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A Gentleman’s Guide to Giving and Receiving Criticism in Bed

‘No, YOU suck at this’

No one likes to be criticized, and the last place you ever want to hear any kind of criticism is about how you bone. Because, y’know, that’s your thing. Maybe you believe you’re a sex god with a magical stick that can bring orgasmic pleasure to every continent. Maybe you have a sneaking suspicion you’re a below-average lover and the last thing you want to hear is someone confirm your suspicion. Maybe you’re right in the middle but still, can we just do this without being graded?

Either way, how do you listen to someone critique your performance without either getting defensive or rolling over like a sadboi, grumbling to yourself that it’s their problem, not yours? Equally, what happens when your partner keeps doing something that doesn’t work for you — how do you offer helpful instruction without risking your next practice session?

Don’t be afraid to start the conversation

It may sound obvious but really, there’s no way to begin this “other” sex talk any other way than to just start talking. “Communication is important for a good sex life because most people are desperate for a fulfilling sexual relationship — so much so that they don’t want to ask the ‘wrong’ question, and in their minds, ruin their partnership,” says Sunny Rodgers, an ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association. “I always tell my clients that if asking a question that’s important to you will put a relationship at risk, you’re not with the right partner.”

Additionally, Rodgers says that good communication can show each partner that they’re safe with each other, which can help strengthen the trust needed to completely let emotional and sexual guards down in bed. “The better the communication of likes, dislikes and fantasies is, the more exploration can be shared in a comfortable atmosphere,” says Rodgers. “The better communication is between sexual partners, the better sexual experiences become.”

Set the agenda ahead of time

According to an article on Psychology Today, don’t surprise your partner with a sex talk. “Invite your partner out for coffee or drinks and let them know ahead of time about your agenda. You might say, ‘I would love to talk about how we might increase our sexual frequency comfortably for both of us. Could we go out for coffee next Saturday morning and talk about it?’” writes Laurie J Watson.

Which, admittedly, sounds like advice from an alien who’s never experienced this Earth thing we call sex, but certainly it makes sense to not just blurt out your issues with that weird tongue thing they do without warning in the middle of family dinner.

Begin your critique on a positive note

As for the actual “talk,” Rodgers suggests starting with a positive before explaining your feelings and what you’d like to try or change, and then end with another positive. “This conversation could look something like this: 1. ‘I love how soft your lips are.’ 2. ‘I have always wondered how your lips would feel on my ____ – perhaps we can give this a try.’ 3. ‘Because you’re such a wonderful kisser I know this will bring me so much pleasure and happiness. And I think you may enjoy it too.’ Follow up by asking your partner how they feel about your suggestion and if there’s something sexual that they’ve been wanting to try.”

Watson, in the same article for Psychology Today, agrees. “First, give your partner some reassurance by commenting on positive aspects of your sex life: ‘I really love it when we laugh in bed together.’ Then, suggest what you want: ‘Other times, I long for more intensity,’” she writes.

Keep in mind, however, that true emotional intimacy also needs trust to survive. According to Rodgers, a person needs to feel as though their partner will keep all their secrets and will never harm their heart. “Often someone who has been hurt or abused in a previous relationship will have an incredibly hard time with intimate communication,” she says. “This can be repaired, but it takes time. Both partners have to work together to build their communication and show each other that they are safe with each other.”

Don’t think of communication as criticism

“If you think of intimate communication as a negative, then it’ll be negative,” says Rodgers. To that end, according to, a tip that could help you better hear what your partner is saying over the ringing sound of your Casanova complex being blown to bits, is asking them to show you how they want you to do it, so that you can (hopefully) do it right. “Masturbating in front of a partner is both hot and informative! If your partner can watch the way you stroke your penis/rub your clitoris or use a sex toy, he or she can touch you in similar ways,” they report.

Don’t be afraid to ask more questions

Remember when your first grade teacher told you there was no such thing as a stupid question? Well, obviously there is. But as long as you’re not being contentious, it’s generally better to ask questions than to continue guessing. “Especially if you are unclear on something. DON’T use this time to defend or argue with them about their assessment of your sexual performance,” reports Finer Minds.

In other words, this is not the time to mansplain your significant other’s orgasm to them.