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Your Campfire Sex Life: Rekindling Desire

Hi Yana,

I love reading all of your stuff. I was wondering if you had any advice on getting back into a sexual relationship. My partner and I have been together for over four years and our sex has fizzled out a bit. I think now we feel really nervous about it and don’t know how to get back into it even though we both really want to! If you have anything to read or any advice to give that would be amazing.

— Rekindle Our Romance

 

Dear Rekindle,

It’s perfectly normal for long-term partners to feel their sex life fizzle a bit. While mainstream sex culture seems to embrace the notion that sexual flames between partners may falter, we don’t have as much acceptance of how rekindling those flames means that you might have to do some fanning. As in, that sexual fire certainly isn’t going to stoke itself!

Lust, sex drives, and turn-ons carry the narrative that they must be spontaneous in order to be acted on or “real.” Waiting for two people to both fall into The Mood at the same time, in the same place, at the right time, and the right place, is a great recipe for waiting around for your sex life to happen … for … quite … a … while.

Creating blazing, amazing bonfires in long-term sexual relationships takes kindling, fuel, tending, and intention. Don’t wait for lightning to strike. Make it happen. On purpose.

Here are some tips:

First: Learn how to build a bonfire. Each of you do some homework — whether that’s watching porn (see my earlier column “Gimme That Grass Fed Porn” for my suggestions), doing one of Emily Nagoski’s great turn-on and turn-off worksheets (thedirtynormal.com/worksheets), or reading an excellent how-to book about sex in general (Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon, for example). Reacquaint yourselves with what turns you on and share that info with each other once you know.

Gather your kindling. What’s going to fuel your fire? New sex toys (Oh My Sensuality in Northampton, Adam and Eve in Greenfield, babeland.com online)? A fancy lube? Just a nice afternoon of self-grooming and a new pair of jockeys? Get ’em!

Build your fire pit…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: He’s Afraid to Cuddle / Different Sex Drives

Hi Yana,

My partner and I have different sex drives. I could have sex four to six times a week, while he feels more comfortable with about two. In the beginning, we had a lot of sex and I was ecstatic thinking that our sex drives were more matched. Now, not so much.

I feel like I’m constantly rejected and he feels pressured to have sex. He’s said he’s afraid to cuddle and kiss me because then he feels he’ll be expected to take it further. To make it even more difficult, I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and feel like I have been hardwired to feel loved through sexual intimacy.

So, when he says no to sex, I feel like my whole world drops from under me. I’ve worked on the sex-equals-love piece in therapy to no avail. I feel at a loss.

Any advice for two people who love each other fiercely, but need help figuring this out?

—Pedal to the Metal

Dear Pedal,

Childhood sexual abuse impacts many people and leaves survivors with a steep check to pay emotionally, physically, and mentally. And though you’re doing great work with your therapist, that hardwiring will still fire.

No couple is perfectly matched in their desire for sex at all times, especially after the hormone-fueled honeymoon phase. If you were to label your sexual desire on a scale of 1-10 (10 being gimme, gimme more!), maybe you would be a 9 at baseline, and your partner, a 4. Factor in relational conflict, hormones, outside stress, and health fluctuations, and the chances that you both will be running at a compromised 7 are rather slim. And that’s normal!

Normalizing this and reminding yourself that his sex drive is a Him issue and not a You issue is important here. A Him issue may be related to a You issue, but is certainly not Your Fault.

He’s feeling wary that once he gets on the intimacy rollercoaster there’s no slowing down or stopping the ride until after sex. His hesitance I’m sure in turn adds to your feelings of rejection. This cycle traps you both in a black-and-white viewpoint of your sex life leaving him on one side and you on the other.

So, where can you collaborate?…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Do I Talk Too Much in Bed?

Hi Yana,

I recently started going out with this girl, but it already feels like we are magnets to one another (both inside and outside of the bedroom). But the last time we had sex an issue came up that broke up that magnet-like feeling for me.

I’m someone who really wants to communicate about sex so I know how to make partners feel good in all the ways they want. So I was really confused when, during sex, my communication caused her discomfort. I was trying to ask her what she was into or if she wanted me to do this or that to make sure that she was comfortable, but she told me she was uncomfortable with all the talking.

I feel myself in a strange double bind here. On the one hand, I want her to feel comfortable during sex and she has told me that quieting-up will do that. On the other hand, we just started seeing one another and I really don’t know what kinds of sex she likes and dislikes, how she likes to be touched, etc. The prospect of having sex without communication seems unethical to me.

Do you have any suggestions? Looking to get that magnet-like feeling back, but I’m not sure how to do that in a situation where communication is a turn-off.

— Don’t Talk Dirty to Me

Dear Don’t Talk,

Striking a balance between constant communication and losing ourselves in the pleasures of our bodies can be a tightrope, especially if our partner’s preferred ratio of Talk:Action is different than ours. I tour colleges teaching workshops about just this. It can be complicated.

What’s not optional is getting someone’s verbal permission to touch their bodies before you do it, especially sexually. However, what happens next is where many get stuck. Some might think, “Hey, I gave you my consent to have sex with me, why are you still asking me so many questions?” Others, like you, may want to have a more continuous checking-in process.

Established partners, on the other hand, may have a greater understanding between them of what activities don’t require a check-in (example: It’s always okay to pull my hair!) or definitely always do (example: Whoa! No backdoor exploring without talking about it first!).

Active, continuous consent isn’t a one-way arrow, but is more like the recycling sign, with several processes looping back into each other. Meaning, keeping sex consensual between the two of you also includes your views of what makes for consensual, enjoyable, pleasurable sex — not just hers. You do not feel comfortable performing silent, check-in-less sex on this person’s body (Yeah! Makes sense to me!). So, you shouldn’t.

Does this mean you can just run your mouth, continuing to make her uncomfortable in the name of your personal consent crusade?...continue reading…

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Poly Role Models / My interview with Kevin Patterson

Poly Role Models

My interview with Kevin Patterson

Educator & speaker Kevin Patterson recently interview me for his blog Poly Role Models.

Everyone should check him out, I always learn new things from his work. You can listen to him on Dawn Serra‘s podcast Sex Gets Real and sometimes even catch him speaking near us in NYC!

And consider supporting his patreon!

Thank you for including me in your work, Kevin!

1. How long have you been polyamorous or been practicing polyamory?

I have been in and out of non-monogamous relationship structures for 10 years. I typically move between monogamous structures and non-monogamous structures depending on what else is going on in my life and how much emotional time and energy I have to devote to the process of non-monogamy.

I actually don’t identify as polyamorous, but more like non-monogamous as I often see polyamorous as an identity and non-monogamy as a relationship structure.

2. What does your relationship dynamic look like?

Currently, I am married to my husband and we have a girlfriend that we see primarily together (sexually). Our girlfriend has sex with and dates other people outside of my husband and I. I have occasional sexual partners outside of my husband and girlfriend. And my husband and I both have sex together with people who are not our girlfriend.

My husband and I consider ourselves primary partners and our girlfriend as our primary secondary partner and other partners as “green-lighted” on a case-by-case basis between the two of us though our girlfriend sees whoever she wants to as long as she just lets us know and keeps the communication open.

3. What aspect of polyamory do you excel at?

I think I excel at viewing my partners as their own people entitled to their own relationships, feelings, and sexual pleasure. This is typically what I fall back on if/when I’m feeling jealous or insecure. And it’s then really helpful to remind myself that I also benefit from being my own personal with my own entitlement to my desire, sexuality, and relational experiences.

4. What aspect of polyamory do you struggle with?

I used to be very low-jealousy and very trusting. But when I got divorced, there was a lot of lying and heartbreak around our non-monogamous arrangement (amongst other things that weren’t related to our non-monogamy) that resulted in my feeling a little more hesitant to take things at face value regardless of how much I trust my partners. This has thrown a wrench in the way I process jealous feelings and can be really challenging.

5. How do you address and/or overcome those struggles?…continue reading…

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How Does a Shy Girl Ask for the Sex She Wants?

Hi Yana,

I’m a bisexual woman in a LTR with another woman. My issue is that I’m super bashful when it comes to asking for what I want during sex. I’ve been partnered for a while now and even though I’m really comfortable with her and trust her, it’s hard for me to drum up the confidence to speak up.

She’s great at asking me what I want from her but in the moment I freeze up and don’t even know how to start answering her questions! I get nervous, I get anxious, and I can barely say much at all. Any way you can help me spit it — anything! — out during sex?!

— Bashful Babe

Dear Bashful,

The modern sexual revolution has been fueled by anti-slutshaming, the freedom of popular hookup culture, and being outspoken about taboos (getting-more-formerly-by-the-day) such as birth control, genuine sexual pleasure, the gender spectrum, and designer relationships. So much open space to move around in! So many rules to bend and break and disregard so that you can make your own! So many things on the sexual menu to pick from! How is a bashful babe to choose?

No but really, how is a bashful babe to choose?

Though part of the battle is finding the bravery, freedom, and permission to ask for what we want, the other part is figuring out: wait, what the hell do I even want to ask for?

Maintaining your own independent sex life, even when you are in relationships, is a crucial aspect of having a great and satisfying sex life. Just because you are partnered, doesn’t mean that the solo sexplorations needs to or should end. Reading books about sex, talking about sex, finding porn you actually like, masturbating, trying new sex toys out, or even just fantasizing on your morning commute are all great ways to discover and build on your own independent sexuality.

Being unsure about what you like, if you like something, or even if you want to try to see if you like something is an intensely personal process that doesn’t necessarily need to be done in front of an audience — even if that audience is your wonderful, trusting, long-term mate…continue reading…

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My Sex Drive’s Back But My BF’s Isn’t

Writer’s note: This column mentions depression and suicidality.

Dear Yana,

When me and my BF first got together about a year and a half ago, we were having the best sex of our lives! Then I decided with the help of my therapist that I needed to be medicated due to suicidal thoughts and anxiety/depression.

The medication helped a lot with my mental illness, but unfortunately it made my sex drive plummet. I was still able and happy to get my man off on a regular basis, but didn’t have much interest in sex for myself (including masturbation) for a long time (6-8 months I think). Once in awhile I would get in the mood, but then I was never able to achieve orgasm.

I’ve since come off of the medication and am healthy and my sex drive has gone back to “normal.” The problem is that my BF got in of the habit of not even attempting to pleasure me. I’ve tried to talk to him about it and when we talk he seems enthusiastic about it, but never follows through with trying when we get in the sack! How can I help him understand the importance of this to me?

— Trying to Get Off More Than Just My Meds

Dear Trying,

It sounds like you’ve taken a quick and victorious journey with and through your mental illness, which is amazing and wonderful. However, it sounds like your boyfriend may have been left in the dust a little bit on your speedy trek to the top of recovery mountain.

A year and a half is not a very long time in the grand scheme of relationships and I wonder if he’s got a little bit of whiplash from where your realities once collided at the intersection of mental health and sex drive.

It’s intense to be someone suffering from depression and suicidality, that is for certain, and there co-exists another reality which is that it’s also tough to be the romantic and sexual partner of someone going through those experiences. You are feeling like your old self — and that’s so great, but it’s possible that he’s still feeling wary that the other shoe might drop…click to continue reading…



Clinical Support Options offers local 24/7 mental health crisis support for Hampshire County at (413) 586-5555 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at (800) 273-8255.

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Our Sex Is All About Him

Dear Yana,

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and we’re best friends. Mutual respect exists in almost every way between us. Sometimes, however, the sex feels, well, sexist. First, he enjoys watching porn together, but I really don’t. However, he always tries to initiate porn watching even though I’ve told him I don’t enjoy it. Secondly, I perform far more oral sex than he does. He rarely performs oral or hand sex on me, and when he does, he doesn’t bother to ask me for feedback. I’ve tried to tell him that X feels good and Y doesn’t, but he gets kind of insulted and self conscious, so I don’t do that anymore.

He does what turns him on in bed, and thinks that, because it turns him on, it must turn me on. Though he’s listened to me when I tell him in a nonsexual context what might personally get me going he doesn’t carry this information over into the bedroom. I’ve asked for more oral sex, less porn, less verbal fantasizing about my friends, etc., but still he does the things that get HIM going when we have sex. I don’t feel cared for in this area, in a stereotypically “girl wants more from hetero guy in bed and he says ‘Gotcha babe, now blow me’” kind of way.

Our communication is generally great, but there seems to be a missing link in this one area between what we express to each other and what we do. Help!

— Unpampered Pet

Hi Unpampered!

Popular, traditional sex education is quite sexist — it prioritizes boners and their reproductive pleasure principles and treats the vagina like little more than a baby-making receptacle not worth bothering to learn to please. Call it the heteropatriarchy or pleasure-phobia but either way — women are screwed when it comes to learning how to screw.

This isn’t an excuse for your boyfriend to keep riding the sexist sex ed wave straight to blow-job beach, but it does mean that when in a cishetero relationship, couples need to try a little harder to overcome the many social, gendered blocks to good sexual communication…continue reading…

 

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The V-Spot: Will Our Mixed Desire Dating Last?

 

Hi, Yana!

I recently started dating somebody who ticks (nearly) all the right boxes for me. This is the first time since breaking up with my sweetheart of over two years that I’ve felt this way, and it’s really exciting. There’s only one hiccup: he seems to be grey-a and I’m about as allosexual as it gets. He prefers to cuddle; I’d have sex twice a day if I could.

We talked about this shortly after we started seeing each other, and it seems like things are workable, at least for now — he says he’s game for non-monogamy and I have other partners who are excited to have the kind of sex that excites me. He’s my only local partner, though, and I can’t help but wonder if this sort of arrangement is sustainable. I’m really wary of implicitly pressuring him into being more sexual than he’d like, but I also can’t help the fact that I’m super horny basically always.

How common are successful allosexual/asexual relationships? What can we do to make sure that both of our needs are getting met? What can we do to make sure that we don’t hurt each other if/when our sexual desires don’t match up?

-Dating, But Not Mating

Dear Not Mating,

In any romantic and/or sexual dynamic with another person, it’s impossible that our desire will perfectly mirror our partner’s and many couples have extreme desire discrepancies. This particular dynamic with your Grade A, grey-a bae just has a slightly more disparate desire difference to negotiate.

First, let’s nail some terms, courtesy of my former intern Emmett DuPont who wrote a great blog post for my website about just this:

  1. Allosexual: You & the majority of people. Allosexuals experience sexual attraction and desire at a level that is considered normative in our society. For people who are allosexual, sexual intimacy is usually a necessary part of partner relationships.
  2. Grey asexuality. Grey-ace. Grey-A: Your boo. Emmett says: Grey-A is a term that people might use if they fall on the spectrum of asexuality, somewhere between completely asexual, and completely allosexual. For example, experiencing sexual attraction only after intimate friendships, or only occasionally”.
  3. Asexual: Emmett says: “Some asexual folks experience absolutely no sexual desire or attraction. Some asexual folks are sex repulsed, wanting nothing to do with any sexual experience, while other aces might find that they are perfectly happy to do certain, consensual sexual acts to meet the needs of a partner”.

So, how do you deal with such a desire discrepancy (besides consensual non-monogamy which, you’re already doing)?

In a 2014 interview with EverydayFeminism.com, David Jay, founder of Asexuality.org reminds allosexual partners that “It’s important to give asexual people a place to celebrate and talk about all their important relationships, not just sexual ones. Sexual people need to treat those kinds of intimacy as if they are as interesting and exciting as romantic/sexual intimacy because they are!”.

Which is to say, Not Mating, any implicit pressure for your partner to sexually perform at your allosexual level will likely come from inside of you. If you’ve made genuine peace with all that comes with enthusiastically consenting to dating a greysexual person in all of their glory, you will be less likely to inadvertently turn up the heat for more than they have to offer you.

Be clear about what you are truly okay with, too. In a mutually respectful relationship, there is no space for pity or charity. In fact, it may even disempower your partner’s already marginalized sexuality identity even further if you continue to date him because you want to prove to him or yourself that you can do without a certain level of sexual interaction. Especially if you can’t! Each of you are entitled to have, express, and be honored for your unique desire levels and identities.

Finally, avoiding hurt is something we all want in our relationships but may not be able to fulfill, especially in a relationship with inherently conflicting desires built into it. Though I can’t give you a percentage of success here, I can tell you this relationship will take some honest boundary setting, exploring, and work, as all desire discrepancies do!

 

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Honestly, I Could Do Without the Squirt

Hello Yana,

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost a year. We’re in our 20s, and he’s a few years older than me. There have been times when we’re intimate when he doesn’t provide me with oral sex. He’s never close to ejaculating while inside me. He only does so after I give him a blow job, and it’s not a lot of semen.

Also, he puts his fingers inside me and does this thing to make me “orgasm,” which causes me to expel liquid. I’m not crazy about it and I don’t consider it an orgasm, since I know what one feels like.

I don’t know how to tell him that I can do without it. I don’t want to make him feel bad about himself nor make it seem that I haven’t enjoyed the sex — because I have, just not the ending part. I don’t know how to ask him about providing oral sex. We don’t live too close to each other and the opportunity to do it is usually two-three times a month.

— Not Gushing  About Gushing

Dear Not Gushing,

We take preferences personally. Especially when it comes to sex. Someone says “Not right now,” and we hear “You’re unattractive.” Someone says “I’m not into that kink,” and we hear “You’re a freak.” Someone says “A little to the left,” and we hear “You’re bad at sex.”

When you say “You know, babe, I could do without this liquid finale” will your boyfriend hear, “I hate having sex with you”? When you say “You know what would be super hot? Having you go down on me before we bang,” will your boyfriend hear “I’ve never liked sex with you?”

Society tells us to keep quiet about sexual pleasure. This leaves us with a lot of blanks to fill in for ourselves. Blanks produce anxiety. So we fill them in; often with self-doubt, paranoia, and assumptions.

What will happen if you vocalize to your partner: “I love having sex with you. But this ending part? Not so much. Can we try something else? Like maybe you could go down on me?” Your boyfriend could take it personally. Or maybe he’ll be relieved to know what you do want. Maybe he feels insecure about his oral sex abilities. Maybe he’s just doing this because he’s reading your physical reaction as confirmation of your enjoyment.

How is he supposed to know unless you verbalize otherwise? How are you to know unless you ask?…continue reading…

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Oh! Oh! Oh? Where’s My Orgasm?

Hi Yana!

I started having sex with males this past summer. It’s fun and exciting, but I’ve yet to reach an earth-shattering orgasm. That may be too high of an expectation for myself, but it feels like I’ve never had an orgasm at all.

I feel the build up, but there’s no release. I think this may be contributing to my extremely low sex drive, because sex isn’t really beneficial for me. I really do want to be having more sex, and more fulfilling healthy sex with my long-term partner.

How do I have an orgasm? How do I go about figuring out what I like, what gets me off? Am I getting in my own way somehow?

Usually when I have sex it’s vaginal penetration with short bursts of clitoral stimulation. I guess my main problem is starting the dialogue, “Hey, can you try this?” because I don’t know what to ask for. Should I watch more porn, go on kinky websites for ideas? Or, considering how sex in mainstream media is depicted in a way that is largely unbeneficial to women, is that more hurt than help?

— Still Searching

Dear SS,

Your questions echo the many, many questions I get from people trying to overcome this sexual hurdle — or just come at all. An orgasm is typically characterized by a pleasurable build-up which ends in a climactic release.

It sounds like you’re on your way, but haven’t quite reached Orgasm Town — a common experience.

You’re on the right track in your thinking about this — your search for an orgasm is going to take a lot more than basic P-in-V penetration. Logistically speaking, direct and consistent clitoral stimulation is a requirement for most. More importantly, orgasms take personal work both in between our legs and in between our ears. What I mean to say, is the brain is our largest sex organ; so let’s start there…continue reading…