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 will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, onto this week’s topic: how to explore your sexuality and give sexual feedback.
Q: “My boyfriend is my dream man. I am so attracted to him. But it’s kind of hard for me to get fully turned on with him. By myself, I've discovered that I can get turned on to a certain high point that I just can't reach with him. He's very passionate and rough, whereas I feel like I'm very mental when it comes to sex. He’s also my first, and I feel like I need to almost be awakened down there. (I also have suppressed sexual energy due to religious pushy mother and guilt.) I’m trying to figure out how to waken my inner sexual goddess, and discover what I want and need in bed! My boyfriend does go down on me and pleasure me, but he can't really stay focused for too long. He does ask me what I want, but I think he just wants to get straight to the point and have sex. I honestly feel bad and almost resentful like 'he should already know what to do.' I want to be assertive in telling him what I need and not feel dissatisfied and resentful. How can I figure this out?”
A: Thanks for your question! I was really glad to get your question because it allows me to address so many different dynamics, including some of the most harmful sexual myths that most people believe. There’s a lot to dissect here, so let’s get to it. Here are five things to know about exploring your sexuality on your own and with a partner.
Remember That Your Partner Can’t "Just Know What To Do"
You mentioned that you wish your boyfriend already knew what to do, and that him asking you what you want can bring up some resentment for you. One of the main things I wanted to get across in my response is that no partner can ever be expected to know exactly what you want. This is perhaps one of the main sexual myths that I come across in my sex therapy practice. So many people believe that good sex and good chemistry should just happen naturally, no communication required. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!
We are all so individual, and we all like different things. Even the most sexually experienced people can’t know exactly what their next partner will like. Sure, it would be nice if our partners could just read our minds, but that is not how sex works in the real world. In the real world, being an adult means asking for what we want (both inside and outside of the bedroom, for that matter!). It means being willing to advocate for our own desires, and being willing to give feedback. It means growing with our partners and learning how to have fantastic sex together, instead of expecting perfection right out the gate.
Know That Your Partner Shouldn't Be Everything To You
The other major dynamic that I wanted to address from your email is the difference between your personal relationship with your sexuality from your sexual relationship with your partner. You mentioned that your boyfriend is the first person you’ve ever been with. You feel this inner “sexual goddess,” as you call her, waiting to bust through. You recognize that you’ve been negatively impacted by your mother and your religion. These are all very personal parts of your journey towards being a sexually empowered woman!
They might feel a bit daunting at the moment, but I feel really excited for you because it sounds like you have such a powerful journey ahead of you. Your boyfriend can definitely be a part of the journey with you, and support you through it, but he can’t do it for you. Your boyfriend can’t awaken your sexual goddess. He can’t make you get over your sexual shame and guilt. He can’t teach you exactly what you need and want. He can’t take responsibility for your sexuality. These are things that only you can do for yourself. Only you can awaken and empower yourself!
Remember That You Already Know More Than You Think
I know you mentioned that you’re trying to learn what you want and need, and it sounds like that’s causing some anxiety for you. But the thing is, it seems like you already know so much! You’re also mentioned that when you’re on your own, you’re able to get yourself to this crazily heightened state of arousal. That’s awesome!
I would encourage you to spend some time thinking about what you’ve already learned about yourself thus far. What is it that you do when you’re on your own that helps you get so hot and bothered? Try to think of any little thing — maybe you dim the lights, play music, fantasize, touch your body in a specific way, etc. Once you’ve made this list, take a moment to acknowledge how much you already know about yourself and your sexuality. Of course, there’s always more to learn about your sexuality, because sexual self-discovery is a life-long process. But don’t discount what you do know.
Share What You Already Know
From there, I would suggest sharing all of those data points with your partner. It will be good practice being more open with sexual communication, and great starting points for the two of you in exploring what works well together.
There may also be other pieces of feedback that you could already share with him at this point. In particular, the two of you may want to talk about timing when it comes to sex. You mentioned that when your boyfriend goes down on you, he seems to want to “get to the point” and move on to intercourse. You said he has a hard time staying focused, so it sounds like you’re feeling rushed.
I found myself wondering if this might be a due to miscommunication between the two of you. If you’ve felt nervous about giving feedback or asking for what you want, he may have mistakenly read the signs as you wanting him to move on to intercourse. You can let him know you’d like him to hang out for longer in the moment by saying something like, “that feels so good. Please don’t stop doing that.” If you feel him start to move away, say something like, “I’m not ready for you to be done just yet. Can you keep going?”
Like I said above, sexual self discovery is a lifelong process. There are so many dynamics to continue exploring. One other thing that caught my attention was your description of yourself as being very “mental” when it comes to sex. This seems like a great opportunity for more exploration. What does “mental” mean to you? How does that play out in real life, when you’re on your own and when you’re with your partner. What can you share with your boyfriend about that quality? For example, maybe you realize that you feel closer to your boyfriend after the two of you have had a good conversation first. Or maybe you like talking during sex.
Looking for other dynamics to explore? Here's a good place to start!