I get a number of emails from readers seeking all types of advice for improving their sex lives, and one of the issues that comes up a lot relates to women wondering how they can get their male partners to be more “freaky” in bed. Surprising? Not to me, not exactly. While we often hear and read men making complaints about women being cold in bed, I’ve found that women involved with male sexual partners have legitimate complaints about lackluster lovers too.

What do you when you’ve found someone with an amazing mind, body and chemistry, but you find yourself wanting to give up when it comes to getting down? Here are a few reasons why your lover might be having some trouble, plus a few tips for women and men to encourage them to let loose and let their freak flags fly high.

One reason people struggle with unleashing their full potential in bed is because of Sexual Performance Anxiety. While it’s diagnosed in men more than in women, this type of anxiety can be a damper on anyone’s love life. Some of the symptoms include erectile dysfunction (men) and vaginal dryness (women), decreased libido in both, and anxiety or panic attacks when one is expected to become intimate. Some people who have experienced trauma in the past find it hard to connect to their partners during sex because a certain movement or approach triggers a traumatic memory.

If this is an issue for your partner, the most important thing you can do is give space and be a patient listener. “You want to make your emotional connection take precedence over physical acts,” offers Wendy Maltz, author of The Sexual Healing Journey. The more comfortable your partner feels with you, the more he/she feels you’re safe and trustworthy, the more likely he/she is to open up and fully explore all aspects of his/her sexuality. If your lover’s open to it, you can recommend talking to a therapist who specializes in sex-related traumas. Take it slow, don’t push, and be ready and available when the time becomes right to try new, sexy things.

Another thing getting in the way of you meeting you lover’s freaky alter ego might be physical and experiential insecurity. Body image continues to be a primary source of insecurity for many, and when someone feels uncomfortable being naked, it can cause them to freeze up when you’re trying to make him/her melt. Let your lover know that s/her is sexy to you, pour on the compliments, and sexily touch the parts that s/he is most insecure about. Your licks might encourage their licks, and it can progress from there.

Some partners feel they won’t be good enough because they’ve not had a great deal of experience or they’ve been insulted in the past. For men, size usually matters more than to their partners, so they might need some reassurance in that area. Maybe his ex-girlfriend made him feel inadequate, but he is the perfect size for you. Let him know different… with your lips.

For women, comparisons to porn stars might make them feel like their throats aren’t deep enough or their legs are flexible enough. On the other hand, women especially have been shamed into not showing off too much—because being too experienced must mean she is some kind of “slut.” When you notice hesitation, jump in and inject some frisky aggression to let her know that all those naughty things she has in her freaky bag of tricks are perfectly welcome in your bed. 

Finally, too many people have greatly unrealistic expectations. We expect men to spring to arousal immediately and be able to dominantly display bold sexual moves with authority. We expect women to be dripping wet, panting, and willing to take anything given to them. We definitely have unrealistic expectations about orgasms.

Having unrealistic expectations about sex can make you feel like all of your sex is lacking. And if you project that onto your partner, it would be no wonder that s/he is nervous about showing you what s/he’s working with. Despite the differences in your past experiences, you’re here now, together, and that’s what matters the most. After a few minutes and some practice, an establishment of safety and trust, you might just find yourself being taken on the sexiest ride of your life.

Feminista Jones is a sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger from New York City. She writes about gender, race, politics, mental health and sexuality at FeministaJones.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FeministaJones.