A beginner’s guide on how to talk dirty without feeling awkward

Words by Evangeline Polymeneas

Talk dirty to me.

Remember the penis game? A favourite of school-age kids the world over, it had an incredibly simple premise: someone would whisper the word ‘penis’ which would start off a chain reaction of people saying the word, louder and louder each time, until someone is red in the face, screaming ‘PENIS!!’ for everyone within a five-kilometre radius to hear. Wherever you were in the queue of speakers, you were bound to die with embarrassment. 

The embarrassment this game provoked is a testament to just how awkward saying the word penis out loud is, or any sexual word for that matter, even if it isn’t being used in that context. Up until recently, I struggled to even say the word vagina, despite having one. 

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I’ve always felt pressure to be able to talk dirty. It almost feels like if you can’t, then you aren’t mature enough to be having sex in the first place. I don’t know what it is about sexy talk that makes tongues tie but it’s time I figured it out.

I was recently watching the Netflix show Sex Education and one of the minor characters, a supportive English teacher called Emily Sands, was experiencing an unfulfilling sexual relationship with another teacher, Mr Hendricks. She wanted him to talk dirty to her and when he couldn’t, he felt defeated. I don’t know about you, but I’m Mr Hendricks. 

Otis, the main protagonist in the show and a quasi-sex therapist, tells Mr Hendricks to rehearse Emily’s desired dirty talk in the mirror until he gets comfortable. Personally, the idea of looking in the same mirror that I carry out my daily skincare routine in and reciting ‘dirty talk’ makes me feel ill. 

Instead of taking the advice of a 17-year-old TV show character, I enlisted the help of sexologist Aleeya Hachem, who manages to make the daunting task seem approachable

“It’s like washing the dishes,” explains Aleeya. “You can describe what you’re going to do like, ‘Look at your dirty dishes, they are just filthy!’, or you can describe what you’re doing like, ‘I love having this big dish in my hand’. Or describe what you just did like, ‘I had been thinking about washing that plate all day…’” 

Now, when you put it like that, dirty talk doesn’t seem like much of a chore, so why do I feel icky putting it into practice? “I think when we think of dirty talk, we think of it as really taboo, hardcore, derogatory comments; you know when you call your partner a ‘whore’ or something, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way,” says Aleeya.  

“If you’re someone who is tiptoeing into dirty talk, you don’t have to go from zero to a hundred straight away,” says Aleeya. “You can absolutely test the waters and go gentle. Start off with a moan or a compliment, or just saying yes or a swear word, whatever it may be.” 

I ask Aleeya why she thinks dirty talk feels so uncomfortable for many people, and she tells me she believes it has something to do with calling it ‘dirty talk’ to begin with. “Dirty insinuates taboo, it insinuates vulgarity. Actually, calling it dirty talk has created this view of what it should be, or what it is.” 

Even though dirty talk can be taboo in public, why is dirty talk still so taboo in a place where most taboos should be thrown out the window? Aleeya says that it’s the fear of judgement or fear of how your partner might view you that can prevent people from trying to talk dirty even if they want to.  

“I think fear is a huge barrier,” she says. “If I say this, am I going to sound like a dork or unsexy? Is it going to be convincing? Is it going to ruin the mood? I think all of those factors can contribute to withholding what we naturally want to say or try to say.

“My advice would be, if you want to talk dirty with your partner, definitely have the conversation before you do it, always outside the bedroom,” she says. “If you’re talking about sex, never talk about it in the bedroom… remove yourself from that context. 

“Say how you feel, for example, ‘Dirty talk is something I want to explore, but I’m scared that I’m going to sound a little bit weird’ or ‘I don’t know what language you’re comfortable with, what does [dirty talk] sound like to you? Is it something you want to try?’ I think opening up the dialogue around it is the first step to breaking down that barrier.” 

For those, like me, who can’t even bring themselves to say penis, Aleeya says it’s helpful to desensitise yourself to sexual language because she says, “if it doesn’t feel comfortable for you, it’s going to sound really non-convincing, and it isn’t going to make you feel better in the moment anyway”. 

Aleeya also suggests listening to audio porn. “Dipsea is an audio porn app that you can get and because it’s audio porn, there is a lot of dialogue. Because you’re listening to it, you’re hearing how it sounds and you can become more familiar with the language.

“The more we talk about sex, the more we normalise it, and it’s the same with dirty talk. The more you hear it, or what it can sound like, the more comfortable you can get with those concepts and that language yourself.” I don’t know about you, but I’m getting an urge to try washing the dishes tonight. 

For more advice on how to approach dirty talk, try this.

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