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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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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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Why Can’t I Have Sex Without Drinking?

Editor’s Note: Sexual trauma is addressed in this week’s column.

Hi Yana,

I can’t seem to want to have sex unless I’m drunk.

This has always kind of been the case, except for when I was a teenager, and horny all the time (and not drinking). Then when I got to college, there were many instances where all my friends would be going on about how much they “needed” sex, and I could never relate. It was only when I got drunk that I would feel the same sort of uncontrollable desires.

Whenever I date someone, there’s that beginning period where we’re wooing each other, so we go out all the time (and drink) and I can’t seem to get enough (so we have a lot of sex). Now I’m in a relationship with someone I really care about, we’re about seven months in, and I just never want to have sex.

My significant other has noticed and thinks I’m not really attracted to them [Editor’s Note: The letter writer requested the use of they/them pronouns for the partner]. That’s not the case. It’s more like, I can’t “let go” and enjoy myself if I’m sober. I have too much racing through my mind, or I’m frustrated because I can’t orgasm, or I’m frustrated because I can’t make them orgasm.

Our short term solution has been to just not have sex until we both feel like it, but the problem is that I literally don’t even think about sex unless they bring it up. They’re okay with it for now, but I’m worried the lack of physical intimacy is going to eventually drive them away.

I don’t know if it’s the birth control I take (I’ve been on it for a few years), if a past trauma is for some reason rearing its ugly head now (I was raped in college and assaulted once as a child), but I feel like something is wrong with me!

— Confused with a Low Libido

Dear CLL,

This sounds like a really hard place to be in and I’m grateful that you’re verbalizing it. As my readers know, consent is extremely important to me.

It’s one thing if someone enjoys a drink before sexual activity with an established partner they know and trust and have built familiar consent practices with. It’s another if someone feels like the only way to experience sex is to get to the point of intoxication, a state of mind that renders clear consent impossible. This jeopardizes the safety of you both — you as the intoxicated one and your partner as the person attempting to honor your boundaries and make you feel good rather than unsafe.

The human brain and body are quite amazing machines. When someone has experienced sexual trauma as you have, our brains and bodies can put up barricades to potentially triggering situations like sex to protect us. But sometimes these barriers can also block up other things we would like to enjoy — like sex with our partners!…continue reading…

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Is It Okay to Quit Sex?

I’m a relatively young woman who enjoyed an active, above-average sex life for my entire adult life, even after the birth of my first two children. However, I found that after my last son was born, my desire for sex suddenly vanished to the degree that I can say that I could be completely happy — and even possibly happier — if I never had another sexual encounter with a partner or even alone.

This obviously poses an issue in my marriage. I know that you aren’t a doctor or anything, but I was just hoping to get your thoughts on the issue, as someone who has been involved in open sexual dialogue.

I recently wrote some tips to a new mother whose sex life was floundering in the column “New Mom Needs to Get Some.” My advice focused on finding ways to incorporate sex more creatively into their new routines as parents and to take part in non-sexual activities together to foster a more sexually charged atmosphere between them.

For you, however, MMAS, it sounds like parenting isn’t necessarily getting in the way of your sex life but that you’ve come to realize that sexual activity is no longer a priority, or possibly even a desire, for you.

I want to throw the term “asexuality” out there for you to either pick up and try on for size or to just leave on the floor if it doesn’t fit you. Asexuality is an identifier used to describe oneself as a person who does not experience sexual attraction and/or has a low or absent interest in sexual activity, considered by some as its own sexual orientation.

The research around asexuality is new, but many sex bloggers have been recently speaking to the asexual experience to bring attention to the idea that not everyone wants to have sex — gasp! To say that our culture is sexually charged would be an understatement — sex is used to sell us everything from sandals to soap. We spend truckloads of cash trying to cum and assume that we’re broken when we can’t, and obsess over how long it’s been since we’ve gotten laid. But what happens when we just don’t want to?

It’s possible, MMAS, that you just don’t want to have sex. And that’s your choice. If what you say is your truth — that you feel happier without sex — then follow your bliss. If you feel like there are underlying traumas or triggers that are preventing you from enjoying sex, then that’s something you might consider addressing with a sex-positive counselor.

The challenge here is that your sexuality and sex life are tied to another’s — your spouse’s...continue reading…

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The Rules of Attraction

I’m a single hetero guy in my 60s. Since my divorce some years ago, I haven’t dated much. What I truly want is a loving, long-term relationship with a partner and to be a loving, giving partner in return.

Here’s my problem: I’m short and not terribly good-looking (at least I don’t think so) and I realize that no matter how attractive a person’s character and values may be, or how fun they may be, if there isn’t at least a spark of physical attraction, there won’t be sexual attraction even if you might wish for it.

Whenever I find myself in the presence of a woman whom I find physically and sexually attractive, I shrivel up inside just a little, feeling, “Oh, she won’t be physically attracted to me.” Of course, this is just what can make you come across as even less potentially attractive than you might otherwise be.

Do you have advice for people who may have this problem? I had a physically and emotionally rejecting mother (working on these issues in therapy) and I know that’s got something to do with it, but when I look in the mirror, I’m not terribly happy with what I see.

Thank you for this tender question! Professional therapeutic help in working out some negative messages you may have received during your upbringing is a great step. In some ways, your thinking about this is right-on; assuming that you are not attractive or, worse yet, worthy of others’ attractions, won’t inspire attraction to you. But let’s shift some of this other negative thinking.

The consumerist culture we live in feeds off of our self-hate like a yeast infection feeds off of glycerin-laced lube. Mass media bashes us daily with limited views of beauty (in terms of body weight, height, wealth, skin color, etc.), telling us that if we exist outside of this particular, minuscule box called “beauty” we aren’t deserving (of attention, jobs, happiness, sex) and therefore we should buy, buy, buy in order to “fix” ourselves. You aren’t broken, Shy Guy — the way we’re taught to assign sexual value to our appearance is.

So let’s talk about physical attraction and sexual attraction. What we consider to be physically attractive in other humans is evolutionarily informed, with multiple studies showing the importance of subconscious influences such as a person’s smell, hormonal cycle, body posture, and facial symmetry to our level of attraction to them.

A 2014 study found positive personality traits to have an influence, too, when 120 participants rated photographs of female faces in neutral expressions as more attractive when associated with positive personality descriptions like “kind,” “honest,” “funny.”

Then, there’s sexual attraction, which you have mixed up with both physical attraction and simply wishing for it to be so. Come As You Are author Emily Nagoski has done incredible work to show the difference between desire and sexual response. Her Dual Control Model is digestibly illustrated in a comic by Erica Moen on thedirtynormal.com, showing the difference between our sexual response’s gas pedal (physical attractiveness, trusting your partner, falling in love) and brake (body image, trauma history). …continue reading on ValleyAdvocate.com…