post

Is Being Basic in Bed a Bad Thing?

Dear Yana,

Recently my partner and I have talked about sexual exploration- or lack thereof – in our relationship. I don’t have any fetishes or kinks or fantasies. At least, I don’t think I do. I’ve never even owned a sex toy. Not that this is a problem, but I sense from my partner that he wishes otherwise.

He finds my “vanilla” preference for the sexual experience “interesting”- his words. Read: boring. Now I’m questioning if I’m suppressing a desire to expand my sexual horizons or if I really just don’t get off from a sexual experience separated from reality. I guess the only way to know is to try exploring or I’ll never know, but I wanted to hear what you have to say and what you recommend for proceeding.

Sincerely,

Basic in Bed

 

Dear BinB –

There are a few reasons why I tend to use the term “pleasure-positive” to describe my work rather than “sex-positive” (though I’m truly a mix of both): on the one hand the “sex-positive” movement has been really, well – positive! Sex-positivity counters slut-shaming, casts sex as a natural, albeit complicated part of our lives rather than inherently risky or negative, and has opened many doors for people that had been previously barricaded by shame, stigma, and repressive social norms.

Pleasure-positivity is sex-positive. However, it’s more heavily focused on what brings us pleasure as unique individuals. The reason I bring this up, BinB, is that while sex-positivity may help your partner feel empowered and excited about his kinks and fetishes, it may feel simultaneously disempowering to you as someone who finds pleasure in what feels, as you describe as, based in reality and/or vanilla.

Though your sexual pleasure may present as vanilla in comparison to his triple-chocolate chip with whipped cream, cherries, sprinkles, and handcuffs, your unique experience of sexual pleasure is just as valid as his. For some, intimate pleasure has nothing to do with sex at all!

Kate McCombs, MPH, my sex education colleague, states so gracefully; “There’s a huge variety of what’s ‘normal’ when it comes to sexual desire. Often people with lower desire for sex feel broken or weird. If that’s you, you’re not alone. In my opinion, prude-shaming is just as problematic as slut-shaming. As I like to say ‘I’m sex-positive – not sex-mandatory’”. Similarly, being kink- or fetish-positive doesn’t mandate it be a part of your sexual experience.

Of course, there are always two sides to every coin and endless sides to the complex shapes our sexual and romantic lives can take. If you would like to explore some other sides, there are a couple places to dig into.

You seem overwhelmed at the idea of exploring this wide realm of other-than-vanilla sex – understandable! A simple Googling of “kinky sex” can lead you into quite the overstimulating rabbithole, to say the least. Sexual exploration can be an extremely personal process and may look like fantasizing about something new for a few minutes while you masturbate, taking a vibrator for a spin, or diving headfirst into the porn pool. Some feel safe and comfortable exploring with their partners present and others need some solo space to process, feel awkward, or to just throw that new vibrator on the floor and swear them off for life.

For others, sexual exploration can mean a deeper process of unpacking what makes us feel hesitant about moving beyond the sex we know or the sex we’ve been granted social permission to have. I’m particularly interested in what you might discover by thinking about what makes reality-based sex feel good and safe to you.

Your partner has a responsibility to not pressure you into any kind of sex that you don’t feel consensually and enthusiastically YES about and also if you do decide to explore new sexual things with him, to be patient and supportive if certain things just don’t float your bangin’ boat.

Some suggested reading includes When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match by Sandra Pertot, Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, and Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel.

No matter what, keep in mind this mantra by sex writer & educator Emily Nagoski, PhD: “Pleasure is the measure”; not your kink-o-meter, not the flavor of your freakiness, but your genuine pleasure.


This sex column appears in print on the back page of The Valley Advocate every week!

Email me your sex & relationship questions to be anonymously answered in the V-Spot!

 

post

Mashable.com: What I learned about sexual pleasure from tapping virtual vulvas

This morning at my breakfast table I learned how to pleasure another woman with my boyfriend.

Sex education site OMGYes is starting conversations about female pleasure, via some experimental new methods.

In a recent chat with currently controversial feminist icon Gloria Steinem, actress and women’s rights activist Emma Watson endorsed OMGYes, encouraging fans to “definitely check it out…It’s worth it” (“it” being the site’s $29 subscription fee).

IMAGE: OMGYES

The interactive site, backed by several research studies about the pleasure preferences of over 1,000 women, features video interviews with real women talking about their real experiences of sexual pleasure. Most notably, touchscreen video lessons of sexual stimulation techniques allow users to tap and caress a variety of virtual vulvas on-screen.

 

But what is a site like OMGYes actually teaching us about female sexual pleasure? Most notably, when we’re invited to learn about sexual pleasure via a futuristic touchscreen, are we framing sexual pleasure as something to talk about or just another thing to type about from the isolating safety of our handheld devices? Though Emma Watson got gutsy to publicly praise OMGYes as a concept, her language was still vague, peppered in the age-old euphemism for sex — “it” — and still left female sexual pleasure in the background of the site itself. Are we really ready to use OMGYes as its creators intended or is this just another piece of a human sexuality, untranslated from the web to real life?

How it’s packaged

OMGYes certainly makes strides in breaking the silence, by packaging female sexual pleasure in new, educational ways. But its one-sided sexual stimulation experience (created by viewing and virtually touching these women through a screen) runs the risk of continuing to promote female sexual pleasure as something to be achieved rather than cooperated, intuited rather than asked about, and perfected rather than made genuine. This could reinforce the disconnect between pleasure and communication that mainstream porn has already vastly propagated.

 

IMAGE: OMGYES

At times this is even presented in similar packaging to porn: The women featured on the site conform to many classic beauty standards, and their pre-recorded moans of pleasure are soft, dainty and (notably) never audibly climactic, an intentional decision on the creator’s part. OMGYes co-creator Lydia Daniller says, “We’re actually working to counteract the orgasm as goal-oriented view of sex through the entire site, and through the simulations in particular. We wanted to emphasize pleasure for pleasure’s own sake and not pleasure to reach an ‘end goal.’”

Nonetheless, when my boyfriend and I took OMGYes for a spin on his iPad one morning, we couldn’t help but direct our eyes to the prize. We chose to learn about one woman on the site who was teaching us the technique “layering,” via video. We listened to how exactly she likes to experience this kind of touch and why. She cautioned us against moving too quickly or venturing away from her clitoris too far or for too long, which rang realistic. After watching her video and reading the site’s blurb about “layering” we ventured to the virtual vulva, taking turns to practice the moves we were just taught.

The virtual video was good at responding quickly and accurately when we disobeyed our new sex partner’s instruction. After a few minutes, in place of her climax, the video just ended. That’s when my boyfriend exclaimed, “Hey! We won! This is like a video game.”…continue reading on Mashable.com…

post

Help! I Think My Orgasms Are Broken!

I’ve had a sexual concern for the longest time: I have trouble feeling orgasm during sex and masturbation. At first I thought it might be my partner not knowing my spots too well, but I realized I’ve never had any ejaculations by myself either. I’m worried that my body isn’t sensitive enough to feel orgasm and that’s why I can’t be sexually satisfied.

My summer beach book has been Come as You Are, the brilliant New York Times best seller about female sexuality and sexual response by Smith College wellness education director, PhD, and smart sex educator Emily Nagoski. As someone who writes and reads and teaches about sex for a living, I’m all “Oh, another sex book? Whatevs,” but Nagoski’s book has re-inspired me about the hows and whats of female orgasm.

Nagoski highlights the crushing pressure of the female-pleasure-phobic world we live in and how it comes to hinder our coming. I don’t want to give away too much because you (and everyone who either owns or touches a clitoris) should read it, but I want to draw attention to the book’s exploration of the context in which women come.

Thinking about sexy, orgasmic context might bring to mind mood music, candles, a hot partner, maybe a favorite vibrator. This might make a dent, but more importantly, women need to consider their mental context (stressed about work? parenting children?), physical context (PMSing? managing chronic pain?), environmental context (worried about waking the neighbors? the baby?), relational context (is this partner trustworthy? is consent actively practiced?) and then, THEN there’s the social context, which pushes down on women in big in small ways, labeling some women as “sluts” if they enjoy sex, “frigid” if they don’t, and, in your case, BBB, “broken” if their sexual response doesn’t match that of their partners.

The sexual response of male bodies and brains has been more widely studied mostly because their orgasms make the babies and their sexuality is socially sanctioned. Because of this, female sexual response is compared to male sexual response; if our orgasms don’t follow the same path as their orgasms, we must be broken…continue reading…