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#866: Talking to My Partner about Sexual Incompatibility

Dear Captain,

I’m not sure whether my partner is happy in our relationship, and I’m hoping for scripts to help us to talk about this. I only want what’s best for her, only I don’t think that’s me. I know it sounds like a silly thing to say, but I think she’s only going out with me to please her family/friends by going out with a man when she possibly prefers women. I knew she was bisexual before we started dating, but I’m starting to think that she has a strong preference for women (if she finds men attractive at all). I know I may have the wrong idea and she just doesn’t like me, but this is what my thinking is based on:

  • She only watches lesbian porn as she doesn’t like the men in it. (Understandable).
  • She’s scared of penetration so much that I can’t put a finger inside her (could be a number of medical reasons).
  • With our sex life, it’s usually me getting her off with her not reciprocating. She’ll ask me to go down on her but she doesn’t seem interested in my body. (She may just be a selfish lover).
  • She’s so scared of sperm: we’re not having sex, she’s on the pill, I wear a condom and she still insists on being fully clothed when she touches me (just in case).

I’m thinking with all her hangups with getting with a male, she may be better off in a relationship with a woman. Obviously, I may have this all wrong and this isn’t really my decision to make. What’s a good way to get her to assess our relationship, to be honest with herself and to see if it’s what she wants? If this is what she wants and she’s just having a hard time opening up sexually, what’s the best way I can support her?

Thanks,

Wanting to be supportive

Dear Wanting To Be Supportive,

You say: “What’s a good way to get her to assess our relationship, to be honest with herself and to see if it’s what she wants?”

It sounds to me like she *has* communicated what she wants in bed. She wants it to be just like it is now. You could start a conversation along the lines of “Hey, are you happy with our sex life? Is there anything you want to be doing that we aren’t doing?” but first, be honest with yourself. Is this what you want? Is your current sex life working for you? If you knew sex with this partner would always be this way, would you want to stay in the relationship?

(I’m guessing…no? But only you can answer that).

What if you started discussions about sex partner NOT from the assumption that this is “for her own good” or “because you only want what’s best for her” or “because you think she’s only going out with you to please her friends/family by dating a man” but because your sex life together isn’t working for you?

Don’t worry about her sexual future with other men or with women, what choices she’ll make down the road, what her *true* sexuality is, or how to help her “open up”sexually. It could be that she’s not that into men, it could be that she’s not that into you, specifically, it could be that she needs to take everything glacially slow, it could be some medical issues, or a combination of all of it. You don’t have to get to the bottom of it, be right about it, or prove it to her (or make breaking up seem like it’s all her idea so you can feel like the bigger person who sacrificed for her). I know you want to do the kind thing here, and you don’t want to be a guy who doesn’t respect boundaries or who pressures his girlfriend into things she doesn’t want to do, so my recommendation is that you end the relationship as kindly and cleanly as you can and go find someone who is sexually compatible with you. She’ll find her own way.

My suggested script is something like “This isn’t working for me and I’d like to stop” and/or “I care about you deeply but we are not compatible and it’s time to break up.”

Edited to Add: Closing the thread before it becomes permanently stranded on Derail Island.

 

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142 comments
  1. ashbet said:

    Before the breakup script, doesn’t it make sense to have a conversation about sexual wants and needs?

    I totally agree that doing any of this “for GF’s own good” is a bad mindset.

    Telling GF that LW’s sexual needs aren’t being met, and that they need to either figure out how to bridge that gap, break up, or discuss changing the type of relationship (open, poly, asexual romantic, etc.) gives the GF some agency in this decision.

    It feels like having the only conclusion being breakup scripts is *also* making decisions on GF’s behalf, rather than giving her some agency in the decision.

    LW, you’re probably going to wind up breaking up. But if that’s not your desired outcome, I’d suggest talking frankly with your GF about sex, and the fact that you are currently incompatible.

    O Captain, it sounded like the first part of your reply was suggesting this — which is why I was surprised that the closing scripts both defaulted to the breakup option.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      Defaulting to break up isn’t “making decisions” for the girlfriend, because she doesn’t get to choose if boyfriend stays in a relationship that isn’t working for him.

      • crooked bird said:

        This is true but if the LW otherwise would want to stay with her, and is breaking up only over the sexual incompatibility, there is agency that he could & maybe would like to give her: if she thinks this is something she wants/needs to/could work on & overcome, and the relationship is worth it to her, then if he puts his cards on the table that gives her the chance to choose to do that. If he just breaks up with her she doesn’t get that chance.

        I get feeling hesitant about putting those cards on the table, though, because it’s so easy for it to feel/sound like an ultimatum. I think it partly depends on how deep they’re in, how important the relationship is to both of them. In some relationships it would be worth the risk of having that conversation, some maybe it’s better to just take the simple route. That’s for the LW to decide, because it his of course his right to just break up.

        • ashbet said:

          Thank you — you expressed that better than I did. 🙂

        • neverjaunty said:

          “Only” is kind of a big qualifier here though? The sexual incompatibility is pretty clearly a big deal to the LW, and the incompatibility isn’t something relatively adjustable.

          • Yeah, that is a big qualifier for some. That kind of sexual incompatibility would probably be too much for me to feel worth fixing, unless it was a relationship I had already invested a lot of time in. Sexual compatibility is a big deal to me, though.

          • Jackalope said:

            Lissla Lissar: This is off the topic, but glad to find another Robin McKinley fan here! (At least, I feel that your name indicates that this is a safe assumption to make….)

        • “This is true but if the LW otherwise would want to stay with her, and is breaking up only over the sexual incompatibility, there is agency that he could & maybe would like to give her: if she thinks this is something she wants/needs to/could work on & overcome, and the relationship is worth it to her, then if he puts his cards on the table that gives her the chance to choose to do that.”

          I hear you on this, and I’ve had those conversations in the past. Sometimes saying, “I’m not happy with X, and I can’t stay in this relationship if X continues. If X is really what you want, we’re incompatible, and I hope you find someone who suits you better. If you’re also unhappy with X and ready to make a change, let’s talk about how that would work.”

          I would not do it in this case, for two reasons, one generic, one specific. First, people’s desire to change often outstrips their ability to change. If someone offers to try to restructure out relationship, I have to ask myself how much change I can reasonably expect, how quickly, and with how much conflict along the way. If I don’t think the relationship can be improved dramatically and quickly, I won’t give the other person the opportunity to offer. I’d much rather break up cleanly sooner, then break up after we’ve invested weeks or months of painful effort. I don’t know anything about the LW’s needs, but if it were me in his position I would feel that there was little hope of achieving sexual compatibility in a reasonable time frame.

          This particular scenario adds an extra dimension of sketchiness. The LW already suspects that his girlfriend is putting other people’s desires and expectations ahead of her own happiness. If he’s right, then he has to be very careful about putting more expectations on her, because she can’t be trusted to advocate for herself. Basically, he’d be telling her, “I think you’re only pretending to be androsexual, and you’re not pretending convincingly.” If she’s really invested in not-being-a-lesbian, she might respond by resolving to *pretend harder*, which will only lead to terrible things.

          • Jenn said:

            It reminds me of what Carolyn Hax said, that people will often ‘change’ until the crisis has passed and then revert back to their original behavior. This may not be intentional, they may be sincere in their efforts, but change is hard.

            Also I’m bothered by the idea that spending a lot of time in a relationship means you can’t break up. I mean I get why someone would put more effort into saving a twenty year marriage with two kids than a relationship that lasted for two weeks. But at the same time isn’t this the definition of ‘sunk cost fallacy’? I mean if something isn’t working, it isn’t working and maybe sticking around longer won’t make things better?

        • Sheelzebub said:

          Wow. There’s no “only” in it for me and for a lot of people when it comes to sexual incompatibility. And to be honest, it doesn’t like he’s getting off at all. She doesn’t seem to even like him sexually. As an added hinky thing, “working it out” can come across as pressure. I’m not cool with giving ultimatums when it comes to doing things in bed you’re not comfortable with.

          If I was in a relationship like this I’d find it soul-killing. He’s got every right to exit this and find someone who is attracted to him, compatible with him, and into him. His needs count, too.

          • Anon said:

            “Working it out” for the GF would likely involve a lot of pain and anxiety, at best, given how strongly she seems to feel about this.

            I was in a similar situation in the GF’s shoes, and it took many panic attacks for me to realize my anxiety was for a reason (my reason being I’m trans). It isn’t important to LW to sleuth out the source of her discomfort, but I agree that it’s most likely a breakup situation because even if she were to try to change her aversions, it would probably be more pain than it’s worth. Potentially adding to the aversion, honestly.

    • The person being broken up with doesn’t need “agency in the decision”. Breakups don’t have to be mutual.

      Sure, have a conversation about how this isn’t working and something has to change, but given the content of the letter, it sounds like that conversation ends with a breakup anyway.

      • ashbet said:

        Oh, I wasn’t saying she should have agency *in the choice of whether or not to break up* — that decision can be unilateral.

        I was just surprised that there wasn’t a script option that involved “I’m unhappy, and this needs to change if I’m going to stay in this relationship — but instead of preemptively breaking up, I would like to talk about our incompatibility and see if we can find better common ground.”

        GF shouldn’t have to have sex that she’s uncomfortable with, LW shouldn’t have to stay in a relationship where sexual needs are incompatible… but I think it’s important to have an explicit use-your-words conversation before *assuming* that GF isn’t willing to work on bridging the incompatibility… *if* LW values the relationship highly and thinks it’s worth making the effort.

        • slfisher said:

          This.

        • Nothing about this situation sounds promising, but I don’t think it’s important to “have a conversation” if what you want is to break up. If you know you want to break up, break up.

          • ashbet said:

            If you want to break up, break up without telling your soon-to-be-former partner that she isn’t satisfying you sexually (because, in the context of a breakup, a conversation that would otherwise be a value-neutral discussion about overcoming incompatibility turns into “This is how you failed me as a partner.”)

            I was only suggesting the conversation (potentially including poly/open and asexual romance) because the LW wrote in asking the question, rather than saying “I want to break up with my GF because of our level of sexual incompatibility.”

            I don’t honestly see this relationship necessarily working out in the long term, if the LW wants a more reciprocative/conventional sex partner — but if he loves his GF and wants to try to make the effort to find sexual common ground, I thought he might want to see a script for having that conversation.

            But, yeah — LW, if you’ve already decided that this isn’t going to work out, please go ahead and break up, without making your partner feel sexually inadequate — which she is going to feel, if you verbalize all the ways that your shared sex life isn’t working for you, *in the context of a breakup.*

          • Risha (@rishabree) said:

            Yes, but it doesn’t sound like he wants to break up. It sounds like he wants them both to be happy and be happy with their sex life. Breaking up is likely the solution for that, but it’s not a given.

          • Mel Reams said:

            Yeah, my interpretation of the letter is that LW (and I know I’m speculating wildly from little data, please don’t feel bad if I got it totally wrong, LW), would like soon-to-be-ex to agree that she’s just not into guys and they should go their separate ways so that they can break up without anyone feeling like a jerk (on LW’s part) or a failure (on girlfriend’s part).

            I think it’s kind of LW to want the breakup to be as painless as possible, but I’m pretty sure he wants to break up, in which case it’s kinder to just end it and skip the conversation about how girlfriend isn’t meeting his needs in bed.

            And LW, wanting your sexual needs met in a relationship is totally reasonable and a valid reason to break up. You don’t have to do this whole ritual of talking over whether your girlfriend is attracted to men or not, just break up (kindly, and cleanly) if you want to break up.

          • PintsizeBro said:

            Out of threading, but I agree with Mel Reams.

            Unfortunately, “How do I do something that I need to do, but will hurt my partner’s feelings, without hurting their feelings?” usually doesn’t have a clean answer.

      • lisakoby said:

        Yes, this. Not working for LW = enough reason to break up. He doesn’t actually owe her anything but a quick and honest breakup convo and clear messaging.

        Let her take care of herself – she’s an adult – she can lean on a Team Her or build one.

    • Ginny said:

      I agree that having a conversation first, before assuming that she’s not going to be willing to change or work on their sexual relationship, is a better idea than starting off with “this isn’t working for me, we need to break up.”

      I also think this is a case where it’s a good idea to say explicitly, “It doesn’t feel to me like you’re attracted to me or interested in the level of sexual relationship I’d like to have with a partner.” It is a valid thing to bring up, because feeling desired and feeling like your body is attractive are things most people want to experience in their sexual relationship! There’s a clear line between saying “I can tell you’re not attracted to me” and “I don’t feel desirable to you.”

      It is possible she is attracted to you and just doesn’t express it in the ways you need to receive it. She may be able to work on how she expresses herself, if that is the case… or it might be that the kinds of expression that are comfortable for her to give aren’t ever going to be enough for you. (They wouldn’t be enough for me, either… but this shouldn’t be about how most people or other people feel, just the two of you and your unique needs and preferences.)

      Whether she’s not attracted to men, or not attracted to you, or some flavor of ace/demisexual, it does sound like she has some things to work out about her sexuality (don’t we all!) But you don’t need to solve that for her. You just need to figure out, cooperatively, whether you can have a sex life that meets both your needs.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      “asexual romantic”

      Unless one of the people is asexual, the word you’re likely looking for here is celibate. Asexuality does not necessarily mean no sex, and a relationship without sex is not neccesarily asexual.

      Also, it’s weird to define a relationship by a sexuality that’s not even one of the people involved. If a bisexual man and a bisexual woman have a relationship, it’s not a straight relationship, is it?

      • moss said:

        …yes? I think so.

        • BarlowGirl said:

          @moss *facepalm* No, two bisexual people are not straight when they’re together, regardless of gender.

          @ashbet Thank you.

      • ashbet said:

        You are correct, it should have been “non-sexual romantic” or “celibate romantic.”

      • Anyanka said:

        The relationship is straight, the people are not.
        (At least in the dialect of English that I speak.)

        • Rose Fox said:

          When I was a queer cis woman in a relationship with a queer cis man, our relationship was very definitely not straight in any way, shape, or form, and we were both very uncomfortable with anyone characterizing it that way.

          That said, why would it make any sense to label a [i]relationship[/i] with an [i]orientation[/i]?

          • Rose Fox said:

            …ha, FOCA has gotten me used to BBcode!

          • Anyanka said:

            Because in the dialect that I speak, ‘straight’ (and ‘gay’ and ‘bi’ and so on) are more general adjectives than just an orientations for people. They can apply to people, relationships, and so on. Straight just means man-woman, and a straight relationship doesn’t imply that the participating parties are themselves straight. Gay relationships can be between bi people or a bi and a gay person, etc. I know that not everyone uses language in that way.

          • Rose Fox said:

            I’m confused by you emphasizing dialect as though words appearing in some sort of lexicon justifies doing something that would make a lot of real live queer people uncomfortable. My dialect (Standard American English, NYC variant) includes a lot of slurs and other terms and phrases with roots in bigotry; I don’t use them, because people find them hurtful. Dialect is what your parents and community gave you, but as with any gift, you’re allowed to decide you don’t want to keep it.

          • Anyanka said:

            I am a real life queer person. I’m emphasizing it because I understand that while different people have different language preferences, mine come a lot from practicality and communicating with other lgbt+ and queer people around me.

          • Darthtrina said:

            When someone calls my prior marriage a straight relationship, a big part of me as a bi person is erased, and I feel like I’m wrapped in cotton that I have to work extra hard to get through to say who I am. You have a different experience. A lot of us, though, do feel erased by giving relationships orientations instead of people.

        • BarlowGirl said:

          But straight = heterosexual & heteroromantic. Those things are not true when the people in that relationship are not.

          • Anyanka said:

            In the queer vernacular I speak, straight can be heterosexual and aromantic, heteroromantic and asexual, or het & het. I understand that not everyone uses those words like that.

            (Also I think this is reaching a derail?)

  2. melinoesass said:

    I agree with the Captain 100%. Once upon a time, I had major issues with vaginal penetration (multiple causes, like growing up in a house where sex was shameful and premarital sex was definitely not a thing I should even consider doing; being told repeatedly how much losing my virginity would hurt; being unable to correctly insert a tampon, then being shamed for it, etc.).

    What helped me was not any male partner doing anything, but me coming to terms with my own body, and through introspection and progressive masturbation, being ok with that aspect of sexuality. That might not be what will work for this lady! She might be better off talking to a professional, or maybe she just doesn’t like dudes sexually. But at this point, LW, it sounds like she is not making your sexual needs a priority, and that can’t feel very good. I hope that things work out better or that you find someone who is excited about being totally naked with you and giving you as much pleasure as you give them.

    • Anon said:

      [anon, since it’s not my story]

      Putting this here, as it’s another datapoint on the “This is not a unique problem! It happens to other people too!” set.

      One of my partners has issues with penetration that I thought were simply a result of physical discomfort, but after much talking I found out that the underlying reason was emotional discomfort with the concept of it as “penetration” and the way that ties into society’s expectations of “masculine” and “feminine” behavior and equating feminine with submissive, and that whole pile of things. So, while the physical discomfort on its own would be solvable, the emotional discomfort is vastly more complicated.

      I share this because it’s a thing that might be relevant to other people, and as a note that “discomfort” can be more than just physical. (I wish I’d thought to ask more a few years earlier; I wouldn’t have hoped that the body-changes from her being pregnant would make things better. But I thought I knew what she meant by “discomfort”!)

      • Yeah, I’m not that keen on penetration for that very same reason, and I don’t think it needs to be “solved”. Sexist society won’t go away anytime soon. The risk of pregnancy won’t go away, soon, either, and when it’s gone away, there are age related issues.
        Therefore, not liking penetration is perfectly rational, not a problem in need of solution.

        The problem in need of a solution here is that the LW is not happy with the state of things. And I think the solution will be a separation.

        There might be guys who don’t want their girlfriend to do something to get them off, but I should think the nice person way to do it is to ask if he’s okay with the lack of any touching whatsoever. She didn’t do that, so I do suspect she’s a bit selfish. (Not sure though – he writes she is fully clothed when she touches him, so she does touch him? But not in a sexual way?)

  3. monologue said:

    Yeah idk if not liking penetration or not wanting jizz on you are problems that the gf needs to overcome. But if the LW wants a partner who is cool with those things that is fine. It might not be his current gf.

    • S said:

      I mean… If you want to have a sexually active relationship with a dude you kinda do. Jizz happens.

      But obviously she doesn’t have to want that.

      (I mean sure there might be unicorn guys who always have perfect control over their ejaculations and don’t care about penetration ever. But I would not bank on that.)

      • B. said:

        Well… there *are* trans guys who don’t ejaculate sperm, and dudes in relationships with other dudes who don’t care at all for penetration, so I don’t see why that couldn’t be the case with a cis straight guy. Humanity is diverse, y’all.
        In any case, I wouldn’t want to derail the conversation. The LW wrote asking for scripts, but his girlfriend didn’t write asking for our opinions in her dislike of certain sexual practices 🙂

      • ashbet said:

        I know at least two longterm (10+ years) couples who use condoms, even with another form of b/c.

        In one case, I know it’s specifically because one person doesn’t like coming into contact with semen — but they have an active, joyous, mutually-fulfilling sex life.

        I’m of the “jizz happens, also, that’s really hot” persuasion, myself — but I wanted to speak up on behalf of people who DO find longterm, mutually-agreeable ways of working around it.

    • neverjaunty said:

      What the LW is describing is well beyond ‘she doesn’t like penetration or jizz’. Somebody not reciprocating sexually is a pretty big deal unless that’s your specific kink.

      • monologue said:

        Agreed. I’m just saying what I said above. I’m not saying there’s no problem with the sexual relationship here. I’m just saying these two things are not a must. Maybe this woman is into dudes, maybe she isn’t, but not liking these 2 things is not “omg you’re defective” time.

  4. emily said:

    LW,

    If your going to bring this up to your partner don’t make any assumptions. Don’t come armed with any theories, forgone conclusions, or preconceived plans. Stick with what you know.

    It’s human nature when faced with any sort of problem, even if that problem is another person’s, to want to immediately figure out the cause. But given how this is a pretty sensitive topic, and you have absolutely no idea what’s going on her mind, you really need to avoid doing that here.

    Just stick to the facts, which is that she (and i’d imagine you as well) doesn’t seem satisfied with your sex life. Seriously don’t bring up her sexuality at all, because while there’s a chance that might be a part of what’s going on it’s also equally as possible that it has nothing to do with that, and now your the jerk who brought biphobic undertones into a conversation about your sexual relationship.

    I would also add that if your leaning towards not continuing this relationship, then you probably shouldn’t bring this up at all. I don’t think there’s a way to broach this topic in the context of a break up without it feeling like some sort of bitter slight at her.

    • Yeah. If you want to have the conversation, have the conversation, not a scripted encounter where you’ve already planned for the other person’s half of it. But if the conversation is intended to lead around to “I want to break up”, then just break up and skip the weird intermediate phase of “having a conversation” that has already set your soon-to-be-ex-partner up to fail.

    • ruinousillusion said:

      if we’re talking about not making assumptions, you probably shouldn’t start with her satisfaction or dissatisfaction with her sex life. Maybe this is exactly what she wants and she’s really happy with it.

  5. Nanani said:

    Maybe a non-sexual romantic relationship is actually ideal here? IF sex is that minimal and not-reciprocated, it could be that these two partners having sex with each other is not a good plan. However, if they still want to be each other for romance and companionship, no break up needs to occur.
    Some discussion is needed, including something like “Hey this sex thing isn’t working out, how about we drop it and (do other shared interest) instead?” while making each other feel loved in other ways.

    This, of course, assumes that the LW is, in fact, OK with less sex than the status quo.

    *tosses an ace flag into the rainbow of possibilities*

    • I don’t think that anyone in this relationship is asexual. After all, the bf (LW) wants sex (but not the sex they are having) and the gf enjoys the sex they are having.

      • ashbet said:

        Someone doesn’t have to be ace-sexual-orientation to have a non-sexual romantic relationship — I agree that the word “asexual” is a little confusing here (and I’m guilty of using it that way earlier.)

        While the LW sounds like they are probably allosexual or demisexual, GF might be ace, demi, gray, or allosexual-but-not-interested-in-reciprocal-sex-with this partner — we only have data on her behavior, but not her orientation on the ace-allo spectrum.

      • I’m not asexual and my girlfriend isn’t either but our relationship only works since I decided that we don’t have sex any more. (it also helps that we each have other partners)

        For Reasons That Were No One’s Fault, our sex life was increasingly infrequent and almost always things had to stop before anyone got off and… it just wasn’t working and showed no signs of ever improving. Rather than continue to try or continue to hope for change, I decided I wasn’t going to have sex with her again and we decided that we wanted to be together even with the sex part of our relationship over.

        I think nanani is suggesting something like this rather than suggesting that anyone involved is themself asexual.

        • I was commenting on the *tosses an ace flag…* part mostly (should’ve quoted).

          I get your point. You and your GF were brave and honest with each other.

          This situation has a different feel to it. I’m not convinced that ending the sexual part of this relationship is really what LW wants.

          • Jenn said:

            Agreed. I the LW seems to want his girlfriend to want him, and that’s totally fine. I don’t think opening up this relationship will solve anything and more than likely will throw gasoline on the lit match of their issues.

            But then I dislike this belief that all relationships MUST BE SAVED at all costs. That have you have to jump through multiple hoops, that are on fire, and try every trick in the book before you can be done, which is just…no. Sometimes the best thing to do for a relationship is to end it.

  6. resili0 said:

    My experience with sexual dysfunction/fears – from being someone with my own and being intimate with others who have those going on; is that the thing that got us through it was the desire for each other. The mind is a tricky thing and the body can fail but the desire to find a way to express sexual desire AND to be vulnerable and honest when discussing it was the cornerstone of sorting that out.

    Your GF may or may not know what is holding her back. She may not be holding back. The point is that she hasn’t made much attempt at all to express her desire. Nor has she offered any explanation for what are some fairly rigid parameters on your intimacy. Understandably, you are left wondering. If you have to be the one to challenge the current status quo then that indicates that you are far more willing to be vulnerable than she is.

    In my view conversations about sex are often not about what someone wants as much as they are about being wanted; being trusted and being cared for even when sex is not possible. Sexual issues can be sorted but not without the desire to do so. The sad things is that you cannot make your GF want to go through this with you, via direct confrontation or via more indirect hinting.

    Whether you desire hot transgressive sex in huge quantities or serene soulful shagging; you deserve to be desired and to be with a partner who cares about you. It’s not selfish to want that kind of partner.

    • rikibeth said:

      Serene Soulful Shagging is my next band name.

      • resili0 said:

        Make beautiful music! :p

    • MuddieMae said:

      “The sad things is that you cannot make your GF want to go through this with you, via direct confrontation or via more indirect hinting.”

      Truth truth truth. A few years ago I found myself in the GF’s position – I was no longer sexually attracted to my partner but for some reason I wasn’t consciously aware of that. I chalked it up to some kind of sexual dysfunction which led my partner to attempt to solve it in various not-helpful ways, which squelched whatever remaining bit of attraction could have been rekindled.

      I don’t think this is a fixable situation, personally, but if it is the LW isn’t the one to lead here.

      • resili0 said:

        Yep. Talking about sexual negotiations and problems is so emotionally taxing when society insists sex should be instinctual. I think that GF needs to be self aware enough to know what her deal is and also willing to put effort into the discussion. Otherwise the cringe inducing process of ‘lets-unpick-this-tangled-mess-of-feelings’ becomes a battleground.

  7. Bunny said:

    LW, it is kind of you to want to centre your partner’s needs and wellbeing. But there’s also a need for balance, here. Your needs and wellbeing also matter, and it sounds like yours aren’t being met.

    I would not frame any conversation around your guesses regarding your partner’s sexuality or sexual needs. You’ll be making assumptions, and if you’re even a hair wrong you could end up causing them more offence and having the conversation go really poorly. No one likes it when someone – even someone they love – comes to them with diagnostic solutions for “who they are”.

    Instead, frame it solidly around your wants and needs. You care for them deeply, but you’re not getting satisfaction/enjoyment/pleasure/etc from the sex that’s happening, and you’d ideally like to move towards a place where you’re getting your needs met as well. Is this something partner is able to work towards? Is it something the two of you can start working on soon/now, or is there some other barrier in the way of that happening?

    And if your partner’s honest answer is that they can’t see themselves changing to include anything more that you would enjoy, then it may just be the two of you are not sexually compatible, and if so it would probably be kindest all around for the relationship to end, so you can both find someone more compatible.

  8. ctruex said:

    LW, this sounds like a deeply unhappy situation for you. For your own mental health and emotional wellbeing, something has to happen. This isn’t just a “not getting your way” thing, this is about your partner treating any sexual contact with you as unpleasant. Even if you were sexually satisfied (which it certainly seems you’re not) that has to have an emotional impact. I do agree that you shouldn’t say anything about her sexuality (from my friends’ experiences, nothing enrages a bisexual faster (and rightly so) than someone presuming that they in fact are at one or the other binary option). Just go in saying here’s the problem, are you unhappy, I’m not satisfied, can we talk about this? If nothing comes of it… maybe it’s time to move on.

    • Mel Reams said:

      nothing enrages a bisexual faster (and rightly so) than someone presuming that they in fact are at one or the other binary option

      Seconding this, assuming girlfriend is really a lesbian because she doesn’t want to have sex the way LW wants to have sex is kind of a dick move. I mean, I can see how he got there, but whether she’s a lesbian or not really isn’t his problem. The sex they do have not working for him is his problem.

      Also, re: girlfriend’s fear of sperm: tokophobia (fear of getting pregnant) is a thing. I’m really trying not to internet diagnose LW’s girlfriend here, I just want to throw out the possibility that a bisexual person could have reasons other than lack of attraction to a certain gender to not do certain sex acts with that gender.

      • piny1 said:

        This all goes way, way, way beyond not liking or avoiding a particular sexual practice”I don’t want to have penetrative sex” is one thing – “No penetrative sex or oral sex and also I’m not going to be getting you off during sex, ever, at all, and also I have to keep all of my clothes on whenever I touch you, as a form of birth control, you understand,” is pretty absolute. Some people do enjoy sexual contact that is this restrained or specific, just like some people like being peed on, but their dynamic isn’t LW’s interest or his history – in the context of their relationship, this is much less sex, not different but equally valid sex.

        So I think it’s fair at this point for LW to assume that his girlfriend doesn’t want to have sex with him, because she’s not having any kind of satisfying sex with him or trying to have any kind of satisfying sex with him. And although there are myriad potential reasons for her lack of interest in him getting off, it’s not a specific refusal indicating a specific issue. It’s a pretty blanket rejection.

        Also, this isn’t just a potential alternative sexuality. It’s one that LW’s girlfriend isn’t communicating about. I mean, there’s a really big difference between having a sexuality that excludes getting your partner off and assuming your partner is cool with that. One of those is a valid need. The other one is a fairly dysfunctional way to manage that need. I mean, if my partner couldn’t sleep in the same bed with me, I’d accommodate that. If they just started sleeping on the couch with no explanation, I’d be worried and upset – and I would reasonably assume that intimacy was the problem.

        • Mel Reams said:

          Oh I fully agree it doesn’t sound at all like girlfriend has any sexual interest in LW and that their relationship is not working, I’m just not comfortable with jumping directly from ‘doesn’t want to have sex with one particular guy (LW)’ to ‘lied (knowingly or not) about being bisexual, is actually a lesbian’

          • Right. The giant levels of biphobia wrapped up in that jump are…giant.

            If a romantic partner said that to me, I would break up with their ass because this bisexual does not need that bullcrap.

            She might be less attracted to men than she’s said. She might have something else going on. She needs to communicate better. LW still better check his biphobia stat.

      • “assuming girlfriend is really a lesbian because she doesn’t want to have sex the way LW wants to have sex is kind of a dick move”

        *cough* I see what you did there… 😛

    • “nothing enrages a bisexual faster (and rightly so) than someone presuming that they in fact are at one or the other binary option”

      Ding! LW, if nothing else, don’t do the thing where you try to convince someone that their sexuality is other than what they have said. (There are people who use bisexual identities as a waystation on the Road to Gayville, but that is a whoooooole can of worms, and better left unopened.)

    • On the other hand, Gay/Lesbian people with difficult families frequently poke their nose out of the closet by announcing that they are bisexual. Then a year or two later they’re either fully out of the closet or their mouths are very carefully shut, sometimes after dating a couple members of the opposite sex. Proclaiming oneself to be Bi under such circumstances is not a bad thing in my opinion, but a very appropriate way of adapting to a world which is frequently toxic to Queer folk. The warning you’ve given is useful, but probably not germane to the LW’s situation.

      • Countess Boochie Flagrante said:

        As a gay person who did this…. nah. Just because *some people* use bisexuality as a way to test the waters outside the closet doesn’t imply that *this particular person* is doing so, and you’re still falling into the “bi people aren’t really bi” rubbish.

        • and you’re still falling into the “bi people aren’t really bi” rubbish.

          Not at all. If a person over twenty-five tells me that they are Bi I will believe them unconditionally 99.9 percent of the time. (The 0.1 percent left over is for people in INCREDIBLY dysfunctional circumstances.)

          Younger people get evaluated on a case-by-case basis with careful attention paid to how supportive their family and/or local culture might be, due to the “stick your nose out of the closet by claiming to be Bi” phenomena. Having made my evaluation, I keep my mouth shut because that’s the right thing to do. (I’m discussing this case because we can’t identify the people we’re discussing.) 25 seems right as a divider between “younger” and “adult” due to “will my parents pay for college” issues. The younger the person might be the more I’d be inclined to look for the “stick your nose out of the closet” issue. I don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with Bi people or that that they need to commit one way or the other.

          Under the circumstances I think it’s silly to get hung up on this particular argument. The LW has been warned about the issue and that’s probably enough.

          • If you don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with bi people or that they need to be monosexual, then why are you choosing to doubt self-identified bi people who are any age? What does it matter? For what it’s worth, I’ve known more than one previously self-identified lesbian or gay man realize once they are in their 30s, 40s and 50s that they are bi, because all of a sudden they met a partner of a different sex. And, as somebody who has always known she was a lesbian even when she was in her early teens, it is pretty maddening to hear that ‘young people can’t know what their sexuality is.’ Sure, some don’t. Sure, for some people sexual orientation shifts over time (in any direction). But really, unless you are wanting to date the bi person under the age of 25 and you’re a man and they’re a woman or vice versa, so them being ‘secretly gay’ would be a real problem, why on earth are you second guessing the sexuality of young people?

          • piny1 said:

            Amethyst put it better than me, but…gross? There’s no reason to assume that a bisexual-identified person is less self-aware than someone who identifies as gay or straight. When someone under twenty-five tells you they’re heterosexual, do you internally go, “Sure, sweetheart. Time will tell.” Lots of closeted gay and lesbian people either pretend to be straight or believe that they are straight well past their twenties. Why is bisexuality the only identity that receives this level of scrutiny?

      • Squirrel said:

        As a bi person I can also throw in my two cents that I find people who briefly identify as bisexual and then identify another way doesn’t bother me. I totally grok it, and I think in the moment in which they came out as bi, they are completely bi. What I do have a problem with is people who automatically assume that a large number of self-identified bisexual people are transient bisexuals on the way to monosexuality. Like you do.

        As in, it’s far more harmful to make such assumptions about people than it is to just take people at their word. I mean, if one is going to be paternalistic and assume that people don’t actually mean what they say, where does that stop?

        I’m also not sure that anyone is unaware of people who are briefly bisexual before coming out as gay/lesbian. The exact problem is everyone knows about this narrative and assumes that it is the ur-narrative of all bisexual people. What I think the quote is about is to accept people as being really bisexual, rather than projecting something into the future.

        I sure don’t mind people visiting Bi-city before stopping of at Gayville. I mind people who have already plotted out others’ itinerary for them because they think they absolutely know that the bisexual person would be so much happier in Gayville.

        That’s what gets bisexuals enraged: people assuming their sexuality despite what they have explicitly said;

      • And on the flip side are people who hesitate to identify as bisexual and so masquerade as gay or lesbian in some circumstances. Please don’t act as if bisexuality is necessarily a “safer” identity than homosexuality.

        • piny1 said:

          “Homosexuality” is not an equivalent term to “bisexuality” and “heterosexuality.” It’s a term most gay and lesbian people reject – and actively dislike! – because it has a really long history of being used to pathologize them. It’s making a comeback, mostly through the same parallel structure you’re demonstrating here, but it isn’t a neutral term to use to refer to gay and lesbian people, or their identities.

          • Maybe it’s a regional thing. I’m Canadian, I’m queer, and I’ve met people who self-identify as homosexual. However, I will bear that in mind.

  9. B. said:

    LW, your girlfriend’s path in understanding her sexual and romantic wants and needs is her own to walk. You cannot do that work for her. Unless and until she asks you, in her own words and with no nudging whatsoever on your part, to help her figure out a few things about her sexuality, any help you’d offer on the matter would probably feel very unwelcome and patronising.
    Being supportive often means biting your tongue until the person you’re supporting is ready to acknowledge something that may have seemed obvious to you for a long time. It can be frustrating, but you have to respect that person’s decisions, including those that may seem mistakes to you.
    However, that doesn’t mean you should stay in an unfullfilling relationship. It means that you speak your feelings and your mind and let your girlfriend do the same if she wants to. If she doesn’t want to talk with you about her feelings, do you want to be in a relationship with her? If so, for how long?
    Possible scripts:
    – Girlfriend, the way we currently have sex is not working for me. What do you need out of intimacy? What wouldn’t you want to try? Here’s a list of things I need and things I do not want to try.
    – Girlfriend, when you don’t reciprocate in bed I feel [neglected/sad/insecure/undesired/ insert your own descriptor]. That’s really bringing me down. Is there anything we can do about that? Here’re some suggestions, what do you think?
    – Girlfriend, I care a lot about you, but what I need from sex is different from what you’re able/willing to give at the moment. I think we should [break up/stop having sex/discuss polyamory/insert your own option].
    Best of luck, LW! Remember, you shouldn’t try to “fix” your girlfriend (cause she’s not broken), nor “guide” her (unless she asks you for guidance). You should try to talk to her about the aspects of sex together that bother you. And you should consider the possibility of ending or changing your relationship if it doesn’t make you (singular you) happy.
    Hope everything goes well,
    B.

    • ctruex said:

      This ^

    • ashbet said:

      Brilliant!!

      I’d maybe put “would or wouldn’t want to try” (to open up more possibilities for “yes, I’d love to try that!”), but this is otherwise perfect.

      LW, you deserve to feel desired. If your GF can’t or won’t do the things you need to feel loved and desired, the kindest thing to both of you is to stop having a sexual relationship with each other.

      But, yes, if you’re not leaning toward breakup right now, these conversations are your best bet to be happier and more satisfied and fulfilled.

    • Brooks said:

      Yes, this!

      Also, it is entirely reasonable that a thing you want out of sex is “I want to have the experience of my partner making happy involuntary wriggles and squeaky noises (or equivalent) in response to what I’m doing to them.” Or, and this is not quite the same thing, “I want to have the experience of my partner and I both making happy wriggles at the same time that feed into each other.” Or, “I want to have my partner making happy wriggles that I’m feeling with my whole body against them,” with optional “as I hold them close” or “as they hold me close” or “as we hold each other close” or “as gravity holds us close” as variants that may or may not be important to the experience.

      When these are things that you want, it’s important to own that _you_ want them, rather than projecting them onto the partner as a thing that they should want because the desire has them doing the wriggling and squeaking.

      Otherwise, you end up in the failure state where they’re doing everything you’ve said you want but you’re not happy, and you are blaming them for not wanting the things that you feel they “should” want, and because both of those are not the real problem, they can’t actually be fixed.

    • Thulcandran said:

      Super this.

      I’m intersex, and I have had a number of conversations with partners about what works, what doesn’t, etc. My second-to-last ex was a trans-feminine person who was not, at the time, out. They did not want to have sex, and because of their background, it was coded in “not before marriage,” talk. As I slowly became more comfortable with my body, and also realized that marriage was not a thing I ever, ever, ever wanted to do, this became less and less of a good situation for me. We had a conversation about this, tears were shed, we decided to give it another try, and before the week was over, I realized that I no longer had feelings for them, nor vice versa. Breaking up was absolutely the right call.

      When I did, though, I did for my sake as much as anything. For me, intimacy is a central part of a relationship, even if that wasn’t the case when we first started dating. It worked out for them very well, but we had to talk first. It wasn’t a case of “I think this isn’t working for you, therefore we’re through,” because that would have been making a call for them. And it wasn’t a case of “This isn’t working for me, we’re over,” because, in that situation, that would have been assuming a lot without communicating. I have, only once, had a serious fight with my girlfriend about this, in a very different context – in that case, we talked it through and came to the conclusion that we could work things out by changing both our actions and our expectations.

      Your situations may vary, and therefore your mileage will vary, but talking it out is never a bad idea, for your sake as much as theirs. There is nothing wrong at all with needing sexual intimacy of a different kind in a relationship, and never be afraid to own up to your own needs.

  10. Tabitha said:

    I am a bisexual woman with a strong preference for women and there are several extremely common sex acts that I’m just not all that into. I’m pretty sure about what I want and what I don’t want and I wouldn’t appreciate someone trying to convince me that there was something wrong with that. Which isn’t to say you have to be happy with the sex you’re having but it does make it a problem you are having that she can choose to address or not address rather than a problem she is having.

    Conversation A: “You need to learn to like X and Y sex acts because it’s not normal that you don’t and I’m just trying to help you” is very very different from Conversation B: “I’d really like to do X to you and I’d really like it if you’d do Y during sex”

    I’ve had both conversations. The first with an ex that I do not think fondly of at all and the second with my current partner. I still don’t like X and so my partner doesn’t do it but it’s amazing how much more willing I am to do Y with someone who respects my no if I decide I’m not up for it this time.

    • monologue said:

      yepppppppp

    • Anon said:

      Seconding this. The more you treat her like she’s broken or dysfunctional the worse it will go for everyone involved

  11. Ariane said:

    I don’t think it’s totally off-balance for LW to wonder whether he’s in a position to help his partner. Yes, LW must deal with his personal needs instead of framing it all on his partner; yes, LW cannot ultimately change what the partner wants, when she’ll want it, etc. However, as a person who has dealt with sexual fear and dysfunction, I can testify that having a kind, loving, supportive and open partner can be an ENORMOUS help. Some of these things we work through completely on our own, but some of them can be worked on very meaningfully through a sexual relationship. Just from my own personal experience, I’m really, really glad I found a partner who didn’t assume I had “already communicated” what I wanted in bed without really talking things through.

    • kanel said:

      Seconding this.

      However, I’d say DON’T DO IT if the status quo isn’t working at all for you and you need things to change in order for you to be happy in the relationship (and it sounds like this might be the case here). Helping someone deal with sexual fear and dysfunction takes time and love and doesn’t work if there’s any direct or indirect pressure. At least not in my experience, it just made me try harder to appear normal and push myself to do things I couldn’t. The internal and societal pressure is hard enough to deal with, and pressuring oneself only makes these things worse.

      It’s totally ok to leave if the situation isn’t working for you, LW, but if you want to be the “kind, loving, supportive and open partner” that Ariane writes about, and I can testify as well how incredibly important and healing that can be, just make sure first that you actually can be. Work out how you feel, what your needs are and if you really would be ok with the possibility that certain things may not ever change or that it may take many years.

      A data point: For me it took 14 years to a) figure out what was causing my sexual fears and b) get to a point where I could be with a partner sexually without that paralyzing fear getting between us. It would probably have been faster if I hadn’t pressured myself and/or been pressured by partners and if I had gotten professional help earlier, but still, it can take a long time. I still have triggers and I can’t do everything my current partner would like, but we have a mutually satisfying sexual relationship that we are both very happy with.

      • Anon said:

        Adding anecdata: it took me around 6 years and the answer I came to was just finding peace in the idea that there are some things I don’t like and don’t have to do. I stopped feeling anxious when I could pinpoint them and stop pressuring myself to like them.

        So yeah, LW, the answer might be that she really honestly never wants to do the things you want to do. I don’t think it’s possible to be the aforementioned open and supportive partner helping someone through sexual fears unless you’re really actually okay with any outcome that alleviates the fear, including “no, never.”

        You want a different sex life than you have, so I’m leaning toward the breakup outcome too. She hasn’t even expressed the desire to “fix” any fears.

  12. SZ said:

    “What’s a good way to get her to assess our relationship, to be honest with herself and to see if it’s what she wants?”

    Ask her. Ask her and be open to what she says. Ask her without assuming you know the answer. Ask her without hoping for a particular answer. Ask without knowing whether this is a problem that you and she can solve together. Ask her after accepting that a breakup may be the answer.

    Ask yourself: What do you really want, from your relationship, sexually and otherwise?

    Ask her, and be honest, and listen.

    You asked for scripts. How about:

    Are you happy with our sex life?
    It seems like you don’t want to touch me or help me get off. What’s up with that?
    Have you ever had penetrative sex? Ever wanted it? Can you tell me about that?
    Do you see me more as a friend, or a lover?

    Also:

    Our sex life feels very limited to me. I don’t want to push your boundaries, but here is what I do want….
    I’d like more intimacy, and I don’t know if you desire me the way I desire you.

    Breaking up is always an option. But if you do break up, it will help both of you to know why, so you can do it gently and help each other move forward.

    • TO_Ont said:

      The only thing I would change is this: “Ask her without hoping for a particular answer”

      I think it’s very natural and very OK to have hopes, and the LW shouldn’t feel guilty about having them. The key is not pressuring someone to give the answer you hope for, and fully listening to the answer they do give.

      • syrens said:

        THIS!

  13. Mary said:

    Waay too much time thinking about what your partner wants and not enough time thinking about what you want.

    You are allowed to want to be sexually compatible, and you’re allowed to break up with your partner because you feel like she’s not really into you.

    What if she is actually really into men, but just doesn’t fancy you? What if she really does fancy you, but her way of showing it really doesn’t make you feel good? These are both legitimate reasons to go your separate ways. You don’t have to make it about her unresolved homosexuality!

    • piny1 said:

      ‘Homosexual’ and ‘homosexuality’ are making a comeback, probably because people talk about ‘bisexuality’ and ‘heterosexuality’ more, and because they seem like a natural, neutral equivalent – but they’re really not. Gay and lesbian people typically don’t refer to themselves as ‘homosexual,’ mostly because the word has a really long history among bigots who refused to use terms like ‘gay’ – ‘homosexual’ implicitly pathologized same-gender orientations by referring to them in clinical terms, and was an especial favorite among reactionaries who wanted to link HIV/AIDS to the ‘homosexual deathstyle.’ Some people feel differently, but I and a lot of other people don’t feel comfortable with these words at all, and don’t want them edging back into the lexicon.

      • Mary said:

        I’m queer, and I know that! I deliberately used an outdated term because I think the LW is projecting “my partner doesn’t seem to be interested in sex with me – she must be a Lesbian!” in a way that reminds me of every Freudian theory about Frigid Women from the late nineteenth century onwards. But I take the point that that wasn’t immediately obvious from what I wrote. 🙂

      • Mel Reams said:

        Good to know! I thought those were neutral words, if weirdly formal in most contexts.

  14. Rose Fox said:

    but she doesn’t seem interested in my body

    This doesn’t bode terribly well for the two of you having any kind of mutually fulfilling sexual relationship, and it has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation.

    I know a cis guy who dated a Kinsey 5.9 cis woman for several years. The two of them basically had “lesbian sex”, complete with him using a thigh strap-on because she was fine with penetration but extremely pregnancy-averse. She was also very enthusiastically interested in him and there was no question that they were both having a great time in bed. If that enthusiasm and joy are present, anything can be worked around and sorted out. If they’re not, then the issue isn’t the what or the where or the how; it’s the who.

    If you think there’s a genuine family pressure issue going on, it’s perfectly fine for you to say “I’m sorry your family are homophobic jerks, but if you’re only dating a guy in order to put them at ease, I don’t want to be the guy you’re dating (and you should let the next guy you date know that that’s what you’re looking for)”. If you’re not happy with your sex life and don’t see it becoming something you’re happy with, it’s perfectly fine for you to say “This isn’t working out for me; let’s be friends or non-sexual non-monogamous partners so I can look for someone I’m sexually compatible with”. But please don’t cast it as a patronizing “I’m breaking up with you for your own good” sort of thing. If you’re going to end the relationship, do it because you don’t want to be in the relationship; that is both necessary and sufficient.

  15. Dear LW,

    I’m with the Captain on this one. Your girlfriend is fine with the sex she’s having with you. You get her off, she doesn’t reciprocate. Why would she change?

    If you’re not fine with it (and if I were in your position I’d be miserable), and you can’t imagine her changing with you then breaking up is your best option.

  16. A. non. said:

    I spent about a year and a half dating a brilliant, wonderful woman with whom I had he most amazing conversational chemistry ever, and…she was Not Into other men, and obviously Not Into my body, even though we did have some really mutually fun (but very particular) sex.

    I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m really glad we split in time to keep all that friendship and intellectual spark and mutual support, but honestly, convincing myself I was ok with a sex life a lot like the one you describe was really bad for my self-esteem in ways it took me quite a while to even really realize. When I did get together with someone who genuinely thought I was hot in the ways I felt about my ex, I wound up crying with gratitude in bed. My ex is indeed only dating women now, and is indeed a happier and more vibrant person by all accounts.

    I can’t say for your partner what she really wants, and I’m sure there’s lots of great stuff about your relationship, but it doesn’t sound like sex is part of that. For your own sake, I would suggest ending the sexual aspect of your relationship and then figuring out if and where you fit in each other’s lives. Sometimes trying to be infinitely accommodating and infinitely patient isn’t good for either of you, and deep sexual incompatibility is one of those times.

  17. Theaz said:

    I would echo lots of the above. Your girlfriend is also an adult woman who is capable of (and in fact is the only one able to) figure out what’s right for her and where she wants to be. She doesn’t (maybe) seem interested in making a move or a change – you do. Your most important questions, I think, are for yourself. Do you feel desired and cared for with your partner in the ways you need to to be satisfied and fulfilled by your relationship? Do you feel like it’s important to her that you feel cared for and desired in satisfying ways? I don’t mean any particular act, because it sort of goes way beyond the satisfyingness of the specific sex. I think most people want to feel wanted and desired and special in the eyes of their partner(s). If that’s true of you, is that happening in your relationship? Does it seem possible? It seems like you would like her to discover some feelings you suspect she has and leave, rather than leaving her – do you know why that is? Why is it necessary to this process that it be about a truth she discovers rather than one you discover?

    I wish my first boyfriend had left when he felt like this, because that was waaaay before I realized what I felt about him. We spent a lot of time where I tried to reconcile how much I liked having him around with how little we were sexually compatible, and how many issues about sex I just needed to figure out before I could be better adjusted around it. In the meantime I think he got very hurt by a long period of feeling unwanted and rejected and uncared for that it took a very long time for him to work through. We did not work, and it wasn’t his fault, and I very much regret the period of time he spent thinking that it was because I didn’t understand that love didn’t always translate into pantsfeelings.

  18. How old are these people? The questions which are being asked have very different answers at 16 than at 25 (or older.)

    If the couple is very young, perhaps one is 16 and the other is 14, there may be some physical/mental development issues in addition to the other obvious issues. If the couple is a little older – both of them are 16 – 20 than some social/family/personal issues may be in play that wouldn’t apply for someone who has fully attained an adult sexuality. The advice I would give here is very much age-related.

  19. commandingpresence21 said:

    Can i just mention that everyone – including the LW – who is suggesting that LW’s partner is not there orientation she says she is, is being really biphobic? Especially the people associating not liking penetration with not liking men. Nice misogynistic biphobia. Nice.

    It does not matter if someone does not do the sexual things *you* assume they do if they specify a certain orientation.

    I don’t see mention of LW’s gf being bothered by her sexual activity so why are people’s seriously suggesting therapy etc? Yall are being gross.

    • Noggins said:

      But wouldnt you agree that “bisexual but no penetration and spermphobic” is a lot less likely than “lesbian” ?

      • Big Pink Box said:

        For me the issue of penetration may or may not be relevant.

        I know plenty of cisstraight women who don’t like penetration, and I know lesbians like me, Big Pink Wife, friends etc who love it, but only want to be penetrated by other women. (OEM or after-market is fine, as long as a woman is attached. I’m a d*ke, a woman with a penis is going to do far more for me than a guy with boobs and beaver.)

        I know straight women so terrified of pregnancy that they have an IUD, are on the pill, and insist on condoms during any genital contact, and just refuse to be penetrated vaginally or anally. They still have creative, varied sex lives that leave them and their partner fulfilled.

        The big red flags here aren’t related to penetration, or lack thereof, but to lack of clear verbalisation and communication of mutual needs, and also to fear/anxiety on both their parts – she seems anxious over certain physical acts, he’s worrying “Is it me, or is it men?” and “How do I find out what’s going on in her head without hurting her?”.

        • Mary said:

          I remember a bi friend complaining that she and her partner were struggling to get pregnant because they kept getting carried away and forgetting they needed to have PIV sex. 😂

        • piny1 said:

          Yeah – I think it’s only natural for LW to speculate, and in his shoes I’d probably be wondering what was up, too. But it isn’t a constructive part of any discussion with LW’s girlfriend, because it can get really dehumanizing and hateful really fast. Also, LW’s girlfriend is on record as being bad at having candid discussions about this stuff, to the point where sex sans touching seems to have just quietly become a status quo.

          LW’s best strategy here is to communicate his needs and then make independent plans to get them met. Everything else – about other people’s sexual preferences, about LW’s girlfriend’s potential issues – is just noise. And per some of these comments, problematic and creepy noise.

      • winter said:

        How is that relevant? The advice to LW is to *not* try and “”fix”” gf but to be honest with himself what they want out of this relationship. Apart from being monosexist, this speculation is rather pointless and patronizing (because it implies gf doesn’t know her own mind and sexuality).

        • Noggins said:

          Yes, i think that someone who identifies as bisexual but seems to be revolted by heterosexual sex may well not know their own mind.

          I think there is a difference in possible outcomes for both of them depending on whether she is bisexual or lesbian.

          Although on the other hand if LW story was about a straight GF with the last 3 issues mentioned id be – “incompatible: too different: break up” so actually its not relevant and i should shut up now.

          • JenniferP said:

            Yes to that last part (about stopping now)!

          • “Yes, i think that someone who identifies as bisexual but seems to be revolted by heterosexual sex may well not know their own mind.”

            Look I will be honest, I’m bi and 10,000% done with biphobia in this thread, but let’s just assume that you mean well and are willing to learn….

            This wrong with the above quote:
            a) the assumption of what heterosexual sex even is
            b) the implication here: “we only have a second hand account of this person but they’re probably just another fake-bi who isn’t “resolved” in their sexuality cause they should just pick a side especially if they seem to have a preference just at the moment”
            c) the whole bisexuals must be equally interested in all kinds of sex with all kinds of people, regardless of the existence of things like asexuality, grey-asexuality. Not to mention the difference between “sex with other people” and “porn i like to watch/things i fantasize about” etc etc etc etc ad infinitum.

            FWIW I’m demisexual and bisexual, and I’m similar – have literally no interest in any form of media that involves het relationships. But I’m dating a man. Who has a similar libido/sex interests to me, which is really the entirety of LWs problem is and I can’t believe we’re having this discussion.

            Basically yes, agreeing with & thanking you commenter B above me.
            Don’t arm-chair diagnose people over the net, stop making assumptions about other people. And on behalf of all bi people who’ve ever been asked to choose a side: if you’re gonna post a quote like that… don’t.

      • B. said:

        No couch-dignosing people over the internet, and that includes not diagnosing sexual orientations.
        It’s really hurtful to bisexual people being told that they don’t exist or that they’re confused about their feelings. Please stop that.
        In addition, sexual practices and sexual orientation don’t necessarily align. The second often is a matter of identity, the first often a matter of expression. Homoeroticism was really present in Ancient Greece, yet I don’t see any scholars defending there was a higher percentage of gay and bisexual men among Ancient Greeks. What the LW’s girlfriend likes or doesn’t like in bed is no valid reason to try and guess/question her orientation which, incidentally, has nothing to do with the LW’s problem. This is a matter of sexual compatibility and reciprocation, let’s please try and help with that.

        • piny1 said:

          No, it doesn’t, because sexual orientation is not a medical condition that can be diagnosed by anyone, in any context. I get what you’re trying to say here, and your basic point about extrapolating into fairly private territory remains valid, but this is actually an offensive thing to say.

          And in general, can commenters please try to be mindful of pathologising language about orientation and identity? It’s really problematic.

          • B. said:

            You’re right, sorry!

      • Mary said:

        Is there really a correlation between not liking penetration and being lesbian? I haven’t slept with all of them, but I would have thought the majority of gay women enjoy penetration. I wouldn’t think of finger-fucking as a particularly bi/straight woman thing to enjoy?

        • I think there is a correlation between being lesbian and admitting that one does not like penetration, as a heterosexual woman will feel it is expected of her to pretend she likes it.
          Same with men liking to be on the receiving end of anal penetration – gay men are more likely to think about and try it than straight men.

      • Amphelise said:

        Noggins: …. no?

    • slfisher said:

      I’m label-phobic, and this whole is she bi/is she lesbian/is she ace/etc. etc. thing is giving me the heebie jeebies.

      LW is unhappy, it sounds like, with their sexual relationship.
      LW needs to decide if they want to give their partner the opportunity to work on this, or just bail.
      If LW wants to give them this opportunity, then partner needs to decide whether they want to work on it with LW, or bail.
      If they decide to work on it, they may want to discuss what “success” means and at what point either of them might decide to throw in the towel and nope out of it.
      What LW’s partner’s sexual identity is or may be in the future is really irrelevant to all of that.

      • JenniferP said:

        There’s one label that matters – the LW’s girlfriend says she’s bisexual, so, she’s bisexual. Period. End of debate. It may change with time, but until she changes it, it is completely moot.

        Whether the relationship is working for the LW is another story and worth probing. Questioning the way she identifies herself is not the way to get there.

  20. Helbling said:

    Oh LW, I would hug you if I could.

    You are getting a lot of folk pointing out that you need to be focusing on what you want and less of divining your gf wants, but I can see exactly why you’ve done it. By phrasing it as ‘gosh, gf might just not been interested in penises’ it means you get to avoid all the worries of ‘gosh, gf just doesn’t seem interested in *me*’. By effectively framing it in your brain as she doesn’t like the type of genitals you possess, it depersonalises her (fairly clearly communicated) dislike and means you don’t have to feel so much like she’s rejecting you *personally*. Which can be an extremely painful thought to have to handle. And reframing your narrative to focus on you might bring you back into contact with that thought process. So I’m just here to offer virtual jedi hugs and tea and reassurance that you did nothing wrong, and even if your current gf is not so interested in meeting your needs, there will be other people out there in the future who are.

  21. dappled said:

    Dear LW,
    I hope that you are able to get what you need. I just want to share my experience as someone who has had to (hugely reluctantly) learn to communicate better about my wants/needs in bed, after getting an immune condition that directly affects my ability to have sex (everything, from penetrative intercourse to manual stimulation). For me, sex has always been the location of my self-esteem: I have always been *good at* sex (in a bunch of effed up ways that come out of a history of trying to use my sexuality to overcome sexual assault experiences as a teenager). Current Partner is first serious partner since diagnosis, really. I’ve had a horrible time communicating with partner about body limits/what I’m into etc. Not because of anything they have done! They’re GREAT and cool and patient and innovative and into making a sex life that suits my new limits. BUT *I* felt like a huge failure, and clammed up, and stopped communicating, and made sex a super stressful guessing game that satisfied neither of us. And for a while I think partner thought I was ok with it because I refused, essentially, to discuss it. Only after them saying ‘hey, I’m not really enjoying our sex life’ were we able to have a tearful conversation that has opened us up to communicating better, me being less afraid, and sex being fun again – even now, its an ongoing journey and I have to check in with them and myself regularly to see how my communication is.
    So: I wish you luck, and I just want to say that the assumption that your partner is satisfied with your sex life, just because they aren’t working to change it, may not be true. They might be stuck, or scared, or anything else. Giving them the space to vocalise that (or, conversely, to vocalise that they’re fine/not fine but not interested in changing, etc) might be beneficial for both of you. xxx

  22. RSVP said:

    ” I know it sounds like a silly thing to say, but I think she’s only going out with me to please her family/friends by going out with a man when she possibly prefers women.”
    Not silly at all. She wouldn’t be the first gay person in the history of the world to be pressured into being “normal” and faking it with a partner of the opposite sex. Maybe on some level she might even think that she can get used to being with a man, or train herself into heterosexuality somehow.
    “She’s scared of penetration so much that I can’t put a finger inside her (could be a number of medical reasons).”
    Or maybe psychological trauma, such as past sexual assault?
    These problems aren’t something you can easily fix. Only she can do that.

  23. lisakoby said:

    LW – you need to get out. This isn’t working for you, and that is reason enough. It isn’t your job (and frankly a bit condescending) for you to try to fix her, help her find herself etc.

  24. icewindgale said:

    I’m an asexual, agender person assigned female at birth, and today is my 7th wedding anniversary with a basically straight guy: to add to the pile of evidence that sexually-incompatible relationships can work (they also ARE work, as it’s important to keep assessing the best route for both partners to feel fulfilled and neither partner to feel pressured). But, when we got married, our wedding vows did not include any of that “til death do us part” business. We agreed to be committed to and supportive of each other, to endeavor to work through the obstacles and continuously improve our relationship, until such a time as one or both of us found the relationship untenable. Maybe this will never happen, but I think it’s important that every day we choose to be together.

    That said, I think you both have to acknowledge the incompatibility and still enthusiastically want to have a relationship that works around it. Resentment does terrible things to a relationship. If both of you are not in a place where you want to do that, I would venture to suggest you are indeed better off dissolving your current partnership. As noted above, this can and should be a decision that either side makes unilaterally – if you both agree breaking up is best, great, but if either of your thinks so, the person who wants to stay together is not entitled to pressure the other person into doing so.

    Tell partner what you’re experiencing. Try to leave any expectations (of her specifically) or recriminations out of this telling. Leave room for partner to tell you how she feels and what she wants, and if what she wants includes continuation of your relationship, evaluate her proposal and decide if you are also on board. If so, give it a shot and see if what was discussed plays out, and if indeed you both find it satisfying. You both retain the right to change your mind at any time about continuing the relationship, or about what you need to feel fulfilled.

    Good luck, LW!

  25. Monica said:

    LW,
    It doesn’t sound like you’re getting much from this. Not even a word about how much you like/love your girlfriend, your common interests etc – the usual stuff people preface their letters with before the “but…”

    What’s keeping you with this person?

    • Wanting to be supportive said:

      Thanks for all of the comments. I appreciate all of the suggestions. I just want to clarify some details.

      I’m with my girlfriend because I love her. Being in her company in general makes me so happy. It’s just our sex life where I’m feeling neglected.

      It’s not about penetrative sex, it’s about wanting to feel appreciate and desired. Usually, after I get her off, she turns over and goes to sleep without so much as cuddling or showing any kind of affection.

      I’m sorry for the biphobic thread. That was not my intention. I’m not trying to fix her; I want what’s best for her.

      She likes to remind me at every opportunity that she’s bi, so drawing attention to the fact that she likes women. She’s told me about her homophobic family and for the first few times we did anything of a sexual nature she texted her friends all the details before going to sleep. I felt like she done it to prove a point to them.

      I’m wanting a script as I want to be supportive and to let her know that I want what’s best for her even if we’re not compatible. If we need to take things glacially slow, then I know where I stand and we can move at her pace. If she’s just not into me for any reason, then we should go our own ways. If she isn’t in to me, that would suck, but if she doesn’t find men attractive I want her to know that I’m still there for her.

      • slfisher said:

        She may find men attractive but not find you attractive. Conversely, she may not find men attractive but may find you attractive. Really, what matters is how she feels about you, not men in general.

        “wanting to feel appreciated and desired.”

        What would that look like to you? What specific actions on her part would help you feel appreciated and desired?

      • Wanting to be supportive said:

        Like a lot of comments say, her sexual orientation isn’t strictly relevant. The dilemma is that I’m happy if we need to take things slow, but I’m not happy if things don’t change, ever.

        Breaking up doesn’t get to the underlying problem, but I can’t confront her on whether she’s using me, and asking her to do something different for me feels too much like an ultimatum.

        I’d like a script to have an open non judgmental conversation to figure out what she’s thinking and to let her know what I need in a supportive, non pressurised way.

        • fancifulscientist said:

          I think that’s your script. “I’d like to talk about our sex life. I’m happy taking things slow, but if thing are not going to change, then the way we have sex will not work for me in the long term.” There’s no way to say things except to say them.

          To find out what she is thinking, ask her what she is thinking. To be non-judgmental, don’t judge. Don’t question her bisexuality and choice of you as a partner, or generalize from her seeming sexual disinterest in you to all men ever. If she says that this is the only sex she wants to have, don’t assume anything except that this is the kind of sex she likes.

          At the end of the day, though, you are exerting pressure, however mild: you are asking for something to change. That’s okay! I went to therapy for my depression because my partner said “this is not working for me, I would like it to change” and I weighed the options and decided I would rather try something difficult for me than potentially hurt my relationship (also, she was right, and I needed treatment). It is okay to ask for something, but you have to be prepared to not get it and to take the appropriate action for you if that happens.

          To be frank: I have fake-crushed on and dated men who I was not attracted to, in order to fit my family’s and peers’ expectations. (I’m a bisexual queer, but felt a lot of pressure to date guys, and so cast a wider net than I was actually interested in.) If she is dating you because she needs a beard, her wants/needs in this relationship just completely do not line up with yours. You are looking for closeness and intimacy; when I pursued these relationships, I was looking for acceptance and social recognition. I will say that in these relationships, I sometimes had sex that was more than I was comfortable with or interested in to preserve them, and that I was very vulnerable to manipulation (so all the diagnosing, and doubting her bisexual label, make me very uncomfortable; being called a lesbian would have made me eager to prove my het credentials, by any means necessary). Being dumped “for my own good” did not change my behavior – because I was denying that there was anything wrong with choosing partners this way – but when these guys ended the relationship because *they* were unhappy, it made me think about what they were expecting to get from relationships, and I why I thought those criteria and desires didn’t event apply to me. This is my experience, obviously, and not your girlfriends’, but I share it because I believe that the advice you’re getting – to focus on and navigate by your own needs – still stands even if your speculation bears out.

          And, also frankly, you are still asking for a script that a lot of people have taken a stab at providing, and I’m wondering if you’re actually looking for the script that will help you “free” your girlfriend from her hangups/closet/whatever. “Support” her right into the sex life you would prefer. You can open the door to trying something different, but she might have no interest in walking through.

        • hbc said:

          If asking her to do something different is off the table, then breaking up *does* get to the underlying problem–that you can’t communicate what she can do to make you happy. There’s no script where you can get away from saying some version of “I eventually want you to do X and Y to me.” You can’t dance around that by pretending that it’s about helping her, because apparently she’s content with the way things are going.

          Your (lack of) sexual satisfaction is a perfectly legitimate reason to make a request or break up. Making her express her thoughts before you’ll express yours isn’t fair.

        • Theaz said:

          It seems to me a bit like directness feels like pressure to you, and I don’t think that’s a sustainable way of thinking. It is important information for her to have that certain future versions of this relationship are not tenable for you – ie one where nothing changes here. It is unrealistic to expect that conversation not to have high stakes and be difficult. This isn’t a conversation that can be had without anyone having strong feelings.One of the big questions you need answers to is what she thinks of/is open to/is comfortable with/is enthusiastic about doing about the fact that you feel unsatisfied and maybe lonely in your sex life. That is only a question she can answer if you lead with that information. It is a flag that in your assessment of your options there is confrontation and an ultimatum. A loving honest conversation about what the two of you are capable of and need to be happy, and whether those two things can overlap or meet each other, is not an ultimatum conversation though it might turn out there are no workable solutions. One reason you might be putting *so* much emphasis on whether she has a secret truth that would explain everything is that it helps you avoid a situation where you have to be direct in a way that makes you uncomfortable. But it is not better for her for you to make a potential breakup her responsibility because of a story you’ve told yourself about her sexuality than it is for you to be straight forward about what you feel and need here. In the second version nobody has agency – her self-report about her orientation is suspected and undermined, and your freestanding right to be in a relationship that satisfies you is sublimated into a need for her to initiate some kind of change here.

        • Hi, Supportive! I understand that setting ultimatums, especially around sexual performance, can be really sticky. Let’s break down what you’re experiencing.

          1) You love her and feel a close bond with her.
          2) However, her actions in the bedroom make you feel that she is uninterested in your body and doesn’t find you attractive.
          3) You do not like this feeling and would like to have better sexual intimacy.
          4) You are willing to wait for that intimacy, but you want to be making actual progress towards it rather than just accepting this as the status quo.

          Here’s the thing: I strongly support that you communicate all of these things to her, like other people here have said. However, even if she agrees “yes, I want to eventually be more intimate with you”, unless you guys have a plan for how you are going to work towards this, you are likely to be facing the exact same dilemma in another year, feeling even MORE rejected. So the first question you need to decide for yourself is “what would working towards a more fulfilling sex life look like?” Do you guys want to mutually agree to set aside particular times to sexually (or non-sexually) pleasure each other, putting the focus just on one of you at a time? Could you mutually plan to move from more non-sexual acts (maybe a massage) towards sexual ones? Can you ask her to share with you what she does find attractive about you? IF she confides that she has a medical problem or something that is preventing her from achieving the intimacy that she wants, then you can support her in getting counseling or medical help, but I would not suggest that unless she specifically confides that to you.

          Once you’ve thought of a few possible ways you can work towards this, THEN I suggest you go to her and let her know how you are feeling. “Girlfriend, I want to ask you about our sex life. Because you don’t usually reciprocate sexual acts and you don’t seem interested in me or my body, it makes me feel unappreciated. I find you very attractive, but I want to also feel attractive to you too. I don’t want to pressure you into anything you don’t want to do, but I feel like we are sexually incompatible right now and this is troubling me. If you’re interested, I’m hoping we might be able to work out a plan together that might eventually include more intimacy. I’m happy to take things slow if you want, but I’m not feeling satisfied and fulfilled with how things are now, so I want to be open about it so we can figure out how to handle this. If this isn’t something you’re interested in working on, you can let me know.”

          The ball is in her court to determine where she wants the relationship to go. If she is evasive and doesn’t seem 100% on board with working (however slowly) towards a more mutual sex life you should probably break up. That doesn’t mean she or you are bad people, but as you said, you’re not happy with things never changing, and you deserve to have a sex partner that is as into you as you are into her (but of course you can’t make anyone BE that sex partner). If, on the other hand, she says “OMG you’re right, I haven’t really been responsive because X, Y, or Z (or no reason at all) but I think we should definitely work on trying to make things more intimate”… THEN you should start trying to work out that specific plan. Come up with suggestions of ways you could move forward, ask her for her opinion on what she would be comfortable doing, and decide something concrete that you want try. Then put it in action. If she stops following that plan or stops being interested, then you have your answer: break up (again, this isn’t a sign that you or her are BAD just sexually incompatible).

          My gut says that this is unlikely to work out in the long run, but I can see that you’re really set on giving it a try and, who knows? Maybe she just needs you to be honest about how you are feeling to get her to decide if she actually wants to check in and be with you, or check out. Best of luck!

      • Temporary Null said:

        I dated my ex for 6 years before I realized I was gay. I loved him, but having sex was this chore that I never wanted to do.

        I was anxious about upsetting my boyfriend, even though he was incredibly patient and never pressured me. I bet your girlfriend is more aware of your dissatisfaction than you realize, but can’t think of any solution other than doing something she really doesn’t want to do.

        What I would recommend is asking your girlfriend how she feels about your sex life, and listen to her.

        Once you’ve listened to her. Tell her that you plan to respect the boundaries she’s defined (no penetration, no jizz, clothes are okay), and that you’ll never ask her to do those things unless she later tells you it’s okay. Then ask her if she’d be willing to try out other sexual behaviors to get your needs met too.

        If she says, “no” then a breakup is probably best. If she says, “sure” then you get creative. Come up with as many ideas that respect her boundaries as you can. Maybe have her hold a flesh light and talk dirty to you. Maybe have her restrain you in a sexy way.

        After each experiment ask for her opinion. Make sure you offer positive and negative opinions to your experiments too (“I liked the tickle play. The handcuffs were a little uncomfortable though”)

        The most important part is to talk about sex openly and neutrally. New sexual practices should be like new restaurants; it might be great or bad, but no one’s worth or relationship is on the line.

      • B. said:

        Hi, LW, thanks for the update 🙂
        I’d like to highlight the third paragraph of your comment. It’s important to listen to your partner and communicate with them during sex, and to show that you care for them. It sounds to me like your girlfriend is being selfish about that, and that her behaviour during and after sex is causing you hurt. You’re not being unsupportive of her if you tell her that, you’re (very reasonably) trying to stop getting hurt. Your feelings matter too.
        The thing is, there’s nothing you can say that will make her change. Not her, not anybody: people change when they decide to, and they must get there on their own. That’s why so many people are telling you to focus on yourself: you have no control over what your girlfriend feels or does or decides to share with you. You can, however, control *your* actions and decisions.
        As for scripts, I have a few suggestions (please adapt to your own needs):
        – Girlfriend, I love you and being around you makes me really happy, but our sex life makes me feel neglected, so I’m gonna stop having sex with you.
        Reasoning: if sex with someone makes you unhappy, don’t have sex with that someone, it will make you happier. Or at least less unhappy. Maybe discuss the possibility of an open relationship or a platonic one? In any case, I’d advise no more sex with her unless and until she decides she wants to reciprocate and/or show care and affection for you during sex, and tells you so in words.
        – Girlfriend, I need you to be really honest with me just now, and I want you to know that “no” is a valid answer. Are you open to expanding our sex live in the future to include X, Y or Z? If so, could you give an estimation on how much time it would take us to get there?
        Reasoning: I gathered that you’d be okay with moving slowly, but not ok if there was no change. If the answer is “no”, you’ll know things won’t change. If the answer is “yes”, but you see no effort to change things or the time frame is too long for you, take it as a “no”.
        – Girlfriend, I want you to know that I care about you and I would like to keep you in my life as a friend, if you’re willing.
        Reasoning: since you said you wanted to keep being there for her, here is a possible script. Bear in mind, people need time apart after a break-up (my reckoning is at least three months of no contact, but that’s me) so hurt feelings can heal and those involved can grieve for the end of their previous relationship. And she (or you) may not want to be friends afterwards.
        We don’t know what’s best for your girlfriend because none of us here are your girlfriend. I just know that you don’t sound happy about how sex with her goes and that that’s a really valid concern to adress. This is not about her orientation, but about your feeling neglected during sex. If she won’t change the way she acts, your feelings of neglect won’t change either. For how long would you like to stay in your current relationship if things don’t change?
        Lastly, but not leastly, please remember: stating your needs is not an ultimatum. It’s a totally reasonable thing to do in lots of situations, because humans aren’t mind readers.

  26. bat lord said:

    A lot of the comments here are more speculation about the girlfriend, but I’d like to address the LW: Friend, by all means take some of the advice you have heard here and find out whether your girlfriend is willing to reciprocate at all.

    If she isn’t… Please find someone who will actually appreciate your body and want to touch it, in the ways that you want it to be touched. Do it for yourself. You’ll be so much happier.

    I went from a relationship with someone who didn’t know how to/want to touch me, which I thought I was okay with at the time, to a relationship with someone who does. It feels AWESOME–not just in terms of satisfaction, but in terms of emotional warmth and closeness.

  27. Modern Culture said:

    LW doesn’t indicate how long he and GF have been together or how well he knows her. How old are they and how sexually experienced? He speculates that there may be a medical reason for her fear of digital penetration, but could she be a rape or sexual abuse survivor? Could she have been pregnant previously with a terror of it happening again? Given the many unspoken possibilities, this very kind LW is not the person who gets to decide that GF needs a woman. The only thing he knows is who he is and what he needs. That’s the truth he must speak with kindness.

    • Mary said:

      It’s kind of weird that you expressed “don’t speculate” by adding to the list of potential speculations! Speculating that someone has been sexually assaulted feels kind of violating.

      • Unfortunately, the age, experience level, and medical/sexual history of the participants are major issues. I suspect that 90% of the (otherwise truly excellent) advice given on this thread is crashing and burning on that particular issue.

        • Mary said:

          Well, not really, because the best advice is either, “accept that you’re not getting what you need from this relationship and break-up” or “talk honestly to your girlfriend and see whether it is going to be possible to get what you need, and if not, break up”. Neither requires speculation or certainty about a history of assault or her medical history.

      • piny1 said:

        Also a sterling example of, “Things not to bring up during your heart-to-heart with your girlfriend about why she doesn’t want to sleep with you.”

  28. darthtrina said:

    As Big Pink Box and Rose Fox and others have said, this is a big and wondrous world with a wide constellation of genders, attractions, preferred sexual activities and preferred amounts of sexual activities, and chosen labels. The gf says she’s bi, so she’s bi. All of the speculation about her internal motivations and thought processes around sexuality distract from the root: her stated sexual activity preferences are not compatible with his sexual activity preferences.

    LW, you only mention the sexual incompatibility, which is rightly a deal-breaker in a sexual relationship. You do have options of conversations or directly breaking up, depending on what you want in the future. If you like her company and would be open to a non-sexual relationship such as close friendship, giving her that option would be a kind and respectful thing to do. If that’s something you think is possible and you’d like to give her a choice about, maybe the conversation might be something like, “Our sexual relationship isn’t working for me. I like you and want you to be happy, and I think you might be happier with a partner who isn’t unhappy. I think we should consider options such as transitioning to a non-sexual relationship like a friendship, or parting ways. What do you think?”

    Maybe she won’t want to continue associating with you when you’re not getting her off anymore. Maybe you don’t want to be in a non-sexual relationship such as friendship with her. Maybe if you reassure her that she’s fine just the way she is but you’re not compatible in that area, you’ll find value in a new chapter of relating to each other. The future holds many possibilities, just not one where you’re both sexually satisfied with each other. I wish you the best.

  29. peeta8 said:

    “With our sex life, it’s usually me getting her off with her not reciprocating. She’ll ask me to go down on her but she doesn’t seem interested in my body.”

    — This seems like a huge issue (or red flag) regardless of what she does and doesn’t like sexually. Does she CARE that she’s not getting you off? Does she dismiss your own desire for sexual pleasure?

    Imagine this was a male partner who doesn’t care if the female LW ever has an orgasm…

    • Yeah, I’m thinking similar thoughts. I was once in a situation close to the LW’s and I was very young and it did not work out well. I’m also concerned about the lack of post-coital affection or cuddling. So we’re left with the LW telling his GF, however kindly and politely phrased, “I need you to get me off, plus I need the affection you don’t show, or the relationship is over.” Which kind of speaks for itself. IMHO, the Captain’s original advice was probably the best available.

    • “Imagine this was a male partner who doesn’t care if the female LW ever has an orgasm…”

      That would be so common we’d all yawn and roll our eyes. I have to say, the situation described here is at least new and interesting.

      It does bear an uncanny resemblance not to men who don’t care if their female partners have an orgasm (because those men usually like penetration, and touching the female body to an extent) but to a piece I recently read, warning lesbians about straight women pretending to be lesbians. Just, you know, the other way round.

      So I think the LWs suspicion that his girlfriend is a closeted lesbian could be correct. Doesn’t really matter, though, because the solution will be separation in any case.

      The fact that she doesn’t seem to CARE that she’s not getting him off is the hint here. If she talked about it openly and tried to find a compromise, I’d recommend to find such a compromise, but since she doesn’t …

      • Mary said:

        Or possibly she cares a lot and constantly says, “Is it OK that I’m not getting you off?” and LW says, “no, no, darling, don’t worry about me, it’s fine! I just like being close to you and making you happy!” and she is believing his words. Given that the LW is very focussed on meeting her needs at the expense of his own and not great at recognising that he is allowed to want things too, that wouldn’t surprise me.

  30. Anyanka said:

    LW, some people like having the kind of sexual nonreciprocity that you’ve described here in their relationships. And your girlfriend could be pretty much any sexual orientation.
    However, if she doesn’t want to or won’t compromise to make you a little happier, and you don’t like what’s going on, the solution might genuinely be breaking up. It might feel selfish or trivial or stupid to break up over sexual incompatibility, but there is nothing wrong with it. It is as legitimate a reason as any to say ‘I want/need different things that you can’t/won’t give me’. I personally couldn’t be with a lot of people because of the kind of sex I like being very different than how a lot of people need sex to go. There’s nothing wrong with me or the people I’m not compatible with.

  31. Perhaps Simillar to LW's GF said:

    Hi Supportive. There are many different themes that run through this post, and most have already been identified and discussed. One thing that has been touched upon is your *own* insecurity. Framing it as her sexual orientation is perhaps an excuse to avoid what’s really hurting you; which is not feeling secure or loved, and you’d rather think that she can’t love you in a way you want as opposed to thinking she wont or doesn’t love you.

    That being said, you do akcnowledge that you may have it wrong and she may just not like you. In which case, I see you questioning her reasons to be with you (back to your insecurity). However, while you are doing that, I think It’s sweet that you are considering the effect other people are having on her.

    I may have been in a simillar position to what your GF’s in now, only I’m straight. I was 19 and I had my first BF. I had imposed simillar restrictions because of insecurities I have with my body. All my friends were sexually active and I felt like a prude because of this. I also felt pressured into having sex by my friends: they were asking “when are you going to have sex? He’s a good catch, if you don’t have sex he’ll leave you!” and other such things. I turned my own insecurities into his insecuirties. I said that we couldn’t have sex because his penis wouldn’t be able to penetrate me. I believed my friends and thought that he wasn’t satisfied with our sex life. Then I started to believe my own lie and told him the same thing to try a stop any suggestion that we get more intimate, just so I could avoid him finding out about my dysfunctional body. He stopped initiating intimacy and I ended the relationship a few weeks later. This was, again, to keep my friends happy. They asked “if he can’t have sex with you, why don’t you get a BF who can give you what you want?” In fact, it was what they wanted for me. I did actually want sex with my BF, but I was too scared to because of my own body and chose to avoid a difficult conversation about it.

    I’ve been in a couple of relationships since, but they have ended pretty quickly when we’ve not had sex. If I could see my first BF now, I would be totally honest with him as he was so supportive and caring, and I wish that we could have worked on it.

    Your GF could be really into you, but might have insecurities and pressures that she is trying to avoid. If you’re serious about making it work, you both need to be honest with each other about your own insecurities and to try to work through them. Confronting your fears is scary, and I don’t know what my ex could have said at the time to make me feel brave enough to confront them (I’m still struggling with them now at 26)!

    (Disclaimer, maybe neither of you have insecurities and I’ve interpreted it wrong by projecting my own experience on it, in which case I’m sorry).

    I wish you both the very best!

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