  • Make or download a yes/no/maybe list with new sexual positions, fantasies, products, etc.

We have more foreplay ideas in our blog.

6. Break Out the Sex Toys

Sex toys can level up your foreplay game or be part of the main event if you’re willing to get creative.

Some premium sex toys to consider:

  • Penis ring. Worn at the base of the penis, this silicone cock ring applies light pressure and slows blood flow for a longer, harder erection. Featuring internal and external grooves, it delivers extra stimulation for you and your partner.

  • Prostate massager. This vibrating massager has 35 settings to help you find the perfect combo of rhythm and pressure. Providing both P-spot and G-spot stimulation, it can be used solo or during partnered sex — works best with water-based lube.

  • Penis vibrator. Also worn at the base of the penis, this vibrating cock ring maximizes pleasure for both you and your partner. With five pulsing patterns and five intensities, it also prolongs endurance, helping you have a harder erection for a longer amount of time.

  • Bullet vibrator. This bullet vibrator is compact, but don’t underestimate its power. With three vibration settings, it can be used to stimulate your partner’s clitoris or perineum. Then they can return the favor by holding it against your testicles or perineum during oral sex. The simple design of this sex toy means it’s versatile, so go ahead and be inventive with it.

7. Appeal to Their Love Language(s)

The five love languages coined by marriage counselor Gary Chapman back in 1992 are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. 

According to Chapman, everyone receives love in a different language, and knowing your partner’s language is crucial to having a better relationship and better sex.

Though the concept of love languages has been debunked by relationship scientists, there’s still value in acknowledging your partner’s likes and dislikes in the bedroom, even if they don’t line up with yours. And Chapman’s five love languages provide a simple framework as a starting point.

Some ways use the love languages to initiate sex:

  • Words of affirmation. Shower your partner with compliments, be specific about what you find hot about them, and tell them how much they turn you on.

  • Acts of service. If you know what foreplay your partner likes, make them the center of attention by offering your services. Or you can start outside the bedroom by bringing them their favorite drink or running a hot bath.

  • Receiving gifts. A new sex toy, a piece of lingerie, or even a surprise sext can count as a gift to get things going. Maybe they shared a fantasy with you in the past — here’s your shining moment to make it a reality.

  • Quality time. Clear the schedule, silence your phone, and give your partner your full attention. You might even plan a date night somewhere new to signal your desire for quality time with them.

  • Physical touch. Cuddles, kisses, massages — express your interest through physical affection, and offer it generously in the moments leading up to sex.

8. Explore Kinks and Fetishes Together

Never explored kink as a couple? Don’t be afraid of the newness of it all.

According to a 2023 study, new experiences with a romantic partner boost desire by offering the perfect balance of “closeness and otherness.” This otherness involves a sense of mystery and the opportunity to see your partner in a new light.

Starting a conversation about kinks and fetishes is a spicy way to initiate sex.

Some kinks you may want to explore include:

  • Role play or cosplay

  • BDSM, Shibari, or dom/sub dynamics

  • Cuckolding and cuckqueaning 

  • Exhibitionism

See our article for more sexual trends to try out.

Choose your chew

9. Address Sexual Issues Holding You Back

Sometimes, the only thing keeping you from initiating sex is a sexual issue like ED or PE. Addressing these issues with a sex therapist or trying medication can make things easier and give you back your sexual confidence.

Here’s what you can do if you need a little extra support.

For Erectile Dysfunction

If you have trouble getting or staying hard, you may be hesitant to initiate sex with a fear your erection will fail.

ED, which is the inability to get or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfying sex, can be caused by a number of physical and mental factors, including performance anxiety.

Therapy can help here, or you can explore an ED med like a PDE5 inhibitor. You may know these medications by their brand names Cialis® (tadalafil), Viagra® (sildenafil), and Levitra® (vardenafil), among others.

While tadalafil can be taken daily, both sildenafil and vardenafil can be taken as needed about an hour before sex. That way, you can be sure that when you’re initiating sex, you’ll be able to perform successfully.

For Premature Ejaculation

Maybe you’re afraid to come on to your partner because you think you might finish too fast.

Therapy can help with this, or you can consider using other tools and techniques. Thicker condoms or a climax-control condom containing the numbing agent benzocaine can help reduce sensitivity.

You could also use a benzocaine delay wipe or lidocaine delay spray before initiating sex. Or you can explore strategies like the squeeze technique or fitting in a masturbation session before sex.

Healthcare providers sometimes prescribe antidepressants like sertraline (generic Zoloft®) or paroxetine (generic Paxil®) for PE.

10. Put Sexy Time On the Calendar

Scheduling sex may not seem sexy, but it can be an effective tactic for those in long-term relationships, particularly if you lead hectic lives. It can also take the pressure off of who should initiate sex first.

Some research shows that scheduling sex can enhance sexual desire, even in women with low sex drives.

Putting sex on the calendar doesn’t just ensure you’re prioritizing sexual intimacy — it can also build up sexual tension as you slowly reach the allotted time.

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Whether you’re having sex for the first time with a new partner or are looking for tricks to use with a long-term partner, initiating sex is so much easier when you feel confident.

Remember:

  • It’s totally normal to feel nervous when initiating sex. It can be especially nerve-wracking if you’ve been rejected in the past or you’re in a new relationship.

  • Before getting creative, try being direct. If partners feel safe to openly and honestly communicate their sexual desires, they’re more likely to act on them.

  • Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Using body language to express desire, trying a new sex toy, or talking about kinks can all be exciting ways to spice up your sex life.

  • Initiating sex is hard when you’re struggling with a sexual issue like ED or PE. See a therapist, consider medication, or try techniques to improve erectile function and sexual confidence.

Want to learn more ways to be confident in the bedroom? See our guides on how to deal with sexual frustration and how to relax during sex.

11 Sources

  1. Elliott S, et al. (2008). The Performance of Desire: Gender and Sexual Negotiation in Long-Term Marriages. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00489.x
  2. Gunst A, et al. (2019). A Randomized, Waiting-List-Controlled Study Shows That Brief, Mindfulness-Based Psychological Interventions Are Effective for Treatment of Women’s Low Sexual Desire. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00224499.2018.1539463
  3. Harrington AG, et al. (2023). It Takes Two to Tango: Links Between Traditional Beliefs About both Men’s and Women’s Gender Roles and Comfort Initiating Sex and Comfort Refusing Sex. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-023-01366-w
  4. Impett EA, et al. (2024). Popular Psychology Through a Scientific Lens: Evaluating Love Languages From a Relationship Science Perspective. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09637214231217663
  5. Liu H, et al. (2016). Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk among Older Men and Women. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0022146516661597
  6. Mallory AB. (2022). Dimensions of couples’ sexual communication, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction: A meta-analysis. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Ffam0000946
  7. Muise A, et al. (2024). Does Too Much Closeness Dampen Desire? On the Balance of Closeness and Otherness for the Maintenance of Sexual Desire in Romantic Relationships. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09637214231211542
  8. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries. (n.d.). Hooded Seal. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/hooded-seal
  9. Sorokowska A, et al. (2023). Love and affectionate touch toward romantic partners all over the world. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-31502-1
  10. Van Lankveld J, et al. J. (2018). The associations of intimacy and sexuality in daily life: Temporal dynamics and gender effects within romantic relationships. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0265407517743076
  11. Velten J, et al. (2017). Satisfaction guaranteed? How individual, partner, and relationship factors impact sexual satisfaction within partnerships. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0172855
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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