People are interested in having sex for many different reasons and the definition of “great sex” varies from person to person (and changes over time). And when two people in a relationship want different things out of sex, open communication is the key to finding out what the other wants. To help couples discuss and work through their differences, licensed sex therapist Vanessa Marin defined several unique sex personality types.
“The idea of it is to help open up a conversation between partners so they can understand themselves better, understand each other better, and figure out how to have the kind of sex that’s going to feel really amazing and fun for both of them,” she says.
Marin says she got the idea to define sex personality types from working with some of her clients. “I realized that two people could be talking about their sex life together, but it really felt like they were talking about completely different things,” she says. “I started thinking a lot about what is it that we’re looking to experience with sex as humans, how we define great sex, and that means to each of us.”
Marin’s model includes 11 different sex personality types. Of course, one person might may feel aligned with two or three of the sex personality types—but Marin says that typically there’s a primary motivator that explains what they’re looking to get out of sex. When two people in a relationship know each other’s sex personality types, they can help find ways to incorporate both of their wants and needs.
“It might be that one night you’re having partner A’s type of sex and then maybe the next time you’re going to have partner B’s type,” she says. “Or in a single night you might start off with partner A’s style, and then transition into partner B’s. There are lots of like creative ways to play around with it.” Another fun thing to do with your sex personality types is role playing, she says. “Even if you feel like, ‘Yeah, I’m definitely not a giver,’ you could try just having a night where you role play being a giver, and seeing what that feels like.”
While some sex personality types play together better than others, Marin says no pairing is totally incompatible as long as there’s open communication. Read through the following sex personality types with your partner to start the conversation free of judgment.
11 sex personality types, according to a sex therapist
1. The Decompresser
You know that light-as-a-feather feeling you get after an orgasm? That’s what the decompressor is after. “Sex for the decompressor is all about the stress relief,” says Marin. “It feels like you let go of everything from the day.” While decompressers tend to focus on the end goal, they should be sure to stay in the moment both during and after sex. “Sometimes partners of decompressers complain that they feel like their partner isn’t really there. And sometimes decompressers can be so like blissed out after sex that they wind up sort of tuning out their partners,” she says. In this case, the decompressor can miss opportunities for connection with their partner.
2. The Explorer
“Explorers really use sex as an adult playground, and a way to just play, and experiment, and try new things.” she says. “It’s not that the experiments need to go perfectly well or everything needs to be super hot and sexy. It’s more that they’re looking for that sense of playfulness in the bedroom, that there’s not a set routine that you’re following every single time.” The downside is that if the “flirty flamingo” doesn’t work out on the first try, the explorer won’t instinctively want to take the time to practice and get better at it. “They’re kind of just like always on to the next thing and the newest thing.” Take time to keep trying and you may zero in on something you and your partner really enjoy.
3. The Fair-Trader
“The fair trader just really wants the experience between the partners to feel even,” says Marin. “There’s a very even reciprocal exchange of energy, and time, and attention.” If you’re a fair trader, be mindful to not get too fixated on the even exchange. “The reality is sex is very rarely completely fair in the moment,” says Marin.
4. The Giver
“For the giver, the most important aspect of sex is really that sense of being able to give to your partner,” she says. “Givers are really tuned in their partner’s experience, and they want to make sure that their partner is really enjoying themselves.” As much as you want to give, make sure that you’re not giving to the detriment of your own experience. “They may find it hard to receive or to be tuned into their own experience, because they’re so focused on ‘is my partner enjoying themselves.’ ”
5. The Guardian
“The most important thing for the guardian is that sex needs to feel safe,” says Marin. “Guardians really like having a foundation of trust, security, and connection with their partners.” A major challenge for guardians is that a lot of them don’t realize that they’re guardians, and may judge themselves for not wanting sex as easily or often as their partner. “Some guardians are sexual abuse survivors, and because they’ve had these really negative experiences with sex, they’re really looking for sex to feel safe with clearly defined boundaries,” says Marin. This can also occur for those with negative beliefs, shame, or embarrassment around sex. “All they need is that that foundation of really feeling secure and in control to make sex feel more open and enjoyable.”
6. The Passion-Pursuer
“The passion-pursuer really wants sex to feel very intense, really all encompassing,” says Marin. “Just really wants to have that sense of losing themselves in the moment.” As much as sex can be over-the-top passionate, Marin says to remember that sex can sometimes be silly and playful, or pretty straightforward, and that’s okay. “Sometimes it’s a Tuesday night at 11 p.m.,” she says. “Yeah, I want to have an orgasm, but I don’t have the energy for having it be this really intense overwhelming experience.”
7. The Pleasure-Seeker
Simple pleasures. For the pleasure-seeker, sex is all about the “pure physical pleasure of the act itself,” says Marin. “It’s not about the energy, it’s not about the connection between the partners, it’s just ‘I want to have my orgasm, and feel good, and be done with it.’” If the idea of sex being anything more than for pleasure is a bit mind boggling for you, keep in mind that your partner might be looking for more out of the experience, and find ways to meet their needs, she says.
8. The Prioritizer
“For the prioritizer, it’s really important for them to feel like sex is a priority in the couples life,” says Marin. “They want to know that despite however busy you might get, however tired you might be, whatever other responsibilities you have going on in your life, they really want to feel like both partners are making an active, concerted effort to create the time and space for intimacy.” Some prioritizers really like to scheduling sex. Try not to be too rigid; inevitable life complications do come up and get in the way.
9. The Romantic
Romantic sex is all about the emotional connection between partners, says Marin. “The romantic really tunes into the energy exchange and wants it to feel like there’s true intimacy,” she says. Romantics aren’t really into casual sex or one-night stands. Similar to the passion-pursuer, romantics should open up to the idea that sex doesn’t always need to look like it’s straight off of the pages of a romance novel. “Sometimes, there’s just so much of an emphasis on ‘I want sex to be this way and have this kind of intense energy,’ that that sometimes they can struggle with having other flavors of sex,” she says.
10. The Spiritualist
Spiritualists take sex to a higher level. “For spiritualists, sex in a way to connect to some sort of higher power or energy,” says Marin. “It’s about a greater connection, so the energy flow between partners and within partners is really really important. It’s about feeling like sex serves some sort of higher purpose.” Some spiritualists might be really into like Eastern philosophies like Tantra. Those who relate to this sex personality type should be open to the idea that sex doesn’t always have to serve a higher purpose, she says.
11. The Thrill-Seeker
Like the explorer, the thrill-seeker longs to experiment. But the thrill-seeker is also looking for that element of taboo. “If there’s something that feels naughty, feels forbidden, it feels like you’re not supposed to do it, that really gets the thrill seeker going.” Thrill-seekers have to make sure their respecting their partner’s boundaries and setting some of their own. “Some thrill seekers are actually really great at this, especially people who are established members of the kink community, and they’re really educated about enthusiastic consent and setting guidelines, and boundaries, and playing safely.”
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