Has your partner ever asked what you wanted in bed, or what felt good, or what you wanted to do next, but you had no idea what to tell him? You are not alone. Many of the women I talk to have no idea what they want in the bedroom, or outside the bedroom for that matter, because most of us were raised to put everyone else’s needs first. In this podcast episode, let’s talk about how to find out what you want in bed. It may just help you in all aspects of your life.
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Have you ever been in the middle of having sex with your partner and they ask you “what do you want?” Or “what would feel good?” Or “what do you want to do next?“ Now this may sound like a loving and caring question. But in the moment, many women struggle to come up with answer. In my years of coaching, I have found that most women have no idea what they want; sexually or otherwise. This can be frustrating for them and their partner because they both want to know what is going to feel good, what is going to bring pleasure, and what is going to help her have a great experience in the bedroom. Many women don’t know themselves sexually. They don’t know what they want or like. Their sexuality has always been some distant, nonexistent, or hidden part of themself. So when you have no idea what you want, how do you figure that out?
Let’s first talk about why women often don’t know what they want. And we’ve talked about this a little bit in other episodes, but I think it’s worth bringing up again. Basically, most of us were cultured to cater to those around us, to take care of other people first, to dismiss our own wants and needs and serve. If you listened to my episode a few weeks ago on the importance of being selfish (Episode 218), a lot of it is that. Our wanting anything was not developed, socialized, or nurtured. Now this isn’t true for all women. Some women grew up in families where what they wanted was nurtured. I think about some of my homeschooling friends and how they often nurture their children’s curiosity and let them learn about the things that interest them. But I would guess that those families are the minority and the majority of women were cultured to put their wants and desires on the back burner for the sake of those around them.
Now those are general wants and desires. When we are talking about sexual wants and desires, most of us were cultured to not explore this in any way, even in those families where other desires were cultivated. Sexuality was not nurtured and explored in the same ways other things were. It was often taught with a lot of fear and shame and not in healthy ways. So it makes sense that women don’t understand this part of themselves. I could be wrong about this, but I think men were given more freedom or at least took the opportunity when it presented itself to understand what they liked sexually. It may have been frowned upon, but there was still the “boys will be boys” mentality. They may have hidden their exploration and felt a lot of shame for it, but most explored what felt good. Many women never did. And while I am not a fan of pornography, when people watch it, it gives them ideas of things to try in the bedroom. Many women I know are resistant to try things if they think their husband learned it from watching pornography. But the truth is, those things existed long before pornography. And while I wouldn’t say that pornography is a good source for sexual education, it does spark ideas of what could be fun and pleasurable. So do books and movies.
We were also cultured to believe that sex is for men and we are to give them what they want sexually so they don’t stray. So when we think about doing what we want, it goes against everything that we learned about sex.
According to researchers Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, in How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking about It, men care more deeply about making their wives happy than we realize. They write: “Most women do not understand how much it pleases a man to please a woman, specifically how important it is to the man in her life to please her. Furthermore, a man does not simply want to please her—he lives to please her.” I found this to be very true in my work. In the book She Comes First, Ian Kerner talks about the generous nature of men’s sexuality. They derive so much pleasure themselves by pleasuring their wives. The problem is, we don’t allow it and we don’t know what we want if we do.
So now that we know why it’s so hard for women to know what they want sexually, what can we do about that? Certified Sex Therapist Kristen B Hodson gives 5 suggestions.
- Normalize pleasure. This is so incredibly important. As I discussed a couple of weeks ago in Episode 220 – The Fear of Pleasure, many of us are afraid of pleasure and don’t know how to create it in our lives. So we want to start normalizing it. Taking the time to find pleasure in small ways for ourselves and understanding that sex isn’t just something you do to make babies or make your partner happy. Sex is really about living as an embodied being and relishing in all of the pleasure and sensations our body can give us.
- Learn about your body. Many of us are severely lacking in the sexual education department, so learning about your body and how it works is so important. I do a lot of educating in my coaching membership, but I also suggest the books Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski,, Becoming Cliterate by Laurie Mintz, and Women’s Anatomy of Arousal by Sheri Winston.
- Connect with your wants and preferences outside of the bedroom. What sounds good for dinner? What movie do you want to see? What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? When talking about this topic I always think about the movie Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts. In each relationship she just adapts to whatever her significant other wanted. So when she is trying to figure herself out one of the things she does is to figure out what kind of eggs she really likes. Does she like scrambled, over easy, eggs benedict? She has no idea until she takes the time to actually figure this out. This is so important. Once you decide that you are worth having your own desires and preferences and you work to figure those out outside of the bedroom, it makes it easier inside the bedroom.
- Be intentional with wanting and give yourself permission to want. This goes back to Episode 218 on the Importance of Being Selfish. It’s not that your wishes and desires matter more than anyone else’s, but they matter as much as other people’s. So you have to give yourself permission to actually want. If you find yourself stuck in “I don’t know,” ask yourself what it could be and start making guesses. Many times we get stuck trying to think our way into wanting rather than stepping into it or becoming the person who knows what she wants.
- When it comes to sex, set aside time to talk with your spouse about what you may want to try outside the bedroom. Pick a time that is less vulnerable for both parties. Approach your wants and desires (as well as your partners) with curiosity and not judgment. Focusing on sharing, learning, and connection.
A great way to figure out what you want is my Yes, No, Maybe list. This list was originally available for Episode 106, but I am going to make it available for this episode as well. This list has lots of things on it that you can decide if it’s something you want to do, you maybe want to do, or you definitely don’t want to do. There are lots of these kinds of lists out there, but I created this one because everything on it is within our value system as conservative Christians. So you aren’t going to find things like “threesomes” or something on there. Now, you may not know what everything on the list is. That’s ok. It’s ok to google the terms. Most will tell you the definition right on the search results page, so you don’t have to start clicking on sites that you aren’t comfortable with to know what they are. I can tell you for myself and many of my clients that at first many things were a hard no. But as I got more comfortable with my sexuality things moved to maybes and yeses.
Another idea for you to try, to get into touch with your pleasure and what you want sexually is my roadmap to pleasure. You can also find this on the episode’s webpage. This is a guided practice to help women figure out what feels good to them since many of us have not taken the time to figure it out.
So, if you don’t know what you want in bed, just start trying things. Whether it’s from the yes, no, maybe list or the Roadmap to Pleasure, or something else, take the time to experiment. You deserve it.