We've all experienced sexual tension at some point, but how do we put that intoxicated craving into words?
Our favorite description of sexual tension is:
"Unfulfilled desire... until it isn't."
Building sexual tension relies on anticipation and imagination. It's created using body language, verbal communication, proximity, and touch, allowing each element to simmer until it reaches exhilarating levels.
For many, sexual tension is at its highest at the beginning of a relationship or during long-distance relationships. It's that 'can't wait to get your hands on them' feeling that can, and often does, dissipate as relationships evolve.
In long-term relationships, it can be the difference between keeping your interest in each other alive while developing the chemistry and connection necessary to retain the essential intimacy in your relationship.
As for new partners and hook-ups, it can create an added potency that boosts the intensity of sexual gratification.
Today, we're going to talk about how to build sexual tension between new acquaintances, long-term partners, and even those who are currently unavailable.
Before we dive into the details, though, there are a few things to remember, as not all of our tips are relevant to every situation.
Be appropriate to where you are in your relationship: There are completely different ways to approach sexual tension between you and your long-term partner and someone you've only just or recently met.
Be sure that the feelings are reciprocal: It's inappropriate to flirt overtly with someone who doesn't like you in the same way. Show caution until you see signs that you're both on the same page.
- Sexual tension can be the act of fun itself and not just a precursor to intense and passionate sex. If the person you desire isn't available or an appropriate option, but there's sexual tension between you (they may be a friend, work colleague, or in a relationship), you can work them into a fantasy to enjoy during your solo sexual pleasure. Alternatively, setting healthy boundaries and moving on to someone more suitable might be a better idea.
Showing respect and common sense should help you stay on the right track, and deploying a few of the following tips may help you learn how to build sexual tension between all kinds of partners.
1. Master Eye Contact
How eye contact can help create sexual tension:
Eye contact is an essential player in building intimacy, so it's a key area where we can build sexual tension.
The power of the human gaze has been shown to induce arousal. One article (in the journal Biological Psychology), Eye contact and arousal: The effects of stimulus duration, states:
Our results suggest that direct gaze, when encountered only briefly, like in every-day social encountering, increases autonomic sympathetic arousal.
How to create sexual tension through eye contact:
- Making repeated casual glances at another person suggests interest.
- Looking into someone's eyes builds intimacy.
- To build tension, maintain eye contact for a few seconds—often, just a little more than feels comfortable.
- Don't stare; instead of creating tension, it makes the other person uncomfortable.
2. Look at Their Lips
How looking at someone's lips can help build sexual tension:
Checking out someone's lips can be considered flirtatious, especially during a conversation. Looking at someone's lips may suggest that you're thinking about what it might be like to kiss them.
How to create sexual tension while looking at someone's lips:
- You can glance at a partner's lips to break eye contact before it feels uncomfortable.
- Looking at someone's lips is a good use of body language.
- Licking your lips can draw attention to your own, delivering subconscious suggestions to your partner.
3. Share personal stories in a flirty way (while being mysterious)
How sharing personal stories can help build sexual tension:
Communication plays a huge part in sexual tension, especially if your partner is female; her most common arousal systems are usually mental and not immediately physical. Being overtly obvious isn't likely to feel sexy to her, so you'll have to work a sexual undertone into the context of your conversations.
How to build sexual tension using personal stories:
- Dropping words like hot, love, sexy, kiss, and flirting into the conversation can trigger associations with sexual activity.
- Tell a story of something a friend or colleague might have done that's sexually adventurous or risky, and finish it with, "Can you imagine doing that?"
- Talk about a favorite or first kiss. Returning to a previous sensual experience can bring the associated feeling of arousal to the surface.
- Talking about kissing can encourage your partner to think about what it could be like to kiss you.
- For those in established relationships, talk about your sexual fantasies to build towards the anticipation of making them a reality.
- Maintain eye contact while telling stories to show you're interested.
4. Work on Your flirting
How flirting can help to create sexual tension:
Flirting isn't always verbal, so don't worry if you're not a natural conversationalist or are nervous about speaking to someone new.
Non-verbal flirting includes light touches, subtle glances, smiles, and eye contact, as well as laughing at their jokes, paying close attention when they speak, and making them feel that you're genuinely interested in them.
Flirting isn't always verbal, so don't worry if you're not a natural conversationalist or are nervous about speaking to someone new.
Grand gestures and playful lines have their place in some situations, but building sexual tension with small compliments can be just as effective. Most sexual tension happens in the mind (before sending physiological messages to the rest of the body), so a few well-placed compliments can kickstart initial sexual desire.
How to build sexual tension by flirting:
- Look at your partner's lips.
- Share caught glances.
- Move closer to them.
- Touch their hands, arms, or back.
To make the most from flirting, this article (from the journal Personality and Individual Differences), The art of flirting: What are the traits that make it effective?, uncovered 47 effective flirting traits, with good non-verbal behavior, intelligence, humor, politeness, self-confidence, cheerfulness, showing romantic intent, a mysterious allure, and having a gentle approach being some of the most effective. If you'd like a rundown on the complete list, The Independent posted all 47 traits here.
Alternatively, the same journal posted another article, What constitutes bad flirting: An explorative study of dealbreakers that uncovers what we shouldn't be doing. The key offenders were a lack of humor, a slimy approach, bad hygiene, vulgar vocabulary, excessive displays of affection, showing a lack of intelligence, and not demonstrating exclusive interest.
5. Take your time and build anticipation
How patience can help build sexual tension:
Looking desperate isn't attractive and is more likely to turn an interested partner off than on. Taking your time to build up the tension is far more likely to deliver the desired results.
In this case, it's quality over quantity, so make your meetings count and ensure you make them the sole focus of your attention.
How to build sexual tension by taking your time:
- Try leaving pauses in the conversation or creating an obvious one as you part company; this can leave a partner wondering what you might have been thinking of saying.
- In existing relationships, another way to build anticipation is to delay sex. Temporarily abstaining from sleeping together gives you more chance to look forward to it and even crave what you're missing.
- Taking your time during foreplay and postponing sex until you can't wait any longer can deliver the passion and hot sex you're hoping for.
Just don't wait too long
Knowing when to tease to create sexual tension and when to act on it is critical. If you leave a partner waiting too long, they could get bored, lose interest, or become frustrated instead of excited.
In established relationships, if you can't wait any longer—don't. If you feel as though you've maximized the sexual tension, it's time to use it. Missing the moment is disappointing for both parties.
6. Delay sex and spend more time on foreplay
How delaying sex can help create sexual tension:
Delaying sex with a partner can help to build sexual tension in committed relationships. If you know it's coming—for example, on a pre-arranged date night or weekend away—it can build anticipation and sexual tension for you both.
After a period of abstinence, rediscovering the joys of physical touch will heighten the sensation as desired, so the longer you spend on foreplay, the greater the sexual tension will build before engaging in sex.
Remember, everything before sex is foreplay—not just what happens in the bedroom.
Be flirty, show attention, listen, and use playful touches and soft strokes throughout the day to show your attraction isn't purely something that happens between the sheets.
Explore their body slowly
Exploring your partner's body with your hands, fingers, mouth, and tongue will build even more sexual tension as you approach sex and the climax.
- Stroke, caress, and tease your partner's most sensitive areas: the neck, ear lobes, nipples, stomach, and inner thighs.
- Women take longer to achieve arousal, so ensure you spend longer building anticipation and sexual tension for her.
- Ask your partner what excites them in bed and their biggest turn-ons. Work those acts into foreplay to create tension and increase sexual tension.
7. Add a few light, lingering touches – or a lot
How light touches can create sexual tension:
We express so much of how we feel using touch, and it's another option we can use to create sexual tension.
Depending on the relationship, touch can range from light grazes, 'accidental' soft touches, or a guiding hand on the small of the back for those developing sexual tension outside of a relationship. For those in established relationships, squeezing hands, strokes, or slaps to the butt, playful pinches, and intimate caresses can help boost sexual interest and build sexual tension.
How to use touch to build sexual tension:
- Allowing a casual touch to linger a little longer than expected—whether it's your hands above or your feet under a table—can send the message that it was more than just friendly.
- Greeting someone with a hug or a kiss on the cheek can show you feel attracted to them and add sexual tension when delivered in the right way.
- Touch their hand and speak softly to trigger physical sensations associated with skin contact.
8. Improve your dirty talk and flirty talk
How dirty talk can help to build sexual tension:
If you don't know the other person too well, flirty talk is more appropriate than dirty talk. If, on the other hand, you're in an established relationship, dirty talk can be used to take sexual tension to the next level.
Psychologist Justin J. Lehmiller, Ph. D., surveyed over 4,000 Americans about their sexual fantasies and found that over 91% admitted that dirty talking was something they'd fantasized about. He discusses why many people find it such a turn-on in an article he wrote for Psychology Today magazine.
His research uncovered that many who practiced the act had more positive attitudes towards thrilling and adventurous sex. However, he sums the piece up by saying,
How to use dirty talk to build sexual tension:
- Find out what each other likes by having a conversation about dirty talking and how you can use it to experience sexual tension.
- Practice some phrases with your partner to get used to saying them. Getting used to that kind of talk can feel awkward if it isn't something you're used to.
- To break into dirty talking, describe what you're doing to your partner as you do it.
- Dirty talking via text or other digital messaging is a great way to build sexual tension when away from your partner.
- While trying to build sexual tension with someone new, try lowering the tone, speed, inflection, and volume of your voice during flirty talk. Slowing your speech will add anticipation while making you appear more confident.
9. Don't overdo it (unless the moment demands it)
We've already mentioned that diving in too deep or too quickly is inappropriate if the feeling isn't reciprocated. Even when you see signals that the feeling is reciprocal, there's a fine balance between just right and too much. To maximize the sexual tension, 'less is more' is a good guideline. If you overwhelm the other person with too much attention, it's more likely to put them off than turn them on.
To maximize the sexual tension, 'less is more' is a good guideline.
However, there are moments when it's a good thing. For example, if you and your partner are on a date night at a restaurant, club, or bar, and those out-of-sight secret touches are amping up the sexual tension, adding more will only serve to build it to its highest levels as the night progresses. Whether you make it home or not before taking full advantage of your rising passion is entirely up to you.
10. Engage in sexting
How sexting builds sexual tension:
As previously mentioned, when it comes to dirty talking, sexting is a great way to build sexual tension while you're apart.
If you and your partner are into the same things and enjoy anticipatory sexual texting, then sending suggestive notes, sexy pictures, or dirty suggestions can make your get-togethers at the end of the day far more intoxicating.
One exploration into sexting revealed how and why college students used sexting to promote their sexual partnerships.
- 85% of the study's participants had had committed relationships.
- 67% of participants in those committed relationships reported they'd sent sexually explicit texts.
- 54% admitted to sending sexually explicit pictures or videos.
The study, Let’s talk about sexting, baby: Computer-mediated sexual behaviors among young adults, explored the different motivations and risks associated with sexting within different relationship contexts.
College students in committed relationships might engage in sexting to sustain intimacy with long-term partners who are physically absent (in military or at another university), whereas those in casual sex relationships—where the relationship is based on sex—might engage in sexting to initiate sex.
There's no doubt that sexting plays its part in modern relationships, and being able to let your partner know they're front and center in your thoughts goes a long way to build sexual tension as long as you're both on the same page at the same time.
How to use sexting to build sexual tension:
- Always respect where you're at in each relationship and what the recipient would accept as flirtatious and not inappropriate.
- It should go without saying—never send dick pics unless your partner has explicitly told you that they enjoy them.
11. Leave love notes
How love notes help to build up sexual tension:
If your partner responds better to romance than more suggestive avenues such as sexting, leaving love notes that they'll stumble upon during the day may work far better for them than sexting.
How to use love notes to build sexual tension:
- Leaving notes will let your partner know you're thinking of them and to see your romantic side.
- Add a little sensual suggestion to the subtext of your notes to move their thoughts from romance to physical contact.
- To build romance, try saying something as simple as, "I can't wait to see you tonight," leaving the 'why' to their imagination.
- To build tension by showing your partner you feel sexually attracted to them, leave a note in their underwear drawer saying, "You look amazing in these."
12. Pause while you talk to build tension
How pauses in conversation build sexual tension:
Leaving gaps in your speech lets your partner absorb what you're telling them. Giving them a few moments for suggestions to sink in or to feel that you're completely focused on them goes a long way when building sexual tension.
A partner may also start to fill those gaps themselves, imagining what you might be thinking about them without you having to say it.
This can add a slight air of mystery around your level of sexual attraction, building tension as you do.
13. Get physically closer to them while you hang out
How moving closer to someone can build up sexual tension:
Moving into someone's personal space is a surefire way to create sexual tension. We all have comfortable physical proximity, and allowing someone else within that space can make us feel vulnerable or excited. If you move into that space without them moving away, it's a great way of feeling more connected to each other.
Becoming emotionally close can be connected to being physically close, as this study, Physical Distance Between Romantic Partners as a Marker for Attachment in Couples, showed:
This study suggests that attachment is not only reflected in cognitions and verbal behaviour, but also in non-verbal behaviour such as physical proximity of romantic partners.
This is important because it is well-known from research that non-verbal communication plays an important role in the appraisal and expression of emotions in the interaction between individuals.
Closing that gap whenever you can will build the connection. And if they move in to get closer, too? You can keep building sexual tension with some light physical contact or whispering softly into their ear.
How to use physical proximity to build sexual tension:
- Try standing closer when talking to each other.
- Move in closer to whisper something in their ear.
- Brush their arm with yours as an introduction to physically teasing them.
We've all felt how amazing the chemistry between two people can be. Whether that's with a long-term partner or someone you barely know, building on that feeling to create sexual tension feels more addictive the more you add to the mix.
Learning how to build sexual tension should become a little simpler following our suggested strategies.
We hope they help to take your chemistry to new levels, ensuring that when you finally get to spend that intensified desire, it will be worth the extra effort you've worked hard to orchestrate.
Seeking to elevate your sexual and intimate experiences?
We put in extensive effort to ensure that each blog post on our site delivers valuable and trustworthy information to our readers. These are our main focus areas:
- Human writing
- Exhaustive research and fact-checking
- Use of Reliable and Reputable Sources
- Collaboration with Experts