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The V-Spot: We’ve Got Different Sex Drives

Hi Yana,

My partner and I seem to be in different places when it comes to sex. We have fabulous sex when he’s up to it, but in general I have a higher sex drive and want to be more adventurous.

We both have histories of trauma and deal with it in different ways. I’m mostly into reenacting/reclaiming the trauma, and he wants to avoid it. I don’t think either is better, I just want to know if you know a way that we can find some common ground.

Thanks,

Opposites Attract

Dear Opposites,

Our individual sexual desires are like cake (Okay, I just spent my holidays binging on “The Great British Bake Off” and, subsequently, baked goods. So just bear with me here). Our sexual-desire cakes are all influenced by a variety of factors, some easier modified than others.

First, we’ve all got our basic batter ingredients that went into our specific cake early on in life that formed the foundation of our desire templates: biology, parenting, cultural contexts, and social messages about sex and sexuality that we didn’t even know we were receiving.

Then, we put that cake in to bake. Our batter doesn’t change that much, but as our cakes get golden-brown in the oven, our relationship to sex solidifies. As we get older, we absorb more information and log more experiences with sex and sexuality that we can actually remember: sex education classes, media and marketing messages, early sexual experiences both good and bad, traumatic experiences processed and unprocessed.

We get together with our partners and add on some frosting. Maybe even some of those cute decorative flowers or sprinkles. Our sexual desires shift in how they look and feel based on current life stuff: our jobs, stress levels, body image, medications, kids, health, communication patterns, or rooted feelings about our relationships. Decorative elements as these can be shifted with relative ease compared to the foundational ingredients in our batter or how long we set our bake-timer for. The latter are more deeply rooted and may be harder to change or maybe won’t ever.

So what are your options if, as a partner, all you can do is worry about your own cake and/or contribute to your partner re-frosting theirs?…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Changed and Confused

Hi Yana,

I’m a queer non-binary femme. My partner (also queer and non-binary) and I have been together for just about three years. In the past year, I have been doing a lot of emotional work — processing lots of trauma, shame and doing a lot of digging and learning. It’s also been a year of more depression and anxiety on my part.

The first year and a half of our relationship we were incredibly sexual, we enjoyed sex a lot, loved to explore, and had sex pretty much as often as we could. One of the side-effects of all this trauma-processing is that my sex drive and sexuality has changed a lot. I don’t feel sexy, often feel uncomfortable in my body, and can’t stay present during sex.

My partner is incredibly supportive of me and the work I’ve been doing. We communicate A LOT and they’ve been super patient and kind about the shifts in my sexuality. However, their sex drive has not changed and I know it has been tough for them as I have gone from someone who is super sexual to feeling anxious and uncomfortable in sexual scenarios. I miss the physical connection with my partner.

I guess my question is a multi-part question: 1.) How can my partner and I re-enter sexual spaces with a sort of sexual reset? How do you handle sex with someone you know so well when things have so drastically changed? 2.) What can we do to help me become more comfortable with sex again? 3.) How can we share intimate and intentional physical space in a way that is not stressful?

Thank you,

Changed & Confused

 

Dear C&C,

Congrats on doing the hard work of processing old stuff! Opting to move through the mud rather than skirting it indefinitely is a brave choice that’s tough to make so pats on the back to you! Now let’s tackle these question parts.

1.) Knowing our sexual partners well can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we are comfortable. We have history, a repertoire, and trust. A curse because with that can come assumptions, expectations, and overconfidence in our ability to read the other person.

Pushing a sexual reset might not be possible without some memory-erasing spells a la Harry Potter, but embarking on discovering what’s new about your sexuality with fresh eyes, hands, and ears is a great start.

You might do a Yes/No/Maybe list together (find them onyanatallonhicks.com, I prefer the one by Autostraddle.com) to detail the definitelies, unsures, and hell nos of your new sexual frontier or do a worksheet from Emily Nagoski’s book about sexual turn-ons and sexual turn-offs (thedirtynormal.com – update! looks like she recently axed this website. find her and her work here instead) to see where the new limits lie. Putting pen to paper before putting hands to skin can be a really impactful way to visualize new sexual territories.

2.) Becoming more comfortable with sex again is much like the process of learning how to trust again, which, unfortunately for the impatient among us, is a process of experience over time. Continuing therapy, moving at a comfortable pace, continuing your communication, and collecting positive, new sexual experiences are all great pieces of the healing puzzle…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: I Get Ghosted After One Night

Hi Yana,

I’ve had an above-average number of sexual partners (70+) and at least half have been one night stands. The pattern is: I start talking to someone on OKCupid, we arrange for a date, we have a few drinks, have sex.

Sometimes, it’s more mutual, and neither of us wants to see the other again. More often, I’ve enjoyed the sex (and they have too) but are not interested in meeting up again. Among those are situations where I’m interested in something casual but continuous. A few of them, I actually like a lot and am interested in something more than casual. However, overwhelmingly it seems that first date sex means no more dates. And I’m ghosted/soft rejected (“I had a fun time”).

There have been other situations where I’ve been sexual with someone on the second or third date, and it’s also happened. And that’s partly my dilemma. I tend to date a lot of women who identify as sex-positive, and though I don’t believe in a timetable for sex, it seems to happen sooner than later. And I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with that but I’m a bit tired of one night stands, despite my love of sex.

My hunch is that the fault lies with both parties in failure to communicate. Perhaps either one of us should take a moment before sexual activity to briefly discuss STIs and expectations. I have had only two such conversations in my life, both initiated by women. If I know it’s likely a one night stand, the interaction resolves better.

Still, why do you think first date sex seems to kill long-term potential for me? What do you think I can do to adjust my behavior for a different result? I feel it’s more complicated than simply delaying sexual gratitude.

—One and Done

 

Dear One and Done,

I think it’s great that you end your reflections about this pattern with wondering how you can adjust your own behavior for different results. A great way to wait a long time for change is to wait for other people to change while we kick back and stay the same. And this is especially true when it comes to sex and relationships.

I think initiating an up front conversation about sexual health and expectations for the interaction is a great idea. It sounds like having mistakenly high expectations for the date distresses you the most and adjusting them might make a big impact. Think of how much confusion you could clear up by simply asking someone if they’re interested in having sex or not, if they’re open to something other than a one-night stand, or if they want to be just friends, etc. Sure, it’s not “slick” but it certainly helps keep expectations and your date’s boundaries clear and intact.

Online dating apps like OKCupid make it a little easier to have these chats up front and could even be included somewhere in your profile that you’d like to talk expectations before you go on a date.

Of course, we can’t plan and account for everything before it happens…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: How Do We Weather the Storm?

Hi Yana,

My boyfriend of three years and I are both going through a really tough time. My parents are divorcing, he’s applying to schools, and plus our relationship has been long distance for the past two years. We’re both depressed, and I’ve been asking him to go to therapy lately.

What advice would you give to a couple who’s going through a tough time, and how to weather the storm together? I’ve been terribly hurt in the past, so my instinct is to run away, but I know that’s not the right thing to do here.

How can I assure myself that everything will be okay, and make things as best as they can be in these hard times? Are there things I should be doing to help our relationship, and if so what?

I’m sorry if this is a really heavy question to ask you, but if you have any advice at all, I’d really appreciate it. Your column always gives such sound advice to seemingly hopeless situations like mine.

Best,

Depressed from a Distance

Dear Depressed,

We all have our own things that we do to find anchors when our seas are choppy AF. Some of these things are healthier than others, and some of them are more productive to our relationships than others.

There a few types of storm-weathering strategies: one type might be directly beneficial to you and indirectly beneficial to your partnership (exercising more, meditating, journaling). Another type might be mutually beneficial to you and your partner (for example, making space and time to connect amidst the hectic-ness. This could be sexual, or it could be casual like FaceTiming at least twice a week or playing Words with Friends together in your free moments).

Another type of strategy might be partner-focused: sending them a care-package, getting them a gift card for a massage in their city, or taking care of some stressful logistical thing on their behalf.

A final type of weathering the storm strategy might be directly beneficial to you that your partner isn’t too pleased with. Or, in the reverse, might be something that’s really helpful for your partner but doesn’t leave you all too gleeful. This type of coping strategy might look like taking space, taking a break while you each work on your piece of the choppy waters puzzle, or taking up a hobby that reduces their available time to spend with you or vice versa.

It can be incredibly painful and difficult to watch your partner suffer…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: How Do I Tell Dates I’m Heartless?

Dear Yana,

I have a cold, dead heart.

Well, not really but pretty much, yeah. I was married to my ex-wife for nearly a decade and the end of our relationship was really complicated. I feel almost certain that I don’t have the capacity to be in love or be in a relationship ever again.

That being said, I still want to get laid, of course. But my issue is this: I feel as though I’m being pretty up front with my dates about my emotional limitations from the start. However, even though they tell me that they’re okay with not being in a relationship and just having sex, it always ends up feeling like they actually aren’t okay with keeping it casual, expect more from me than I have to give, and I end up disappointing them and being the bad guy.

To make things more complicated, I take a little longer to warm up to people so I’m not very well suited for random, one-night stands. I’m more looking for a friends-with-benefits arrangement that can stay that way without becoming more.

Is this possible? Is there some way that I can avoid this pattern from happening over and over again? It makes me feel as though I just shouldn’t date or have sex with anyone at all and am incapable of not hurting the people that I get involved with and that just sucks.

Thanks for any advice,

-Hopelessly Heartless

Dear Heartless,

I’m catching a whiff of at least a tiny bit of heart left in that chest in your concern that you’re hurting the people that you date when you can’t give them as much emotional connection as they would like. So, we can at least cross off the idea that you truly do not care for others and/or have the emotional landscape of a serial killer — phew!

Being guarded after such a long-term relationship and what sounds like a very disappointing heartbreak is understandable. It’s also understandable that you feel stuck between a one-night-stand rock and a just-enough-emotional-connection-but-not-too-much hard place. It’s not an easy balance to strike and it’s certainly not an easy one to strike with another person’s mind, body, and emotions involved.

To achieve this kind of connection, you’ll have to get better at stating your boundaries even when they’re not ones that your date wants to hear, and probably at times re-stating them, with plenty of check-ins and honesty.

Know that you’re allowed to have boundaries around your emotions, body, time, and space. They don’t have to be the boundaries everyone else has and they certainly don’t have to be the boundaries that anyone else wants you to have. Part of a consent process in any capacity — emotional, legal, sexual, etc. — involves a negotiation process: you present what you want and are interested in (sex outside of a true blue Relationship plus friendship), your date does the same, and then you each decide for yourselves if you want the thing the other person is offering.

Your responsibility here, Heartless, is…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Help! I’m Too F*&%$ng Nice

Hi Yana,

So, I was recently dumped. Woo!

During “the conversation,” my now-ex told me a lot of confusing reasons as to why he thought we should break up, but the one that I can’t stop thinking about: “You’re too nice.” He said that he didn’t know how to be in a relationship with someone who wasn’t mean to him, or how to navigate a relationship with someone who wanted to provide and care for him and take his feelings seriously.

This is the second time this has happened to me. I had an emotionally abusive ex partner who told me the same thing — he said he was craving emotional abuse and neglect because it was what he’d become accustomed to.

My question is — where do I go from here? Since this has happened to me twice with my two most significant exes, I’m declaring it a trend. I refuse to become a mean person or neglectful partner, but how do I respond to future partners who may have histories of emotional abuse and present my niceness as an issue?

—Nicey McNiceness

 

Dear Nicey McNiceness,

Dang!

So your partners are dumping you because you’re not emotionally neglecting them enough? I’m nearly stumped about this one, especially without knowing more information about the histories of these relationships, but I’ll throw out some theories and you can decide if any of them stick.

Theory One:

I call bullshit. When a relationship has run its course for at least one member of said relationship, sometimes “the conversation” as you call it is not as honest as it might’ve been if it had been a conversation that was committed to hashing it out rather than ending it.

Sometimes when a partner decides it’s time to call it quits, they may have arrived at a place of acceptance, giving up, or letting go. Therefore, the conversation tends to come out in a way that’s more about peace-keeping than airing the dirty laundry.

Meaning, maybe calling you “just too nice” is the equivalent to the famous side-step of the popular job interview question “So, what are your greatest weaknesses?”: “My greatest weakness is that I just care too much about my job,” “You’re too nice” is like saying “You’re too pretty for me to date.” Not a real reason. Just some placating B.S. used to sidestep hard truth.

Theory Two:

Maybe you ARE too nice. Are you someone that avoids conflict like the plague and says things like “Whatever you want,” “It’s fine,” and “I’m chill” when in reality you don’t feel those ways at all? Avoiding conflict via nice-ness is easily perceived as phony-ness, disingenuous, or a concrete wall of defensiveness that not even your partners can reach you through. If this resonates, you could work on how you handle conflict, but don’t forget: it takes two to tango.

Theory Three:…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: For the Love of the Uncut

Hi Yana,

I’m with a guy with an uncircumcised penis for the first time in my 16 years of being sexually active. I love how he looks, and it feels great when we can have sex. But, after three years, we haven’t been able to get into a good rhythm, sex-wise.

I’m not naturally super wet, so I’m used to using lube, but often we have to stop because he starts to tear. It’s basically almost every time that he’s either getting injured or we have to constantly reapply to the point where it completely disrupts everything and we have to give up. Oral is great, but we both wish we could explore each other in all the ways.

Water-based lube such as Yes! isn’t working, and Sliquid Organics is so-so. We’ve talked about it, and it seems a major issue is that the combo of the lube and my natural fluids are sort of quicker-drying than we need, and the mixture makes his foreskin stay painfully retracted and then it starts to tear rather than sliding like it needs to.

Do you have any recommendations for a better lube? He is on a medication that is dehydrating, but simple extra water intake isn’t enough. We love each other, but the lack of and fear of sex isn’t something we are happy with.

There’s got to be a fix to this one issue of an otherwise loving and intimate relationship, right?

—Unlubed, Uncut, Now What?

Dear Unlubed & Uncut,

You’re absolutely right — sex should feel good. Pleasurable! It shouldn’t hurt (unless intentional and consensual pain is your game, of course) and it certainly shouldn’t hurt so much that you and your partner have developed a FEAR of it, that’s for sure.

Foreskin isn’t necessarily my forte but lucky for me, I’ve got some of the best access to sex educators across the country thanks to ye ol’ secret internet groups. When I asked them what they thought about your predicament, suggestions ranged from having your partner visit a urologist to rule out any ongoing health concerns that may be affecting the elasticity of his foreskin to the most heartbreakingly difficult suggestion of all: more penis massages!!

Several educators mentioned that what can happen over time with foreskin is that the skin can lose pliability which may affect the skin’s slide no matter the quantity or quality of your natural or bottled slip. Massaging the foreskin and head of the penis with coconut oil regularly certainly can’t be THAT much of a chore and could go a long way in helping your partner’s privates maintain plasticity.

And then there’s The Butters. This lube boasts nine all-natural ingredients like coconut oil, aloe vera, and raw shea butter and is, according to the maker of this lube himself, perfectly concocted “at home with love by Jerome Stuart-Nichols in Ypsilanti, Michigan.”

This simply luscious and luxurious lubricant is all-natural, non-toxic, body-safe, and non-staining, and can be made unscented, hypoallergenic, or customized in a variety of ways just for you and your sweetie. The Butters has been making well-oiled waves since its debut in 2014 and has the sex educating likes of folks like Kitty Stryker and Emmeline Peaches saying things like “Magical,” “Fucking fantastic,” and “Creamy. Rich. Decadent.”…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: My Boyfriend Just Won’t

Hi Yana!

I am a 21-year-old cisgender female living with my partner of 1.5 years. I’ll make it simple: a partner has never been able to make me orgasm. Either I do it solo or I do all the work for myself during sex with a partner.

My partner and I communicate about sex all the time and I enjoy sex with him otherwise. I’ve tried a number of ways to ask him to put in a little more effort in making me feel good and he still doesn’t really try. His excuses are that I take too long to climax, he doesn’t feel like it, etc.

Am I ever going to be sexually satisfied? I love this man and plan to spend my life with him … but I feel like I’m settling in the sex department. Am I doomed to a life of masturbation?

During conversation about the topic I try my best not to make him feel inadequate but he makes me feel like there’s something wrong with my body by his reactions. I understand orgasm isn’t necessarily the most important part of sex but will I ever be able to effortlessly lay back and let another person take me to that level?

I appreciate your advice,

-Very Anticlimactic

Dear Anticlimactic,

Let’s talk numbers for a minute. The University of Chicago did a study that found that 31 percent of female participants had never felt an orgasm. Seventy-one percent of women surveyed for the same study reported that they did not consistently orgasm with a (in this study, male) partner.

Over 70 percent of people with vaginas require direct, consistent clitoral stimulation in order to have an orgasm — period. Whether that’s alone or with a partner. And the vast majority necessitate at least 20-30 minutes of clitoral stimulation of some kind before reaching climax. That number can get shorter as we get more familiar with our own bodies, our partners, and our orgasm cycle but 20-30 minutes is the average.

Now that we’ve got those pesky facts out of the way that (hopefully) demonstrate that you’re not broken, slow, or alone in your orgasm experience — let’s talk about your boyfriend. First thing’s first: a sexual partner who consistently treats you in a way that makes you feel unworthy of effort, pleasure, and sexual care is … let’s go with “lacking.”

Let me be clear: a partner’s struggle to provide you with the sexual pleasure you hope for (orgasm, in this case) is 100 percent understandable, forgivable, and workable…continue reading…

Sexcessories 101: an intro to kink gear & sex toys

Tuesday, December 5th, 5-7pm

Free & Open to all Hampshire College & 5-College Students

 

Workshop Description: Our formal, school-based sex education is lacking. But what about our sexual pleasure education? It’s practically non-existent. How do we learn to make ourselves and our partners feel

Hitting the Spot // Bennington College // March 2016

Hitting the Spot // Bennington College // March 2016

sexual pleasure? Often by accident, often by guess-and-check, and way-too-often in ways that are terribly misinformed by Google, social mores, and sweeping generalizations about what “everyone likes”.

This workshop will explore how we learn about pleasure by touching on some of our most pleasurable spots – the G-Spot, C-Spot (clitoris) and P-Spot (prostate) – complete with hands-on demonstrations with sex toy floor models (vibrators, dildos, anal toys, lube, etc).

This demonstrative workshop will also cover the essential basics of exploring kinky sex (topping, bottoming, ropes, cuffs, paddles, floggers, sensation play, and how to deliver the perfect spank!).

Going against the problematic version of BDSM portrayed in the blockbuster 50 Shades, this workshop will focus on safer kink practices including technique, consent, scene negotiation, and aftercare. Participants will leave feeling more confident in their kink practices with the tools and resources to bring kinky sex into their own relationships and sex lives.

 

 

This workshop is open to all bodies, genders & identities. Language in this workshop honors the gender & sexuality spectrum rather than the binary and all participants are encouraged to practice self-care in their level of participation & attendance. There will be no live demos or nudity at this workshop, though there will be some illustrated anatomy diagrams for educational purposes.


About the Presenter 

Yana Tallon-Hicks (she/her) is a therapist, sex columnist, and a consent, sex & sexuality writer and educator living in Northampton, MA. She is a graduate of Hampshire College where she studied LGBTQ+ community and sex education. Her YanaMay2016-34work centers around the belief that pleasure-positive & consent-based sex education can positively impact our lives and the world.

Yana is a relationships therapist at the Couples Center of the Pioneer Valley, where she sees clients in all relationship structures, particularly surrounding issues of sex and sexuality.

Her sex educational writings have appeared in both national and local publications and can be found most regularly in her weekly sex column, The V-Spot, on the back page of the Valley Advocate.

Yana’s workshops work to create a welcoming & comfortable space for all to explore crucial aspects of our holistic, sexual selves such as pleasure, communication, consent & the body using humor, relateability, and experience as key teaching tools.

Read more about Yana & her work here, where you can also read her sex advice column & watch herTEDxTalk: Is the Porn Brain Our New Sex Educator?

Find her (and her cute dog) on Instagram @the_vspot.

 

 

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The V-Spot: I Keep Falling for Straight Girls

Hi Yana,

I’m a 20-year-old student at one of the local women’s colleges. I’m gay and have been out for five years, though I’ve never dated anyone.

I figured that it wouldn’t be too tricky to find someone here, since there’s a pretty large population of people who identify as LGBTQ+. However, despite the fact that I’m pretty social, and part of multiple student groups, I’ve only managed to fall for straight girls.

To most people, I appear “stereotypically straight” — my hair is pretty long and I wear mostly dresses. I also don’t drink or attend parties. For these reasons, everyone recommends that I try Tinder, etc., but I’m demiromantic so I don’t find people attractive unless I have some level of friendship with them first.

I also can’t really engage with anyone if I go in thinking “This is a date!” So, this cuts off the prospect of being introduced or set up with people. Furthermore, I currently identify as asexual. I’m really worried that if I do find someone, my asexuality will turn them off, and eventually make the situation even harder.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom?

Having Doubts About Asking Out

 

Dear Having Doubts,

The extensive topic of queer identity and visibility is one that many writers dive in to daily in regards to queer visibility as working positively to affirm identities, build community, and score dates alongside visibility working negatively as targeting folks for harassment and violence. We can’t get into all of that important stuff here but let’s talk about visibility re: finding you a good date.

When I first moved to San Francisco in 2007, I was decidedly less visible in my LGBTQ+ community. I had a wicked crush on my local (female) barista who (spoiler alert!) eventually became my partner of five years. Like you, I also had long hair and chose dresses as my go-to apparel. I felt like I didn’t know the first thing about flirting with other women beside writing in Sharpie on my forehead NOT AS STRAIGHT AS I LOOK PLZ DATE ME.

My strategy then as a “straight-looking” lady trying to pick up another lady was to send clear signs about my sexual fluidity. And what could be a clearer than bringing an entire stack of books I was reading for my undergraduate thesis with titles featuring words like “lesbian community,” “bisexual identity,” and “sexual fluidity” into the cafe and then strategically positioning them towards the counter in plain reading-view of my soon-to-be-girlfriend?

I’m not saying but I’m just saying that we were dating the next week. But, before you book it to the library, there are certainly a few more, less passive-aggressive, ideas to consider…continue reading…