What’s Your Sexual Initiation Style? There Are At Least 6 Different Types

By Dr. Justin Relationships sexual initiation style

In the early stages of a relationship, when the sparks are really flying, sex usually comes easy. Those intense feelings of passion can make it hard to keep your hands off one another, which can prompt mutual arousal between sexual partners and create opportunities aplenty.

However, as the intensity of that passion wears down over time (which, by the way, is totally normal and not a sign that the relationship has run its course), sexual initiation can become a pain point. The sex no longer just happens and, instead, starts to require a bit more effort. Someone needs to take the lead and initiate it.

And that’s where the trouble with sex begins. Initiating sex requires putting yourself in a position of vulnerability because it’s possible that your partner might say no. Unfortunately, this kind of no is often interpreted as rejection and taken personally.

“Is my partner no longer attracted to me?” “Am I doing something wrong sexually?”

When a partner turns down your initiation attempt, it’s important not to let your thoughts spiral or allow the situation to blow up into a major conflict. It’s to be expected that you and your partner won’t always be in the mood for sex at the same time, and that’s okay.

However, when this starts to become a recurring issue—that is, when initiation attempts are usually or always turned down, and this has been going on for months—it’s time for a sexual check-in. It’s important to address this type of sexual activity issue early on before it turns into a bigger problem.

There could be any number of reasons why someone consistently turns down a partner’s initiation attempts. Maybe they’re going through a very stressful life period. Perhaps they have a health issue or sexual difficulty they haven’t disclosed. Or maybe they’re depressed.

Oftentimes, however, what’s happening here is simply that the partners have different sexual initiation styles. And when that’s the case, certain initiation attempts may be turning your partner off. But if initiation of sexual activity is approached in a different way, your partner might be turned on instead.

Thus, by getting a handle on how each person likes sex to be initiated, you’re likely to start encountering more yesses than nos.

So, what’s your initiation style? Let’s consider the six main types, as identified by sex therapist Vanessa Marin in her recent book Sex Talks.


how to start sex


1. The Slow Burn (a.k.a. “Excite Me”) 

To feel desire for sex, you need there to be a lot of anticipation and excitement that builds over time. A request for sex out of the blue is unlikely to make you want to hop into bed. Instead, you want some kind of prelude to sex that plays out over a period of hours or perhaps even days. Maybe that’s a long romantic evening peppered with flirty banter, knowing glances, and sensual touch. Or maybe it’s scheduled sex, where the sex is preceded by a few days of naughty notes and sexts.

2. The Caretaker (a.k.a. “Take Care of Me”) 

 To feel desire for sex, you don’t need to be seduced—you need to be taken care of. You find that it’s usually difficult to relax and get in the mood because there’s so much on your mental to-do list. What really gets you going is when your partner does some nice things for you (to put this another way, it’s kind of like the “acts of service” Love Language). For example, this might involve your partner drawing a warm bath for you after a long day while they check off a few things from your list. This can give you the time you need to get in the right headspace for sex.   

3. Let’s Have Some Fun (a.k.a. “Play with Me”) 

 It turns you on when your partner is playful with you. You want a partner who can make you laugh. Humor can be an aphrodisiac on multiple levels. For example, an inside joke that only you and your partner share can prompt feelings of connection. Humor is also an effective way of cutting tension and reducing stress—plus, it can be a reflection or reminder of other attractive traits in your partner, such as their intelligence or creativity.   

4. Wanting To Be Wanted (a.k.a. “Desire Me”) 

 To want sex, you need to feel wanted. You want your partner to show how irresistibly attracted they are to you. This can be accomplished through words (such as compliments) and actions (such as a spontaneous kiss) that not only show that your partner wants you—but they want you right now. You may find it especially arousing when your partner is a little assertive or show some urgency in their actions, such as pushing you against the wall, putting their hands all over you, and giving you an intense kiss.    

5. Let’s Talk (a.k.a. “Connect with Me”) 

The thing that gets you in the mood is emotional connection. Before getting physical, you need some intimacy. What really gets you going is spending lots of quality time together with your partner and having intimate talks. The biggest aphrodisiac is feeling that you and your partner are completely attuned to one another and in the moment together.    

6. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (a.k.a. “Touch Me”) 

 For you, sexual initiation is communicated through touch, not words. You need physical touch to awaken your body. This might include a back or shoulder massage, a long make-out session, or cuddling. Spontaneous sex might be appealing to you as long as that element of touch is present in abundance.  

Note that you (or your partner) may see yourself as having more than one of these initiation styles. Further, your initiation style may very well change over time. In other words, these factors aren’t set in stone, which is why it’s important for sex to be an ongoing topic of conversation in your relationship and for adaptability to be your sexual superpower.

your partner's sex style


What To Do When You and Your Partner Have Different Initiation Styles 

If one of you is the slow burn type (and often likes sex to be planned) while the other wants to be wanted (and often likes spontaneous sex), it’s easy to see how initiation attempts by either party might miss the mark in this case.

Therefore, it’s important to start by understanding what each of you wants and enjoys when it comes to initiating sex. Then, make an effort to enact your partner’s preferred style to have a more fulfilling sexual life.

This tends to work best when each partner has the motivation to meet the other person where they are sexual. In psychology, this is known as sexual communal strength. This concept is about being willing to take turns prioritizing one another’s sexual needs and wants.

This doesn’t mean ignoring your own wants or that you should agree to do things you really don’t want to do; rather, it means taking turns trying new things and new sexual practices that you know will make your partner happy.

Research finds that couples who possess sexual communal strength tend to be the happiest in the bedroom and in their relationships overall.

long term relationship sex



In long-term relationships, it’s common for partners to struggle with sexual initiation the longer they’ve been together. As passion wanes, initiation can take a little work. If your initiation attempts aren’t landing, step back and have a conversation. 

The solution for a stronger sexual life often resides in the fact that different people may have very different initiation styles, meaning they may be turned on by completely different things.

Take some time to think about your own sexual initiation style. What works for you? What really gets you going? Then, do a sexual check-in with your partner to learn about their style. 

Armed with this information, you can work together and take turns to ensure that each of you can get what it is that you want and need so that you can get the sexual flame burning once again. 



Marin, V. (2023). Sex Talks: The Five Conversations That Will Transform Your Love Life. Simon and Schuster. 

Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2015). Good, giving, and game: The relationship benefits of communal sexual motivation. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(2), 164-172.