“Anastasia, stop biting your lip. It’s very distracting.” 

Ever notice that some of the sexiest things people do, they somehow do without the intention of being sexy? Without really knowing they are being sexy at all? The way he lightly puts his hand on the small of her back when accompanying her into a room. The curl of hair that strays from her ponytail and flirts along the curve of her neck during a workout, mingled with beads of perspiration. She’s deep into a book, ignorant that the strap of her sundress has been sliding slowly down her tanned shoulder. He’s wearing a crisp white button-down and has just taken off his tie and loosened the collar.

You can probably think of your own examples.

The point is, there’s something incredibly tantalizing about subtle sensuality. For a lot of us, it beats overt in-your-face sex. At least at first. More is not necessarily better when it comes to what attracts us to others. Nudity, dirty talk, graphic sex in photos or videos — for many of us, that kind of thing is most appealing in small doses and with the right timing, which is to say, after some verbal and visual foreplay.

Think about how many times you’ve accidentally encountered someone else’s unsolicited  hyper-graphic video retweet in your Twitter feed and thought, “Whelp, I sure can’t unsee that!” rather than “Oh man that’s hot!” Think about the times you’ve opened up someone’s dating profile to find dozens of photos of graphic nudity and sex ­— dick picks, spread eagle close-up genitalia shots, oral sex, penetrative sex — literally nothing left to the imagination before you’ve even exchanged a text message.

If that’s ever happened to you, then pass the eye-bleach and keep reading.

To many of us, the most appealing potential lovers are those who know just how much to reveal and when, those who are not putting everything out there immediately or all of the time. This is true when it comes to online dating profiles, photo sharing, social media posts, texting/online flirting, and even real-life flirting.

“’I’d like to bite that lip,’ he whispers darkly. I gasp, completely unaware that I am chewing my bottom lip…” 

See, it’s the bit about leaving some things to the imagination that makes subtle sexuality so extremely powerful. In the infamous 50 Shades of Grey books, Mr. Grey gets aroused by Anastasia’s lip-biting because when he sees it, he begins to imagine his own mouth on hers and becomes aroused at the idea of biting that lip, himself. The engine that gears sexiness is human imagination.

Ladies, want to arouse someone’s interest? Show up in a top with the right fabric to hint at the shape of your breasts, one with a neckline that allows the eye to travel part of the way — but not quite all of the way — down the décolletage. Your date(s) will inevitably begin to imagine the rest, and a strong desire to test that imagination will build as you move naturally.

It’s more powerfully sexy and arousing than if you’d showed up topless. No, really.

While there’s a time and place for topless, bottomless, explicit (maybe even raunchy) sexuality, that time is not when meeting someone for the first or even fiftieth time. It’s after allowing the mind to dwell for a bit on what might be. Some of the best sex we’ve had has been with long-time friends…but we still let things simmer a bit before digging in. It’s just hotter that way.

This is true when it comes to creating a dating profile as a couple, too. Potential lovers are enticed by the genuine words you write about yourselves and each other, and by photos that show how much you adore each other and enjoy life. We want to see photos that show real people, that are up-to-date, and that hint at sexiness without slamming us in the forehead with SEX. It’s super intriguing when you leave us some things to discover.

And when it comes to flirting, online or in person, subtlety also goes a long way. Think of the difference between receiving these two messages from potential playmates:

“Hey. We can’t wait to fuck you. You’re both so hot!”


“Good morning, gorgeous ones. We’ve been thinking indecently of you.” 

Both of those messages may be flattering, but one of them definitely pushes the intrigue button more than the other. The second, more subtle, text arouses curiosity and invites flirty conversation.

Here’s the thing: While subtle sexuality may sometimes be purely unintentional, we can also try to cultivate it with purpose. In what we wear, in what we post, in what we say or write to each other, it’s possible to intentionally tap into the innate appeal of coyness.

How? One way is to ask your partner to tell you what is naturally, subtly sexy about you. What things do you say or do unintentionally that arouse your partner’s interest? What attire or hairstyles or gestures of yours tend to entice subtly? Chances are good that those same things will resonate with others too. Another way is to study up on folks who do it well — celebrities, fictional characters in books or movies or TV shows, online profile pictures of real couples that intrigue you, memories of times you’ve been smitten by someone subtly hot. What traits did those folks have? What nuanced ways of being sexy did they employ (wittingly or not)? It’s good to remember, though, that whatever subtle ways of seduction you employ, they need to be true to you and not merely awkward imitation. Hit that sweet spot, and you’ll be irresistible.

“Stop biting your lip, or I will fuck you in the elevator, and I don’t care who gets in with us.”

In the end, spending the effort to cultivate your own brand of sexy coyness can pay off in terms of becoming even more intriguing and attractive to others. Who knows?! Maybe the next time your shoulder strap slides innocently down your shoulder while sipping a cocktail, it won’t have been quite so unintentional, after all.