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For whatever reason, there has always been a stigma attached to women talking about sex. If we said some of the things that men did, there would be gasps and repeated use of the word “unladylike,” – but why? Women are just as entitled to have a sexual appetite. You should never have to continue doing things in bed that you don’t like, just like you should never be afraid to suggest something you do like. It’s time to speak up about it. Don’t know where to start? We’re here to help.

Why discussing sex is important

It’s completely understandable why someone might be hesitant to talk about sex with their partner – especially if they’re shy. However, doing so can greatly improve a relationship. Carole Lieberman, M.D., Beverly Hills psychiatrist and author, says that it’s much better to communicate your needs and wants rather than suffering in silence and waiting for your partner to figure it out. “You will build up resentment and an emptiness inside if you continue to feel unsatisfied in bed,” she says. Putting everything out on the table will make things a lot better in the long run.

Related: 5 Conversations You Need to Have Before Sex

Figuring out your likes & dislikes

Perhaps you’re feeling unsatisfied in bed, yet you’re not sure what you want to make things better. This is perfectly normal! Adam LoDolce, founder of Sexy Confidence, says that pornography is a great place to start. “See what turns you on, what doesn’t, then give it a try!” he says. “Be open to new adventures and see where it goes.”

In figuring out what you like and dislike, remember that it’s important you feel comfortable. Don’t feel guilty if there’s something you don’t want to try. “When the sexual experience is over, you want to look back upon it with a smile, not a feeling of shame or disgust with yourself or your partner,” Dr. Lieberman says. For example, just because he wants to give you oral sex, doesn’t mean you ever have to!

Preparing for the conversation

Talking with your partner about sex is important, but so is how and when you choose to do so. First, if you’re shy, there are a couple of things you can do to prepare. “A shy person can first become more comfortable with the whole topic of sex by reading about it, watching educational videos and talking to friends,” Dr. Lieberman says. “Then it will become easier to talk to your partner about it.”

Once you think you’re ready to have a discussion, you should determine when you’re going to have it. Dr. Lieberman recommends holding a conversation in quiet, leisurely moments when you and your partner are feeling close. You should not choose to talk during sex; however, if you’re not happy with how things are going, you can still do something about it. “Interrupting sex with this conversation can sometimes spoil the mood, so ideally you can direct your partner by gently guiding him nonverbally towards what you want,” Dr. Lieberman says. Then, you can express your feelings afterwards! That being said, if your partner is ever doing anything you are NOT okay with, you should absolutely speak up. Consent is important, and you should always make sure that you’re getting it from your guy as well.

Having the talk

When you feel prepared and confident enough, you can bring up the discussion with your partner. Dr. Lieberman says there’s a risk of the other person feeling defensive and offended, which is why you need to approach the topic slowly, carefully and sensitively. One thing you could do to start the conversation is “reassure your partner that the sex is great, but you’d like to be a little more ‘adventurous.’ Tell him or her what he/she might try next time and see if they’re interested,” LoDolce says.

Then, begin explaining what you need/want from sex. Don’t just list everything off, though. Make sure that you’re having a conversation and that the other person is replying. Sarah*, a junior at the University of Central Missouri, recommends diving right into sex after talking. “For the longest time, I hated having sex with my boyfriend,” Sarah says. “I never planned on talking about it with him, but one day he randomly asked me if I didn’t find him attractive. I felt terrible, so I told him how I felt about sex and recommended a couple of things we could try. I hinted that I was in the mood, and once we got going, I kind of talked him through some of it,” Sarah says.

This is exactly what Dr. Lieberman recommends. “Although it is less embarrassing to gently move your partner’s body parts in the ways that make you feel good, you sometimes have to be more explicit and put your needs into words,” she says. You could always start with movements, and then talk when you’re more comfortable!

Having different preferences than your partner

There is always the possibility that after communicating your own likes and dislikes regarding sex, that you both realize you like completely different things. “You can decide to be a little adventurous and try what your partner likes, if he is willing to try what you like,” Dr. Lieberman says. “Of course, you should never do anything that makes you feel really uncomfortable or that demeans or physically hurts you in any way.”

If you do end up experimenting with your partner and find that you like completely different things, LoDolce says that you likely lack sexual compatibility. “Depending on your current needs, this may or may not be the ultimate deal breaker.” The key phrase with this is “depending on your current needs.” If you don’t find sex to be a vital part of your relationship, then you shouldn’t feel pressured to break up. If you do believe that sexual compatibility to be important, it might be time to re-evaluate your relationship.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t be afraid to be ambitious about your sexual needs and wants. Finding out what you like and dislike is essential if you ever want to be fully satisfied with a partner. Once you’re confident with your sexual appetite, don’t be afraid to shout it to the world! (Okay, you don’t have to do that – but you shouldn’t be ashamed to openly talk about it.)

Follow Allison on Twitter @AllisonMCrist.