Why Does Sex Feel Weird Sometimes? 6 Ways To Think About Your Body's Varying Preferences

We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today's topic: why sex feels weird sometimes.

Q: “Sometimes my partner can touch me one way and I can love it, and other times it does nothing for me. One of the main examples I'm thinking of is my clitoris. If I’m not in the right place, it’s actually painful when my partner touches it. I feel bad because my boyfriend will get used to me liking things one way, but then I’ll want something different. I must be so confusing.”

A: Thanks for the question! I know this seems like a perplexing problem, but it’s incredibly common, and adjusting your mindset about the way your body works will actually help make your sex life way better. Here are six things to know if your body can’t make up its’ mind.

An important note: sudden feelings of pain or discomfort can be signs of sexual abuse or a sexual pain condition. I won't be addressing that here, but if you think this might be what's going on for you, you may want to check out our other resources on these topics.

1. This Is Normal

I know you’re confused about why your likes keep changing, but this is actually totally normal. Our bodies aren’t robots (well, hopefully yours isn’t). What they like changes all the time, in ways both big and small.

Maybe you used to hate yoga with a fiery passion, but now your body can’t get enough. Or maybe you used to love getting foot massages, but now find them to be too ticklish.

Some of these changes happen over time, but some of them can happen quickly. Maybe yesterday you were craving ice cream a few hours ago, but now you’ve lost your appetite. Maybe you felt like you were killing it at the gym yesterday, but today you feel like you’re losing steam after five minutes on the stationary bike. You get my point — changes are normal!

2. Novelty Is Your Friend

Right now you may be thinking, “OK, fine, but it’s still frustrating that I can’t tell my partner what to do.” Let’s imagine that you were a robot, and what you liked never changed. Imagine that you wanted the exact same things in the exact same order, every single time you and your partner had sex. It might be fun the first few times, but then you would know exactly what was coming. Sex would feel predictable, routine, and boring. Who wants that?

It’s actually a great thing that your body wants different things, because it will push you and your partner to keep exploring and experimenting with new types of touch, new activities, and new techniques. It will help your sex life feel fresh and exciting. And that will help keep the spark burning between the two of you for years to come.

3. You Have To Be Gentle With Your Clit

Your comment about your clitoris jumped out at me. The clitoris is extremely sensitive, and typically feels uncomfortable (even painful) if it gets touched before you’re turned on. Even then, the clitoris still needs to be handled with care. Some women are so sensitive that they never enjoy direct skin-to-skin touch on their clitorises. Again, there’s not going to be this perfect type of stimulation that will work for you every time, but I think it’s worth trying to be more gentle with your clit overall.

If you think your partner may be going for your clit too quickly or treating it too roughly, tell them, “I think my clitoris is actually more sensitive than we realized. Can we slow things down a bit and try some new stuff?”

Ask your partner to spend time teasing you first. Have them caress your thighs and butt. Keep your underwear on, and ask your partner to touch you over the fabric. You won’t have any direct contact, so you’re less likely to feel discomfort. Wait until you feel really turned on to let them go anywhere near the clit. You can also practice these techniques on your own, to get a sense of the type of treatment your clit tends to like.

4. Think About Giving Feedback, Not Directions

Since your desires change, you need to be able to communicate what is and isn’t working for you in the moment. So many women feel like they’re supposed to give their partners clear, itemized directions on how to please them. As we’ve already covered, that’s not how the body works! What you like is going to be different each time you’re together, and there’s no way to predict what you’re going to want beforehand.

I think it’s helpful to make the distinction between directions and feedback. Directions are preset instructions, like “do A then B then C then D,” whereas feedback is more about what’s happening in the moment, like “that’s so good” or “a little harder.” You’re never going to be able to give your partner perfect directions for what to do, so don’t even try. Trying to give feedback helps you stay in the moment and communicate what you’re feeling to your partner. Plus, it’s really sexy to hear things like, “don’t stop doing that!”

5. You Can Work With Your Partner

You said you’re worried about your boyfriend thinking you’re confusing, but how has he actually responded to you so far? If he seems unbothered, you can ask him to start giving you more feedback too.

Say something like, “I’m learning more about my body and what I like, and feeling a little self-conscious about it. Do you think you could give me more feedback in the moment when we’re together? That would help me feel less embarrassed. Plus, I want to know when I’m doing something that feels good for you!”

If it seems like he’s frustrated, you can say something like, “I know that what I like changes a lot, but that’s just how my body works, and it’s how yours does too.” Tell him how boring it would be if you both always wanted the exact same thing. If he keeps hassling you about it, it may be time to reconsider your relationship.

6. Don’t Be Ashamed

Look, this is your body. Yes, it has quirks, and it can be frustrating sometimes, but these things are normal. And the bottom line is that it’s still yours. You should want to maximize the pleasure you feel and minimize the pain and discomfort.

Your partner should also want those same things, and shouldn’t make you feel guilty about it. Don’t allow embarrassment or shame to get in the way of you treating your body the way it deserves to be treated.

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