Is there anything more terrifying than when someone pulls a Jason Derulo and asks ‘talk dirty to me?’ No matter how into it you are at the time, as soon as those fated words are uttered, your mouth dries up and you spiral into a vortex of panic. ‘What do I say? What do they want me to say? What if I embarrass myself? What if they get offended? I can’t!’

To make matters worse, dirty talk is no longer resigned to whispered conversations between the sheets. Dating apps and social media have changed the way we flirt. When a potential Tinder match asks your to talk dirty, there’s nowhere to hide. In the cold light of day, you need to bring your A game.

But don’t dismiss it just yet. Dirty talk is an underestimated part of our sexual lives and definitely worth trying out. Not only does erotic dialogue stimulate the brain and get the juices flowing, but it also helps to create intimacy between you and your partner and has been proven to enhance people’s sex lives.

Follow these dos and don’ts to talking dirty and learn the secrets to the skill that will have your partner begging for more.

Do: try solo dirty talk

Dirty talk is a skill and, like any new skill, it takes practice and patience to truly master it. When you first start out, you’ll probably feel a bit clumsy and awkward. That’s normal and totally fine. But there’s one problem with that: when you’re trying to impress your partner and heat things up, there’s nothing quite like blundering, bumbling and off-key dirty talk to ruin the moment. The solution? Go solo.

Talking dirty to yourself may sound ridiculous, but it works. Practicing, while alone, takes away the pressure that comes from wanting to impress someone. In privacy, you can play with language, sound out ideas and push the boundaries of your sexiest, kinkiest fantasies — without judgement. Plus, if you can get yourself going, chances are, you’ll get your partner going too.

Do: learn from the masters of erotica

We’re not all wordsmiths, armed with the most tantalising phrases that will drive our partners wild. So borrow from the masters! Erotica is pre-packaged dirty talk and it’s the perfect ice-breaker when you’re first starting out. All you need is a good piece of erotica and a little bravery. Whether it’s some classic Anaïs Nin or Fifty Shades of Grey, open it up and read aloud to your partner. As you pass the book back and forth, not only will you get each other going, but you’ll also start to get comfortable with saying dirty words out loud. And if you feel awkward and flushed? The book doubles up as something to hide behind — bonus!

Do: say what you want

Okay, so you’ve tried talking dirty to yourself and you’ve even recruited some help from the experts. Now you’re ready to delve right into the alluring world of dirty talk. But where should you begin? To kick things off with a sultry bang, tell your partner what you want and how it would make you feel. Draw on what you know feels good and what secret fantasies you’ve always wanted to indulge. If you’ve already had sex, draw on previous sessions. Using phrases such as ‘I want you to do this to me, like the last time you did’ or ‘I loved it when you did this to me — do it again’ is bound to get your partner going. If you haven’t slept together before, draw on the delicious things you would like to do with them — ‘I would love to know what it would feel like to have you do this to me’.

Do: get descriptive

The language of sex is rich and full of potential. If you’re stuck with what to say, engage your senses. We’re not just talking about touch and sight, but scent, sound and taste too. Sex is a multi-sensory experience, so don’t limit your language to what you can see and feel.

Get descriptive and if you’re struggling to engage your imagination, start off by telling your partner when you like what they’re doing to you. Giving real-time feedback may not sound sexy, but describing what you or your partner are doing and how it makes you feel will only turn you both on even more. Sometimes it’s the simple things that are the most effective.

Don’t: ignore your partner’s limits

Every person is different. What gets one person off can deeply offend another. That’s the danger with dirty talk: there’s a fine line between being sexy and just being, well, dirty. Nowhere is this truer than with swear words. Some people love them, but, for others, they completely ruin the mood. As an example, some people like to be called a “bitch” in the bedroom, while for others, it’s a major sign of disrespect. And let’s not even get started on the numerous different ways of describing genitals.

The only ways to make sure you don’t miss the mark are to read the situation and know your partner. If you’re not sure whether you might offend them, there’s nothing wrong with having a candid conversation about what your partner likes, what turns them on and, more importantly, what turns them off. In fact, we encourage it — the ability to be honest with and trust your partner completely is the vital foundation of any sexual relationship.

Don’t: play the pornstar

When talking dirty, it’s tempting to adopt a persona. There’s nothing wrong with that and you may even fall into a character as you go along. But unfortunately, all too often, we feel the pressure to act like a pornstar in the bedroom. Putting on a deep, throaty voice and saying things you’re not entirely sure what they even mean just comes across as inauthentic. Don’t forget, pornstars are professionals who are trying to appeal to a broad audience. You, on the other hand, are with your partner and are engaging in an intimate moment. If they wanted generic, breathless sexy soundbites, they’d just call a sex line.

Nothing is sexier than confidence, so don’t be afraid to be yourself, however clumsy or silly you might be. When it comes to dirty talk, there is no perfect tone — joking, naughty, innocent, teasing — they all work. But the tone that will work best for you is the one that reflects who are and the one you’re most comfortable with.

Don’t: jump right into the deep end

Dirty talk is just another way of communicating with your partner. That’s why it’s such an essential part of your shared sex life. Don’t force yourself to get geared up and declare your most secret, repressed sexual fantasies right from the off. Think about it, conversations develop over the course of a relationship. On a first date, you typically avoid certain polarising topics — politics, religion, your borderline obsessive stalking of your ex on Facebook (your secret’s safe with us) — in favour of something lighter. As your relationship progresses, you open up a little more and feel more comfortable sharing your more divisive ideas and opinions. The same applies to dirty talk. There’s no reason to feel compelled to get into the smuttiest talk you can imagine. Take it slow, build it up and start off with simple compliments. Once you’ve mastered that, you can graduate into the wilder stuff.

Do: have fun with it

Dirty talk, just like sex, should be fun. There’s no rule that you have to smoulder your way through a sexy session, pouting and occasionally biting your lip. Sometimes, that might be exactly what you want and it works. But, sex can also be funny. You may say something out loud only to realise how stupid it is. Your partner might suggest something that tickles you. There’s no need to stifle your laughter. One of the joys of sex is being able to laugh at these things together — the awkward fumbles, the ridiculous sounds — just enjoy the moment and make sure you’re not laughing at each other. Have fun, have a giggle and don’t take it so seriously!

Now you know the unspoken rules of dirty talk, go out and give it a go. Just remember that talking dirty is supposed to be enjoyable, so never feel pressured to say or do anything you’re not comfortable with. Keep it sexy, keep it creative, and keep it you! When you do that, we promise you and your partner will love it!