Do you know how many questions we get about sex? Formspring, emails – hell, I’ve even been facebooked! More than once! But at least the last time I answered a question via facebook, I figured that the answer could spark a potentially meaningful conversation about sex. Talking about sex is something that we don’t do enough, as a society. So we’re going to start answering a few more questions about what we do in bed. Welcome to You Need Help: Sex EDition. Disclaimer: not everyone answering questions will be a medical professional. These are our opinions. These articles about sex are to promote conversation, so if you agree or disagree with what we say, please feel free to leave it in the comments. Discussion, much like sex, is a healthy part of life. And as always, You Do You. Or someone else.
This question was submitted recently: “Am I allowed to tell my girlfriend that I would like to have sex more often? If so, how?”
The short answer: yes. You just ask.
The long answer:
Yes, talking about sex is something you are allowed to do with your girlfriend – in fact, it’s encouraged. But it’s sometimes awkward to talk about sex because society tells us we’re not supposed to – that it’s private. Or it could be scary, because talking about sex often involves way more than just talking about sex. It involves talking about the mechanics of your relationship, the balance of power and, of course, The Feelings. One of the reasons that there can be disconnects between otherwise amazing couples is because sex isn’t talked about nearly often enough. No one knows what the other expects, wants or what feels good to them. So please, go forth and have this conversation with your girlfriend about having sex more often. Here are a few tips for doing so:
Pick a Place You Don’t Normally Have Sex At A Time You Are Not Actually Having Sex
Coffee shop. Laundromat. Dining room table (for some of us). These are all places you wouldn’t normally have sex, which is super important. Bringing up any tough conversation regarding sex in a place that you could actually have sex might feel a bit like pressure to your girlfriend, which I know you don’t want to do because you wrote in and asked this question. And I’ve known a few people who wait to have conversations about sex until they’re in medias reis (or in this case, in coitus reis). Talking about sex when your emotions are heightened by sex doesn’t usually feel nice for either party. Plus it can really really feel like pressure and might even seem a little like an ultimatum (depending on what you’re requesting). So take it totally neutral. If you’re feeling nervous, pick a place where you feel calm and maybe can get something you really like to eat. Never underestimate the power of a comfort food in a nervous-making situation.
Also have this conversation fully-clothed. Trust me on this one.
Ask Permission To Talk Sex
Kind of self-explanatory. Ask if it’s a good time to talk about sex. Say that you really need to talk about it, but that you want the conversation to be really positive and you want your girlfriend to have agency on when this conversation happens. What if she just failed an exam? What if she just got a brand new asshole courtesy of her boss’s scream-fest and it wasn’t even her fault? She doesn’t want to have this conversation now (what she probably wants is vegan ice-cream and a terrible movie). And you don’t want the conversation to happen at that moment either – you want your girlfriend to be as calm and happy as possible. If she says it’s really not a good time, make it clear that you need this conversation to happen eventually and ask when a better time might be. Then make the date and keep it – don’t try to talk about it at that moment anyways, and don’t find excuses not to talk about it when it’s time (oh, I have to wash my hair. Bullshit!). If she says she’s more comfortable talking in private, still follow the first rule. Pick a place you don’t have sex, just don’t pick a super public organic local coffee shop.
Assume Positive Intent
Chances are, your girlfriend wants to make you happy. She’s probably not sitting around plotting ways to make you hornier and hornier until you explode into tiny queer pieces. So instead of leading with “we don’t have sex enough” or “you don’t want to have sex with me,” use “I” statements instead. “I have a really high sex drive and I would really like to have a lot more partnered sex with you because you are ridiculously attractive and amazing in bed,” is a really nice way to start. Which brings me to the next part of assuming positive intent: don’t forget to accentuate the positive when you’re asking to have more sex. After all, the sex is probably great. You want more of it. You wouldn’t want more of it if it were bad. So be liberal with the compliments and tell her exactly what you want more of. “I really want you to go down on me more often because you’re so good at it,” or “I’d love to fuck you with a strap-on more often because that feels so good for me. Plus you’re super sexy when you’re on top.” Try to start every sentence with I, make yourself the subject of every sentence you say. And then ask her how she feels about it. This is where the hard part usually comes in.
Really Listen. And Be Prepared To Make a Compromise.
Here’s where all those reasons come in. Why aren’t you having more sex already? Maybe she just got into medical school and she’s feeling the pressure. Maybe she’s on new anti-depressants and they’re really doing a number on her. Maybe she’s not having the kinds of sex that she fantasizes about having with you. As long as you approach this with the intent of making her happy as well as making you happy, you’ll know the right way to respond to each of these scenarios. If it’s a matter of rethinking the kinds of sex you’re having, I recommend this list of sex acts that you can talk about. You can answer yes, no or maybe to each one. Use it as a jumping off point. If it’s something external, ask her what she needs to feel more comfortable in medical school/her new job/her thing that’s stressing her out. If her anti-depressants are making her feel worse and not better, she probably wants to speak to her doctor. There’s about a million different ways this could go – maybe she just didn’t know you wanted more sex and she’s fine with doing that, she just had no clue. There’s no possible way I could give you solutions for all of them right here. But I will talk about the Big Two.
There are two scenarios that seem to scare everyone when having a conversation about the amount of sex being sexed in a relationship. These two scenarios sometimes put people off from having the conversation in the first place because they can seem larger than they really are.
1. That you guys just want different stuff out of the relationship, sexually. She naturally has a lower sex drive than you.
And you know what? That’s totally cool. But sometimes it doesn’t feel totally cool because dammit, you want to bone her. As problematic as Dan Savage can sometimes be, he has come up with this concept of “The Price of Admission.” In any relationship, you are going to have to put up with flaws and desires and needs and a whole bunch of other stuff in order to be with the other person. These flaws/desires/needs are collectively the price of being in a relationship/being in each others’ pants. And much like when you’re deciding if 15 dollars is worth it to see Maggie Smith on the big screen in a movie that all your friends were lukewarm on, you have to decide if the outcome is worth the price of admission. But not just you — both of you. See, the nice thing is that you both have a price of admission, which means you both need to make compromises and choices. If you absolutely need more sex to feel satisfied in a relationship and that’s your price of admission, you do have to tell her that instead of keeping it bottled up inside and letting it eat at you. If she absolutely cannot give it to you because her body is just not into that, then her price of admission is less sex. Y’all need to know the price of admission to each others’ hearts/pants as soon as possible – imagine if you went to a movie and the price changed half-way through watching it. Totally an unpleasant surprise.
Talk about it. See what you can work out. It could be that you guys are so head-over-heels for each other that you are both good to adjust your prices to somewhere in the middle because it’s totally worth it. Excellent! Congrats, you’re in the process of getting past a hard thing in relationships. Also many people are jealous of you, I promise.
It could be that you guys aren’t the best candidates for a monogamous relationship with each other, if one partner wants more sex than the other wants to have. That doesn’t necessarily mean no relationship with her – consider open relationships and polyamory. Sinclair Sexsmith over on Sugarbutch has a great series if you’d like to find out more about what that kind of relationship could look like, and Tristan Taormino’s book Opening Up is another excellent place to start. Also go for The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy and see where that takes you.
2. The relationship isn’t where you, her or both of you want it to be and that’s why you guys aren’t having more sex. Someone is unhappy.
This is the hard one. Because there might be solutions for it, like talking through what you both need out of the relationship outside of sex. Fixing things that have been bothering both of you might get y’all into bed more often. But there also might not be a solution for it: sometimes a relationship just doesn’t work, and it’s no one’s fault. And my friend, I don’t know you so I don’t know what to tell you if that’s where the conversation goes. So you’re going to have to feel your way through on that one. But know in your heart of hearts that you would rather have that conversation now, instead of three years from now when you both resent each other deeply. When you’ve moved in together and share space. When your lives are three years more intertwined than they are now. You want to know if this is the case, and you want to know it as soon as possible. Which brings me to my last point –
Assume That This Will All Go Swimmingly
Because it will. There is no scenario here that doesn’t benefit you. Here are the outcomes that I can foresee out of this conversation:
+Your girlfriend says, oh, really? Okay. And now you’re having more sex.
+You uncover a treasure trove of sexy things your girlfriend wishes she was doing with you. And now you’re having more sex.
+You uncover the reasons why your girlfriend isn’t into sex right now and you find out how to love and support her through those tough times. You will probably wind up having more sex, because love and support are sexy, when the pressure time period is over.
+You both make compromises about how much sex you’d like to be having. This will probably lead to you having more sex.
+You discover that you’re mismatched in sex drives. You decide on an open relationship. And now you’re having more sex.
+You discover that you’re mismatched in sex drives and/or the relationship isn’t working out. You break up. This will hurt and be very sad, and it will require the healing process and maybe a lot of ice cream. But if it wasn’t working, this still benefits you. Now you are free to find a another person. To have more sex with.
Of course there are a million more scenarios and I can’t foresee everything, but if you go in knowing that this conversation can only have a positive impact on your life, your positive attitude will rub off on this conversation. If you go in assuming the worst – that this will lead to a fight or break-up and that will suck – then your negative attitude will also rub off on the moment. Know that this will be one hundred percent okay. Assume the best and your words will be more calm, coherent and positive. You are more likely to have a conversation that you feel is a success.
You Will Definitely Have Conversations Like This More Than Once. So Practice.
Opening up communication about sex is a process, not a destination. One conversation about how you want more sex is not going to be the last time you talk about getting nekked together. Let her know that you want to talk about her sexual needs and desires as well, and that you both get to bring this topic up and that you’re hoping for a more open dialogue in the future. You also might fuck it up. Or she might fuck it up. You might piss her off or she might piss you off. That’s okay, everyone makes mistakes. Try to forgive yourself and her. Talking about sex isn’t something we do every day, so it’s not a skill that most people already have. It takes practice. It takes screw ups. Give each other feedback. Institute the rule that if something’s said that rubs you the wrong way, you vocalize it the moment you know you didn’t like it: “I know you weren’t intending to hurt my feelings when you said X because I know you care about me, but here’s how I felt when you said X. What did you really mean when you said X? Okay, if it had been phrased like Y, I would have felt better about it.”
Please, Dear Sweet Lesbian Jesus, Masturbate!
I should pretty much end every You Need Help with masturbation. This could have gone in the mismatched sex drive section, but I feel like it’s so important that I just wanted to give it it’s own heading. Masturbation solves a lot of problems. Your girlfriend’s not into it tonight? Bam, vibrator time. No hard feelings, you still get off. Crisis averted. Maybe you still want to have partnered sex and that’s totes cool, but masturbation is good for everyone. It provides a release, let’s you get to know your body and might make you more comfortable talking about sex in the future. Plus masturbating with her in the room might be a total turn on for her (it is for me). It might actually just solve your problem right there – ask her if she thinks she might like that. I have heard SO MUCH masturbation guilt. Your palms won’t grow hair. Jesus has better things to do than watch you masturbate. There is no reason not to.
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