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: the problematic things men say during sex.
Q: “I consider myself a feminist, but sometimes, when I'm having sex, I realize I don’t speak up when I probably should. Sometimes guys say the dumbest things — like asking me why I need a vibrator, or why I can't come faster, telling me their last girlfriend liked their technique when I ask for a different technique, asking why I don’t shave, trying to get me to use porn-y language during dirty talk — I could go on and on! I'm wondering if you have any tips for how to respond to some of the these types of things men say to women in bed, just so I’m prepared and can set them straight in the moment.”
A: Thanks for the question! It’s so great that you’re thinking of these types of situations beforehand. Even with the strongest feminist beliefs, it can be surprisingly easy to get tripped up in the moment and not speak up. Sometimes you can’t think of what to say. Sometimes it can feel easier to just roll your eyes and ignore it. Sometimes it’s frustrating to have to stop the fun to give someone an education that they should already have — much less to consider if they even deserve to continue hooking up with you. But you inevitably wind up with feelings of regret, and a whole slew of ideas about what you could have said or done.
When it comes to blurting out dumb, uneducated, or rude comments about sex, I generally tend to try to give people the benefit of the doubt. People say stupid things for a lot of innocent reasons. Sometimes they just don’t know otherwise. For example, a guy may ask why you don’t shave because all he’s ever seen are shaved vulvas in porn. Other times, dumb comments are a result of nerves. A lot of us can also get uncomfortable talking about sex, so we blurt out stupid things that we don’t really mean, or try to say something that comes out in the wrong way. Or they might be feeling insecure about their sexual skills, leading them to lash out as a defensive mechanism.
You can’t prepare for all the different possibilities beforehand, but here are options for the five unhelpful sexual comments you mentioned. I’ve given you some thoughts about why the guy might have made that comment in the first place, plus a variety of different responses that you can use, depending on the specific situation.
“Do You Really Need That Vibrator?”
Where It Could Be Coming From: A lot of women don’t feel comfortable using vibrators in front of their partners, so a lot of men haven’t had the experience of seeing a partner use a vibrator. He might simply be unsure about what you’re doing. Or, he might feel a little insecure that he’s not doing a good enough job on his own. He might be worried that you have to use the vibrator to make up for his lackluster performance.
Your Responses: “Because it feels good.”
“A lot of women use vibrators; I’m not the only one.”
“I just like it. But I like when you touch me too!”
“This is what works best for me. But I’d still like you to (fill in the blank).”
“Are You There Yet?”
Where It Could Be Coming From: Typically, dudes ask this question during intercourse, when they’re worried about not lasting long enough. They’re not meaning to hurry you up, but they’re concerned about orgasming too quickly and ruining it for you.
Your Responses: “I’m having too much fun; let’s keep going.”
“This feels too good. I don’t want to stop yet.”
If you think your guy is close to his orgasm — “Why don’t you take a break and focus on me?”
If it’s during manual stimulation or oral sex — “I’ll tell you when I’m ready for you to stop.”
If you’re with a regular partner who asks you this question frequently — talk to them at a separate time. You can say something like, “Hey, so when you ask me if I’m there yet, it pulls me out of the moment and makes me feel rushed, or like I’m behind. If you ever need a breather, I’m totally happy with us taking a break, and you spending some time focusing on me.”
“But My Last Girlfriend Liked That.”
Where It Could Be Coming From: I know I said I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but this is a pretty rude statement to make. In my sex therapy practice, I’ve never had an experience with a guy who asked this question with positive motivations. He’s probably saying it because he feels like he’s done something “wrong” in the moment, is feeling self-conscious or defensive, and trying to give you “proof” that he’s good in bed. If your guy says something like this, he deserves a stronger response.
Your Responses: “That’s cool. But I’m a different person, with a different body.”
“Not all women like the same thing.”
“I don’t like being compared to other people you’ve been with. How do you think you would feel if I compared you to my ex?”
“Why Don’t You Shave?”
Where It Could Be Coming From: This one can be a really mixed bag. I have worked with some guys who genuinely thought that all women shave or wax, since that’s all they’ve seen in porn. Other times, this comment is a rude way of expressing a personal preference. Everyone likes different pubic hair styles, which is totally fine, but the bottom line is that it’s your body and you get to decide what works best for you.
Your Responses: “Because this is the way I like my body.”
“Because I think pubic hair is really f*cking hot.”
“Why don’t you shave?”
“Because I don’t want to conform to what society tells me I should be doing with my body.”
“That’s a personal question; it’s not really anyone else’s business other than my own.”
“Tell Me You’re A Slut.”
Where It Could Be Coming From: A lot of people like using words during dirty talk that they wouldn’t use in any other context. A guy wanting to use words like, “slut” or “whore” doesn’t automatically mean he’s disrespectful or not a feminist. It probably just means he's watched a lot of porn.
Your Responses: With the dirty talk itself — respond using the words that you like and feel comfortable using. If you don’t want to use the word “slut,” say something like, “I can’t get enough of your dick,” or “I need you inside of me now.”
If you’re with a regular partner — speak to them at a separate time. Say something like, “You know, I don’t love using the word slut. That’s why I didn’t respond to you the other day. But I’m into telling you how much I love your body.”
Of course, if you choose to use the word, more power to you! There's nothing inherently anti-feminist about that choice. But you always, always have the right to speak up and make your preferences known. And if someone can't respect that? Well, that's a larger problem.