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Top Three: a simple game for starting sex conversations

You could play a game of Never Have I Ever, but that shit gets messy. And expensive.

When I was still working as a phone sex operator—lo these four months ago—I would frequently fall back on a game with new callers. The game, I said, was called “Top Three”; I would tell the caller my (supposed) top three favorite things to do in bed, and then they had to tell me theirs, and then we would see where our interests overlapped.

I called it a game, to keep the tone light, but it was more of a conversational gambit, a way to get to the point of the call with callers who either didn’t intend to give a shit about time limits, enjoyed hearing a woman exert herself in vain, didn’t really know what they wanted from the encounter, OR knew what they wanted, but were afraid to say it. I encountered all four types of callers in phone sex—drastically more of the latter two categories—and frankly, they were all tiring, if not actually tiresome to handle, especially if I was trying to be in any way suave or sophisticated about the conversation, you know, “letting it emerge organically.” If I tried to let it emerge organically with these guys, we would never, ever reach the fucking point.

So, I would say to my caller, “Let’s play Top Three!” and explain the game, really excitedly, of course, like oh my god, I have been waiting all day to play this game with someone! Sometimes they would approve of one or more of my faves, and then go on to share some of theirs; occasionally they’d jump the rails and throw some other thing at me—“how do you feel about (X thing)?” with the answer always needing to be oooh, I love (X thing)!

Usually they’d respond so clearly to one of my faves that I knew we could just run with that. In any case, Top Three was a starting point for a conversation, a gimmick to help both of us get clear on the purpose of the phone call, e.g. getting the caller off. I needed the gimmick, because a lot of my callers were inexperienced at verbal sexy times, and some were struggling with their own kinks. Faced with their loaded silence, I deployed Top Three over and over.

It was my job to open them up, yes. But I’ve also used Top Three, or some variant thereof, with my own new lovers, face-to-face lovers, people who had the same fears and resistance to stepping up first. Look, I have those same fears, too! But someone has to speak first to these fears and desires, or else you just wind up circling around each other, making ineffective or off-putting moves because both parties are lacking crucial pieces of information.

And so, I would speak. What are your favorite things? I like X, Y, and Z, and I might call you daddy if the mood is right, is that okay?

As it did with my phone clients, the gambit worked. It started the conversation, it broke the ice. I gave my partners something to respond to, to embrace or just as enthusiastically bounce their own ideas into. In spite of my own fears, I modeled the openness that I want and need in conversations about sex.

Another great aspect of the Top Three direct approach is that it works even beyond that initial conversation. As a relationship develops and you have some history and context together, you will still have desires or activities or experiences that feel harder to handle, for whatever reason. Can we talk about [X thing], because when that happened last night, these were the three things I liked about it.

Whether at the very beginning of an encounter, or further on in a relationship, there are a few things you can do to help get those Top Three-type conversations going:

  • Ask for consent to even have the conversation. I’d like to talk a little more about that. Can I ask you some questions about your experience with this? If someone doesn’t want to talk about a thing, the more you push at them, even in a sexy way, the more they close down.
  • Set the dial at 80 percent, max, to start with. On phone calls, I never stated my Top Three at their hardest-core option. For example, to introduce the idea of female-dominant activity I would say, If you want to fuck my pussy, then I’m going to want to be on top, instead of I’m going to sit on your face until you drown. This way keeps the fear factor lower, and it leaves them room to join me in creating the path to, well, pussy-induced drowning, if that’s what they want.
  • Ask follow-up questions. These can be yes-no, if the person seems really shy, or they can be open-ended, if you’ve got a lover who is willing to spill the beans, but once you’ve said your Top Three, you have to leave room for a conversation to develop, and a conversation, a good one, is back-and-forthing and asking questions and really listening to the answers.

If Top Three seems too brazen for you, I get it. There are other games and more subtle ways of starting a sexy conversation. I know how to use those, too; it's not all lust bombs in my backpack. But there is something solid and liberating to be gained about being the one to initiate the conversation, and saying up front what you'd like the conversation to be about.

*****

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