How to talk dirty with confidence and without cringe

Learning how to talk dirty can really up your bedroom game—here's how to master it without feeling awkward AF

Young couple, man kissing woman's neck, close-up
(Image credit: Getty)

A large part of what turns us on happens in the brain and communicating these sexual turn-ons can help stimulate and arouse us even more. Learning how to talk dirty in the bedroom is one way we can help feed our fantasies and even bring some of them into reality. 

A 2020 study (opens in new tab) by Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist, found that 91% of individuals fanaticized about dirty talk, with 49% thinking about it often. 

There are various types of dirty talk that many enjoy: some like just hearing sexy sounds and moans, while others like to participate in degradation play during sex acts. But, just like enjoying the best sex toys, dirty talk doesn’t have to be anything extreme or taboo and can be just individuals sharing what they would like to do with each other. 

While dirty talk can seem like something you have to make raunchy and explicit, Isabell Uren—a sex expert from Bedbible.com (opens in new tab)—points out that you can start small: "Don't go right to the wildest, dirtiest depths of your imagination, but test the waters with something a little more vanilla."

When partaking in dirty talk, sex and relationship therapist Dr. Laura Vowels (opens in new tab) notes that the key factor that makes it sexy is being authentic and genuine. “It might be hearing your partner climax, kissing your back, nibbling your ear—whatever it is, pay attention to this and incorporate it in your 'dirty talk,'" she says. "It comes across as more genuine (and more enjoyable) if you talk about things you specifically like as opposed to just saying things you’ve heard other people say.”

How to talk dirty: a beginner's guide

1. Write a list

When you’re both ready to explore dirty talk, learning each other’s preferences is essential. Uren suggests writing "want/will/won't list."

"Under 'want,' write the things you’d love to hear; under 'will,' write things you might be willing to include, and under 'won’t,' write anything that is off-limits," she recommends. "This is a great exercise for getting to know each other's sexual preferences in general!"

2. Consent is important

Uren also points out that the one desiring to engage in the dirty talk has probably been thinking about it for a while before engaging in it. Giving their partner time to process the idea of engaging in it can help.

"You don't want to catch your partner off guard and underprepared. You've had the time to consider if you want to engage in dirty talk and prepare, and they should have the same," she says. "Like any sexual act, dirty talk requires consent from all involved."

3. Read erotica to each other

Reading erotic literature together can be a way of exploring dirty talk when you’re lost for words. You can use the pages like a script and read the erotic prose to turn your lover on. "You can make a sexy game of taking it in turns to read your notes back to each other," Uren says. 

Lesbian couple lying in the bed and reading book

(Image credit: Getty)

4. Start by sending voice notes

If you’re nervous to participate in in-person dirty talk, Uren recommends practicing first with texts and then with voice notes to help you build up confidence. 

"Write sexy notes or text messages to get some practice without as much pressure," she says. When you get up the confidence to tackle voice notes, "the tone of your voice is almost as important as what you say," Uren instructs. "Lower your voice for a more sultry, sensual effect or go a little higher for a more playful tone. Whispering is also incredibly sexy as it’s so intimate, and your partner can enjoy the sensation of your breath brushing across their skin."

5. Recount your sexiest memories together

Whilst dirty talk can feel very much in the present, it is an opportunity to build intimacy by retelling past experiences to each other. Recounting the steamiest moments of your relationship together can reassure your partner that you still fantasize about them, and who doesn't want to hear that from their S.O?

"Some great things to include are reliving past experiences that really turned you on, telling your partner exactly what gets you going, or narrating fantasies you would like to act out or even ones you are happy to keep as fantasies," notes Uren. 

6. Check-in afterwards with aftercare

Both Uren and Dr. Vowels recommend utilizing aftercare and checking in on your partner after engaging in dirty talk, as “this is the best way to find out what your partner enjoyed (and to tell your partner what you enjoyed!), so you can both do more of those things [in the future]," says Dr. Vowels.

Ness Cooper is internationally recognized as a leading expert in sex and relationships and has trained with the Kinsey Institute for human sexuality. She is a sexpert and writer for Marie Claire, and is a published author not just in news and magazines, but in books and academia, too.