Sex Menu: A Beginner's Guide

Published on
Sex Menu: A Beginner's Guide


Whether you’re hooking up with a new partner or are in a long-term relationship, sexual communication is essential. This is doubly true when you are in a sexual relationship that includes dominant/submissive dynamics. That said, many folks, even (and sometimes especially) in long-term partnerships, struggle to communicate openly and effectively about sex.

That’s why we are talking about one of the most powerful tools in your sexual communication arsenal, a sex menu. We’ll look at what exactly a sex menu is, how you can benefit from having one, and how exactly you go about making one. So get ready to learn all about what might be the most helpful guide you’ll ever find on your sexual pleasure journey. Get ready to learn about sex menus!  


What is a sex menu?

It sounds like a cutesy take on a restaurant menu with a selection of sex acts to choose from, but that’s not actually correct. What a sex menu entails is a list of sexual interests and/or BDSM activities. Each person goes through and rates their interest in each activity. This can help you filter out things neither of you are interested in, zero in on things you both want to do, and maybe discover new stuff you never knew you were both curious about. 

Sometimes a sex menu is referred to as a “sex act menu,” a “desire list,” or a “yes, no, maybe list.” They are often made in the form of spreadsheets which can make filtering easier and some ready-made templates are available online to get you started. 


4 benefits of a sex menu

So why might you want to make a sex menu? Can’t you just have conversations about sex stuff? Well, you could but many folks aren't vocal about their sexual repertoire or the different things that bring them to orgasm. A sex menu outlines each approved sexual activity that can feel pleasurable for you or your partner. Here are my four favorite benefits of a Sex Menu.

1.Communication made easy

Good communication is vital in sexual relationships in general, and that is extra true about sexual relationships that involve power exchanges like dom/sub relationships. Although, it’s hard to talk about sex stuff for a lot of individuals. Even for sex- positive adults, it takes some time to get comfortable being sexually open about a new kink or sexual desire. There’s awkwardness around saying the words. There’s the fear of rejection by a partner thinking you are a huge deviant pervert or even gender-specific stuff like AMAB (assigned male at birth) folks who worry about seeming coercive or AFAB (assigned female at birth) folks who have been told they shouldn’t be interested in any of this. 

A sex menu, though, especially if you start with a template someone else has created, permits you  to discuss new ideas and acts. It can take away some of the stigmas because you feel less like the ONLY ONE who wants this thing. Basically, the list opens the communication door for you!


2. Explore new things

Having a whole list of different sexual activities in front of you (and your partner) is bound to result in there being some things that one or both of you have never considered or even heard of before, and that’s exciting! 

This is true about anyone starting with a sex menu, but especially true for folks kicking off their BDSM exploration. Take some time to go through the list and look up things you are unfamiliar with. It’s a fun opportunity to broaden your horizons and discover new things you want to try or learn about new boundaries you definitely don’t want to cross. Either way, your sex life will be richer for it. 


3. Establish trust

Sexual relationships require trust, especially  when you get into the BDSM play that a dom and sub might engage in as they can be a bit more intense than typical sexual interactions. In BDSM, folks use the acronym SSC for Safe, Sane, and Consensual as a guidepost. A sex menu can help with that. Explore some more tips on BDSM to start your journey.

We’ve already talked about the importance of communication, and when we talk about consent, we see why explicit communication is so important. How we are taught to engage with sex involves not communicating and barreling ahead until someone says “no.” This is not the best formula for trusting, consensual interactions. With a sex menu, you get to put in writing, “I’m into this,” then you can discuss it, then check back in on it. By starting the conversation, a sex menu helps build the trust that keeps your play safe, sane, and consensual. 


3. Play safely with your partner

I advise choosing a sex menu template that leaves an area for communicating about medical conditions, allergies, etc. If you have asthma, hypermobile joints or an allergy, the middle of an intense BDSM scene is not the time for anyone to discover that. Sure, a sex menu makes it easy for you to stay on the same page regarding consent and emotional safety. But it's also a great opportunity to make sure you are keeping track of what keeps each other physically safe, and there is no downside to that. 

Bonus: Do you know there are certain forms of aftercare you need when a scene is done? Put it in the document!


How to create a sex menu for doms and subs

Ready to create a sex menu? Great! TBH, you could open up a spreadsheet and create one from scratch, but we live in the future and you don’t need to do that. A quick Google search will bring up a ready-made template, even in a format like Google Sheets, which is super easy to share. 



You’ll notice most sex menus have 4 main sections:

  • Column 1: a list of sex acts and adult sex toys
  • Column 2: a score for each act (more on that in a moment)
  • Column 3: notes on each act/feelings on your score, etc
  • Bottom: This is where you would put any medical conditions, boundaries or hard limits, aftercare preferences or any other things you want your partner to know


There are lots of different ways to score these lists. You can choose one or make up your own. Here are two examples:

  • Traffic light (alternately “yes, no, or maybe”): 
    • Green for YES 
    • Yellow for maybe/interested
    • Red for NO
  • 1 to 5: 
    • 1. NO
    • 2. Not now
    • 3. Ambivalent 
    • 4. Curious 
    • 5. Want to do this 

Again, you can totally make up your own scale too. Choose whatever feels like it will best facilitate the conversation between you and your partner.


Things to know about making a sex menu

So now you are ready to fill out your menu, here’s some stuff to keep in mind:

  • Do it alone: Take the pressure off by not filling these out in front of each other. 
  • You have to be totally truthful: You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask. On the other hand, if you start marking that you are interested in things because you feel like you “should” be even though you aren’t, you will have to deal with that. Just be honest. 
  • Your answers are only about you: If you are a hypersensitive people pleaser like me, you might be tempted to go through your list thinking, "Well, I know my partner likes _____” but DON’T DO IT. Like we said above, this only works if you are honest about what is true for YOU. 
  • Enjoy yourself! This is meant to make your sex life more fun, so take it seriously but stay playful.

Once you have a sex menu

When your menu is filled in, you are ready to talk about it. Find a distraction free time to talk in a neutral (aka not the bedroom) environment. Remember that you may be interested in different stuff, and that’s okay. Be open, honest, and curious.You may find that even the things you feel differently about have some common ground that you both enjoy. You might not want to do one activity but be into another that satisfies the same desires.

Hold on to your menus and revisit them occasionally to see if any preferences have changed (sometimes they do!) and to stay on the same page about what you enjoy. 



Whether you are just dating or building a trusting dom/sub relationship, a sex menu is an incredibly useful tool to spark communication, keep your play safe and ensure everyone gets what they want. Filling one out can seem daunting, but approaching it with nonjudgmental curiosity can bring you and your partner closer together. 

Has your sex menu got you hungry to explore? PinkCherry is here to help! With a huge selection featuring everything from bondage gear to luxury sex toys, we have everything you need to bring your sex menu to life!


Related Products

Back To PinkCherry Blog Blog

Written By: JoEllen Notte

JoEllen Notte is a writer, speaker, sex educator, and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead as well as for Glamour, The BBC, Bitch, PsychCentral, and more. JoEllen is the author of The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression, and the Conversations We Aren’t Having.