I want this.
This feels right.
I’m not comfortable with the direction this is going in.
This isn’t working for me.
What do communicating about sex and speaking up for yourself at work have in common? Whether you’re in bed with your partner or sitting in a meeting with your manager, it can be hard to say what you want.
Speaking up for myself at work has been a challenge for me at times. Before I’d sit down for a one-on-one or review with a boss or manager, I’d run through what I wanted to say in my head. But in person, things didn’t always go as well. I became mush-mouthed and over-explained why I felt like I deserved to ask for more help on a project or why I deserved a promotion. It became so much more than the request. I wanted my manager to not think I was being demanding, and to approve of me as a human being.
I found unlikely confidence and communication inspiration in Slutbot, a sexting chatbot designed to help people become better sexual communicators. Slutbot was created by Brianna Rader and her team at Juicebox, a San Francisco-based sex education and technology company. Juicebox, founded in 2018, offers one-on-one sex and relationship coaching and counseling. While Juicebox is a paid service, Slutbot is free for anyone who wants to try it.
Here’s how it works: You type in your phone number, you program your settings (it has straight, lesbian, gay, and nonbinary configurations), and then boom: you start receiving titillating sexts that respond to your words and commands.
Slutbot is answering a need for those of us who need help putting our desires into words. “The reason we started Slutbot is because, when we look at all of our coaching data, really what people are struggling with is an inability to communicate their desires,” she said. “So we felt like teaching that via dirty talk was a good place to start.” Rader says that since launching, Slutbot has received over 3,583,398 texts.
But can being more honest in the bedroom make you a better communicator in professional situations, too? Rader says yes.
“The same things I’ve learned from great sexual communication come into play at the workplace. In the bedroom and in the workplace, relationship dynamics, power, and desire are all at play,” said Rader. “The first things that come to mind are boundaries, intentions, and desires. It’s crucial to be clear and honest in both scenarios.”
Slutbot wants to know exactly what you want to do, so it can take the sexy conversation to the next level. It doesn’t just tell you what it wants to do to you (unlike some sexters). It has questions about what you’re into, how you like it, and where and when you want things to happen next.
Here’s an example of how Slutbot gets the conversation started:
SB: I can’t stop thinking about you. Memories from our last time together keep popping into my mind. What to know my favorite part?
Me: Ohh, yes please.
SB: When we were snuggling on the couch watching a movie together, it felt so good to feel your body pressed against mine. Every time your hand grazed my leg, I felt tingles up and down my body. Did you like turning me on?
Me: Yes, I loved it.
SB: I was so ready when you turned to kiss me. I can’t stop thinking about what your lips felt like against mine. How did my lips feel?
Me: They felt so good.
The sexts, written by erotica writer Alison Moon, feel friendly and personal. At one point, Slutbot asked me if I wanted to “see” how turned on I was making it. As curious as I was to see what kind of “dick pic” I’d receive from an automated chatbot, I declined. Slutbot took it in stride and didn’t force the issue, which is how it should be in the real world.
The sexts made me blush. The conversations were anything but meandering. They were artful, but they got to the point. They encouraged enthusiastic responses and for me to ask it questions in return. You can’t hide behind small talk or politeness. The more direct you are, the more you get out of the experience.
Yes, it’s extremely hot. But it’s also insightful, because if you don’t know what you want, Slutbot can’t help you. You need to come to the table with your desires on hand, so you can keep the things moving in a positive direction. (It feels pretty silly to say “I don’t know, whatever you want,” to a chatbot.)
Chatbots, like our partners or managers, aren’t mind readers. They can’t give you what you want unless you can voice it effectively and clearly.
I loved how Slutbot encouraged clear communication, forcing you to set expectation and boundaries. There’s no room for vagueness or polite silence during sexting or sex if you want to be understood and ensure consent.
“If you can do it in a vulnerable place like the bedroom, then asking for what you want in the workplace becomes easier,” she said. “I often get feedback from dates that I’m a good communicator. . . . If that’s the one thing they take away, then I’d call that a success.”
Here are some ways to reframe asking for what you want in the workplace—no eggplant emoji required:
Be honest with yourself: Rader suggests thinking ahead of time of what your own desires and boundaries are. It’s crucial to think through your own intentions first before you fumble and potentially mislead others. If what you really want is a raise, great. But if what you really want is a new job in a new state doing something totally different, you need to have that conversation with yourself first.
What’s your “ask”?: Asking for what you want is complicated. Sometimes, we don’t want a particular thing, we want a feeling. Maybe it’s to feel appreciated or assurance that things are going according to a plan. Boil your “ask” down to a few sentences with direct language. It’s not your boss’s job to make your life happy. But it’s in her best interest to know what’s on your mind and how to make you a more dedicated and happy employee.
Watch your signaling: Giving a “courtesy moan” in the bedroom is a surefire way to make sure your partner thinks something is going great when it’s not. By saying things like “I totally get it,” or “that makes sense,” during your one-on-one with your boss, you’re just being confusing. Fight your urge to please the other person if it’s going to ultimate sabotage your satisfaction in the future.
Positive language helps: If you want your partner to do something to make you happy, chances are, you wouldn’t say, “I need you to do this now.” More effective (and less terrifying) would be to frame it in a way that shows your enthusiasm. Rader recommends using positive reinforcement appropriately. “You know what would be amazing? If you did X.” This works in the workplace too. Instead of saying, “Give me more responsibility,” you can say, “I’m enjoying this work so much, I’d love the chance to take on more responsibility to show you what I can do.”
Lindsay Goldwert is the author of Bow Down: Lessons from Dominatrixes on How to Get Everything You Want and the host of Spent podcast.