“Everything is great with Josh… except our sex life.” My client Leah explained. “It’s like night and day compared to my last relationship. I actually feel valued and loved for once, but things are so vanilla in the bedroom. Maybe it was because my ex and I were so volatile — and I feel badly saying this — but our sex was sooo much better. I don’t want to hurt Josh’s feelings, plus I’m afraid to tell him about the kinky shit I’m into because I worry it’ll freak him out.”
Oftentimes it’s in the most communicative, secure relationships that we have trouble asking for what we want in the bedroom (we all know of — or have been in — that volatile relationship where the sex was GREAT). But choosing a mutually respectful, healthy relationship doesn’t mean you have to suppress your inner freak.
First, know it’s normal and healthy to desire safe, consensual sexual exploration. Maybe you want to try anal, or watch porn together, role play, use toys, or dabble in BDSM. Maybe you want to invite in a “guest star,” or explore an open relationship. Or maybe you just want to have “the define the relationship talk” but the thought overwhelms you with anxiety. Whatever it is, having these uncomfortable conversations is an opportunity to strengthen both your sex life and your relationship. Connection deepens in moments where we feel loved and accepted whilst vulnerable. Intimate (and oftentimes uncomfortable) conversations ultimately build safety and trust in relationship.
Your dread and avoidance are natural. Why? First, we’re not talking about these topics frequently, and thus we don’t always have the language for it. Second, especially as women, there’s societal shame and pathology around asking for our needs to be met and having sexual desires. As Ann Friedman of The Cut explains, “Men and women have been barraged with the message that women are not naughty by nature. They are thought of as hardwired to hunt for a partner and a mate, while men pursue sex as a pleasurable act in and of itself. It follows from there that women — at least good women — must be pursued and coaxed into sex, and men enjoy the thrill of the chase.” However, studies illustrate the contrary: gender differences in the pursuit of sex are minimized when women believe they can avoid being stigmatized for it.
Finally, some women feel shame around seemingly anti-feminist requests, such as a desire to be spanked, choked, or have a threesome. Finally, there’s fear of weirding our partner out, hurting their feelings, or turning them off. So no wonder we avoid talking about it!
However almost invariably, the momentary discomfort of an awkward conversation is worth the ensuing fun. Here are 5 tips to equip you so you can fulfill those fantasies!
1. Remember: you deserve to have your needs met (or at least deserve there to be an attempt at it). Repeat after me: “There is no shame in getting freaky.” As mentioned, many of us have a conflicted relationship with sex because we’ve been perpetually slut-shamed (while simultaneously inundated with images of sexualized women we’re expected to emulate *facepalm*). Know that your fantasies are almost always normal, and a healthy sex life and emotional connection go hand in hand.
2. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta rip that Band Aid. Momentary anxiety is way less painful than enduring dissatisfaction in your relationship. The discomfort will pass and the tradeoff will be worth it!
3. Make space for the awkwardness. Many of us avoid difficult conversations because we expect the words to flow from our mouths like a well-rehearsed performance. Keep in mind you don’t have to be articulate or eloquent. In fact, expect some fumbling and stuttering. Also expect some anxiety and discomfort (maybe even a little sweating), and trust it’s a sign you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. These conversations are opportunities for vulnerability and deepening your relationship!
4. Ask them about their fantasies first. Maybe we just play some Luda to get the conversation flowing? More failsafe, though, is expressing desire to fulfill your partner’s fantasy. This gives them the opportunity to talk about what turns them on, and they’ll likely reciprocate with “what about you?” (and if they don’t, we have a different issue here).
5. Be specific about what you want (to try). Nobody wants to hear “Our sex life needs to be better” and that’s it. Instead say something like, “Babe, you know what turns me on so much? The thought of you/us (fill in the blanks here of what you want).” You won’t risk a damaged ego, and nine times out of ten hearing what turns you on will turn them on.
Now quit reading and hit the sheets…or…the roof?