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The Ins and Outs of Navigating Dirty Talk

| 02/17/2022

dirty talk Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

Dirty talk is a sexy audible source, a tool, if you will, to connect with a sexual partner using new senses to evoke pleasure wishes. This skill (yes, it is a skill) can be remarkably arousing when done with a partner/lover. The ease in which our darling adult performers spout off lustful lingo in artfully timed (and overly confident) phrasing might not be a one-for-one when you or any other non-professional takes the plunge. “Spank me like the bad girl I am” might feel awkward, verging on embarrassment, if it’s not something you or your partner are used to expressing. Even worse, it can result in second-hand cringe if a play partner takes a crack at slinging some unvetted, ripped-off lines from a film sex scene. Nonetheless, it’s okay to flub, okay to giggle, okay to take a step back and access, and it’s more than okay to find your way into talking dirty — or any of its sensual offshoots — one sexy adjective-noun combo at a time. 

There is something about the act of dirty talking that makes even the most vocal among us want to recoil back into our brains where our utmost lush fantasies and brave wordsmithing can live without fear or judgment or nervously tripping over a vowel.  But why do it if the thought starts to make you sweat? If you’re simply casting words at your partner that you don’t mean or regurgitating from another source, of course, dirty talk is going to feel like a mortifying swarm with each word uttered. Trying out dirty talk is a moment to examine the kind of language you want to use or be used on you. Does “make love” feel too formal? Will it turn you off if a partner mentions genitalia? Try saying them out loud to yourself and/or with a partner to gauge what feels right. This also goes for what kind of language you want your partner to use for body parts (if any) and vice versa — nothing is a bigger turn-off than a misinformed label.

Dirty talk also improves communication around giving and receiving pleasure.

It allows for the giving partner to check in with the receiving partner without changing the energy. Consider actionable phrases that give the receiver the power “Show me where you like it” has a sexier ring over “Are you close?” or “Do you like this?” It allows that person to make adjustments without feeling like they should be close or should like it, letting them be the driver in their pleasure. 

The end all be all of engaging in dirty talk is simple: it’s hot. So whether you’re trying to find your words or figuring out what order to put them in, below is a little primer to get you started developing that smutty lexicon. 

Talk About Sex Outside Of The Bedroom.

All skills, particularly in the beginning, can be challenging to master when there isn’t a baseline to draw from in your day-to-day life. Think of this as mining your sexual stakes to see where that comfort level falls. Dirty Lola, sex educator, performer, host of Sex Ed A Go-Go live talk show, and host of Sex Probz with New York Magazine, thinks the main reason people find it difficult to dirty talk with a partner is because most people don’t verbalize their desires outside of the bedroom. “How many people have sat down with their partner and spoken about what words turn them on and what words make them want to run away screaming? Not many.”

Have that conversation with your partner/lover, talk to a friend about a sex scene from a movie, journal about that fantasy you’ve kept locked in the back of your brain, read a particularly raunchy article or erotica, and have an open discussion about it with a partner/lover, listen to an erotic podcast and/or audiobook during your day, or even take note of some dirty talk references seen in movies/tv/porn and study those scene. Practice speaking about sex in plain terms so dirty talk doesn’t feel like you’re moving at warp speed when in the moment. 

Explore Simplicity & Go Slow.

Dirty talk doesn’t require a dynamic reading of sexy Shakespearian prose or a clinical prescription to get things going. Start with what you need and what you want from your partner/lover, and fill in the blanks as you go. I want you to ____ my ____ or Kiss me on my ____ or I need to ____ you right now. Easy peasy. Even better: give a compliment. It feels so good when you ____ my ____.

As noted earlier, dirty talk is a skill that requires a bit of practice before feeling effortlessly raunchy with each word uttered. Take a few of these flirty mad libs and practice saying them out loud by yourself. This will allow you to feel comfortable with the phrasing while having a few spare go-to’s when you’re at a loss for words. Throw in a little whisper and maybe a coy grin, and you’re all set. 

Identify Those Boundaries.

Sexual fantasies are just that . . . fantasies. And sometimes fantasies can feel overwhelming, offensive, or different than  how you feel about them in real-time. For example, being called a slut during dirty talk. Perhaps that moniker doesn’t sit right in your bones, but being asked to wear something slutty by a partner/lover could be just the thing to send your arousal right over the edge. An excellent way to tap into those boundaries is by creating your lists of dirty talk phrases you’d love to be said to you. Take it to the next level by writing down sexual activities you want to do and don’t want to do. Make a section just for language around body parts that you would like to have used on you. If you want the top of your frame to be called chest instead of breasts, tits, etc, make a note of that. Not only will you get to know yourself, but it will also be super fun to go over with a partner — mostly because you can turn it into a dirty talk game. Take a guess which word I like to be called in bed . . .  is a perfect icebreaker to get the conversation flowing. 

Reframe Feedback.

Dirty talk is not only an excellent tool to use for general play, but can be utilized to receive feedback without pausing the scene or switching up the vibe. And really, it’s just a matter of reframing how you get feedback. For example: using Show me where you like it rather than Do you like this? allows the receiving person to feel supported in their pleasure.


Dirty Lola suggests kicking things up a notch by narrating what you’re enjoying in the moment: “Phrases like I love when you kiss me there or I can’t keep my hands off your . . .  are HOT and they get your dirty talk juices flowing. Once you get into it, you’ll find it’s easy to keep it going.”

Pick A Role.

At the end of the day, dirty talk is just like acting. It’s an improvised scene that we can yes, and . . . and navigate our way through. Even in the least sexy of scenes (think: improv theater), it can still feel awkward to have a made-up conversation without the stability of knowing where it’s going. Rely on your established boundaries to take you where you want to go, but also consider stepping into a character. This dirty talk layer introduces a different kind of sexy autonomy to the play — you’re not saying these things, the innkeeper is! Plus, role-playing naturally brings out power dynamics to dabble in. Doctor/Nurse, Chef/Server, Painter/Muse, this can be as fluid as you want to make it.

A note here: Dirty talk can sometimes veer into good boy, good girl language, which can be hot especially if you’re interested in praise kink, a submissive or a dominant getting sexual pleasure by being praised for something. Or maybe all parties are curious about age play — roleplaying where players act a different age than they are. Or, it’s just super hot to be called a bad girl in bed! Think about where your feelings about this language sit, and if it feels uncomfortable to use this designation. Add this to your Boundary list. 

Stay Away From Insults.

Dirty talk, readers, is not a free-for-all pass to exclaim the filthiest, most offensive language. Not only could the oversight derail the events, but it could severely harm someone at the height of sexual and emotional vulnerability. Of course, you might find yourself with a glimmer toward an insulting word that might feel very erotic to have said to you (or vice versa). In that case, have the conversation first to make sure all parties are comfortable with this kind of language/word/phrase. For example: Using bitch or whore as an epithet while dirty talking can be hot for some and a major turnoff for others. While we never want to yuck a yum, we do want to let our partners/lovers have all the information to make a quality decision for their hearts and bodies. 

Give Yourself Permission To Laugh.

If you’re keeping your and your partner/lovers’ boundaries in mind, go forward with confidence and laugh it out when silliness strikes. Laughter can be a great way to open up a bit more, let that guard down slightly, and take a step toward sexy speaking. The skills it takes to have a successful dirty talk scene mirror almost exactly that of the aforementioned improvisation. Take a tip from comedian Ryan Asher on finding the fun even when you’re not sure what comes next. “With both sex and improv, you’re just flopping around with no clue what is going to happen next. All involved are praying that everyone else involved is having a good time,” says Asher. “The key is to go for it with gusto and a sense of humor. You are probably going to mess up, you might say or do something weird, but there is also a chance that something cool could happen. You just have to go all-in and laugh about it afterward!”

Play A Game.

Dirty talk can be as fun and silly as you make it, and can really benefit from having an extra, gamified layer to break away from any discomfort. Consider taking turns reading erotica out loud with a partner, purchase a role-playing game from a sex shop or gift store, or even take turns whispering back and forth at a public dinner all the nasty things you want to do to each other. Dirty Lola’s favorite couples activity getting a smut novel or book of erotic stories with two different color highlighters. “Each person gets a turn reading through the book and highlighting what pushes their buttons and then you get to go through it together and see the passages or single words that make your partner all hot and bothered. It’s a great way to get a grasp on what words your person gravitates towards and to get some great examples of dirty talk.” Also, playing a game lets all parties build on the dirty talk without starting with high expectations. As said, it’s very similar to improvising — the higher you start, the less room you have to grow, “When making a big move, just make sure there is somewhere to go with it. If you start at 100 percent right out of the gate, it can be shocking. You want to be able to build on this new energy together — so make sure that you still have room,” says Asher.

Try Not Talking.

Communication is so vast that having to solely rely on sound to explain our desires doesn’t allow our other senses to have a chance to play. Moaning, gesturing, locking eyes, and biting your lip can all find their way into the dirty talk verbal and nonverbal dictionary. But be direct! Eye contact and simple nodding can go a long way to ensure everyone is having a good time. But also, it’s so easy to see dirty talk as a simple verbal skill . . . but that’s so limited! ASL users sign their desires to their partner/lovers using direct gestures and fingerspelling to build that sexy anticipation! 

Dirty talk, while it can be an accessible medium with different variations, can also live in this upper echelon of sex acts that feels almost extraneous when put into practice. The fear of being judged, fumbling, overstating the fantasy, underselling the desire, or coming across as naive or disingenuous can make our dirty talk realities into a low low hum of something that could have been. Yet, the same could be said for any skill you’re trying to command. Comfortability in the sexy kitchen will come. If you’re willing to spill a little milk, break some eggs, and laugh at the potential mess in the process, you’ll find a rhythm that works for you.

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