No Bondage Required: How Women Can Feel More Empowered in Bed

Gone are the days of women being left out of the conversation when it comes to sex. Gone, too, are the days of women being expected not to want sex, much less ask for it, and be clear about what they want. And good riddance to those days! But those hundreds of years of suppressing desire, and being told to be quiet, might have taken a toll on some women collectively, no matter how outspoken they are in other ways. Never fear, though, if you find it tough to let loose in the bedroom (or kitchen, or shower – whatever your thing is), there are ways you can start taking charge and getting what you want!

Who’s the Boss?

Maybe “boss” is too strong of a word – but still, it’s rare that no one is, well, taking the lead in a bedroom romp. And often that person is the same partner every time, maybe out of habit, or maybe because of the preference of one partner. In fact, a survey conducted by feminist sex shop Early to Bed found that 83% of female-identifying respondents said they prefer a partner who takes control rather than one who prefers they take control.

Why might that be? Some experts think it could be because more people who identify as women than men report having “responsive desire” (meaning they need to be physically aroused before they can get mentally in the mood) rather than “spontaneous desire.” According to widely accepted statistics about desire, 75% of men and 15% of women report that they feel primarily spontaneous desire, whereas 30% of women and 5% of men report that they feel primarily responsive desire. 

a woman in her underwear straddling on a man sitting in a chair

The whole responsive desire thing could explain why more women also prefer their partner to take initiative and control during sex than men. And that’s fine! You don’t have to initiate sex every time if you tend to get turned on by your partner turning to you at the end of the movie you’ve been snuggling through and starting up some sexy times. But you know what? It might be fun and empowering to be the one who jumps on their partner and gets things going! It could help to stave off boredom in a long-term sexual relationship, and also make you feel crazy sexy in the moment, and lead to some seriously satisfying sex. 

And not only that: in same survey by Early to Bed above, more than half of the male-identifying respondents said they prefer their partners to take control, so you could be fulfilling a fantasy and again, adding some more spark to your sex life. “When a partner is initiative with sex, they’re telling us that they’re attracted to us and that they want us sexually,” according to Searah Deysach, sex educator and owner of Early to Bed. “This is a big turn-on for a lot of people—it builds self-esteem, and it can make sex more freeing if you feel like you are the object of someone’s desire.”

Or, think about this: even if you are a woman who has a higher libido and tends toward spontaneous desire, maybe you’ve taken in those messages about how women should be more sexually submissive and men should take the lead, which could shape how you act on your desire. It could also kind of make you think that you’re more into the whole responsive thing. Again according to Deysach, “I do not think we can separate the fact that way more women reported preferring their partner to take control from our long-term cultural norm of women being more submissive sexually.”

For example, let’s put you back in that situation of snuggling through a movie with your partner. You might actually be turned on well before your partner seems ready to get things started (wait, they actually wanted to watch a movie??), so you might wait until they eventually turn to you and do that thing that gets the ball rolling. So that may seem like responsive desire, but maybe it’s not. 

But whatever the case: whether you’re usually into your partner taking control, or you are usually the first one ready to get it on, but aren’t acting on your spontaneous desire, taking the lead and changing things up could be just what you need to feel sexy, empowered, and more satisfied in bed. But how do you start? 

Ditch the Labels

different colored labels/tags
Forget about labeling what is “good” sex and what is “bad” sex.

The only rule in sex should be that both partners consent to everything 100% and feel completely safe and comfortable. Other than that, we’ve got to forget about labeling what is “good” sex and what is “bad” sex. What you want from sex is what you want, and arbitrary labels are completely unhelpful.

Redefine Taking Control

What does taking control of your sexual encounters mean to you? If you’re not ready to jump right in by knocking your partner’s feet out from under them while they’re working, and jumping on them like a wild animal, try Deysach’s suggestion. You can start with something “as simple as making suggestions or decisions about what activities the sex will include, or just doing more of the physical work in any given moment. Remember that most people like a partner who initiates because they like to feel wanted and lusted after. So, simply telling your lover that you’re interested in sex tonight (or this afternoon), or asking them to do something specific for or to you in bed are small steps you can take toward being the partner in control.”

Ask Away!

A satisfying sex life starts with good communication, and that includes outside of the bedroom. Women can sometimes struggle to ask for what they want in bed, so Sari Cooper, founder and director of the Center for Love and Sex, recommends having a Q&A session about what both your and partner want – and she recommends doing this in non-sexy situations.

According to Cooper, “The more detailed the questions the better, as to model a type of discussion that is flirty, but eager to learn. Strictly enforce that the person answering the questions has the floor. After you’ve asked your partner about all the things they like, love, or want to try, you can answer the same questions. This creates a neutral way to exchange information without any power struggle, intimidation and less fear while offering more vulnerability for both partners.”

Out for a super unsexy trip to the grocery store? Bring up the topic of fantasies and go to town on questions related to this subject, or ask about kinks, orgasms, or favorite sexual positions. Try to stick to one topic at a time, so as not to get overwhelmed. And remember, it might feel embarrassing, but lean into that embarrassment because it’s totally natural! You’re going to feel it, so just work on how you handle that embarrassment.

Get Some Helphands dealing a deck of cards

Still struggling to start conversations about sex? Here’s a fun idea: try suggesting a sexy conversation starting card game, or sex dice. You can take control of the game as it leads you into some sexy times – and it’ll totally redefine your game night!

And if your imagination needs a little help in the stimulation department, consider finding some outside help that does it for you, like watching porn or reading erotica. Hint: some women say they are more turned on by verbal stimulation (as opposed to visual stimulation), so if porn doesn’t do it for you, try a book instead. 

Don’t Get Hung Up on Spontaneity

Sure, spontaneity is great, and can lead to some pretty hot sex, but it’s not a prerequisite by any means. You can work on your feelings of spontaneous desire by doing a little mental prep work. Think about what you want to do to them, and what you want them to do to you, before you even see them. Think about what you bring to your own sexuality – your experiences and desires – as well as what your partner brings to your sexuality, and pleasure yourself while you think about all of this. 

According to relationship and sexuality educator Logan Levkoff, “We’ve been told our whole lives that someone else makes you into a sexual being, but really we are sexual individuals before we’re a couple. How we choose to express that sexual individual is up to us.” 

So make a plan for how you want to express yourself, how you want to feel sexy and empowered, and how you’re going to satisfy your partner and be satisfied. Consider the following ideas to take charge:

  • Choose a new position you want to debut
  • Send a sexy text telling your partner what you’re planning, or simply that you’re waiting for them in the bedroom
  • Join them in the shower
  • Whisper in their ear that you need them right that second
  • Plan a sexy scavenger hunt
  • Practice talking dirty – you can start by describing how your partner’s body feels, or how yours feels while you’re getting busy
  • Incorporate a fantasy that you’ve talked about, like a blindfold, costume, cuffs, or sex toys

Put Your Pleasure First

Part of taking charge should be focusing on your own pleasure! Sure, you’re trying to satisfy your partner, as well, but remember that old saying from your childhood? It’s only fun if everyone is having fun, right? There’s nothing sexier than someone who’s putting their whole self into sex and really enjoying it – but it’s more than that. Knowing how to satisfy yourself and get what you want in bed, and then going out and getting it, is really empowering. Doing this can make you more confident, not just happier in the bedroom. But that’s a great goal, too!

So what do you think? Is it easy and enjoyable to take charge? Or do you prefer your partner to take charge?

About The Author:
Cassandra Love

With over a decade of helpful content experience Cassandra has dedicated her career to making sure people have access to relevant, easy to understand, and valuable information. After realizing a huge knowledge gap Cassandra spent years researching and working with health insurance companies to create accessible guides and articles to walk anyone through every aspect of the insurance process.

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