If you haven’t heard this one before, “starfish” is a term used to describe someone who is passive when it comes to sex. How passive? Well, picture a starfish on the shore. Now swap the sandy shores for a bed and imagine someone splayed there like a starfish… you get the idea.

This word is often prefaced with “hot girl” (or “hot guy”), because those who are usually guilty of it are overly-reliant on their looks, and so aren’t as active in bed. While we’re all for doing whatever makes you feel good, it’s no fun to be on the receiving end.

“With my ex, it was like she thought she just had to show up and get naked. She would lie on the bed, sometimes with her eyes closed and wait for me to do things,” writes one Reddit user. “It made me feel bad enough to cause fights between us and was a major reason for our eventual breakup.” Uh oh.

The art of switching it up

There are no rules when it comes to sex, except for one: communication is key. Once, after way too many glasses of chardonnay, a girlfriend confessed to me that she – gasp – used to be a starfish in bed, and that she was blissfully unaware of it until her long-term boyfriend pointed it out. “I just liked putting my hands beside my head because I didn’t really know what to do with them,” she said.

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘oh no, am I a starfish?’, relax. The last thing you want is yet another thing to feel self-conscious about in bed. Instead of worrying about how you’re performing between the sheets, think about what’s making you feel good and make sure your partner knows it too. Forget scrolling online for some new, acrobatic position. Breaking out of the starfish can be as easy as just opening your mouth and making some noise. Here are some tips from clinical sexologist Dr Martha Lee on how to be more vocal in bed.

  1. Start with the aim of making some noise

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    It doesn’t have to be dirty talk. It can be something simple, like “ahhh”, “oooh”, or “mmm”. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can move on to actual words, like “harder”, “that’s nice”, or “I like that”.
  2. If you don’t like something, change it

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    Whether it’s switching positions or changing the angles, let your partner know if something isn’t working for you. After all, sex is a two-way street – it’s not fun if only one person is enjoying it! 
  3. Ask for what you want

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    “Once you get more comfortable with being verbal, you can practice asking for what you want,” says Dr Lee. Try saying any of these: “I’d really like it if you…”, “How about if we try…”, or “I wonder how it’ll feel if…”