Sex and relationships: Learning how to dirty talk
In a lush, velvet-lined room at Toronto’s Spoke Club, five would-be dirty talkers take their seats. “Who here likes being talked dirty to?” asks Katrina McKay, our host tonight and resident sexpert at her online sex boutique Ohhh Canada. Every one of us raises a hand.
“And who loves talking dirty?” she adds. Half of the hands sheepishly lower, mine included. But we’re all here to remedy that and master the gift of the gutter gab. Tonight’s group: McKay, our brave leader, a 31-year-old sex-specializing entrepreneur; a type-A blonde I’ll call “Jane”; two wives whose sex lives are “good but could be better”; a lone male in the back who looks terrified; and me, ready for an awkward introduction.
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“I’m Ginger,” I lie, “and I’d rather listen.” The last part’s true. My excuse for my silence (punctuated by nervous laughter)—“I lack original content”—is ironic for a writer but not particularly unique. Neither is boring repetition or, always the elephant in the room, lack of confidence. Suffering from all of the above, I’m here because I want to sound better for my effortlessly verbose partner. I want my usual chatterbox self to work elsewhere. Hence the “stag” sex workshop, an increasingly popular dose of
one-day sex therapy for anyone looking for a fast boost in the boudoir. It’s part school, part bachelorette party, and it’s popping up at just about every lady-friendly sex shop in the city with topics like burlesque, role play, bondage, tantric sex and, of course, dirty talk.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here: Tonight’s about the dirty talk, which most of us are already doing. A survey of 1,000 people by U.S. sex shop Adam & Eve found that three-quarters of lovers enjoy aural sex: 29 percent do so rarely, 33 percent “sometimes” and 12 percent every single time. “Sexting” is also popular: A University of Michigan study found that more than 40 percent of young adults aged 18 to 24 regularly engage in sending and receiving explicit messages or images by phone.
McKay starts our class with a brainstorming session. While she acknowledges that preparing a list of “dirty” words and phrases beforehand can sometimes feel like it spoils the spontaneity, she believes it’s a necessary step. “That’s like saying if you buy all the groceries for a romantic dinner, it takes the romance away,” she says. “You have to build your vocab. If you don’t have the words, you can’t say them.” So McKay chooses a tune to set the mood—Goldfrapp’s “Ooh La La”—and we start our brainstorm. As a group, we start with the most romantic words: sexy, slowly, steamy, sweet. Delight, whisper, quiver, tickle. And then things get increasingly hardcore: touch, kiss, stroke. Hard, slick, slippery. Ass, tits, joystick.
“I’m not ever gonna say ‘joystick,’” I mutter to Jane, who’s taking to this too well. She eagerly raises her hand and reads her list aloud. “I’ve also got your basic cock and pussy; then I just have pound, ram, shove, tie me up, spank me hard. Oh, I don’t have cum! How do I not have cum?” She scribbles on her paper as I gulp another glass of champagne.
Liquid courage helps, I’ll admit, but the next morning I decide I need guidance from a true professional. So I call Cameryn Moore, a 43-year-old phone-sex operator and performer in the one-woman play
Phone Whore. “Not everyone’s a convincing foul-mouthed slut, but everyone can get better,” she says. Moore has had lots of practice; she’s on call at her home 14 to 18 hours a day—including right now—and takes five to 15 calls daily to supplement her theatre-acting income. “If I get a call, I’ll have to call you back.”
For the Montreal-based Moore, a proud owner of “a motor mouth and gutter mind,” the words are the easy part. “You can look them up on Urban Dictionary.” The real challenge is pushing yourself out of your
regular bedroom routine. “If this isn’t something you usually do, if it’s not your real life, it actually falls into the realm of fantasy,” she says. Then she indeed gets a call.
Seven minutes later, though she refuses to kiss and tell, Moore’s back. Her seamless transition from XXX to real life is almost enviable, given the tendency of the rest of us to compartmentalize sex talk away from non-sexy everything else. Breaking this stark divide is Moore’s first tip: “Start elsewhere,” she advises. “Maybe you’re outside, maybe you’re at church, and you whisper ‘Guess what I’m wearing under this dress?’”
Damn, that’s good, I think as I write it down for later. But, whether from romcoms or pornography, parroting dialogue isn’t a foolproof plan. “You can’t follow someone else’s strategy and get the same results,” says McKay. “Sex talk is not like baking.” Similarly, no one’s always in the mood for cake. “If your partner is cranky or exhausted, or you are, this is not the time. Don’t set yourself up for failure,” she says. Ditto on cranking your speed from zero to full blast; work on the art of the slow tease instead. “I’ve been thinking of you all day,” for example, makes for a very sensual start.
Here’s where modern technology could be the dirty talker’s best friend—or a bitchy frenemy. A sexy text message can be imagined and perfected in advance, sending your confidence soaring, but be warned: “To be able to say the same things in person might be an unrealistic goal,” says McKay. Wise words. And something to consider because—as homework assigned by McKay—I must send a dirty text. (Although if you think I’ll be quoting said text to my boyfriend here, you’re crazy.)
“Sometimes we hide behind technology,” says Maureen McGrath, a Vancouver-based nurse and the host of the radio program The Sunday Night Sex Show. Communication, or lack thereof, is the root of any relationship’s problems—sexual or otherwise. “So if you’re not comfortable [talking dirty], discuss why you’re not comfortable.”
And if, like me, you tell yourself you’re just shy, here’s something for your consideration: “Women are much more comfortable talking dirty than men,” says McGrath. But it might be a different kind of dirty. “You can’t generalize— certainly not all men drop F-bombs while women swoon for romance—but men watch more porn and they often think that’s how sex should be.”
Loaded words like slut, whore and many others can be dangerous and taboo. Dropped improperly, they can ruin the moment and much more. But, if used playfully, the same words can deliver entirely different results. “You’re a slut” and “You’re my slut,” for example, hardly compare.
To navigate this fine line, Calgary marriage counsellor Sig Taylor suggests that you focus on whatever feels genuine. “If it’s not authentic, it’ll feel awkward and unnatural,” he says. To get to a more comfortable place, he suggests that you “take what you’re actually feeling and amplify it. Say ‘I’m crazy attracted to you right now’ or ‘I just love it when you make that sound.’”
But complicating matters is each person’s unique scale of romantic to raunchy, which is always in flux. That you’re always (or ever) perfectly matched just isn’t realistic. “Most couples are different, and that’s a fact,” says Taylor. Mistakes and mismatches are inevitable, so before you storm out in a PC thundercloud, McKay recommends that you consider context and intent and stand your ground if anything’s firmly on your “No” list (um, joystick?) but also be willing to step out of your comfort zone. “Push your boundaries, but don’t push other people’s.”
Your dirty talk cheat sheet is on the next page…
Luckily, and unlike Moore, you’ll probably have more than 30 seconds to suss out your partner’s (dis)tastes. “I always say that phone sex is one of the great listening professions in the world,” she says. You’ll gather clues on where to go if you really listen—and not just with your ears. Body language, demeanour, initial responses and gut reactions are all there for you to read and explore.
Or don’t, says McGrath, as “you can have a perfectly healthy and
sexy relationship without dirty talk.” Mute Mollys among us need not worry, nor should Chatty Cathys. “As long as you and your partner are okay with it, anything goes,” she says. Not to further generalize, but we suspect your man won’t mind one bit. For my efforts, after some back-and-forth slow-tease texts, my fellow immediately jumped into a cab. The results, albeit not perfect on either front, were better than just sexy—they were actually fun.
Remember: A botched zinger is funny, and that’s fine and even good. “Having that bonding moment adds to your experience,” says McKay, remembering one of her own dirty-talk episodes gone wrong, which occurred in her kitchen and which she fondly calls “sexy salad.” Oddly, it does sound kind of hot. “Because laughter is sexy too,” she explains. “This stuff just doesn’t work sometimes. Just strike that statement from the record and move right along.”
YOUR DIRTY TALK CHEAT SHEET
1. Say anything
There are endless varieties of dirty talk floating around, but if you’re blanking out mid-performance, here are some staples to save your scene.
2. Be instructional
“I’m keeping my heels on and you’re gonna like it.” Just as it sounds, and just as easy. “Tell your partner exactly what you want—no embellishments necessary,” says McKay.
3. Reveal recollections
“Remember that time at your parents’ cabin?” If you’re in a long-term anything, you’ve likely got a wealth of material to draw on. “Talk about and describe past hot experiences you had together,” suggests McKay.
4. Be observational
“What did you think of Lovelace?” Luckily, there are subtle and not-so-subtle innuendoes all over this world just waiting for your puns and clever commentary. “Look at the shape of that sculpture!” says Moore.
5. Explain thoughts aloud
“I love it when you kiss my neck.” “If something feels good, say so,” says Taylor. Descriptions of pleasure are a self-fulfilling fantasy.
6. Engage in storytelling
“You’re a stern police officer and I’ve been speeding.” Speaking of fantasies, here’s where anything goes. “You can explore topics and situations with words, even if you’re not willing to explore them in real life,” say McKay.
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