Welcome to Elle Oh Elle, where Portland-based writer and entertainer Elle Stanger takes your sex life from subpar to subversive. Find more of her musings here.

I was nervous. My boyfriend of six months was staring me squarely in the face, chewing his lip. He looked terrified. He said he had something important to tell me. My heart sunk. What could it be? Did he have a family? A terminal illness? Was he dumping me? And then he spoke: “I have a tickling fetish.”

We all like different things when it comes to sex. But if there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that nobody likes bad sex. And the fact is, less-than-great sex is sometimes the result of a lack of communication. We have to start talking.

I consider sex to be both an art and a science, so let’s roll up our sleeves and get dirty. It all starts with a conversation. Here are eight communication tips for getting exactly what you crave.

Be ready to learn

All of us can probably remember the first time that we had sex. And if you’re anything like me, it probably wasn’t very good. So put away those soap-opera fantasies of coital perfection: the beginning part of a relationship is the fun part, where you get to discover and explore each other. Does your partner fixate on your breasts? Lube ‘em up and use ‘em like hands! Does your partner spend a lot of time feeling the fabric of your underwear during foreplay? Invite them to a shopping trip at the lingerie boutique. No two humans have the same sexual proclivities, so open your mind to new ways to play. And treat their actions as nonverbal ways of communicating what they’re really into.

Know your “likes” and share them

This means, be familiar with how you masturbate, and feel zero shame about it. Do you rub yourself? Hump pillows? Use lubricant? Like things a little dry? If you prefer to tug or tickle on the left side of your compass, put that in your mental bank. If you don’t know your body, how can you expect anyone else to? It’s easier to show your friend how to finish a Rubik's cube, when you’ve been doing it for years. Your body is a game, and sometimes a puzzle. But if you already know how to unlock your body, you can certainly instruct your lover to do the same.

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Use your words

I’m a firm believer in commands, suggestions, and requests.
A command example: “Put your tongue on my _______.”
A request example: “Could you put your tongue on my ______?”
A suggestion example: “I’d really like it if you put your tongue on my ______.”

In my experiences, people LOVE learning how they can please their partner; it’s like having a verbal guide. Have you ever put together a piece of IKEA furniture without following the instructions? Sure, it’s possible, but it takes a helluva lot longer, and it’s less fun. So go ahead, give some direction.
 

Be okay with saying or hearing “no”

As simple as that. Not everybody likes black coffee, not everyone listens to pop music, and not all of us want a vibrator up the bum. And that’s okay. Just be sure to let your partner know what you don’t like in the same way you tell them what you do.

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Take nothing personally

While it can initially feel quite scary to have one of your ideas rejected, it really paves the way for clearer communication. If someone tried to make you feel silly for liking ketchup in your spaghetti, would you let them? Hell no. Food preferences and sex preferences and music preferences are all unique to each person. There is no right or wrong way to eat a taco, or a hot dog, or a pussy.
 

Don’t ever fake it, ever

I’ve faked a lot of orgasms, and many of you reading this have too. Why did we do it? Is it because we were afraid of hurting our partner’s feelings? Because we were afraid that they wouldn’t see us as sexy if we couldn’t climax? Because we knew that we just weren’t going to get there, orgasm-wise?

There are a lot of reasons that people can’t go all the way. Prescription meds are sneaky culprits. Unknown to many Americans, even simple over-the-counter allergy medication can have an adverse effect on your libido. But your doctor won’t tell you that. And some people rarely orgasm. And that’s fine too. Just because I’ll never win the Super Bowl doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy tossing a football around for fun. If you know that you aren’t going to peak, kiss your partner on the cheek and say, “This feels really good, I’m not going to be able to finish this time. Can I take care of you?”

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Always ask before getting daring

Look, I’ll just come out and say it: please don’t put anything in my butt, without asking. Do I have your attention? Because my eyeballs certainly widened the last time I was having a lovely time with a friend and he decided to ruin the mood by corking my butt with his thumb. I shouted, he withdrew, and I ran to the bathroom for a baby wipe, while shouting at him to wash his hands. Never ass-ume. And if you’re going to get bold, you’re better off asking than killing the mood.
 

Know when to quit

If something doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Being a short lady, the words, “Not so deep, please,” have certainly escaped my lips a few times. I’d rather speak them than destroy my tiny cervix! If your partner isn’t receptive to your needs, they don’t deserve you. If you aren’t open to hearing what the person you love likes, you’re not a kind lover. And while I’m not saying that sexual selfishness means that you will die alone, you’ll definitely have plenty of fake orgasms to keep you company.

So whatever happened with tickle guy? The tickling wasn’t unpleasant; we found a way to combine my love of rope bondage with his love of inciting giggles from a captive woman. Tied up, naked, and laughing, I’d scream and laugh until I’d had enough, and finally shouted the safe word, “BANANA!” After we parted ways, I took the rope, he kept his fingers, and we both learned that, sometimes, asking for what you want in the sack isn’t scary at all.

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Elle Stanger is a mother, stripper, feminist, activist, and author who entertains the masses in Portland, OR. She holds two university degrees, neither of which she utilizes in a conventional fashion. She prefers organic food, dark beer, and self-actualized individuals. Don’t ask her about her tattoos; she’s run out of clever retorts. Find her online at EroticMusePDX.com.

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