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#494: I want to try ALL THE THINGS with my new sex partner, but I’m worried my enthusiasm will make it weird.

Dear Captain Awkward:

Hi, Captain! Here’s a happy question for you. I recently started dating and sleeping with a really awesome man. We have great chemistry, he’s very respectful, and I’m having a wonderful time getting to know him in and out of the bedroom. The issue that I’m having is that I think I’m a little too eager to be the best sex partner of ALL TIME and have sex ALL THE TIME. For some background, my last relationship was long-term and co-habiting, and it died because we essentially stopped having sex 6 months into it (it lasted 20 more months after that). My ex had a lot of hang ups surrounding sex, and we just could not communicate about our needs without starting a huge shame spiral. We’re still very close friends, and it was basically the only issue that torpedoed what was otherwise a very good thing. So now that I’m starting up a new very good thing, I’m overly aware of communicating about sex and making sure that both of us are getting our needs met.

My partner is very enthusiastic and open to things, but after we’d slept together a few times, he admitted to me that he gets uncomfortable talking about sex. If I ask him what he’d like, I’m met with “I just want you,” or “whatever you want to do!” It came up again recently (we’ve been together for a few months), and he asked me to talk about my sexual needs and desires since I seem a lot more comfortable with it than him, and he is trying to work on feeling at ease with it. He has had partners in the past so it’s not a lack of experience, but I haven’t unpacked the cause of the mental block. It might be nothing but feeling awkward in a situation society gives us no scripts for! But I don’t want to push him and I do get the sense he’s felt sexually rejected before. So I want to create an environment that feels safe for both of us, and do my best to make sure we’re getting what we want. The frequency seems great for both of us, but we don’t talk about fantasies or anything particularly kinky. 

There’s no one thing I feel like we are missing, I just want to continue to have a healthy sex life and experiment with him. So my question is, how can I approach this in the future without feeling like I’m doing all the work and our sex life is all about ME and my desires because I’m the more vocal one, and help him feel comfortable enough to speak up and let him know the bedroom is a judgment-free zone with me? Maybe it’s a problem that can only be solved with time and increased intimacy, but if you have any scripts or tips for how or when to talk about this in a pressure-free way, I would really appreciate it! Or if I should just calm down and stop trying to be the best ever and I’m overthinking sex because of my past, I think it might help to hear that, too.

Hello!

Let’s set the mood with a poem by Sharon Olds. Consider it my way of saying Gurl. I. Have. Been. There. and I understand why your new boyfriend looks like a New Orleans Jazz Brunch after 20 months of meagre prison gruel.

Your dude sounds great. He wants you, he wants to play with you, he wants you to have everything you want, and, he does communicate about sex.  He says “I get uncomfortable talking about sex, but I’d like you to keep doing so.” That’s as direct as it comes. Think of how much worse it would be if you could tell something wasn’t quite right, but he didn’t tell you and kept insisting everything was fine, no really, and let you blunder around until you became too scared or quietly resentful to bring anything up.

The site motto is “use your words,” and truly, there are many things about sex that should be negotiated explicitly, especially surrounding consent & safety. In an ideal world, how often would we have sex? Does that feel good? Would you like to try _____? That doesn’t feel good, I don’t like it. I am not up for sex right now, can we just snuggle?  I am okay with ______and ______, but please ask me before  _______.  For people who love talking about sex, sharing fantasies out loud is a sexual act in itself, and I think that given the shame and misinformation and silence around sexuality in our culture, more talking overall has to be a good thing, or at least an integral part of rescripting sex & having sex on purpose. (Those last two links to go The Pervocracy, where Cliff is the resident genius).

However, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that someone who likes talking about sex is somehow …sexier… than someone who doesn’t, and that sexual reticence is automatically something to be corrected & improved upon. One woman’s sensual dirty talking is another’s horribly awkward narration, like Ben Stiller yelling “You! And I! Are! In! Complete! Harmony!” during sex with Catherine Keener in Your Friends & Neighbors. We all made a lot of fun of the book where the religious couple puts the bead in the dish to communicate “we should do it soon” but for some established partners having a non-verbal way to communicate will be as important as sexy conversations.

The number of tries you have to make each other happy in bed currently stands at infinity. There is no one day, one act, one conversation, one experience, or one fantasy that has to do the whole job of satisfying you. So take the pressure off yourself and off of him to play all the keys on the piano in a single song.

Not everything has to be shared in order to have value. Right now, the potential of this guy’s sexuality shines like a magical toy box. You did your time in the Island of Misfit Toys in your last relationship, and you’ve gotten a peek inside his toy box and gotten to take a few things out for a spin, and you sense that there is some serious brand-name Christmas Wishbook shit hiding in there, like, Hungry Hungry Hippos or an entire Ewok Tree House (please substitute the much-desired toy of your childhood) and you are like, dude, your Weebles don’t fall down and all, but LET’S PLAY EWOKS.

Woody from Toy Story, captioned "My Body Is Ready"

And you have a basically sound strategy. You’re like, here, play with my ColecoVision! I’ll show you how to kill Zaxxon and get ahead in Fraction Fever. My Barbie camper? Your GI Joes can ride in it! Strawberry Shortcake, Optimus Prime, and Gargamel can be friends and go on adventures! And they do, and you do, and it’s awesome.

But all the while you’re looking at the toy box wondering when you’re going to see what else is in there. After all, you shared your toys! You did it freely! So shouldn’t he share his in the spirit of openness? Isn’t that how this is supposed to work?

And the answer is, kinda, yeah, somewhat, but actually….no.

You have a sexuality that is separate from your partner. And he has one, too. It’s made up of memories, fantasies, kinks, wishes, sometimes traumas, sometimes shame  – all the things that are written on the body and the heart. Finding someone you can share your secret desires with is amazing, but your sharing does not obligate someone else to share in the exact same way, and the other person isn’t obligated to act out everything you share or have corresponding wishes of his own. Your partner may not have fantasies, as such, and they may not be as racy or specific as yours. His fantasies might literally be “I want to do what you want” and “I want you”, so of course talking about anything beyond that will be uncomfortable because it will be a command performance given under pressure. This isn’t a “quid pro quo, Clarice” situation. Maybe he only likes to watch Return of the Jedi, and his Ewoks aren’t for sharing.

So there is his sexuality (which is a story that is in the process of being written) and there is your sexuality (which is also a story in the process of being written), and there is the story of you together (which is a third story that you are writing together). The third story tells us that if two people do certain sex acts in a particular order, and two different people repeat exactly what they did in exactly that order, each couple would have a totally different experience of sex. Abstinence-only sex educators, embarrassing New York Times columnists named Ross, and people threatened by a partner’s greater experience, insecure about their own lack of sexual experience, or worried they have too much sexual experience all have something in common. They see sex as math, as a calculation where a woman is diminished by having multiple partners and experiences but an inexperienced man is also diminished if he cannot surmount or keep up with her number of sex acts & partners therefore true love is disappearing from the world and the species is doomed. That’s why they are obsessed with people’s number of sexual partners and looking for the threshold where you get to call someone a name that means you think they are less human. I want to yell at them that sex is not math, it’s a story. It can be a good story no matter how and where you start. It’s a story anyone can tell with anyone else, as long as everyone is of age and willing. I want to tell them, you can fuck none of the people, you can fuck ALL the people, and when love finds you, it will shine for you like a jewel. You will know it for what it is and you will deserve it no matter what your math looks like.

You’ve been invited to share the things you want, so do it. Don’t be shy. Don’t assume you are automatically steamrolling him. It sounds like your partner would prefer to have things brought up more concretely and immediately (“Howabout you turn over and I’ll put my ____ there and you put your _____ here?”) than in the abstract (Have you ever thought about….). If the thing you want is, “I want, for the next hour, to be a little passive and let you decide & control everything that happens,” express that and see what he does with it. Fun stuff, I’ll bet. If you are worried that your desires have been front and center, decide that for the next little while you’ll do only things you know he likes and make his pleasure central.

If this question is about you figuring out that you are kinkier than you previously knew you were/were allowed to be/suspect that he is, realize that some kinks need to be discussed well in advance and agreed upon before you even go near trying them out. But other things are safer & less scary when first suggested in the intimacy of the dark than brought up merrily over pancakes in the harsh light of day as long as suggesting it doesn’t mean automatically doing it and you give the other person actual time to react. Kinks thrive on trust and trust thrives on time and on demonstrating that boundaries will be respected without pressure or coercion.

Above all, resist the urge to make every sexual encounter a referendum on your mojo. I am sympathetic to the desire to make up for lost time and to prove that this relationship won’t fizzle out like your last one, but that’s too much pressure for one dude to carry. Enjoy what is working. This relationship is so new, so please give yourself time to figure out if you are compatible – sexually & emotionally – for the long term. One concrete suggestion: I know way back when I was in my own sexless relationship, masturbation went from “fun!” to “coping strategy” to “a crushing reminder of how very, very lonely I am” to “eh, the whole thing smacks of effort” by the end. If it was the same for you, it’s maybe time to rediscover the fun version. Pull out your dirty stories or your mental greatest hits reel or whatever you need and make yourself happy. Use your big sexy brain to please yourself and no one but yourself. Don’t feel like you have to share that with him or make it about him.

It sounds a little like you want your partner to step into your fantasies and act them out (which he might be willing to do, at least some of the time), or have ready-made fantasies that you can star in in turn (which it sounds like he does not have, or, if he does, he is not ready to share them). You guys are at the beginning of your story. You have infinity tries and infinity time and infinity conversations to try to shape the story that you want, so please, take the pressure off yourself and your partner to skip ahead to some kind of end or complete a checklist of experiences by a certain deadline. “I want you” is a good beginning. You can live lifetimes on “I want you.”

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84 comments
  1. Oh DUDE do I ever hear you. Many years of being (quite happily) single and celibate, plus crappy casual sex relationships (I love the concept and freedom of casual sex but the actual sexiness never really delivered!), and BAM when I met my current partner it went off like a rocket. Having someone whose libido matches yours, who you can talk to (and feel comfortable saying “I don’t fully feel comfortable talking about sex” to), play and explore with can feel so magically amazing and incredible. I’m with the Captain on this: relax, enjoy, roll around in the hormonal ecstacy and the low, deep hum of ripping-each-other’s-clothes-off.

    Lovely advice, Captain, which I will certainly be applying myself. Such a pleasant ‘problem’ to have.

  2. RC said:

    I love the “sex is not math, its a story” paragraph. Its funny how a few sentences can cheer you up!

    • unlurking said:

      Yes! Let us soak up this again, because it’s beautiful:

      “When love finds you, it will shine for you like a jewel. You will know it for what it is and you will deserve it no matter what your math looks like.”

      • Molly Grue said:

        That entire paragraph is so perfect it left me awed. I love the idea of counteracting “additive” sex with the concept of “story” sex.

    • Yes! Sex as maths, ew. Captain, you’ve put it beautifully.

      That whole set of bollocks is very tied up with the cultural narrative that sex is essentially transactional – I do x for you so you do y for me, whether x and y are things like ‘provide food and safety/provide children’ or ‘get you off/get me off’.

      There are people for whom this is true. For me? I mostly have sex because it’s fun!

      Dodgy metaphor alert: sex isn’t a seesaw where there’s a fulcrum in the middle and your two sets of desires and inputs and actions have to have exactly equal weights the whole time or THE SEESAW OF SEX WILL BE UNBALANCED and, I don’t know, catapult one of you violently into the distance or something. The two of you are not doing it wrong if one of you is determining more of the specifics of your mutual horizontal rolling around than the other at a given point in time.

      There does not have to be a fulcrum involved in rolling around horizontally with a partner, unless you are attempting some extremely complex positions.

      • Private Editor said:

        I feel you should know that your dodgy seesaw of sex left me trying desperately to stifle my gigantic guffaws in the middle of a clinic waiting room. GENIUS.

      • FlyBy said:

        The image of someone being catapulted violently into the distance because they were doing sex wrong is going to make me giggle for a long time, thanks for that! Catapults: not actually a consequence of sex.

        • kittehserf said:

          “Catapults: not actually a consequence of sex.”

          Well, not unless that’s your kink, but if someone flies off into the distance I’d say “ur doin it rong!” ;)

          • StrongAnon said:

            Catapults, maybe not, but do NOT tickle a powerlifter while she (or he) is performing fellatio. I threw him very high into the air before I even knew what was happening. So, you know, it can happen. (No penises were harmed as a result of the flight.)

  3. Eremon said:

    How about listening to and talking over a series of sex podcasts together? Having the topics provided by someone else (even if you’re cherry-picking them) removes some of the awkwardness of “It must be important if she/he brought it up”, It also moves the conversation away from the bedroom, into a time when everyone’s less likely to feel trapped or defensive. Bonus: neither of you have to be the expert or the student in the situation — you’re both likely to learn something new.

    I’m pretty fond of the Sex Nerd Sandra podcast, since she’s pretty good about both tone and content. I’m sure there are others, but it’s the best of the ones I’ve sampled.

    Happy problem-solving!

  4. Ezzy said:

    This is beautiful advice. I love the paragraph about how sex is not math, it’s a story. I love the idea that it’s new and real with each person. I personally found the advice super helpful: it can be hard to remember that your sex story belongs to you and your partner, and it won’t necessarily include everything Samantha ever did on SATC, and that this is fine. There are so many narratives out there pushing the idea that sex should be all the things that it’s kinda liberating to hear that sex is what we (us & our partners, within our individual partnerships) want, together, and it will almost always be only some of the things (coz someone is always going to be making up new things, right?). Take the pressure off, enjoy yourselves consensually, explore new things if you both want to, and don’t feel bad if someone says no I don’t do that/talk like that/have anything else to say except ‘can we do that thing we just did, again?’. That’s my plan :)

  5. taweja said:

    I needed this so much. *wipes away tear* I identified so much with the LW’s partner that (paying little attention to pronouns as I do) for a moment I thought it might be about me, until I realized that all the background info doesn’t fit. My desires and fantasies are awfully non-specific, and I’m not the most comfortable with talking about sex outside sexy situations, and I’ve been feeling rather inadequate because of it in interactions with my recent new partner. This made me feel a lot better. Thank you.

    • nicolars said:

      I identify with the LW’s partner as well. I love sex, but if I were prodded into talking about sex constantly with my partner I think I would shut down. It’s just not that interesting to me to talk about outside of the bedroom, so someone who was wanting to talk about fantasies, etc. would wear me me out.

  6. misch said:

    Prepare for an essay! I’m with my current partner 3.5 years, and we started out in the same place as the LW — me as the sexual navigator and him as the enthusiastic passenger, with little input as to our destination. For added complexity, I’m kinky, submissive to be precise. Spoiler: he eventually revealed to me that he’s kinky too, but had never explored it since he “didn’t think girls who liked it existed in real life”.

    So how did we get from me calling the shots to him taking the reins? (He’s a Dom!) I think it was easy for us in part due to my partner’s nature — he’s extremely easygoing and accepting, not jealous/possessive, doesn’t get defensive easily, all that good stuff. So from the beginning I was 100% open about my high sex drive (which had been an issue in previous relationships) and my kinks. But, and this is key — I didn’t ever expect him to be kinky for me. I shared for the sake of sharing, not to achieve my ideal sexytimes. I shared my brains out, and he expressed interest, so I shared more — whenever I would find a hot blog post or picture or have a sexy dream, I’d send it to him as an FYI. FYI, here’s what’s turning me on today.

    I’m convinced that this oversharing by me created a space where he felt it safe to begin sharing his kinks & desires with me, via the same channels — blog posts, pictures etc.

    Most of this, and I can’t recommend this highly enough, was done via email or GChat. Sitting down and talking about your deepest desires face to face with a new partner? TERRIFYING. I still struggle with vocalising my wants at times. Forwarding a boner-inducing pic? Exciting, titillating, fun. Easy peasy. Even easier? Start a Tumblr of your likes and give your partner the link. it takes the white-hot embarrassment out of the communication process, and it makes opening conversations easier, like “oh I liked X thing you posted” … “What about it did you like” etc.

    The above are just some practical things that worked for us as a couple, but ultimately, as CA says above, it’s a process. There’s no one conversation that’ll make you of one sexual mind — it really is a question of time & intimacy. It is so worth it though, so keep sharing and have patience! Best of luck :)

    • M Dubz said:

      I love this idea of “FYI” sharing. I like LOTS of the pantsless things, and I don’t expect a partner to be 100% on board with all of it, but rather that certain things will work for the two of us together. It’s so lovely that you’re able to share without the expectation that everything is on the table or off the table or what have you, but just throw things at the wall and see what sticks.

    • Sarah said:

      I love your Tumblr idea! A friend of mine suggested that because it’s done great things for her and her partner. I’m moving close to my boyfriend in September, this could be a really fun way to help us communicate/get revved up for the move. (We struggle a bit because we’ve been long distance for almost two years so our emotional knowledge of each other vastly outweighs our sexual knowledge. It has definitely caused problems, especially because he is like the LW’s partner and mostly content to just do what makes me happy and I fairly desperately want to make sure that he’s totally satisfied and not feeling like he’s missing out on something he wants to do. But it’s hard to get that dynamic right when you see each other twice a year.)

  7. I feel similar to LW here. I was in a relationship with not-good sex for a while and it ended quite badly but I found my current partner and life and sex is brilliant. The trouble was that I was nervous but wanted to experiment, but my partner had been and tried lots of things before and was happy just to want me and have sex with me. He was the one with unspecified desires and it did freak me out – I wanted to experiment and find out what I wanted, but I didn’t want to bore him with things he had already tried.

    I agree with the Captain’s advice! The way it’s worked best is to say “I want you to do this to/with me now”, and talk generally about things that could be triggering or problematic outside the bedroom. And then lie back and enjoy the consensual sexy times :)

    • slfisher said:

      Even if he’d already tried them, he hadn’t tried them with *you*.

      • Thanks. For a long time I couldn’t get my head around it, and I do sometimes worry about it still. It’s good to be reminded :)

        • Semidaunted said:

          I just want to underline what sifisher said. I’ve had 3 sexual partners, and each of them have probably done the same act and it felt very different with each person. I mean, feel good spots are feel good spots, but with my current partner, feel good spots are Ammaaazzzing, and I can’t explain why it just feels so great when he does X and when his predecessor did X it was good but could get dull.
          I think this is what people mean when they say chemistry, some undiscovered biological x-factor that makes two people really click.

          So don’t worry, he won’t get bored with old things, because even if the plot outline is the same, the characters are different, and that changes the whole story.

    • Chloe said:

      But… he hadn’t tried them *with you* :)

      • Plus, people aren’t necessarily looking to just TRY something; he may have found he liked some of those things and wanted to share them with you, or even just enjoy sharing your trying them.

  8. Erika said:

    Oh, Captain, that was absolutely beautiful. Thanks for making me leak happy tears this morning.

  9. M Dubz said:

    LW, you’re going to do great! I just wanted to leave you a little bit of my own perspective. The things that I like to do in bed are really varied, and pretty dependent on the person that I’m doing them with. For example, I’m usually pretty kinky, but with some partners I’m more dominant, others I’m more submissive, others it’s a pretty even switch, and occasionally I’m totally vanilla. I don’t feel like I’m having “bad sex” if I am not doing everything I have conceived of trying with any given partner, it’s about what works for the two of us.

    Your desires and your boyfriend’s desires have this awesome opportunity to grow and change and evolve together, and to become something new and exciting that neither one of you can imagine right now. Just keep being open and honest, and don’t let unexpected detours scare you too much. There is no one right way to have sex, and the set of right ways for you and your partner will grow and change over time.

  10. Salamander said:

    As a kinky (with two VERY specific paraphilias) bisexual lady, it was HARD for me to understand that Mr. Sal is Captain Hetero Vanilla. As time went on in our relationship, I gradually shared my sexuality and my fetishes and my less-high-stakes kinks and my fantasies. We have been exploring them together. But for a long time I was waiting waiting waiting for Mr. Sal to tell me his. I would do anything!!1! I would be GGG!!1! We had many long conversations with me asking “what do you think about during sex? Do you look at porn? What kind of porn?” and Mr. Sal just shrugging.

    His answer “I like sex, with you.”

    I thought he was hiding something. I thought he didn’t trust me. Slowly, however, I realised that he was being quite honest. He has a healthy libido for the standard menu of PIV in a handful of positions and oral for us both. He is very good at these things, and they are ALL he wants. He rarely watches porn, and when he does he likes het couples having normal sex. .

    I am keen to have threesome, and offered it to him on a platter. He said “Eh, sounds fun if you want.”
    “WHAT?! I am offering you the F/F/M threesome, the pinnacle of male heterosexual experience and aren’t bothered?!?!”
    My brain assplode. I think I internalised some scripts about male sexuality, you guys. I had to go away and have a serious think.

    At my instigation we have opened our relationship and I sleep with ladies from time to time. The same privilege is open to him, but he doesn’t have any desire to do it right now. He’s happy monogamous but my sexuality doesn’t bother him at all. I still check in with him almost compulsively. Is it ok for me to this and this with her and her? What about her? You said yes yesterday but what about today?” He finally snapped and said “FFS go sleep with ladies and stop ASKING me all the time!”

    TLDR; if your partner tells you they don’t have any fantasies, believe them. It’s ok! Some people just don’t HAVE fantasies and kinks. That’s normal. That’s ok. They are (can be) great in bed, and fulfil the kinky partner wonderfully.

  11. gmg said:

    It can be a good story no matter how and where you start. It’s a story anyone can tell with anyone else, as long as everyone is of age and willing. I want to tell them, you can fuck none of the people, you can fuck ALL the people, and when love finds you, it will shine for you like a jewel. You will know it for what it is and you will deserve it no matter what your math looks like.
    ———–
    Captain, thank you for this beyond beautiful idea, which I SO want to believe but am terrified to. I’m paralyzingly afraid to attempt to jump into the dating pool for fear of finding only dudes who see sex as cold, hard numbers and will laugh me out of bed, call me a freak, run screaming, or some combo thereof—because, let’s say for the sake of explanation, MY sexual math consists of, um, imaginary numbers, and I am at an age where modern society considers that to be, well, odd. Given that I’m sort of on the opposite end of the spectrum from the LW here, maybe I should submit my own question! I think this has been discussed before, though.

    • You’re not as unusual as you think. And it’s totally okay. In fact, the only reason there’s any problem at all with your not having sexual experience is that it sounds like you’re unhappy about it.

      There are men who have similarly imaginary numbers, and men who don’t care. You might not find a man you click with. You might. There’s a lot of jackasses in the world (male and female) and there’s no promises — but anyone who gives you shit for your inexperience is unquestionably a jackass.

      Dating can be scary, but it does not have to be paralyzing. Do you have a good friend who can help? Or a therapist who can run scenarios with you? Remember that you can leave sex off the table for as long as you want to. You’re just getting to know some dude-shaped people better to see if you like them.

      • gmg said:

        I wrote a couple of long answers to this (and saved them for my journal) but the short answer is: At this point in my life, other than having talked it over a bit with my therapist, I do not discuss this particular topic with ANYONE IRL. So it has pretty much become for me like the stampeding herd of elephants in the room, as I assume my friends know/surmise but it is never mentioned. Some of the stuff in my longer answers made me think a bit that I need to revisit this in therapy, but coming at it from the point of view of a phobia. Not of sex itself (I have an active, enthusiastic sex life — with myself!), but of intimacy, maybe, and some of the physical vulnerability when a second person gets involved.

    • M Dubz said:

      You know what I like to call things like that? Built in bullshit detectors. Think of it this way; you have a built in detector of men who are too afraid of (xyz) to see the blindingly awesome person who is in front of them. The men who will eventually do naked stuff with you will be blindingly awesome dudes who will recognize that you are awesome, full stop, and won’t have preconceived notions in their head to distract them from that.

    • JenniferP said:

      I don’t think anything new we would write would top this.

      But for you, I will add:

      Inexperienced people often worry that they won’t be “good” in bed. That their partner will expect them to have a certain repertoire, and if they don’t know how to do it, they’ll be laughed at and written off.

      The question of whether a certain sex partner or experience is “good” is really, really person-specific. Someone could stand fully clothed in the corner of his room, do a standing backflip where he lands on the bed naked, snap his fingers and have a freaky swing contraption fall from the ceiling, open an encyclopedia of sex positions, smile devilishly and say “what will it be, love?” and leave you totally cold. Another person could reach out and brush his or her fingers against yours for a brief second and send you up in flames like Jan Hus.

      I have been “sexually active” for more than 22 years if you count high school masturbation & furious make-out sessions while Dune played in the background, which I do. Many of my sex partners have been way more experienced than me & more kinky than me, and have been the leaders in “Do you want to try ____?” And that’s been totally enjoyable for both parties. Some of my sex partners have been less experienced than me (including several with zero experience prior to me) and I’ve taken the lead. I enjoyed being with them, a lot, and hope they would say the same of me. All cats are gray in the dark.

      Some of the sex stories I’ve written with others have been very intricate and detailed and wordy. Sometimes they’ve included actual writing down and exchanging of actual stories, especially when distance has been involved. Sometimes the pleasure has come from experimentation and pushing boundaries and trying to be giant sex nerds who try everything and do everything.

      Now, I think my dude and I would be pretty well-matched in a game of “I Never,” but the story we write together is a pretty quiet one. We’re just….matched. We could totally drive one of those giant robots together in Pacific Rim. We’re both really verbal and will often stay up too late talking and then fall asleep in the middle of a sentence, but sex is….hmmmm. Ever have a crush on a really cerebral talkative person and wonder what it would be like if they became monosyllabic and/or only communicated with touch? :1,000 people who write Doctor Who & Sherlock fic perk up: Yeah. Like that. Importantly for you, I didn’t know that about myself because of my past experience with other partners. And there was no way to know that about him until we actually did stuff. I learned it with this specific human being who loves me. We learned it, discovered it, invented it, are inventing it – together. Now. Tomorrow.

      To be a good sex partner, at any level of experience, it probably helps if you:
      -Choose partners who treat you well in general – someone who it is easy to talk to, easy to spend time with, someone you genuinely like as a person.
      -Listen and communicate honestly. Basic stuff. “That feels good.” “That doesn’t feel good.” “Can we take a break?” “I loved it when you _____.”
      -Figure out together what feels good to them and to you.
      -Respect their boundaries and figure out your own

      It’s a process, not a project, and it’s one that starts anew with every new partner. You have a body? You have curiosity, kindness, respect? Your body is a good body, your brain is a good brain, and when the time comes you already have everything you need to be good in bed.

      • gmg said:

        Thank you for this. Again, I know we’re not supposed to be doing math, but (and I remembered this particular letter, and thoroughly valued the advice) … I am some degree of significance older than that LW, or then Commander Logic was in the same situation. Of course, that’s exactly my problem — I’ve been thinking I was already way too old to be in this situation and therefore avoiding how to get out of it for all that time and then some. I need to sort out how to free my mind from this number-crunching … definitely time to revisit this with my therapist more seriously.

        • JAT said:

          As someone who bagan having sexytimez with others in her late 40s, let me say I understand that roomful of elephants feeling! And, actually, mine was a great time to start. So will yours be. If anyone acts/talks as though the elephants are crushing THEM and they assume you are flat and sad, that’s on them.

        • Ellen Fremedon said:

          gmg, I’m 37, and six months into my first-ever sexual relationship. And FWIW, my lack of experience has been pretty much a non-issue. Sex– and intimacy in general– is not like gymnastics/playing the violin/speaking Cantonese, where if you don’t start young you’ll never make the Olympics/play Carnegie hall/achieve native fluency. I have found that it’s just the opposite; since I had already developed almost all the prerequisite skills– like listening, and using my words, and setting boundaries– in other contexts, I was ready to jump right into Advanced Naked Funtime.

          • JenniferP said:

            Ellen, I want to amplify your point and shout it from the rooftops. People who figure out sex young are also figuring out a whole bunch of acting-like-an-adult-human stuff at the same time, and it can go all pear-shaped if they haven’t fully unlocked the “other people are actually real” & “words and actions have consequences” achievements. As a person who has lived longer, you probably have way more savvy and interpersonal skills than you did at 18.

          • notdeep said:

            To add a different-ish perspective on this, I’m almost 36 and on the VERY low experience end of the spectrum as well. I recently tried to start a sexual relationship with someone I liked a lot and though I thought we clicked very well in and out of bed, he seemed very put off when I asked for a bit of guidance as to what he liked and well…that was the end of that. I don’t think that was the ONLY issue that led him to break it off, but it was an issue. What I’ve come to understand is that it was HIS issue, not mine. I was open, honest, willing to experiment, etc. etc. I really like the idea of not letting someone else’s elephants crush me. The experience definitely led me to go out and do some (more) experimenting on my own and I’ll find someone else or I won’t but if I do I’ll be even more prepared to actively participate and say what I do and don’t want. (Not to imply at all that this is not a difficult issue, gmg. It is, and I got very emotional writing this. Good luck to you.)

          • Ellen Fremedon said:

            Indeed. It would be hard to have fewer interpersonal skills than I did at 18.

    • gmg said:

      Thank you, all, for the encouragement and wisdom — for once I got verklempt about this topic (right there with you, notdeep) but in a good way! “Tell a story and don’t worry about the math” is such a solid piece of advice. Math was never my strongest subject anyway, though once I practice it a bit I do quite enjoy getting the right answer. (Hmm …)

      I think I also need to accept that trying to take the leap into sexual intimacy is no different than taking any other risk in life. There is no 100% guarantee that I won’t get hurt — there is only me being thoughtful and using my intuition as best I can.

      • slfisher said:

        Something that might help is something my partner and I do, which is that I email him about stuff I’d like to try, send him stories that work for me, etc. That way he can know, but OMGIDontWantToLookAtYouWhileImSayingIt. And also he isn’t pressured to respond about which ones he can or can’t do.

    • DFTBAwkward said:

      I’d like to add a little something here too, as someone who is still relatively new to the whole sexytimes thing. My current partner was my first sexual partner, and we’ve been having sex for just a few months short of a year now. He was much more experienced than I was, and I -felt- very old and awkward about it at the time, although I realize now that 23 is not such and old age to be a virgin. One of the things he made very clear to me when we were starting out, and that I want to pass on to you, is that sex is not a thing one person does to another. Sex is something you do TOGETHER, it’s something you create with your partner(s). There is no end goal of The Perfect Sex that determines whether you did it right. No high score you’ve got to meet for it to count as “good,” no “failure” bar that you have to jump over. It’s just you having an experience together. You nor your inexperience is not to blame if things don’t go exactly how you plan the first time, because it’s both of you, and you both have a part in creating how things go. The goal should just be happiness for yourselves and each other, doing what you both want to do. Try not to put so much pressure on yourself to “get it right” or “make it perfect.” That was a big stumbling block for me at first, and I feel like a lot of nerds probably have the same experience… we are used to achieving, used to getting the good grades and knowing it all and being really good at what we do. When there isn’t a way to measure progress, we tend to impose one on ourselves… and sometimes it really doesn’t belong. It’s not math, like the Captain said, and you can’t measure it.

      • notdeep said:

        OMG this is SO ME. I am forever getting distracted when things get to a certain point about what is ‘right.’ The right sequence of activities, the right way to do whatever, the right time to blah blah blah. I always feel like there is some rule book I was never given for dating and sex both and it drives me around the absolute bend. THANK YOU for this comment. The guy in question in my above comment was actively unhelpful when it came to this issue as well.

      • notdeep said:

        Well damn I posted a whole thing here and it seems to have been eaten. Long story short, thank you for this comment, I really identify.

      • slfisher said:

        Sounds like you picked a good guy for your first.

        I met a guy a few years back — a psychologist, even — who seemed to be really intimidated by the fact that I’d had more partners than he, and he kept bringing it up, and saying that since I had so much more experience than he I should take the lead, etc. And I kept explaining to him that neither one of us had any experience with *each other* and that that’s what mattered, and to please stop worrying about it. Because, really, it felt like the flip side of being called a whore for having a lot of partners. We never did sleep together — and I hadn’t had a partner for like five years by that point — because he just couldn’t let it go and to me it presaged a problem.

  12. LW, you can ask specific and fun questions, and be prepared for low-bandwidth answers. “Do you like this?” “Want to try this?” It’s a whole lot easier to respond to a specific suggestion than an open-ended question, although you have to bear in mind that sometimes a response is about the day and not about the activity.

    Also, one of the things he likes about you might be your enthusiasm for all kinds of new things and how you want to try them with him. He can say he just wants you, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like it when you show up with thirteen geese and a golden fork and tell him to put on the Thursday Spiderman costume. In my head it veers a little close to manic pixie dream girl, and so I hope that in other ways he is bringing sparkle and life to your world — advancing *your* narrative.

    Also also, it’s pretty damn awesome to be wanted by a partner just for yourself. I mean, I love my specific activities as much as the next girl into my specific activities, but it’s even more special to be considered sexy as hell for myself — and not for my specific activities.

    Mostly, though, yay for you. Seriously. Yay. Internet high five, as one of my favorite sex bloggers says. Because you’ve got a good connection with a guy who wants you.

  13. Blue Meeple said:

    I love this advice because I am the person who says “I don’t know, let’s do what you want to do”. I’m not uncomfortable talking about sex in the abstract, but trying to talk about what I might want causes all my words to vanish. I literally am unable to speak. This frustrates people (understandably, I guess) but their frustration makes it even harder for me to say anything. I haven’t yet been in a relationship long enough to either work past that mental block or figure out if “what you want to do” is actually what I want. Except for how “what you want to do” IS what I want when I say it (and I have no problem saying “no” and “stop” to things I don’t want).

    • It is super hard! You are not alone! Sexy feelings are SUPER BIG EMOTIONS sometimes, and that eats words — even when there’s no shame or other stuff involved that can get in the way.

      I find it easier to communicate by text when I need to, sometimes, and sometimes it just has to turn into a game of twenty questions. “Is this good? y/n”

      Also, reassuring your partners that you’re good with saying no or stop, that is super helpful. Sometimes that won’t work until the day comes and you actually do, and then you find out that they’re glad you said it and you’re glad you did and everyone’s relieved that actually the boundary is there and it’s not some Huge Guilt Thing and instead it’s just Yay Nobody’s Being Pressured Here! Woohoo!

      (except sometimes partners do get weird when you have to draw the boundary and it’s not a woohoo and that sucks. But you know, it can go the nicer way sometimes and I wish that day for you.)

      • Blue Meeple said:

        There are so many feelings that I haven’t unpacked about my feelings about sex. Like, abstractly, I definitely don’t think it’s at all shameful, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into not feeling ashamed, or at least embarrassed. Brains are twisty like that.

        • JenniferP said:

          Recommended reading: Jaclyn Friedman’s “What You Really, Really Want” might be a good resource for you. Even if you never become a person who describes a technicolor fantasy to a partner out loud, it’s a good book for figuring out some things about how you feel about your body, yourself.

          • Blue Meeple said:

            I’ve added it to my wishlist. Thank you!

          • AnonymousGuy said:

            ” Even if you never become a person who describes a technicolor fantasy to a partner out loud…”

            This crystallized something that was on the tip of my brain about this thread… Talking about cerebral fantasies isn’t the only way to explore your sexuality. You mentioned the importance just of talking about “This felt good to me, this didn’t feel good” and so much of sexual compatibility is just getting clear about those things, and exploring them until you figure out what works.

            The main thing is, talk about this stuff when the sex is good because if you wait for the sex to stop being good it becomes VERY LOADED and hard to make progress.

    • JenniferP said:

      This happens for not-sex things, too. Because it’s no fun being put on the spot. Someone asking “Know any good jokes?” is a guarantee that I will forget every joke I have ever heard.

      One script for this is, “That question makes me feel put on the spot – I don’t know how to put the stuff I like into words. But I would really like it if you kissed me right now. Could we start there and see where we end up?”

      • Blue Meeple said:

        Being put on the spot totally sucks. I have one or two jokes that I can always remember, because I’ve told them so many times, but I can never remember song titles or actor’s names. Maybe “I don’t know how to put it into words, but I’d like it if you kissed me, let’s start there” (which sounds like a good start to me) would be a good thing to practice. Hm.

  14. LW, I have a lovely husband who is not as kinky as me. And I’m similar: LET’S DO ALL THE THINGS!

    For us, I specifically asked him to do things for me, that he could take or leave. But he doesn’t mind, cause he likes making me happy. And…eventually he got more excited and will take more initiative in these things now.

    So what I am saying is that even if your person doesn’t have a million ideas of things to do and try, they do want to do stuff with you — so just ask! They might find that watching you all excited gets THEM excited too, and turns out this weird thing is pretty fun after all.

    Or it might not ever be their thing. But that is okay as well. My husband is not likely to ever be interested in fetish nights, but no big deal. I don’t need us to be exactly the same person.

  15. Manatee said:

    I really love how this advice makes the subtle distinction between a) being a bad communicator, and b) being private about or not having much to say about sexual desires. That LW’s partner is not a even though he is b is a good green flag, whereas I have had experience of people using b to get away with a – obvi red flag (which has even led to dodgy consent scenarios). Thinking about those two behaviours as separate things really helped me see this dynamic and to give me a way to protect myself by trying to avoid a, but without hurting anyone else by confusing it with b.

  16. Amber said:

    I love how every time read this blog the article is exactly what I needed to hear that day.

    I just started seeing this new guy and I’m having a slightly related problem. I want to speak up and say what I want, but then the internalized sexism comes out to play and I think “can’t say that, I’ll seem too slutty” which is RIDICULOUS because I don’t believe that at all. Except apparently I do in the moment and its a huge boner killer. Ug.

    • JenniferP said:

      I’m not big on sex tips, especially of the Cosmo kind, but is your dude a “let’s discuss this logically in the abstract and then think about it for a while” dude or a be-very-nice-to-his-penis-and-then-ask-him-to-think-about-doing-the-hot-thing-you-want dude? Or somewhere in the middle? And what kind of lady are you? You may not have an answer right now, but this is something worth finding out, probably, and it will be a very, very fun process.

  17. CMart said:

    “Your partner may not have fantasies, as such, and they may not be as racy or specific as yours. His fantasies might literally be “I want to do what you want” and “I want you”, so of course talking about anything beyond that will be uncomfortable because it will be a command performance given under pressure.”

    Just adding to the chorus of people who have partners exactly like this. I’m by no means a wild and crazy, swinging from the rafters kind of lady, but I do have some specific things I think about and some things that I find sexier than others. My husband just likes to have sex. If we’re naked, or mostly naked, and doing sexy things, that’s just plain amazeballs to him. It’s even better for him when I’m having a fabulous time, so he really does mean it when he says “whatever you want”.

    LW, your dude’s fantasy may very well be “pleasing LW”, so therefore you communicating what you find sexy and giving him room to fulfill that will be fulfilling his own super-sexy needs. This really is a thing :)

    • mallard said:

      Yes to this! My own dude and first sexual partner is the same way. What turns him on is giving pleasure (and, conversely, worries that he isn’t succeeding can turn him right off). Like LW and many other commenters here, I wondered for a time if he wasn’t hiding any more specific fantasies, but have since come to understand what a range of specificity different people have in their desires.

      • FlyBy said:

        Exactly the same story here. It took me a while to figure out that “whatever you want” really is what he wants, and is not code for “This is the socially acceptable answer, right?” So I’m having fun getting more and more specific about what I want and when, and he’s happy to oblige. I’m a lucky girl!

  18. Briznecko said:

    LW, Sir Briz was kinda similar in the early stages in our relationship in a non-sexual way. The kind of movies he really likes…takes a dark sense of humor and a strong stomach, so for awhile he would just talk about other types of films or happily listen to me nerd-out over the wonders of silent films. As he puts it, he didn’t want to “wave is freak-flag” and scare me away because we had a good thing going. Over time as we developed our story it was very centered around creating an environment of no judgement. When he felt comfortable enough with me and felt he could reveal this part of himself without judgement, he offered to watch one of his not-so-bad-but-obvious-example films with me. We had already developed the important rapport of creating and respecting boundaries, so the ensuing conversation of what films in this subset of his collection I was comfortable exploring with him and which ones he should watch alone or with different people was a breeze. No problem! He was just relieved!

    Or, to put it in a sexual context, he was my first partner and I was his second, so we were very new to talking about things. Oddly enough, what jumpstarted our serious conversations about sex was making it clear that we were ok with each other masterbating and looking at porn. While not necessarily jumping into the delights of our individual spank banks, that lifted alot of pressure about our personal desires and aknowledged them as legitimate regardless if we shared them or not. Over time that opened the gate for smaller conversations, him telling me about a sex dream that was particuarly awesome because the women in it did the kind of stuff I do, me admitting erotica was typically my go-to, etc. Over time this openess made each of us not only more comfortable into having frank conversations about our sex story (I LOVE THAT, THANKS CAPT’N!), but also it gave us the ability to develop interests and desires we didn’t know we had.

    So possibly try to focus on creating an environment of non-judgement between you? If you’re talking about something sexual and he passes on discussing specifics or gives a simple answer? Go with it, don’t push or assume there is some underlying problem. Maybe at the moment that’s all he wants, or thinks he wants but is working stuff out on his own and will let you in on it when he feels ready. Usually keeping things low pressure creates the best environment to foster those discussions.

    Good luck letter writer!

    • This, very much. We always talk about consent and respecting boundaries in a sexual context, which is obviously a Good Thing but that isn’t really enough. Respecting sexual consent and boundaries is basic Good Person stuff – respecting consent and boundaries in all contexts is super important too. Creating a relationship where you each feel safe and supported requires that you respect ALL your partner’s boundaries, sexy or not.

  19. twomoogles said:

    There’s this cultural script and common belief that Men are Kinkier than Women. And that’s just a thing! But, my own personal experience really doesn’t support that, like, at all. It’s actually one of those cultural scripts that confuses me–because people say this and absolutely believe it, so it must come from *somewhere*, right? But the sheer number of women who tell me about how they want to be more submissive and their male partner is not that into the idea (with results ranging from ‘he was dominant all along’ through ‘he will never be super into it but does it for her’ through ‘they break up cause he isn’t into it’) is..well, it’s a trope in my life. Cultural scripts are *weird*. Same thing with the idea that men always want more sex than women…but with the het couples I know, it’s about fifty/fifty who wants it more often.

    • AnonymousGuy said:

      One bit jumps out at me here that I haven’t seen discussed:

      “The frequency seems great for both of us, but we don’t talk about fantasies or anything particularly kinky. ”

      That word “seems” is important because if you truly are both feeling fulfilled by the frequency of your sexual encounters, you should start talking about how frequently you need sex in order to feel fulfilled RIGHT NOW.

      Why is this an important conversation to have right now? Because if you wait until the time (and in most relationships, that time comes within the first two years) when one or both of you are unsatisfied with the amount of sex you’re having, the conversation becomes VERY LOADED. It’s much better to discuss it when everyone’s happy and satisfied.

  20. sesquipedalien said:

    What a splendid piece from beginning to end. But haha oh man does this:

    : For people who love talking about sex, sharing fantasies out loud is a sexual act in itself,

    ever hit me where I’ve been living the last year or so. So I have one partner I’ve been with for well over ten years, and the sex has varied from YOWZA to UGH and back and forth and back again. Without going into boring detail, I gradually came to notice that there is a specific pattern of emotions I go through when there’s some particular kind of sex I want to suggest. Now, within the last two years or so, my fantasies have gotten really vividly focused on talking dirty. As it more or less constitutes a new kink, discussions on introducing it into practice are of course called for. And I started to notice a suspiciously familiar pattern of emotions when there was a conversation about sex I wanted to suggest. And that was the big giveaway that conversations about sex had become a primary form of sex for me.

    But wait, it gets better: there’s another partner I’ve been seeing for about three years, who has MAD skillz with words, both the dirty-talking kind and the srs-talking-about-the-dirty-talking meta-kind. (Is it a coincidence that words became such a major sexual focus for me not too long after taking up with this partner? I have no control group and therefore no hope for a reliable answer. But it’s food for thought.) And while I accept that “comparisons are odorous” and that it would be totally unfair to compare partners’ bodies or physical skills… I can’t pretend that there haven’t been times when I thought, man, this top-shelf communication I’ve been enjoying with Recent!Partner, I sure wouldn’t mind having some of that with Longtime!Partner.

    Which has been presenting kind of an interesting tension. Obviously I’m not entitled to any particular kind of sex from any particular partner, and there’s no reason word-sex would be any exception. And one of the well-known benefits of nonmonogamy is that when you have sexual interests that don’t overlap with one partner, you can indulge them with another partner and no one needs to be frustrated. On the other hand, there’s a widespread cultural feeling that someone you have a longstanding relationship with owes you some level of communication. The ethos is different here in Awkwardland, of course, but we still hold Using Your Words as a cardinal virtue.

    So now you could sort of call this three overlapping layers: the talkin’-dirty, which is an obvious form of sex; the “what would you enjoy” which I have sexualized into kind of an abstract form of sex; and the “how do you feel about this” which is a necessary relationship mechanic. (This characterization itself invites the meta-question: is the separation between the latter two just a product of applying a kind of ethical stress, where I think it’s ethical to expect communication but not ethical to expect sex?)

    Anyway. I don’t really feel like I need help with this per se, I’m more dumping it all out here to get a good look at it. That being said, if people have observations, I’m interested. If anyone is wondering what, if any, results I have gotten from broaching the subject with Longtime!Partner: while she never seems to run out of things to say on nearly any other topic, she is curiously reticent on this one. If sex is mentioned, she wants to 1) have it, and then 2) do something else. I don’t press the issue, but I’m starting to want to.

  21. DFTBAwkward said:

    I totally, totally identify with LW’s partner. There are a lot of reasons he could be less talkative, and it’s hard to know without you talking to him, LW, but they aren’t necessarily bad reasons! My partner is much more talkative about sex than me and takes the lead more often. This is TOTALLY fine with me! I am happy with our sex life, initiate/take the lead when I want to, and feel comfortable talking when I NEED to–I just don’t often need to. I think it’s important that you continue to create an environment where talking about sex & sexytimes feels safe, so that when he does have an issue or a kink to talk about, he knows he can come forward. He says he’s uncomfortable talking about it–have you given him a kind of blanket statement on your willingness to listen to him when he’s ready? Maybe sometime post-sex or at a neutral time you can tell him something along the lines of: “I know you are uncomfortable talking about sex, and I don’t want to push you to talk if you aren’t ready or don’t have anything to say. At the same time, I want you to know that this is an open and safe space. If you ever do have something you want to discuss about our sex life, you know you can always talk to me, right?” And kind of put the power in his hands. In my relationship, it also helps to make him agree to “If you have a problem, you’ll tell me, right?” Then I can feel more secure that things are good, and I have to trust my partner to use his words if there is an issue. It sets the expectation that there will be communication when it’s needed and we don’t have to worry about secret hurt feelings or whatever.

  22. paperkingdoms said:

    I totally get (and agree with!) where you’re going with the sex is not math thing.

    But in defense of math (and possibly sex), sex is *totally* math if you’re doing your math right.

    Math is about puzzles, and figuring out all the ways these things ::gestures:: go together, for all the various potential meanings of “go together”, and maybe why some of the meanings of “go together” are more usual or useful than others.

    Math is putting lots of things in a box together and shaking and seeing what fits and what doesn’t and what becomes something shiny and cool when they knock into each other.

    Math is about tweaking this over here just a little bit and seeing if everything else stays mostly the same, or comes out totally different, and why and how those differences work and are cool.

    Math is “what if” questions, and “I wonder what will happen if I…” questions. It’s poking gently at boundaries.

    It’s treating things as examples of Kinds of things, rather than the One True Thing.

    Math is about knowing what your words mean, and conveying *exactly* that to someone else.

    Math is *so much cooler* than “just” arithmetic. And even arithmetic is cooler than they ever showed you in elementary school. ;^) And all of that? Can be super sexy.

    (Which is kinda almost not entirely on topic. But (a) I apparently needed to say it and (b) … I just realized that “write this story” is maybe as intimidating to me as “math” is to some people. Because what is supposed to happen next and how will I know and I can only write things when the words want to flow and don’t just fall into awkward puddles. So maybe “sex is math” (closely related: “sex is an ongoing experiment”) is something someone else needs to hear, too.)

    • Sarah said:

      I wish somebody had explained math to me like this when I was in school! I am very much a “write this story” kind of person, and if math had been explained to me as puzzling through a story, figuring out how to make the “characters” (numerals, variables, etc.) work out, it would have shifted things around in my head a lot more. Who ends up with whom? Where do they live? Do they stay there forever, or can they be shifted around? Major lightbulb moment here.

      • paperkingdoms said:

        I think lots of people have been badly served by their mathematics education; I try to fix it a little bit at a time. Lightbulb moments are *always* exciting! <3

    • Utter East said:

      Heh, even as an engineer, math, to me, is arithmetic– and what you’ve described to me is science. The excruciating calculus of tallying up the bills at the end of the meal and realizing someone is short– versus the utter joy of puzzles and experiments. Thank you for reminding me not to step on mathies’ toes. :D

      • paperkingdoms said:

        Pure math? Pure math is like this… it’s experimenting, we’re just pushing ideas around instead of actual physical things. <3

    • Of course, most people are trying NOT to get derivatives when they’re having sex :)

      • Trigonometry can be fun, until you use sin instead of tan and fall out of bed when the rope’s too short.

    • imaginarybeads said:

      I love this comment so much that I am delurking. And that’s saying something, because I am one of those people who finds writing way more intimidating than math.

      Math is all of the things that you said.

      Math is not a joyless, impersonal, cold endeavour. Math (or at least, pure math) is exploring numbers and patterns and shapes and colours and axioms and theorems, for no other reason than that they’re beautiful. Which is pretty much the opposite of what the captain was saying.

      So yes, “sex is math” is something I needed to hear, too. Thank you.

    • Jinian said:

      Wow, I’m late to the thread, but I love this comment a lot and want to do math with you sometime!

  23. Vicki said:

    The thing about treating sex as math is that one needs to avoid the temptation to treat variables as constants. “Person A likes when I do this” does not mean “Person B will like when I do this,” even if they both have the same gender identification and/or genital configuration. The puzzle/problem-solving may lead me to “Partner A enjoys X,” but that doesn’t mean there’s something massively wrong with either me or them if they say they don’t want it this time: it needs to be “Partner A usually enjoys X” or even “enjoys X most of the time, and is happy for me to do it without checking in first, because they know they can say ‘not this time’ if they don’t want it.”

    The tricky part is remembering that my own body and reactions are also variables, determined in part by things I may not be aware of. There may be something in the way of a recipe for what I want, but it has “(optional)” notes next to some ngredients, and notes that say “season to taste” and even “adjust the amount of this ingredient based on temperature and relative humidity.”

    • Sarah said:

      Thank you thank you thank you.

      Boyfriend and I get hit with this every time we see each other (roughly twice a year, though that is changing soon). It’s really hard to explain that, “You’re doing this thing that I’m sure worked with other girls you’ve been with, but it doesn’t work on me. And you forget each time and you try it again when we see each other and it makes me feel like my body is defective,” without, y’know, causing a temporary shut down. We’ve had to take things off the table completely because at this point, it just isn’t working. So thank you so much for the reminder that so much of this can change, and that “season to taste” is a real instruction that real people can follow and that things that are off the table now (or on the table!) won’t always be and can be adjusted once you’re more familiar with your, umm…kitchen.

      • mallard said:

        Oh man, the hilariously tragic cycle of “I feel defective for not enjoying Thing you are doing/You feel defective for not be able to do Thing in a way I enjoy”

  24. The part of Cap’s advice that struck me most heavily was this line: His fantasies might literally be “I want to do what you want” and “I want you”.

    This resonates with me a lot. When I’m in that new NRE state of a relationship, I’m pretty much in full on “You’re going to let me touch you while you’re naked? And let me put my penis inside of you!?! I don’t care about the details beyond that, except insofar as they make you happy and we continue. You want to have sex while I’m blindfolded? Wearing a Superman cape? Singing Wagner? Sure, whatever!”

    It’s not that I don’t care what my partner wants, or that I’m totally a blank slate, it’s just… yeah, I don’t even know how to explain that any better.

    To continue a different metaphor Cap used above, “Look, you’re excited that we’ve got a Mardi Gras buffet after you’ve been stuck with prison gruel for a while, but I’m just happy to be eating at all. Yay eating!”

    • redgirl said:

      I totally get this, too (and I’m a woman). I have a pretty adventurous sexual past with a lot of “I need to check THIS activity off my list!” kind of experiences. But after a while it all got pretty stale. Now I’m with a guy and I’m just into HIM. I’d be willing to do any number of kinky things with him and we even talk about it quite a bit, but when we get together we are completely happy with just being with him, naked and intimate. I don’t need any bells and whistles. If he wanted bells and whistles I’d be happy with those, too. So long as it’s with HIM and we are focused on each other, that’s all I really need.

    • kittehserf said:

      I feel pretty much that way about my beloved, and it’s been six years for us. We’re neither of us kinky, but it’s still very much “OMG you? You? Really you? WHOOT!” :)

  25. AmyB said:

    If you are feeling tired of always being the instigator, the one who has to decide what angle of horizontal and which leg goes in that position- maybe do up a deck of ‘this is fun’ cards (ie, fun for both of you) and pick one at random! Cos it can be like the partner who never ever picks where you go out for dinner. You like dinner. You like places. You like your partner. But having to be the decider every time can get old.

  26. Commander Banana said:

    Honestly, if I ask a partner what they want and they respond with “I want you,” or “whatever you want to do,” my blood pressure goes SKYROCKETING, because I find that THE most frustrating answer in the history of answers. Even “I want you to tell me what to do” would be preferable to flipping my question around and dumping the onus back on me. I’m asking because I want to know, dammit!

  27. The fact of the matter is, talking about sex, in a procreative or non-procreative capacity, makes me uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable with my doctor, it makes me uncomfortable with my girlfriends and it definitely makes me uncomfortable when my little niece asks me where baby cows come from. It’s all just really awkward for me. I can’t help but feel a familiar blush creep up my neck .

  28. BEYOND true about masturbation in the time of sexlessness. Oh boy. Six years of depressing self-avoidance.

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