Your guide to dirty talk while social distancing
In the era of social-distancing, words have become one of our best replacements for physical intimacy. That’s especially true when it comes to dirty talk, whether it’s done over the phone, sexting, or video chat.
“If I’m dirty talking with someone who’s sheltering in place in Italy or just down the street, I can’t touch them, can’t taste them, can’t smell them,” says Tina Horn, a sex educator who hosts the Why Are People Into That podcast and wrote the SFSX comic book. “But I can use language to describe what I love about how they feel in my arms, the way they smell, the experience of them tasting me.”
Dirty talk during quarantine/lockdown isn’t just for established couples who are suddenly long-distance because they can’t quarantine at home together, though. It’s also an ideal step for those developing virtual relationships during the pandemic.
The right approach to dirty talk can develop and deepen your erotic connection with a partner from a safe distance.
“Most of us are socialized to believe that great sex is just supposed to happen naturally. But dirty talk helps us recognize that, actually, communication is a huge part of great sex — and a sexy part of figuring each other out too,” says Vanessa Marin, a psychotherapist who specializes in sex therapy. “You can get a sense for each other’s sexual energies even when you can’t be physical.”
Right now, even couples that are sheltering in place together can also benefit from exploring or investing more into dirty talk, too.
“When something this catastrophic happens, it’s really disorienting how drastically your libido can change, and how you and your partner can suddenly be mismatched when it comes to sex drive,” says Horn.
Everyone’s reacting to the stress of the pandemic differently, some with an explosion of horniness and others with less interest than ever in getting physical. Dirty talk can help partners get on the same page by opening each other up to all kinds of discussions around desire.
It could even help bridge that libido gap, Horn says. Low-libido partners can try talking dirty to their high-libido partners while they get themselves off, taking away any pressure for the low-libido partner to get physical while still helping the high-libido partner get the intimacy and relief they need to cope.
Whatever your relationship status during the pandemic, the right approach to dirty talk can develop and deepen your erotic connection with a partner from a safe distance.
“There’s never a bad time to start talking dirty,” says Horn. “It’s never a bad idea to incorporate more erotic language and communication into your sex life, especially now.”
Dirty talk is a spectrum, but also pretty universal
First and foremost, try to get all your preconceived notions about dirty talk — how it’s
“supposed” to sound or what you’re “supposed” to say — out of your head. Your biggest overall obstacle is simply getting out of your own head about it.
“Lots of people put this performance pressure on themselves to do a perfect job, worrying about freezing up, or not having the most creative responses,” Marin says of her clients. “But pretty much if you start any dirty talk with your partner, they’re probably going to enjoy it. It’s one of the more universal sexual acts. I very rarely hear of people saying, you know, ‘I hate it.’”
Figuring out what kind of dirty talk works for you is also a unique and personal journey.
WATCH: How to have virtual sex
“There’s a whole spectrum of dirty talk. There’s the version that’s like using language like a sex toy, to accentuate what you’re already doing,” says Horn. “But then there’s also dirty talk that’s about communicating desires, and what your boundaries and fantasies are with a partner or partners.”
The vibe of your dirty talk can change to not only fit your specific personality, but also your mood.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘filthy talk,’ either,” says Marin. “You can talk through a romantic scenario. Like if you’re separated right now, get into, ‘Here’s what I want to do the second we’re reunited again.'”
Desire exists on a spectrum. All varieties can find their voice through dirty talk, whether you tend toward the kinky and X-rated or more vanilla and tender.
Actually a great place for all beginners to start (especially if you’re shy) is to simply get more comfortable with platonic sexual communication, Horn says. Start talking more openly about your sex life with receptive friends. There’s no need to get graphic or anything. Just being more comfortable expressing your sexuality through language is a big step.
“Adults can, and I think should be able to, talk about sexuality together, with no assumption that it’s to turn each other on,” says Horn.
It’s a great solo activity, especially for beginners
Also, dirty talk is not exclusive to couples. It’s flat out recommended that initial explorations into dirty talk start as a solo activity, whether it’s practicing getting vocal or just exploring linguistic genres of erotica while masturbating.
“In the same way that masturbation can make you a better lover because you understand your body better, if you don’t know how to put into words what you like and what you want, that’s where you need to start for dirty talk,” Horn says.
There’s a whole world of naughty language out there to immerse yourself in for inspiration to help figure out what you like or don’t like.
Start by getting more analytical about whatever sexy media you prefer, particularly written erotica (Horn recommends any anthologies edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, while Marin suggests Literotica or Refinery29’s weekly erotica roundup), audio erotica (I actually discovered Horn through her wonderful How To Dirty Talk guide on my favorite audio erotica platform, Dipsea), regular porn, or even sexy films and TV shows.
Pay attention and maybe even journal which words, phrases, dynamics, and scenes resonate with you. Describe as vividly as you can what’s going on in your own words, zeroing in on exactly what is getting you off.
Marin suggests trying to read either already written erotica or what you wrote down out loud to yourself in the mirror. It’s a great exercise in getting comfortable with the vulnerability of vocalizing your desires from the comfort of your own company.
Create a word bank of what you like and dislike
Now that you’ve expanded your knowledge of erotic language, it’s time to get more personal and put yourself in the situation.
The exercise above has already given you a base for creating your very own dirty talk word bank. A word bank is a list of your preferred naughty verbiage, whether words or phrases, that you can pull from to take the pressure off figuring it out in the heat of the moment.
Break it down into nouns, verbs, adjectives, and whatever else you find yourself gravitating towards. Do they tend to be more gentle, or rough? If you’re having a tough time thinking of anything, use pre-written examples and lists as jumping-off points.
“One of the most important basics is understanding what words you like to describe all the parts of your body, as well as your partner’s,” says Horn. Anatomy is particularly personal, whether your preference is pussy, vulva, penis, cock, dick, or perhaps more euphemistic like “down there” or “inside me.”
Again, taking note of what’s off-limits is as important as writing down what you like. “Certain words can feel degrading or not gender-affirming, or just make your skin crawl for whatever reason,” says Horn.
Aside from the nitty-gritty stuff, though, there are also tons of secondary sexual characteristics for you to explore. What parts of your body feel maybe unexpectedly erotically charged for you? Maybe you love when a partner pays attention to your hair (whether up top or down under), thighs, wrists, collar bone, feet, ears, neck, forehead, cheek, or chin.
A good way to think about it all is through the lens of a compliment: What kind of compliments make you feel the best when you hear it from a partner? What are they pointing out, and what kind of descriptors (hot, sexy, pretty, handsome, delicious, little, tight, big, etc.) do you like them to use?
How to start dirty talking with a partner
OK, that was a lot of prep and, depending on your comfort level, you may not need all of it before getting to this step.
But once you’ve done some of the above exercises on your own, it’s time to do it with a partner. Keep in mind, though, that your partner may very well want to do that solo work and develop their own word bank.
Once everyone’s got their feet wet, bring your explorations together through sexting (Marin even suggests email for those worried about the time-pressure of texting), pillow talk, or foreplay (either IRL, virtual, or over the phone depending on your comfort level or situation). If you have an established sexual relationship, getting more vocal with moans during regular, non-dirty talk sex is also a great way to start finding your voice in bed together. Are you naturally inclined toward lower, husky intonations, or high-pitched sighs and whimpers?
Don’t be afraid to take it slow when it comes to dirty talk that’s in real-time. There’s a variety of transitions into it that help ease you both in.
Read a piece of erotica you really enjoyed out loud together, discussing what specifically gets you off and whether your partner likes it too. Or rehash old memories of the best sexual experiences you’ve had IRL, whether with your current partner or a previous one (though of course be conscientious of omitting details that could spark jealousy). Play “what if” games about what you wish you could do to each other or what you will do when you can touch again — maybe even start getting more into the fantasy realm of things (though we’ll get into that more advanced stuff later).
Pay attention to the words and phrases your partner is using and adopt them if you’re comfortable. You can share each other’s word banks or just incorporate what’s affirming versus what’s off-limits into natural conversation.
If your partner is using words or phrases that don’t work for you, be gentle in how you let them know. Never “yuck someone’s yum.” Instead, offer an alternate word you prefer and then use it in the context of a compliment — like, for example, saying how you love to use the word “cock” instead of “dick,” and specifically love their cock most of all.
Also, Horn says, “Don’t be afraid to be super literal in your dirty talk, especially when you’re getting over the initial hump (so to speak) of the social anxiety, figuring each other out, freezing up.”
You don’t need to have any sort of elaborate plots with arcs, characters, or even much of any scene-setting.
“At first for most people who talk dirty, it ends up being very basic stuff like you know, ‘That feels good, keep going, don’t stop,'” says Marin. Even the basics are more than enough to get you and your partner revved up.
Work toward developing your own style, fantasies, and sexual identity
Say you’ve already mastered those basics: Well, lucky for you, there’s loads of fun ways to amp up the linguistic heat.
When it comes to advanced dirty talk, Horn suggests that you, “really see yourself as a storyteller, a creative person exercising a skill.”
Like all skills, it takes practice and requires immersing yourself further in the world of erotic storytelling. That means not only engaging with the more structured narratives of written, visual, or audio erotica, but also borrowing ideas and language from the more improvised erotic narratives of roleplaying from the kink community.
Horn suggests starting with discovering your own personal sexual persona or personas. In the kink community, there’s a laundry list of labels and even tests you can take to get an idea of common archetypes, power dynamics, and fantasies you might want to play around with through dirty talk.
Now, we’re not saying you need to dive headfirst into BDSM. And honestly, these labels can feel reductive and cheesy sometimes. But the kink community has done a fantastic job of building a helpful sandbox for playing with storytelling through sex that’s super useful groundwork for dirty talk.
“You can explore sides of your sexual self you’d otherwise never feel comfortable tapping into.”
Your sexual persona might not be a version of yourself you’ve ever tapped into before and can change depending on your partner, situation, or mood. These personas or fantasies also may very well be things you would never want to try out in real life.
“But that’s the beauty of dirty talk,” says Horn. “You can explore sides of your sexual self you’d otherwise never feel comfortable tapping into if it wasn’t just through language.”
A lot of the times, you might find yourself enjoying being called things by your lover that you wouldn’t like in any other context. This is true across the board with dirty talk. But it’s especially true when you’re establishing this more advanced style by adding layers of identity, specificity, and storytelling.
“Remember that words we hate in a non-sexual context take on a whole different meaning and feeling in sexual relationships,” says Horn. “Part of the thrill is using sort of edgy, boundary-pushing epithets that we can reclaim through sex.”
On a day-to-day basis, for example, no woman wants to be called a slut, bitch, little girl, or slave. But in the context of the bedroom, words that would otherwise feel infantilizing or degrading can feel gender-affirming or deliciously forbidden. Likewise, it’d be pretty weird to call anyone your master, mistress, or goddess outside the bedroom. But in the bedroom, it can imbue you or your partner with a sense of power and confidence that’s just plain hot.
The important thing is to not judge or shame yourself or your partner for whatever that sexy persona or fantasy looks like, whether it’s being dressed in Princess Leia’s gold bikini, a tuxedo, nothing but stilettos, or a dog collar. Though, of course, always be conscientious about establishing enthusiastic consent and doing boundary check-ins throughout any roleplaying dirty talk. Always remember that it’s both party’s right to respectfully say no at any time.
Once you get a sense of that persona, Horn suggests, close your eyes and envision yourself in the sexiest iteration of that persona. What are you wearing? What is your partner wearing? Next, add actions to your personas. What position are you both in? Where are you? What are you doing to your partner, or what are they doing to you? What kind of power dynamic do all of these convey?
After doing that alone, do it with a partner, almost like a verbal striptease or burlesque show.
Maybe none of that floats your boat. Maybe you’re more interested in linguistically exploring taboos centered around specific situations, like threesomes, public play, or voyeurism.
Well, Horn says, the pandemic is a perfect breeding ground to talk out those fantasies, since it’s a way to embrace all the things that are now forbidden or dangerous. With words, you can get off on the taboo of having sex with a stranger or in a park or on the beach in the midst of an outbreak — all while never endangering public health.
There’s no denying that the pandemic is creating all sorts of new obstacles for sex and intimacy. Reframing those as opportunities to experiment with things you otherwise would never bother with can be a stimulating way to cope.
Ultimately, social distancing doesn’t have to come at the cost of some truly close intimacy.