You’re in bed. You’re naked. She’s naked. You’ve been crushing your kettlebells lately, and she seems to have noticed, because her hands are all over you. Oh yeah, you’re feeling good. You’re about to do some sex. But then she says it—the phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned sex-havers. “Talk dirty to me.”
Enough people are anxious about dirty talk that the phobia has a name: sexual communication apprehension (or “SCA,” if you’re a scientist or if your apprehension is so severe that even the word “sexual” gives you sweaty palms). Your level of SCA is closely tied to your sexual self-esteem: A 2012 study showed that the more confidence you have in yourself as a sexual person, the more comfortable you’ll be not just with dirty talk, but with all kinds of sexual communication. The study even showed that men with higher sexual self-esteem have a much easier time discussing birth control and STDs.
The relationship between sexual self-esteem and dirty talk goes both ways, though: The more confident you are, the easier dirty talk is for you; the more you deploy dirty talk the more confident you’ll seem. Fake it ‘till you make it. Here’s what to say:
“I want to fuck you.”
In porn, men are always talking about the really gnarly things they want to do to women: “I want to ruin your pussy.” Maybe that’s not on-brand for you. Maybe you’re more of a lover than a pussy-ruiner, and calling someone a “dirty little whore” or telling them you want to come all over their chest makes you uncomfortable. In that case, just say “fuck” a lot. You don’t even have to be specific about where or how you want to fuck someone, you can just say “I want to fuck you.” You can even just say the word “fuck” over and over, and it will make you sound passionate and confident.
“You look amazing.”
Compliments count as dirty talk. If you’re at a loss for what to say, just zero in on a feature of your partner’s body—her boobs, for example—and compliment it. As you get more comfortable talking during sex, you can graduate to telling her what you want to do to that body part, but start by saying that you like it. You can up the ante by throwing a “fuck” in there, as in “You look so fucking amazing.” Particularly before you know what kind of dirty talk she’s into, a compliment is a safe bet. Bonus: Research suggests that giving a compliment can boost your self-esteem and lower your stress level, which in turn will make it easier for you to talk dirty.
“Tell me how much you love it when I _______”
If even the rudimentary phrases above stress you out, fear not: There’s an easy way to deflect the burden of dirty talk. In my experience, the people who want you to talk dirty during sex also get off on hearing their own voices. So ask your partner a non-yes-or-no question (“How bad have you been today?”) or ask them to “tell you” something (“Tell me how much you want me to fuck you.”) Then just sit back and let them talk themselves into an orgasm.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health