#267: How do I talk about sex with my first sex partner?

Dear Captain,

The Expectation: Easy, seamless, romantic, mint and jasmine scented sex with Jon Hamm.

I am in an awkward sexy-times situation (the best kind of awkward! …Or is it?), and am in need of a script and Jedi hugs.  Halp?

I grew up in a horribly repressive, fundamentalist Christian household; the entirety of my sexual education came from the church, and can be summed up into:

1. All men want is sex.
2. A woman’s most precious gift to her future husband is never having any sexual experience whatsoever prior to marriage.
3. Women are responsible for protecting their purity from all those sex-crazy men, and if they don’t they are BROKEN FOREVER.
4. Women don’t want sex, ever, actually (and if they do they are SINFUL FOREVER).

(Yeah, helpful things like consent, healthy relationship dynamics, birth control, anatomy and the actual mechanics of how things work Down There?  Not even mentioned.  Anyway.)

So, all that (plus some childhood abuse thrown in just to make things more fun) resulted in my being pretty fucked up in the whole sexuality arena. I’m 23 now, have done a ton of work on this, and am seeing a wonderful therapist, but… I’ve got a long way to go.  I often feel like I’m a teenager for the first time, just discovering that my body can be awesome and that all dudes are not out to get me and that I don’t have to beg God for forgiveness after kissing my long-term boyfriend.  It’s awkward and messy and scary!  And occasionally great!  But also REALLY SCARY, because everyone else around me went through all this shit when they were, y’know, actual teenagers (and most of them without the whole church+abuse factors).  Thus, my current dilemma.

I recently started seeing this beautiful, attractive, awesome man and things have been going fairly well.  We haven’t had sex yet (and I haven’t ever, actually, but am thinking that this might be a good first experience), but we’ve fooled around and cuddled and all of that lovely stuff.  The problem is, I have no idea how to reciprocate the sexy things he does for me, and I’m scared to try to initiate things when a) I don’t know what I’m doing and feel really dumb, b) he’s WAY more experienced than me, and c) I’m still fighting all that ridiculous sexual programming from my growing-up years.  We had a short chat about it last night, after he brought up the “Why don’t you do things for me?” conversation, but I’m kind of at a loss as to how to just… start. 

So, in summary.  I’m working through some issues, but want to make my manfriend happy, but don’t know how to do the things he likes or how to ask him what I should be doing or get past the feeling that I am sexually stunted beyond recovery.  I’ve used my words and told him some of what I’ve written here (and we will be having further conversations on the matter), but what do I do/say in the heat of the moment when I am feeling dumb and not knowing what to do?

Thanks,
Jesus Is Not My Boyfriend

CommanderLogic here!

The Reality: Position that kind of works for both of us, after much debate and repositioning and a couple of queefs. With Jon Hamm, though!

I see that you have already rejected the Four Ridiculous Tenets of Women’s Pleasure is Bad, so we don’t even need to go there. (Good summary, btw!) Let’s get down to the business of you having awesome sex.

Do please have a quick read of my (first? I think?) post at Captain Awkward about being a 27 year old virgin. I will wait.

SO! We have established that you are way ahead of my own personal curb in the sexytimes arena, so no bad feelings on timing and what-your-friends-are-doing and whatever, okay? I didn’t even have a repressive sex-ed experience to blame, just some slow-bloomin’ action.  I was a grown-ass adult by the time I started having sex, so ALL of my partners were way more experienced than I was, and I turned out to be just fine at sex.

It was super awkward getting good at it, though. WHICH IS NORMAL.  It’s not awkward because you had no sex ed growing up, and it’s not awkward because you’re 23, and it’s not awkward because you were raised to be superfriends with Jesus, and it’s not awkward because he’s had sex before and you haven’t.  It is awkward because – contrary to most media depictions of sex – the first time having sex with ANYONE is almost always awkward.  So take comfort in the fact that you are not sexually stunted or broken.

I also want to make a nod to the fact that Penis in Vagina sex is not the only sex that “counts” as sexytimes or sex experience.  Masturbation, mutual masturbation, fantasizing, reading erotica, making out, touching, voyeurism, on and on and on.  What I want you to take away from this is that you are sexually experienced already. You’re just getting more experienced.

KUDOS to you for using your words with your current Sexy Times Friend, and I applaud you both for talking about stuff. Why? Because that is the beginning, middle, and never the end of talking about sex.  You talk about it. The how is really, honestly secondary to the actual talking.  As long as you’re starting from a place of “Sex: it is awesome, let us make it more awesome by talking,” you’re doing just fine without my help.

But to answer your questions:

“I don’t know how to do the things he likes” – Of course not! You can’t read minds (…uh, right?), and having good sex is not actually an instinct (Blowjobs! Not an instinct! I had to ask for instruction (which was very hot, tbh)).  So you’ll have to ask him with words and (oh darn!) practice doing it a lot.
“I don’t know how to ask him what I should be doing” – How about this: Can you show me or tell me something you’d like me to do?
Or if you’d like to be more forward: I really like it when you [do a thing] to me. Is that something you’d like me to do back?
I’ve never done [a thing you heard about, read about, or saw in a porn], would you like to try it with me?
And keep checking in. Like this? Harder? Faster? Slower? Softer? Twirly? With sparklers?

Because as we’ve established: you cannot read minds.  You don’t know what he wants or enjoys (and he won’t know what YOU want and enjoy) unless you talk about it. In the moment, after the moment, whatever, ASK (and tell). I want to make you feel good so do you like…. I want you to make me feel good, so I think I might like…

And a couple answers you didn’t ask for:
– Don’t feel weird if you have to ask what he likes again, or if you’re doing what you think he said before and he’s like “wait, no.”  There’s a lot going on in the moment and even if he tells you “I like it JUST LIKE THAT” you can be excused for forgetting it. Also, maybe next time he doesn’t want it “just like that.” The same people will like different things sometimes!

– Once you do have a “bag of tricks,” do not automatically pull it out on your next Sexy Times Friend. Different people are different!  This new person may not like your awesome tongue maneuver, or have exceptionally sensitive nipples, or REALLY like your awesome tongue maneuver on a different part, or whatever. More talking! More trying things! More laughing when things don’t work out or make funny sounds!

I could keep going, but I think any further questions you may have are already answered in more depth and rigor than I can manage in a single blog post. For sex education, I highly recommend reading all of Scarleteen.com if you haven’t checked it out already (I still go there, and I’m in my 30’s). Also, friend of Captain Awkward, Cliff Pervocracy, has some simply superb advice about how to talk about sex.  Read, discover, enjoy.

And in the heat of the moment, if you can’t remember or think of anything else, “Show me” is open, honest, and super hot.

Have a blast, and CommanderLogic out!

52 comments
  1. Jedi Hugs to you and massive kudos for breaking out of your previous moldings. The fun, empowering parts are still to come and I am overjoyed that you are embarking on them with the right attitude. Even after many partners we can come to a bed with someone with “um, er, gosh, well” so whatever you do – don’t dwell on that! Dwell on the awesome sensations, chase them down and make them yours.
    And of course be safe and don’t reproduce until you’re ready for that. ❤

  2. Ohmigosh! The whole way through this I was like ‘must recommend the Pervocracy’! Such good advice and anecdotes – plus the ‘cosmockings’ (you’ll see what I mean) are highlarious!

    Big jedi hugs to you LW for getting into therapy to CTRL delete your misinformed sexual education and replace it with facts and knowledge. I can’t really add anything to the commander’s advice except to say good luck and to please not stress about the age you ‘should’ve’ done ALL THE THINGS. It’s a load of rubbish.

  3. inimitablemisss said:

    “Like this? Harder? Faster? Slower? Softer? Twirly? With sparklers?”

    I feel like this line of questioning will come in handy in my day-to-day life. 😉

    • JenniferP said:

      I’ll have a grande 2-pump vanilla latte twirly, with sparklers please.

      • Yan said:

        As someone with a twisted relationship to the 4th of July, I will say that sparklers and beds are not a good combo. Sparklers and sex should be done only as an advanced maneuver. They do make cakes more fun, and might be awesome with a latte, though.

  4. High fives sexytimes whoooooo!

    The Commander is right on all counts (except maybe the Jon Hamm part? SADFACE). There are also so many different aspects of sex that everyone is learning with every new partner. I had sex with ladies before having sex with dudes, so I had to learn All About Penises long after not being a virgin (whatever that means) anymore. The main thing, imho, is: don’t be afraid of things getting goofy! You don’t have to wear a permanent SexyFace to be sexy. You may find you have an unexpected talent:

    • commanderlogic said:

      except maybe the Jon Hamm part? SADFACE

      HEY. If the lights are off, who am I to say that Jon Hamm didn’t sneak in and let HusbandLogic sneak off to play Diablo? They could high five on his way out. I’m just sayin’.

      • Oh in THAT case, yes, Jon Hamm is there and also Ewan MacGregor and also probably Idris Elba.

        • Elysia said:

          Ahem. Benedict Cumberbatch.

          Also, Commander Logic, thank you from another late bloomer, because this is SO GREAT. To add something very wise that Sweet Machine told me: sex is like dancing. It’s something you do together, not do to one another. (Well, it can be, but…that makes sense, right?) That helped me a lot, because I realized that even world-class ballroom dancers need time to figure out how to dance together, and that there are all kinds of dancing – ballroom dancers might not be good at modern or club dancing or what have you.

  5. NessieMonster said:

    Commander, your answer is full of gold! I particularly love the pictures and captions! I’ve definitely had sex that looks a lot like that. And, oh my, queefs, par for the course but still embarrassing/giggle-worthy every single time.
    The line: “Sex: it is awesome, let us make it more awesome by talking,” is definitely where I’m at now.

    LW, you are most certainly not alone in feeling like this about sex. You could’ve been me writing. This website http://www.edenfantasys.com/sexis/ has lots of great advice, tips and the videos of Tuesdays with Nina were pretty helpful and informative. It’s pro-LGBTQ, pro-communication, kink-positive and does reviews of sex toys, which is always handy.

    And when it comes to trying new things, as in any area, the first step is always the hardest, so start small/simple and let your confidence build itself. 🙂

    As an aside, I remember very clearly the first time I went into Ann Summers to buy something sex-related. I was terrified, yet it was only a short book of submissive erotica! No-one knew what I’d bought but I felt that religious guilt hangover, coupled with a delicious risque feeling of breaking teh rulz and getting away with it. I lost count of the number of times I went to the shop to have an oh-so-casual look at the vibrators, and then politely declining any help from the shop assistants before I actually bought one.

    Here’s to future sexy-times!

  6. Revolver said:

    Late bloomer here too! One thing that all of my reading/watching/absorbing of culture didn’t say is that SEX IS FUN. SEX IS FUNNY. Bodies make funny noises while sexin’.You’ll have those times when it’s passionate and intense, and then there’ll be times where your partner accidentally drools on you or you start to have a nosebleed while on top and it drops on his face (true stories). And you laugh together. And you finish, or put it on pause til your nose stops running like a red faucet. Yes it’s embarrassing, but some of my very favorite memories with my significant others is when we’ve burst out giggling right in the middle of doin’ it, and shared a sweet, hilarious moment.

    • Revolver said:

      *Significant other. I’m sure the sexytimes would be a lot funnier with multiple signifcant others, but I’m not sure I can handle having two people witness my nosebleed incident.

    • Agreed! The first time I got it on with my beloved, I suffocated him with my legs and he had to tap out or pass out.

      Once his face was no longer purple, it became HILARIOUS. Funny sex can also be really good sex.

    • Vir Modestus said:

      I could not agree more. If you think about it, sex is a very silly activity. Relax and realize that there is no One Right Way this *time* let alone with this partner. Humans are widely variable in mood and desire and listening-to and laughing-with are two of the best qualities anyone can bring to sexytimes.

    • Britt said:

      There’s something so sweet and relaxing about finding yourself in a giggle fit with someone you really care about mid-sexy times. I feel like I’ve bonded and connected with my partners so much in moments like that, but when I was first starting out in the naked times tango arena I was totally mortified at the idea of that happening.

    • withywindling said:

      I have definitely fallen out of bed a few times (or nearly). And have had a few painful accidents…and a charley horse…

      LW, sex is not always the srs bsns. I prefer it to never really be totally serious, myself. Just use your words to ask, and pay attention to what happens when you do X thing or Y thing. It’s pretty fun to make a partner wiggle and gasp. And maybe they aren’t looking too into whatever it is! That’s okay — time for something else!

  7. 28-Year-Old Virgin said:

    I was sexually active for over a decade before I actually had PIV sex. Mainly because with each partner I would ask myself: “Is this a guy I would trust to step up if I got pregnant accidentally?” and if the answer was no, no activities whereby pregnancy would be even a remote possibility were on the table. (Birth control can fail. I was looking at worst-case situations here.)

    But in a lot of cases, because PIV was off the table, the sex was WAY HOTTER. It was not just a stampede to the in-and-out, and so I got a chance to really take some time, discover what I liked, and have some fun connecting to the guy and expanding my bag of tricks. So you’re in a great position to do the same.

    There were also a couple of books that helped me tremendously. “The Guide To Getting It On” is full of useful facts and things to try, all written in a funny and casual way. Cynthia Heimel’s book “Sex Tips for Girls,” though it is mostly a comedy book, helped me be a lot more relaxed about the whole sex thing, but most of all, taught me how to give really, really good blowjobs. Have a look at both of these books to expand your repertoire, and try some of them out in the lab. Er, bed.

    Also, I decided to wait because that was what was right for me. You choose what’s right for you. Don’t feel the pressure to have sex just because the guy you’re with wants to, or you feel that you’re somehow behind the times, but if you want to leap in, go for it!

    • Vir Modestus said:

      My sweetie is bi and so, for her, PiV had long before lost the title of Only Definition of Sex. We, too, moved slowly, over the course of months, exploring a whole array of SEXYTIMES that didn’t involve PiV. It was wonderful, hot, and a mind blowing expansion of my own definition of “sex.” (Thanks,Sweetie!) Now, PiV is just one item on the menu and not the main course.

      Incrementally adding experiences to the Play List is a perfectly valid approach, but it will really only work if you Use Your Words. No one can (or should be expected to) read minds.

    • The little section on blow jobs was one of the funniest parts of _Sex Tips for Girls_, which was a very funny book throughout. Before she got to the actual advice, I almost couldn’t breathe, I was laughing so hard.

  8. Kristen said:

    Another resource: http://sexisfun.net/
    In particular, I think LW should get their in-print book of the same title. While I got it waaay long after I bloomed, it was still useful to remember the basics, and the fun drawings with different pairings is very helpful. It also has some great places to sort of journal or worksheet different aspects of sex.

    Have fun!!

    • Keely said:

      Yes! Sex is fun is amazing! Do read/listen. There are enough old podcasts to keep you busy for a long time.

      Also, since you like advice columns enough to be here… Dan Savage. That is all.

      • Dan Savage can be kind of uneven, a lot of people have mixed feelings about him.

        • commanderlogic said:

          I love Dan Savage, but didn’t reference him for this specific question because he’s more… hm… a 300-level course in sexytimes? Fun to read for sure, though! And I hear good things about SavageU in the 101 space, but can’t recommend until I’ve had a listen/look for myself.

          • drst said:

            Anyone who is trans, bi, female and/or fat should read Savage with extreme caution in my opinion. He has some deeply problematic content that could be unpleasant if you come across it unaware. :\

  9. At the risk of having every single comment I post be Massive Oversharing Storytime:

    I was …. Twentysomething. He was thirtysomething. My sexual experiences consisted of erratic romps with women and a relationship with an asexual man. He was being gentlemanly and gracious in every possible way, making me feel like an extremely sexy and experienced lady whose latent superhero powers were actually heterosexual sex. well, why shouldn’t I be?? I was the goddess of reading porn on lonely evenings! I’d even written some! I’d even watched some! I knew my way around a vibrator, so obviously I would be good at the whole business the first time out.

    Then he got naked.

    I was not gentlemanly or gracious. I boggled. I made a noise. I tried to understand. An image from a biological textbook popped helpfully into my mind. I said: You’re not circumcised!

    He said, in a polite but alarmed/slightly hurt way, I’m not Jewish.

    I then asked a deeply stupid and cringeworthy question that involved the phrase “suddenly springing out” and he closed his eyes and sort of sighed and said the immortal words, it’s a penis, not bloody origami.

    Then we stopped the music, had a nice cultural discussion about how nonAmerican men aren’t circumcised by default, and an anatomical demonstration. We had a proper introduction with a handshake, and then a lecture series concluded by a practical exam, and I lost my straight virginity. As easy as that, apart from the fact that I had prefaced the proceedings by staring at his groin like it was a coelacanth and asking if it was going to do tricks.

    It will be silly and awkward and weird the first time you ride out. But once you get past that, a wide wonderful world of sexiness awaits you. (a super good first step is to acquire a vibrator or other sex toy and to ask him to use it on you in a fancy sexytimes session with no expectation of PIV; also, find some nice safe sweet porn tumblrs, find erotica you like, and go watch Laci Green’s video about the hymen. No harm in studying before the exam!)

    • commanderlogic said:

      Thank you SO MUCH for your story. That is amazeballs, and I love it.

      I will counter only with The Time I Got a Cramp in Both Calves at the Same Time While Giving a Blowjob. “Are you okay? Why are you making a screaming face without screaming?” TO KEEP FROM BITING DOWN ON YOUR DICK IN AGONY, OMG.

    • Britt said:

      Oh my gosh, I just made the most undignified noise at “it’s a penis, not a bloody origami”. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • AWESOME STORY^4

    • JenniferP said:

      OMG, Elodie, I love you so much, you don’t even know. Coelacanth!

  10. cpalady said:

    As a lady who had A LOT of sex before I met/became monogamous with my husband I can concur w/cdr that sex with new people is ALMOST ALWAYS awkward, and your questions are totes normal for any new sex partner not just your first.

    I have never met two men who have the exact same OMG DO THAT MORE thing. Getting good at sex (whatever that means) means getting good at communicating about sex as much asanything else.

    • theLaplaceDemon said:

      That x1000.

  11. Eden said:

    Along with the other excellent advice, I want to also say that you can totally expect your boyfriend to be considerate of your inexperience. You *should* be able to talk about sex and your insecurities and your anxieties and have him be an open, listening partner. You should expect him not to pressure you, and to be understanding that this is still a learning experience for you.

    If he can’t do that, then he’s not the right guy for you.

    • Veronica said:

      I second this. Sex is always going to have its element of awkward when you’re in a new relationship, but you’ll learn very quickly the difference between an inexperienced yet caring partner and a selfish one.

    • Fizz said:

      I was going to say something related:

      Remember that even your awesome and sexually experienced dude (who for the duration of this comment I will assume passes the “listens, cares, doesn’t pressure you” test) may not be used to having the kind of conversation we’re talking about here. Lots of people kind of make do with the awkward bumbling along until they find a thing that works, and then they do a lot of that and become “experienced” without ever actually having a good conversation about wants and needs.

      So yes, it’s a very reasonable expectation that he is willing to have this conversation!, but he still may not be accustomed to doing so. If that’s the case, he might be a little startled at first, but you’re both in for a pleasant surprise at the results.

  12. RobotCorsair said:

    My first experience at all with sex was when I was 22! I was very self-conscious about the fact that I was a virgin, and I told him so, and he was nice, and I wanted to try it. I didn’t have religious and abuse issues to deal with, so I imagine your situation may be a little more complicated for you, but you are on the right track and I have to commend you for wanting to talk about it with your partner! My first time was not awesome, so I don’t have any advice for a perfectly awesome first time (if it even exists), but it was also not bad.
    My first sex partner was not a long term partner, and while I was bad at talking about what I wanted, he was even worse. It made for a “meh” first time. It was significantly less silly/fun than I hoped, because I think he was trying to make it all very “sexy”. It wasn’t very sexy at all!! I imagine it will be confusing and awkward and you will not know what to do, and “sexiness” isn’t really going to make it better. Talking and laughing probably will. So yeah.
    So, the only thing I can honestly say is: talk about what you want and what he wants, and if things get awkward, laugh and try to enjoy it. And maybe talk some more!!
    Damn, I wish I read this blog before my first time.

  13. “I don’t know how to do things zie likes” is not a virgin problem, it’s a new(ly) sexual relationship problem. LW, he doesn’t know how to do things you like (or would like) either. So that’s not a huge deal, it’s to be expected. Someone else’s unrealistic expectations are not your problem.

  14. Coda said:

    Hah, my first time touching a penis, I was so nervous and unsure what the hell I was doing that I couldn’t work out which end was which! I didn’t know whether it was pointing up towards his face (in which case if I moved my hand ‘down’ it would be towards the base) or stretched down towards his feet (in which case ‘down’ would be towards the tip).

    I now know that erect penises tend to point towards the face. But I didn’t know that then!

    And I was terrified that I would touch his balls (I think I thought that that would be painful for him? Or that I just wasn’t supposed to, and I would be Doing Sex Wrong? I’m not sure what the big deal was) and so I was too scared to move my hand more than half an inch in either direction in case I made that mistake.

    That guy still kept doing sex with me for a good few months, so even that can’t have been too offputting. LW, you’re going to be fine!

  15. T.J. said:

    Another on the to-read list is Mary Roach’s Bonk – the science of sex, the debunked past of what people thought about sex, myths, etc., extremely readable (and funny!) – also great to share with your sexytimes partner to get some conversation going!

  16. Sarah G. said:

    I may be the opposite of many people who’ve commented – I’ve been having sex since I was 5 (maybe earlier!), with partners my own age and older. I consider myself quite experienced. However, sex with a new partner is ALWAYS awkward. Fun, but awkward! So, don’t equate the awkwardness with your lack of experience. Every time you go to bed with a new person, it’s weird. Don’t trust Hollywood on this – sex is nothing like those 1980s sex montages with the romantic music and the soft fades and all that, even when it’s making love with someone who’s desperately in love with you.

    Imma stop there because I was starting to write out tips, and you can get those off of any of the great sites recommended above. 🙂

    • Not It said:

      Five? Is that maybe a typo? Did you mean 15?

  17. Yan said:

    Personally I love the awkward “getting to know you” part of a new sexual relationship. It’s the best time for lots of talking, lots of experimenting, and it’s all new.

    LW, you don’t need new words. Do you like? Would you like? I would like… All those work. Have fun. Be safe. Be awesome.

  18. staranise said:

    When I was new to sex, I had a partner who quite patiently explained the anatomy of a penis to me, complete with demonstrations, while I got over my boggle. I don’t think he minded answering my questions a bit, since the result was, I knew more about sex, especially what he liked, so I was less hesitant and better at doing things he liked.

    I did feel a bit nervous because I sometimes worried that my inexperience would be a big burden to him–that instead of getting the sex he wanted, he had to show a newbie the ropes. But I think he really enjoyed exploring things, even when it was awkward. Some of the best sex we had was when I suddenly decided, “I really want to drag you into the bedroom and do X thing,” even though our previous attempts at X were just silly and unsexy.

    It was kind of a turning point for me to realize he got off on my wanting him. Even if the thing I was trying was super awkward, there was still that emotional undercurrent for him of, “Eee! This girl wants to do sexy things to me! She likes me!” that he didn’t get when I was being hesitant and scared and hanging back. Sometimes it was better to be absolutely ridiculous, because underneath it, the message “I like you” was loud and clear.

    • NessieMonster said:

      Very good story, Staranise. Definitely don’t under-estimate the power of “Eee! This girl wants to do sexy things to me! She likes me!” My beau who I’ve been with for about 6 months, is still all about this, and it’s still the sweetest/cutest thing evar. 🙂

    • gnome of zurich said:

      “It was kind of a turning point for me to realize he got off on my wanting him.”

      This is so super important. It’s the most crucial part of the whole interaction. Even if you are doing some kind of BSDM play where you cannot show this explicitly, it is still there at the heart of any healthy sexual interaction. You both want each other, and are reinforced by seeing the other’s desire. It’s a powerful emotional high that is all about being desired, being considered beautiful and sexy by someone that you consider beautiful and sexy.

      As long as that desire stays really clear from all parties, and everyone is paying attention to what the other(s) is/are trying to communicate both verbally and non-verbally, almost nothing you do can be wrong.

      I like you, I like you I like you I like you I like you.

      Great sex feels like that the whole time.

  19. cjben said:

    That scene from Bridesmaids is the most realistic and hilarious sex scene I have ever seen. It was such a relief to see a high-profile movie not fall into the “sultry, no foreplay yet immediate, simultaneous orgasms” stereotype. Sex is generally funny and intensely awkward, at least until you get more used to your partner. So go forth LW, and have fun!

  20. solecism said:

    It’s great that your partner is willing to have these conversations. That’s huge. I haven’t had that many sexual partners, but none of them have had any sort of conversation with me about sex, ever. When I was young, I was too repressed and lacked self-confidence to initiate anything like that except the first time. The first time, I explained that I was a virgin who’d never even dated or really been kissed. That was the extent of the discussion, and he turned out to be one of those pressuring assholes who dumped me the next day. The whole experience was painful and traumatic both physically and emotionally. I was silent and compliant with the rest of my sexual partners until I was almost 30. That led to some interesting sexual experiences but no emotional intimacy at all. Then I started to speak up and assert myself more. My current partner is more willing now to have these discussions, but I had to bring it up repeatedly and overcome hir resistance: “If we have to talk about it, we’re doing it wrong.” No, just no. I had to tell zie to knock that shit off. And when I tried to get feedback on performance, blowjobs or wahtever, that hasn’t been too successful either. But I can be amazingly persistent. And the more important something is, the more important to discuss it.

    An important part of this process is exploring your own sexuality and sexual response, not just with your partner, but alone. That’s another thing that I came to much later than having sex with others (one at a time, more’s the pity). It’s hard to have good sex together if you don’t know what gets you off or how or what doesn’t work. Yes, you can figure some of that out together, but the burden shouldn’t be entirely on your partner to be the explorer in the unmapped territory of your body. Some landmarks and signposts already in place help tremendously.

    Also, as part of this process, make sure to mix it up. Dan Savage talks about the death grip of masturbatory handjobs, and how it creates an intense, sensational pattern that can’t really be replicated by a partner, so that sex with others fizzles out over time. While this seems to be more common in people with penises, it can also happen with other hardware (software?). If you have a specific routine that’s followed faithfully for years, it creates a deep rut in your sexual response so that anything else just becomes ineffective, and it takes a lot of patience and time to retrain your body to accept other stimuli as sexually arousing and gratifying.

    Finally, something that I didn’t figure out for some time and after several partners is that just as each person has different likes and needs in bed, the same sexual act can feel very different for you with different partners. For years, I thought people who enjoyed blowjobs must be lying, or that it must be an acquired taste after repeated exposure, like the bitterness of beer or coffee. What I eventually found out was that my dislike of blowjobs was largely triggered by the unique smell of my partner. My current partner smells divine, but zie’s the first who didn’t make me want to gag after more than a couple minutes in more than a decade of sexual activity. So we are biochemically compatible. It’s not a factor I ever would have considered before this experience.

  21. SherryH said:

    Wow! Lots of great advice here. I’ll just throw in a couple more bits. I’ve really enjoyed Emily Nagoski’s website, The Dirty Normal. http://www.thedirtynormal.com/ She’s writing from the standpoint of a college health and sexuality educator, so sometimes she’s more meta than how-to, which actually makes her site a nice counterpoint. And I so, so second the recommendation for the Pervocracy. And books. Books are great – how-tos and fiction alike. And from every single one, take what works for you and let the rest go.

    My other piece of advice: it’s okay to try things and like them or not, but it’s perfectly reasonable and normal to try something and *not be sure* if you like it or not. “This? It’s okay… I think… just… completely new and different and I’m not really sure what I think about it just yet…” Sometimes it takes a while to interpret the data and your reaction. Keep trying it, maybe. Or stop and try it again another time. Or stop and don’t try it again. Until maybe one day you remember it and you’d like to try it on again.

    Oh! And sometimes likes and dislikes change. “I used to really like [thing/action/words] with you, but now it’s really not doing anything for me, so maybe we should do/say/try [this other thing/action/words] for a while.”

    Wishing you good luck and fun times!

  22. xenu01 said:

    Just to add another thing:

    Nothing you like or want to do in bed, if it doesn’t hurt someone else nonconsensually, is weird or gross. Nothing about you is weird or gross. I spent the first fifteen years of sex-having thinking my vagina was weird and gross (even though I liked other girls’ vaginas just fine!) and too intimidated to ask a sex partner to go down on me. Years later, an ex I am friends with told me he would have if I’d asked him. Sigh. All of this? Because of marketing, etc, but mostly because the first couple of sex partners I had TOLD me that my vagina (and vaginas in general) was weird and gross.

    Secondly! Anyone who thinks they know everything there is to know about sex is wrong. Everyone is a special snowflake, and sex is different with different people, or on differing occasions, or depending on the weather, or the time of day, etc etc etc. Seriously. If someone is doing something with you and you don’t like it, or you suspect you might like it a little bit more if they do This Other Thing, instead, you are absolutely correct, because it is your body and your sex and this particular time and not another time or place or person. And of course, if they repeatedly ignore you because they Know Better, Trust Me, All Other Humans Like This and You Will Too (Oh MAN but I can tell you some hackle-raising stories about this one!) they don’t deserve any of your sexytimes, full stop.

    • JenniferP said:

      Yes, this is very, very true.

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