Imagine a scenario in which people are too uncomfortable, afraid or shy to let their lover, partner, fuck-buddy or spouse know that they don’t particularly enjoy some aspect of their sexual interaction.
We are taught that sex with the right person is wondrous. Provided the connection is right, then the sex is amazing. The concept of two bodies or souls becoming one in a splendor of love and magical sex, is a popular monogamous narrative. I’m quite sure that many who are monogamous don’t even believe this rhetoric. Whether monogamous, polyamorous, kinky, heterosexual, bisexual, trans or queer many have strived for this utopian understanding of how good sex should feel/work. These intimacies become fairytales of which no one can actually realize.
A vicious cycle ensues…
You have sex. Lots of the things you did were great and some were uncomfortable or just not your “cup of tea.” You don’t want to embarrass your mate, so you don’t say anything hoping it will just go away. The next time you have sex, they do that thing you don’t like so much again because they think it was so wonderful for you the 1st time. You try not to react too excited about the thing they are doing, that you now hate but don’t want to make them feel bad about. The next time it happens you say to yourself, “It’s not so bad. It will be over soon and we can get to the other things I like.” For others, their sexual encounter weren’t partially tainted but completely. They really didn’t enjoy any of it but the person they’ve chosen to have sexual relations with is perfect in every other way. Clearly they just have to hold on until the magic takes over and their souls leap into one another. That is of course what we’ve all been told, Right?
You’ve missed the window of opportunity to end that thing you cringe at during sex. At least this is what most people think. They didn’t say anything at the beginning; so to say anything now is just a nightmare. Your partner will know that the “good sex” feeling was not reciprocal and probably feel embarrassed by your proclamation. This is what you tried to avoid in the first place but now the truth at this juncture will be worse. In actuality you’ve lied to yourself and to your sex bud. Several years later, you’ve learned to live with that thing or you just don’t have sex anymore.
Seems outrageous I know but indeed a repetitive story I’ve encountered as a sex(uality) educator. Have you been in this predicament? Have you asked yourselves, “How did I get here?” This can happen to any one of us. We’d like to think that we’re comfortable with sex. The truth of the matter is, some of us are comfortable having sex but not talking about it. Even those of us who are at ease talking about it, talking dirty and even negotiating sex, sometimes get stuck. We don’t want to ruin the moment, hurt someone’s feelings, lose out on this hot person and so on. There are many reasons we don’t stop, don’t talk and don’t get what we ultimately want out of sex or a partnership. Unfortunately, this does everyone involved a disservice. You don’t get what you want, you’re not able to be present and the other person isn’t allowed a genuine interaction. Our fears hinder us from connecting with our bodies and being good lovers. It also doesn’t allow for the other person to truly explore your body the way you want.
As a survivor, I’ve told myself I’d never let someone do anything to my body that I did not want. Then it happened and I just felt awful afterwards. I was angry at myself for not speaking up. It just bought me to a bad place and it didn’t have to be that way. When I have found the agency to change less than delightful moments, I’ve felt empowered and the outcome was well worth it.
I know getting to the point of being able to say something can seem difficult so here are a few suggestions that might help you shift sexual situations:
Tell the truth! I know, easier said than done but you will be a happier, orgasmic person for it. Whether the sex gets better or you decide that you’re not sexually compatible, you’ll be truer to yourself and your sex partners.
Things you can say:
“I’m not into that.”
“I’d rather do this…”
“Can we do this instead?”
Navigate the person elsewhere. If you’re not comfortable saying anything, you can take action instead. If your sex buddy is touching somewhere you don’t want, gracefully move their hand to where you want it. They’ll see the positive reaction they get from you when it happens. If you’re in a position you don’t care for, move your body to get to where you want. If the way you’re being fucked doesn’t feel good, sexily maneuver out of it or say, “I need to be on top of you.” “Lets change positions.” “I wanna try something new.” Just because one thing isn’t going well, doesn’t mean you have to stop it completely. Change it up. You’ve got the right to do so. Just remember to keep eye contact, be enthusiastic, and give verbal reinforcement. You’ll be able to feel good, get what you want, and keep the sexy sex flowing.
You don’t have to be a jerk about it–but just stop.
What “stoping” can sound like:
“I’m not feeling up to that now.”
“I’m not ready to go further.”
“I need to stop.”
…and if you couldn’t do any of these things, in the moment, that’s ok. You will have another opportunity. Check in afterwards. Talk about what you loved, then what you’re not too keen on.
“Can we talk about how wonderful X,Y&Z were? I’d love to do more of that with you and less of A,B&C. That would defiantly make me hot.”
Download a list on the web or create one with your partner(s). Go over the list on your own and decide on some of the many wonderful sexual, romantic and kinky activities, with a “yes, no or maybe.” Meet up with your lover/fuck buddy/spouse, go over it and discuss. This exercise should be judgment free and fun.
Show me/Show them:
You can ask your sex bud or you can offer to, show how you/they masturbate. You can also mutually masturbate. I love doing this. It truly gives you the space and pleasure of watching how your lover enjoys being touched. You can witness every touch, breath, squeal and moan. It’s the perfect teaching tool.
Another way to show, is to use your partners hands as if you were a puppeteer. Guide their hands or have them guide your hands to touch them, fuck them and tease them how they desire. It’s their actions with your hands or vise versa. It’s a “win-win!” situation.
Go get coffee and talk about what you’re into, what gets you hot and what you do not want. Use this as an opportunity for pre-four-play.
Create a boundary list
On your own, think about all the experiences you’ve had. What are some boundaries that have developed for you over the years? Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits a person creates for themselves to identify what is reasonable, safe and permissible. Make sure to think about your response to crossed boundaries. This will only work if you speak up and hold those accountable for boundary violations.
Some boundaries might include:
Safer sex or no sex
Sober sex is a must
I want the option to use a safe word
What are some ways you’ve re-routed a sexual mishap or unpleasantry?
I haven’t always communicated like this but through trial and error I’ve found that speaking honestly works best for me. When we take other routes, it has the potential for failure.
Don’t instantly brand someone a shitty sex partner. We all get nervous and sometimes we fumble on the first encounter. Maybe we’re just not compatible. It doesn’t mean we’re bad at sex but that we just don’t go well together. It’s up to you to decide if you want to give it another go or end it graceful. Tagging someone as a bad lover to others isn’t fair. It hurts them, their potential partners and puts them to blame. It takes two, or three or four to tango. If all are consenting, we need to take responsibility as well. Another “easy way out” is ignoring the person. Don’t just stop talking, texting or calling someone because it seems less stressful to do so rather than be honest.This leaves people feeling awful and often wondering what the hell happened. Healthy sexual relationships start with honesty and communication. We speak of honesty and communication but often leave out the accountability piece. We have to learn to be accountable to ourselves and to those we interact with.
Being accountable to ourselves means being true to yourself. It means asking for what you want and getting it. Accountability gives us permission to determine what we want/need, communicate that to our partner(s), and have them realized. Accountability to others means being honest with them about your sex/relationship. Give feedback when needed and work through the bad stuff. If you never tell someone, correct someone, teach someone about you and vise versa, how would any of us have a chance to grow sexually? This process not only helps you with sex, but as a whole. It helps us to communicate better. It allows us to give and take critique that is useful and non-degrading.
This is what sex positivity can begin to look like. When we think about it this way, ruining the moment is but a small thing to worry about in the larger scheme of things. Anything worth having is worth working for.
Ignacio Rivera M.A., is a queer, Trans, Two-Spirit, Black, Boricua, Taíno who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun “they.” Ignacio is an activist, writer, educator, filmmaker, performance artist and mother.