How to Initiate Intimacy: Tips for Men

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Models" by Mark Manson . Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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If the date is going well, how do you take things further physically? What are some things you should keep in mind when initiating intimacy with a woman?

The most important thing to know when it comes to initiating physical intimacy is consent. You can start with slight touches that aren’t overtly sexual, and if she is receptive, escalate from there.

Here are some tips on how to initiate intimacy without appearing pushy.

Navigating the Intimacy Stage

Women are turned on by being wanted. Therefore, it’s essential that you demonstrate how much you want her by touching her. So take the lead and push forward unless she asks you to slow down or stop (or is clearly incapable of doing so because she’s incapacitated in some way). 

Manson recommends that you start touching her during the conversation stage. Start by touching the outer edge of her body (like her shoulder), and pay attention to how she responds. If she’s smiling a lot, looking at you, and putting herself nearer to you than she needs to be, she’s likely into you.

(Shortform note: When should you start touching a woman if you met her online (and thus skipped the pre-date conversation stage)? Experts warn against touching her too sexually on the first date, as this may make her think that you’re overly touchy and promiscuous. Instead, touch her slightly—for example, touch her lower back gently to guide her, but avoid wrapping your arm around her waist. And, as Manson says, pay attention to her reaction, since women differ on whether or not they like being touched on a first date: If she’s smiling a lot, looking at you, and putting herself close to you, she may like you, but that doesn’t guarantee that she wants to be touched.) 

The next step is to kiss her. Manson explains that if she’s interested, she’ll likely touch you or purposefully manipulate the situation so that you’re alone together (such as suggesting that you get some air and leaving her friends in the bar). That said, men are mostly oblivious to female signals of desire—so if you do perceive that she’s open to you kissing her, she’s likely sent you several signals already and so you should just kiss her. When you kiss her, be gentle and caress the rest of her body as well. And if she turns the kiss down, ask why—she may not be ready or she may merely be uncomfortable with your location. 

How to Initiate Intimacy: Get Enthusiastic Consent 

Many modern daters operate on the principle of enthusiastic consent. This means that you assume that the answer is no unless she tells you yes (unlike Manson, who operates on the assumption that the answer is yes unless she tells you no). When you’re operating under the principle of enthusiastic consent, interpreting your date’s body language and cues (such as when she touches you or purposefully ensures that you’re alone together) is still important because it helps you decide whether to pursue the next step. However, when pursuing the next step, you must gain verbal consent prior to initiating that step instead of going ahead and then stopping only if you perceive that she’s uncomfortable.

How can you gain enthusiastic consent and demonstrate how much you desire your date without making things awkward? Experts recommend that you ask assertively (instead of pausing or hesitating) and without interrupting whatever you’re currently doing. For example, if you’re massaging her shoulders, ask during the massage to kiss her by saying, “I want to kiss you,” rather than, “Um, I was wondering, if I could, um, kiss you.” 

Finally, escalate kissing into sex. Manson suggests that you start by touching her breasts—if she’s enthused, she likely is willing to have sex. To be good in bed, Manson suggests that you do three things. First, during foreplay, create anticipation, which will heighten her arousal: For example, brush your fingers against her nipples before pinching them. Second, dominate her: Giving up control turns women on. Try physically moving her around or talking explicitly about what you’re doing. Finally, communicate with her: Be open about what you like or dislike, and learn to laugh if things go awry. The better your communication, the more intimate you’ll feel—and the better sex you’ll have.  

What Other Experts Say About Having Good Sex 

Experts differ on the effectiveness of Manson’s recommendations. In She Comes First, Ian Kerner agrees that anticipation is essential for women to feel arousal and that touching her breasts and nipples can put her in the mood for sex. However, he recommends that you start building this anticipation before you start touching each other, such as by dropping hints throughout the day with sexy messages. 

Similarly, while experts agree that many women like to be dominated, they suggest that the turn-on lies not in the losing of control but the gaining of it: In everyday life, women tend to fill specific societal roles, and surrendering control in the bedroom allows them to regain control of what role they want to play. Experts also warn against trying to dominate a woman by physically moving her or talking explicitly unless you gain clear consent first, as otherwise, you may risk damaging your relationship. 

Finally, experts agree that communication and a sense of humor are essential to good sex: Studies suggest that couples who communicate about sex enjoy sex more. That said, be careful how you laugh during sex—laugh with your partner, not at them.
How to Initiate Intimacy: Tips for Men

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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