It’s a story about how the wives of the Greeks, sick of their husbands pissing off to war and coming back with a limb missing or not coming back at all, took matters into their own hands.
To create peace between various Greek factions, they went on a sex strike. No nookie for anyone until the war was over. And basically, it worked.
Lysistrata was first performed in 411BC. 2,430 years ago. And yet women are still doing the exact same thing – going on sex strike to get what they want.
Earlier this year Alyssa Milano suggested that we women go on strike from sex until the Georgia six-week abortion limit is overruled.
If you Google ‘sex strike’ you find hundreds of stories from women who got ‘their own way’ by going on strike. One woman got a new kitchen. Another convinced her husband to have another baby. Other women simply use it as a disciplinary measure to correct their husband’s behaviour.
Doesn’t anyone else find this unutterably depressing?
It’s 2019 and apparently the axis of our power as humans is still whether or not we will open our legs for our partners.
Sex shouldn’t be a reward. It should be an expression of lust, or love, or anything else that you want it to be. It should be fun, gratifying, enjoyable.
Sex shouldn’t be the adult equivalent of giving a child a chocolate button for hanging their coat up after school.
By taking sex away from your partner as a punishment you send the message that it’s an activity that you partake in for them in the first place – it suggests that sex is a favour you’ve been doing them and will no longer be doing until they toe the party line.
In every single example I could find online, the person doing the banning is the woman and the person on the receiving end is a man, which further perpetuates an untrue stereotype that men like sex and women put up with it.
Another problematic aspect of the sex ban is that often it’s women putting one in place because she wants to make a financial choice – like a new car or a holiday – that her partner isn’t comfortable with.
Instead of compromising – the money belongs to both of you – or just paying it for themselves, these women perpetuate the idea that their husbands are Chancellors of the Exchequer in their marriage.
They might as well be applying for more housekeeping money.
If your sex life is so lukewarm that the idea of giving it up to punish your partner is appealing, then you’ve got a wider problem which needs addressing.
If however you enjoy sex and withdraw it at your own deprivation then you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. Even if it works, do you really want to have won an argument with your other half by taking away sex, just like you would get a child to do their homework by offering screen time?
Back in 411BC Greece, women really didn’t have much power. Sex was one of the few things you had the ability to grant. But the world has moved on, and we are equal partners within our relationships and therefore we do not need to withdraw sexual favours to claw back power.
We’re intelligent, mature, sensible women with critical reasoning skills. Why would we resort to such reduced tactics to alleviate conflict?
Of course there is an element of sexual politics in any relationship – when you feel happier and closer to your partner you’ll probably have more sex. When you’re fighting or struggling through issues it might well be less. That’s normal.
No one is suggesting for a second that you should have sex with your partner if you don’t want to or you’re not in the mood. You should only ever have sex when you want to have sex. The issue is when you use ‘I’m not in the mood’ as a bargaining chip, which is patronising and controlling.
If your partner doesn’t take you seriously when you say you’re annoyed about the division of labour within the household, or that you think you need to redecorate your kitchen, then they’re not a good partner.
If you ignore their responses to your marital problems and decide to ‘punish’ your partner rather than compromising, then you’re not a good partner.
Relationships that work don’t involve point scoring. They’re not based around depriving someone else of privileges to train their behaviour. That’s how you treat a naughty child, not a spouse whom you respect.
You might get what you originally wanted – your partner might do more housework or ‘let’ you buy a new car, but what cost is this ‘victory’ to the long term health of your relationship?
because it’s more complicated than just casual sex
By Elizabeth Entenman
“In a city like New York, with its infinite possibilities, has monogamy become too much to expect?” When Carrie Bradshaw uttered that rhetorical question during a 1998 episode of Sex and the City, little did we know how common polyamory would become. Carrie was never in a polyamorous relationship, but if the show premiered today, the topic would probably come up in her column quite often.
Polyamory (or “poly” for short) is the belief that you can have an intimate relationship with more than one person, with all partners consenting. Being in a polyamorous relationship is not, as many people wrongfully believe, an exotic trend or an excuse to sleep with as many partners as you want. It’s an alternative to monogamy for people who don’t see themselves being with only one partner, emotionally and/or sexually, for the rest of their lives. Some research suggests that about four to five percent of people in the U.S. are polyamorous.
Polyamorous relationships (also known as consensual non-monogamy) require a lot of honesty and communication. To get a better idea of what it’s really like to be in a poly relationship, we spoke with Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s). She opened up about challenges, offered advice for maintaining strong communication, and shared important safety precautions for exploring polyamory. Read on if you’re curious about what it’s really like to be poly.
HelloGiggles: Is a polyamorous relationship the same thing as an open relationship?
Sophie Lucido Johnson: I describe it as being like squares and rectangles—you know, how every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square? Every polyamorous relationship is an open relationship, but not every open relationship is a polyamorous relationship. Polyamory requires enthusiasm, knowledge, and consent from all people involved.
HG: What are the basic communication “rules” of being in a polyamorous relationship?
SLJ: Every poly relationship is different, so the rules will absolutely depend on the people participating in the relationship. In my relationship, it’s 100% communication about everything all the time. Defusing the tension around talking about my partners’ other relationships has taken away the power there. For me, that works really well. I very rarely experience jealousy anymore, and when I do, it’s a great opportunity for my partners and me to talk about where it’s coming from.
HG: How can people in polyamorous relationships set boundaries?
SLJ: Once again, every poly relationship is different. Every person has to establish their own boundaries and communicate about them; their partners have to listen and honor those boundaries. But I’m working on a book right now where I asked a therapist about boundaries, and he said that boundaries are tricky because it’s hard to know where yours are until they’ve been crossed.
HG: What’s the biggest challenge of being in a polyamorous relationship?
SLJ: The biggest challenge is also the biggest gift: Polyamory asks for its participants to get in bed with their uncomfortable emotions. You can’t push away feelings of fear or jealousy or anger; you have to go into those feelings, pick them apart, and try to understand them. This is hard work, but it’s profoundly rewarding, too. Polyamory and radical honesty are closely linked, in my opinion. The truth isn’t always pleasant and lovely and comfortable. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell it.
HG: Are there any safety precautions people should take?
SJL: All the precautions. My brand of polyamory is not super sex-focused—I’m more interested in emotional intimacy with some kissing on the side. But when I do engage in sex with people, it’s always protected, except with my husband, with whom I am fluid bonded. Ask people when they last got tested; ask them if they’ve been with anyone since then; ask them what they feel is important to share about their sexual history. Always check the expiration date on your condoms and dental dams. Use condoms on sex toys and invest in some sexy latex gloves for hardcore finger play.
And then beyond that, work to de-stigmatize sexually transmitted infections. Most of them are relatively harmless (meaning: they’re not going to kill you, although they’re unpleasant). We have ideas about STIs that are way out of line in comparison to the way we look at other chronic infections. They’re not grosser because they’re on your genitals. Sexual health is just health. It is crucial that we begin to talk about it that way.
HG: How can someone bring up the subject of opening their relationship with their partner?
SLJ: Don’t open up your relationship because something inside your relationship is broken. Opening it up is not going to fix the broken thing. Work on the broken thing first and establish whether it can be fixed. If one person wants to be open and the other person really doesn’t, then that relationship is probably not going to work in the long run. Honor each other’s realities. If both partners are eager and excited to pursue other relationships—versus, say, terrified or desperate—then establish what rules and boundaries make the most sense for you.
I have personally never met a couple who has made a parallel polyamorous situation work out for more than a year, but the internet swears that it’s possible. Parallel polyamory is the sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell version, where you and your partner date on the side but don’t tell each other details. I’m a big advocate of telling the truth. The difficult conversations are the ones that bring us closer.
HG: What’s the biggest misconception about polyamorous relationships?
SLJ: That polyamory is all about sex. For me (and tons of poly people I know), it’s about two main things. One: accepting and embracing that relationships do not stand still and will change over time, and committing to a partner or partners that everyone is going to communicate, constantly, about those natural changes. And two: shifting priorities to embrace friends, chosen family, and non-sexual romantic relationships, where traditionally our social priorities have been around a single partner. None of that has to do with sex. Assuming that polyamory is all about orgies and millennials three-way kissing in bars does the culture a tremendous disservice and excludes a ton of people who are asexual or sexually transitioning and are uncomfortable with sex.
A new meta-analysis from the University of Texas at Austin finds that better sexual communication leads to better sex.
The survey of 48 studies discovered that communication plays a key role in helping with a number of sexual dysfunctions.
Both genders benefit in regard to orgasms and satisfaction, while desire is an important component of female sexuality.
We know communication leads to better results. An entire library of business books discuss the importance of honest and, if necessary, tough conversations to drill down and specify potential problems in the corporate environment. The same holds true for societies and politics — dialogue is better than silence. Yet, for some reason we seem to forget that lesson when we get home to slide into bed.
A new meta-analysis from three researchers at the University of Texas at Austin argues for the importance of frank conversation at bedtime (as well as leading up to it). According to their survey of the literature, better conversation leads to better sexual satisfaction, orgasms, and desire levels.
Looking over 48 studies on sexuality, sexual dysfunction, and conversations about sex, the team of Allen Mallory, Amelia Stanton, and Ariel Handy wanted to know if there is a link between sexual communication and sexual function. Are couples that talk about sex better at it?
First, the researchers opened by discussing two different aspects of avoidance. Sometimes couples with sexual problems dodge the topic out of shame, fear, or uncertainty. Likewise, couples that have difficulty discussing their sexual lives might be more likely to encounter problems down the line. They continue,
“Either way, it is likely that sexual function and sexual satisfaction are both directly impacted by sexual self-disclosure, which may protect against future sexual dysfunction and ultimately enhance future communication.”
The pathways that open up possibilities of better sex include the disclosure of one’s preferences. If your partner knows what you like (or hate), you’re more likely to please them. And if such a discussion is had early on, if either (or both) partner change their preferences over time, they’re likely to feel comfortable discussing that change, leading to further trust and pleasure.
Another pathway leads to better intimacy: Couples that are open enough to share their pleasures are more likely to be intimate with each other. Failure to communicate needs and desires leads to the opposite — that is, discomfort and distrust, fomented by a lack of dialogue.
Both pathways are especially important in long-term, committed relationships. The well-known “honeymoon phase” of every relationship creates an addictive chemical cocktail in the brains and bodies of sexual partners. Yet our biology is not designed for sustaining the intensity of this period. Communication, the authors declare, is an essential key to ensuring both partners are pleased as the dopamine and serotonin surges decrease.
The studies the team pored over, which included more than 12,000 participants in all, looked at a variety of topics related to sexual dysfunction, including desire, emotion, lubrication, arousal, erection, and pain. While communication appears to be helpful to everyone involved, Mallory notes that one sex cherishes dialogue more:
“Talking with a partner about sexual concerns seems to be associated with better sexual function. This relationship was most consistent for orgasm function and overall sexual function — and uniquely related to women’s sexual desire.”
The authors note that correlation is not always causation. As with every study, they add that more research is needed. The good news is this field might be the most enjoyable for humans to experiment with.
Nonmonogamy is becoming more recognized as a legitimate relationship structure with more people talking openly about their practice. Although it certainly is not for everyone and definitely not the “easier” option, it is piquing the interest of plenty of people for many reasons.
For some people, monogamy or nonmonogamy is an orientation on par with sexual orientation. It’s a part of who they are. For others, monogamy or nonmonogamy is a choice. It’s in line with what they want to create in their lives and in their relationships. It’s a reflection of their value system. Some people may value security, safety, and stability, and those may opt for a monogamous relationship, while others may choose nonmonogamy because they value multiplicity, sharing erotic energy, or exploring broader sexual orientation.
Actively and consciously designing your relationships, including deciding on whether you want to be monogamous or not, can be a very powerful force for your relationship and set you up to thrive as a couple in the long run. However, if you’re currently in a monogamous relationship and considering opening it up, it’s important to note nonmonogamy is not an effective strategy to solve your current relationship problems or alleviate the boredom you associate with it.
When nonmonogamy doesn’t work.
Because I am a relationship coach specializing in consensual nonmonogamy, so many people come to me thinking an open relationship will fix their relationships. They come defeated, disconnected, and dissatisfied while still feeling very attached to each other. It soon becomes obvious they are reaching out for a life raft in the shape of nonmonogamy. A desire for nonmonogamy turns out to be a bid for space, a bid for attention, a bid for autonomy, a bid for a solution.
But despite all its potential benefits and excitement, opening up your relationship is not a “solution” or a way to “fix” a relationship that feels negative, stale, or otherwise off.
The best relationships to open are healthy and thriving ones. A healthy relationship of any kind—but especially a nonmonogamous one—requires a foundation of vulnerability, open communication, and trust. Kindness, compassion, mutual respect, and joy for one another along with a desire to address and resolve conflicts create the ideal environment for people to thrive in nonmonogamous relationships. It’s essential for partners to feel heard and their needs highly regarded. If I were to be listening in to a relationship with a stethoscope like a physician to gauge the health of it, I’d be listening for thank you’s and I’m sorry’s. The more genuine gratitude and heartfelt apologies, the healthier and stronger the connection.
Monogamous relationships that lack these fundamental qualities and skills likely wouldn’t be able to withstand the transition to nonmonogamy. If you are finding yourself in the same arguments over and over again, exclaiming “I want an open relationship” as you slam doors; or if you have a closet full of desires that you’ve decided cannot be satisfied by your current partner, and you are not willing to talk about it; or if you feel you are drifting in a haze of sameness and can’t figure out how to break out, nonmonogamy is not the answer.
If you are in a sexless relationship and you aren’t able to have conversations about it; or if you feel chronically lonely in the relationship and aren’t able to restore frayed connections; or if you feel either unheard, unappreciated, uncared for, dissatisfied, smothered, or trapped, and you can’t find words to express these feelings to your partner, nonmonogamy is not going to save you.
Similar to any big change, be it moving to a new state or deciding to have kids, opening up a relationship will shine a sports-stadium-sized spotlight on the issues in your current relationship. Unresolved arguments, hidden resentments, ignored boundaries, delayed conversations, shelved desires, and unmet needs will all come to light and will demand attention. Without well-practiced tools and skills for communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution, nonmonogamy will only apply further tension to the relationship.
Further, if you do open up your relationship with current issues unaddressed and unresolved and start dating other people, you’ll be dragging unsuspecting new partners into your dysfunction.
Do some soul-searching. Are you saying, “I want an open relationship” because you can’t bring yourself to say, “I want to break up”? Are you running away from real or perceived conflict? Have you checked out of the relationship but you feel you can’t leave? If the answers are yes, I recommend you either get support to resolve these issues or find the courage to end your relationship in a kind and compassionate way.
Doing the work.
The truth is “wherever you go, there you are.” If you think the relationship or your partner is the problem and you are trying to get away to have something different, chances are you’ll only have more of the same. We are the common denominators of our lives.
Start with yourself. If it’s available to you, spend a period of time in personal therapy. Also invest in some personal development in the areas of sex and relationships. There are some excellent books, workshops, and online courses and communities dedicated to pleasure-based sex education for adults and communication skills. I also strongly recommend working with a professional, be it a couples therapist, counselor, or coach to address the relationship struggles. Make sure the people you choose to work with are open-minded to the idea that ultimately you may want to move to a nonmonogamous structure.
And last but not least, spend some time focusing on your relationship rather than running away from it. Find ways to have those unresolved conversations. Schedule time to reconnect in line with the way you show and receive love, be it a sensual massage or a picnic in the park.
Here’s the thing: There is no relationship free of conflict or struggle. It doesn’t mean you have to address everything before you can even begin to think about opening up your relationship. Research does show people in consensual nonmonogamous relationships are “more satisfied with and committed to their relationships,” suggesting nonmonogamy can absolutely breathe new life into a relationship. When practiced consciously and ethically, it can be an agent for new energy and connections, self-expression, adventure, discovery, and community.
Nonmonogamy can be a part of a creative, solutions-based approach to making sure everyone gets what they need in the relationship. It requires a goodwill effort to address the relationship as it is today, to hear and attend to the needs of the people in the relationship.
When will you know you are ready? When you feel you can approach nonmonogamy with curiosity and a spirit of exploration—not as a cure-all or an escape.
Many people think of pain and sex as deeply incompatible. After all, sex is all about pleasure, and pain has nothing to do with that, right? Well, for some individuals, pain and pleasure can sometimes overlap in a sexual context, but how come? Continue reading this Spotlight feature to find out.
The relationship between pain and sexual pleasure has lit up the imaginations of many writers and artists, with its undertones of forbidden, mischievous enjoyment.
In 1954, the erotic novel Story of O by Anne Desclos (pen name Pauline Réage) caused a stir in France with its explicit references to bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism — an array of sexual practices referred to as BDSM, for short.
Still, practices that involve an overlap of pain and pleasure are often shrouded in mystery and mythologized, and people who admit to engaging in rough play in the bedroom often face stigma and unwanted attention.
So what happens when an individual finds pleasure in pain during foreplay or sexual intercourse? Why is pain pleasurable for them, and are there any risks when it comes to engaging in rough play?
In this Spotlight feature, we explain why physical pain can sometimes be a source of pleasure, looking at both physiological and psychological explanations.
Also, we look at possible side effects of rough play and how to cope with them and investigate when the overlap of pain and pleasure is not healthful.
Physical pain as a source of pleasure
First of all, a word of warning: Unless a person is specifically interested in experiencing painful sensations as part of their sexual gratification, sex should not be painful for the people engaging in it.
People may experience pain during intercourse for various health-related reasons, including conditions such as vaginismus, injuries or infections of the vulva or vagina, and injuries or infections of the penis or testicles.
If you experience unwanted pain or any other discomfort in your genitals during sex, it is best to speak to a healthcare professional about it.
Healthy, mutually consenting adults sometimes seek to experience painful sensations as an “enhancer” of sexual pleasure and arousal. This can be as part of BDSM practices or simply an occasional kink to spice up one’s sex life.
But how can pain ever be pleasurable? According to evolutionary theory, for humans and other mammals, pain functions largely as a warning system, denoting the danger of a physical threat. For instance, getting burned or scalded hurts, and this discourages us from stepping into a fire and getting burned to a crisp or drinking boiling water and damaging our bodies irreversibly.
Yet, physiologically speaking, pain and pleasure have more in common than one might think. Research has shown that sensations of pain and pleasure activate the same neural mechanisms in the brain.
Pleasure and pain are both tied to the interacting dopamine and opioid systems in the brain, which regulate neurotransmitters that are involved in reward- or motivation-driven behaviors, which include eating, drinking, and sex.
In terms of brain regions, both pleasure and pain seem to activate the nucleus accumbens, the pallidum, and the amygdala, which are involved in the brain’s reward system, regulating motivation-driven behaviors.
Thus, the “high” experienced by people who find painful sensations sexually arousing is similar to that experienced by athletes as they push their bodies to the limit.
Possible psychological benefits
There is also a complex psychological side to finding pleasure in sensations of pain. First of all, a person’s experience of pain can be highly dependent on the context in which the painful stimuli occur.
Experiencing pain from a knife cut in the kitchen or pain related to surgery, for instance, is bound to be unpleasant in most, if not all, cases.
However, when a person is experiencing physical pain in a context in which they are also experiencing positive emotions, their sense of pain actually decreases.
So when having sex with a trusted partner, the positive emotions associated with the act could blunt sensations of pain resulting from rough play.
At the same time, voluntarily experienced pain during sex or erotic play can, surprisingly, have positive psychological effects, and the main one is interpersonal bonding.
Two studies — with results collectively published in Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2009 — found that participants who engaged in consensual sadomasochistic acts as part of erotic play experienced a heightened sense of bonding with their partners and an increase in emotional trust. In their study paper, the researchers concluded that:
“Although the physiological reactions of bottoms [submissive partners] and tops [dominant partners] tended to differ, the psychological reactions converged, with bottoms and tops reporting increases in relationship closeness after their scenes [BDSM erotic play].”
Another reason for engaging in rough play during sex is that of escapism. “Pain,” explain authors of a review published in The Journal of Sex Research, “can focus attention on the present moment and away from abstract, high-level thought.”
“In this way,” the authors continue, “pain may facilitate a temporary reprieve or escape from the burdensome responsibilities of adulthood.”
In fact, a study from 2015 found that many people who practiced BDSM reported that their erotic practices helped them de-stress and escape their daily routine and worries.
The study’s authors, Ali Hébert and Prof. Angela Weaver, write that “Many of the participants stated that one of the motivating factors for engaging in BDSM was that it allowed them to take a break from their everyday life.” To illustrate this point, the two quote one participant who chose to play submissive roles:
”It’s a break free from your real world, you know. It’s like giving yourself a freaking break.”
Potential side effects of play
People can also experience negative psychological effects after engaging in rough play — no matter how experienced they are and how much care they take in setting healthful boundaries for an erotic scene.
Among BDSM practitioners, this negative side effect is known as “sub drop,” or simply “drop,” and it refers to experiences of sadness and depression that can set in, either immediately after engaging in rough sexual play or days after the event.
Researchers Richard Sprott, Ph.D., and Anna Randall argue that, while the emotional “crash” that some people experience immediately after rough play could be due to hormonal changes in the moment, drops that occur days later most likely have other explanations.
They argue that feelings of depression days after erotic play correspond to a feeling of loss of the “peak experience” of rough sexual play that grants a person psychological respite in the moment.
Like the high offered by the mix of pleasure and pain in the moment, which may be akin to the highs experienced by performance athletes, the researchers liken the afterplay “low” with that experienced by Olympic sportspeople in the aftermath of the competition, which is also referred to as “post-Olympic depression.”
In order to prevent or cope with feeling down after an intense high during erotic play, it is important for a person and their partner or partners to carefully plan aftercare, both at the physical and psychological level, discussing individual needs and worries in detail.
Whatever a person decides to engage in to spice up their sex life, the key is always consent. All the people participating in a sexual encounter must offer explicit and enthusiastic consent for all parts of that encounter, and they must be able to stop participating if they are no longer interested and willing.
Research suggests that fantasies about unusual or rough sexual play are very common, and some people decide to take the fantasy out of the realm of imagination and make it a reality.
If you decide to stray from “vanilla” sex and try other flavors too, that’s fine, and there’s nothing wrong with you. Just make sure that you stay safe and you only engage in what you enjoy and feel comfortable doing.
Whether you call it going down, giving a blowjob, eating out, or you’re fancy and use the terms cunnilingus and fellatio, you’re not alone if you love oral sex.One study found that 73% of cis men and 68.9% of cis women found receiving oral sex “very pleasurable,” and another 24.1% of cis men and 26.5% of cis women found it “somewhat pleasurable.” A lot of people also love giving oral sex. That same study found that 52.3% of men and 28.1% of women found it very pleasurable, with another 40.6% of men and 54.6% of women finding it somewhat pleasurable.
That said, as these numbers indicate, you’re also not alone if you don’t love oral sex — giving or receiving. Some people hate it. Others could take it or leave it. Some might prefer another kind of sex, whether that be manual stimulation, vaginal sex, anal sex, using a sex toy, or something else. If you don’t love receiving oral sex, that’s totally fine. There are plenty of other things to do in bed.
When it comes to oral sex, there is a gender and sexuality gap, according to research. While partners of any gender and sexuality can feel differently about the frequency they’d like to give and receive oral sex, various studies have indicated this discrepancy is most common for women dating men. That study about oral sex and pleasure we mentioned before? Well, it also found only 44% of women received oral sex from their partner in their last sexual encounter, compared to 63% of men.
Another study, this one from 2018, looked at differences in frequency of orgasm in straight, bisexual, lesbian, and gay men and women. The study found that out of everyone surveyed, straight women were having the fewest orgasms: 65% of straight women orgasmed almost every time they had sex, compared to 66% of bisexual women, 86% of lesbian women, 88% of bisexual men, 89% of gay men, and 95% of straight men. One major reason for this orgasm gap? Straight men were giving oral sex far less frequently than any other group.
But although women who date men are most likely to be in this situation, partners of any gender and sexuality can find that they have different desires when it comes to oral sex. The point is, everyone deserves to ask for exactly what they want. If you do love receiving oral sex, or you would like to try it, you should be able to talk to your partner about your desires. With that in mind, we put together some suggestions for how to start this conversation.
Make It Hot
Combining your suggestion with dirty talk is probably the most fun way to go about it. Tell your partner something like, “I keep fantasizing about you going down on me” or, “I can’t stop thinking about what it would feel like for you to eat me out.” Do whatever feels most natural to you. As Julia Bennett, the director of learning strategy at Planned Parenthood, previously told Refinery29, “There’s no right way to ask. There are lots of ways we can talk about sex.”
Because the sex scenes we see in porn and movies are so seamlessly (and wordlessly) choreographed, it’s easy to forget that it’s totally normal to make suggestions during sex. You can simply be direct. During sex, you could say something as simple as, “Would you go down on me?” If you’ve already given your partner oral during the encounter, you could even suggest, “My turn?” If your partner is into it, then great. If not, respect their boundaries and don’t pressure or push. Consent is mandatory, of course, and it only counts when it’s freely given.
How To Have A Bigger Conversation
Let’s say your partner isn’t as interested in oral as you are, or maybe they’re super into receiving but not giving, or maybe you just simply want to have this conversation well before things get hot and heavy — whatever the case may be, the discussion doesn’t have to be restricted to the bedroom. In fact, it’s really healthy for your sex life to be an ongoing discussion — one that takes place outside the bedroom, when you’re fully clothed. You might tell your partner, “I really love receiving oral sex. Would you be open to trying it?” You could also say something like, “It’s hard for me to orgasm without oral sex. How would you feel about going down on me more often?”
You don’t want to sound accusing here. As Rachel Needle, PsyD, previously told Refinery29, “Start off with something positive about your relationship, including your sexual relationship. Use feeling words and ‘I’ statements, [so you don’t put] your partner on the defensive.”
Try to go into this conversation with an open mind. If your partner has reservations about giving you oral sex, listen to what their concerns are. Have they experienced trauma around oral sex in the past? Learning where they’re coming from could might make you feel open to focusing on other sexual activities instead — maybe using a sex toy designed to mimic oral sex. Are they worried about STIs? You could suggest getting tested together and using a barrier method during oral. Are they nervous about getting it “wrong”? You can reassure them that you’ll let them know what feels good, and maybe tell them what you like before beginning.
So, You’ve Talked — Now What?
If you’ve talked about oral sex openly and honestly, and your partner still isn’t open to the idea, then what? Ultimately, you need to respect your partner’s boundaries. But — especially if this is part of a larger pattern of your partner neglecting your desires and needs — you might decide that you’d like to look for a partner you’re more sexually compatible with. Sex is an important part of a relationship, after all. Only you can decide what’s best for you
Before getting intimate with your partner, there are a few consensual sex questions that are worth asking.
Over the last 10 years of coaching and connecting, I have worked with mostly men and couples. I started out with tantra and sacred sexuality focusing on premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.
I have helped men connect to get out of their heads(quiet thoughts) and into their bodies(feel sensations), harness and control their sexual energy and orgasm. I have helped them get to know women’s bodies and women’s sexual response.
They have gained confidence and knowledge that helped them have more sex and importantly more satisfying sex.
Along the way many men have opened up to me about their concerns and fear around dealing with masculinity and understanding women in and out of the bedroom. Men either feel like aggressive entitled jerks or passive pushovers stuck in the friend zone.
Men need an assertive safe zone.
In the wake of this ‘Me too’ movement there has been a rise in fear around masculine energy. It has been framed as toxic and detrimental.
Not every touch, compliment or glance is an assault. Not every woman feels like a victim. The toxic masculinity frame has harmed men as well as women! The time has come to bring the conscious divine masculine to clarity and shatter the toxic masculine image!
Instead of taking sides let’s come together and communicate in a healthy, loving way.
Fact is, we have a lack of sex education in our country and most of the world. We are not taught communication skills in general. It is clear why we have so much miscommunication or lack of communication about sexuality.
Women and men have been taught opposite messages around sexuality. It is time to unlearn these harmful ideas, attitudes and beliefs.
Always talk about sex before diving in. If you are not comfortable talking about it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Here are some helpful questions everyone can use, for having sexual consent conversations with your partner/partners or a potential partner.
Say out loud and agree up front: there are no judgments or expectations and nothing will be taken personally, this is all just information.
What to say, what to ask:
1. Do you want to be in a monogamous relationship?
2. What does monogamous mean to you?
3. I’m really into XYZ are you comfortable with that?’
4. I recently saw this type of play and I am interested in experimenting.
5. How do you feel/what do you think about that?
6. Would you like to try XYZ with me?
7. Tell me if I am using too much or too little pressure.
8. Does XYZ feel good to you?
9. Would you like more pressure than this or less?
10. What are your boundaries in the bedroom? What is completely off the table?
11. What do you find pleasurable?
12. What is not pleasurable to you?
13. What are some things you would like to experiment with?
14. What is you definition of kink? what is taboo to you but is a turn on?
Always keep in mind that in the heat of the moment a yes can become a no but a no can not become a yes. The last thing you want to do is break trust.
You can always have another conversation and create new boundaries for next time. Better to take it slower and be conscious than to have remorse later for crossing a line in the heat of the moment.
A little bit of communication even if it feels awkward, can guarantee a more satisfying experience for you both. Keep in mind the more you have these conversations the more comfortable they will become.
I don’t remember when the concept of consent as it relates to sex became part of my vocabulary, but it shapes how I approach my personal relationships and affects the way I move through the world. I was shaken when the #MeToo Movement exploded, not only by the stories of sexual assault and harassment, but also by the stories of women who had felt pressured or coerced into having sex they didn’t want.
I flashed back to my own similarly uncomfortable experiences, when I was single and new to D.C. I remembered times on dates when I’d expressed my discomfort by simply pulling away or turning my head when a guy tried to kiss or touch me when I didn’t want to be kissed or touched. I was familiar with the sickening feeling of being distressed by something that was happening, while also feeling unable or hesitant to speak up for myself.
It’s been on my mind a lot recently, how I, like so many people, have been socialized not to talk about sex — because it’s uncomfortable or awkward or it might kill the mood. I thought about how that hesitancy to speak can muddy the waters of consent, and I wanted to explore that idea with people who talk about sex a lot: the kink community, or kinksters, as they’re known.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of kink is “unconventional sexual taste or behavior,” and includes a wide variety of behaviors and preferences. That includes BDSM — a subset of kink — which stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. Being tied up or handcuffed (bondage), spanked (discipline), and role playing all fall under BDSM.
To make sure each partner is on the same page, kinksters have to talk about sex in a way that vanilla people — those who don’t participate in kinky activities — often don’t. Julie, a kinkster and sociologist in the Washington DC area, believes that the communication kinksters have with each other distinguishes them from “vanillas.”
“Ultimately, what it seems to come down to more than anything is not how many whips and chains are involved, but rather how openly are you willing to talk about the sex that you’re having in the most blatant of terms,” she says.
Of course, the kink community isn’t perfect, as several kinksters told me. They’ve had some high-profile cases of bad behavior — non consensual or even abusive — and as a community they’re dealing with their own need to root out abuse. The kinksters I talked to stressed the importance of evolving the conversation to be even more thoughtful in navigating sex and consent.
Since this is a community that’s made an art out of talking openly about sex, I sat down with six kinksters in Washington D.C to learn some better ways to think and talk about consent. We aren’t using their full names to protect their current and future employment opportunities. Here’s what I found out.
Consent isn’t a simple Yes/No question … it’s a dialogue.
A core principle of kink is negotiating with a prospective partner before anything happens — if that negotiation is done right, it’s more like a collaboration toward a common goal: each party’s pleasure. That includes discussing what’s about to happen before it happens, hashing out boundaries, and ensuring that everyone involved is on the same page.
For Ren, the kind of consent she’s getting is especially important. She organizes cigar socials — events where kinksters can explore the ritual of smoking cigars in a more sexual context. That could include one partner preparing the cigar for their dominant partner, presenting it, and lighting it in a show of submission. Ren says she’s started only working with what she calls “enthusiastic consent.”
“It’s opt-in consent, as opposed to what the vanilla world works with which is opt-out consent. ‘If you don’t say no, it’s fine’ versus what I go for is, ‘If you say yes, it’s good.’ ” For Ren, that opt-in consent means only doing to a partner what’s already been discussed.
But consent isn’t just something given or received at the beginning — it needs to be ongoing. Julie says: “I’m most sexually compatible with the kinds of people who say, ‘Of course I’ll tell you if something’s wrong.’ I don’t want to be in a situation where I don’t trust you to tell me if there’s a problem.”
Ren adds that there have been multiple times when she’s stopped having sex with a person when they’ve done something to her that she’s specifically told them not to do: “I’ve kindly given them their pants back, and I’ve been like, ‘Well, it’s time for you to go.’ ”
Consent is ongoing, and partners should be talking; if something goes wrong and someone wants to stop, everything should stop.
“Talk about sex before you have sex. Talk about sex during sex. Talk about sex after sex,” says Heather, who works with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an advocacy group for kinksters.
“It’s okay to have a discussion the next day or the week after and say, ‘I liked this but I didn’t like that or can we try this next time,’ etcetera,” she says.
When you talk about sex acts, talk about what they mean to you.
The kinksters I spoke with said there was not a perfect checklist or script for how to talk about sex. Remy, a lawyer in the NYC area, says that’s because everybody is different.
“People have different minds, and that sounds very simple but what it can mean in practice is that somebody could do everything right and have taken every precaution, and the other person with whom they are doing something can still experience that as a violation of consent,” Remy says.
Which is why it’s so important to kinksters to talk frankly with each other about what they want and about how they want to feel. What does each person want to experience? What do you want to feel emotionally?
“There are so many things that when we get too hung up on specifics of activity, we lose track of some of the meaning — and a lot of times, the meaning is what affects people more,” says Evan.
Heather says she prints out a short checklist on negotiation. “I always tell people ‘this is not a comprehensive list but is a great conversation starter for both sides,” she says.
At the very top of the list is the question “Mood: how do we want to feel.”
Ren says that requires a little bit of self-reflection. “I don’t want to have bad sex anymore, so it’s like how do I want to feel during sex? Well, I want to feel powerless, and then having conversations based on that in order to find compatible people to have that type of sex with.”
“One of the most useful pieces of advice, is not just negotiating what’s going on but negotiating what things mean,” says Evan . “You can say to someone, like, ‘I want to be spanked. I want you to spank me’ but what does that look like? What does it mean, where does it involve touching?”
Make the consent conversation fun and seductive.
Yes, having frank and open discussions about sex can be awkward, but kinksters say they’re able to have fun with it too.
“I think there’s a real failure in the imagination of a lot of the broad public to think that you can’t ask for and even, you know, specifically in a detailed manner negotiate activities, without it also being sexy,” Evan says.
The kinksters’ “negotiation cheat sheet” encourages talking about things like each party’s hard limits and triggers, level of experience, and who is doing what in the scenario (for example: who is being spanked and who is doing the spanking). It also suggests talking about each person’s tolerance of the risk of minor harm, like rope or wax burns, or the potential emotional impacts from play.
And all of it can be sexy to talk about, says Ren.
“There are so many ways you can get consent without going ‘I’d like to kiss you right now’ or ‘I’d like to touch your leg,’ ” Ren adds. “Like begging can be really hot. And if you make somebody beg for the thing they want, you would assume that they want that thing.”
Talking about fantasies is another way to figure out what a partner might want to do in bed.
“A lot of time, when you start from fantasies, you can get a much better picture of how someone wants to feel,” Julie says. “Then at some point, it becomes a question of ‘you fantasize about this thing, are you actually okay with doing it in reality?’ So then it’s a matter of trying to make that feeling happen.”
Get good at describing what gives you pleasure.
Many of us have been socialized to find it shameful to ask for what we want sexually, and Julie thinks that needs to change to make communicating about sex easier.
“When we’re too ashamed to do it when we’re sober, and [think] that anyone who’s had sex with too many people isn’t worthy of marrying, you make it impossible for people to have a context for open and honest sexual communication,” she says.
For kinksters, it’s not just about ensuring that all parties involved are comfortable, and consent to what’s happening. It’s about having good sex. It’s about feeling empowered to ask for what you want out of sex — without being shamed for it — so you can have the sex that you want to have with the people you want to have it with.
“I think the vanilla society are missing out on a lot of feelings and emotions and satisfaction that they could get if they would be more open and honest with each other and more willing to communicate about these things,” Heather says.
And for Ren, that’s one of the biggest changes she’s found since joining the kink community.
Getting better negotiation skills led to better sex,” Ren says. “A lot of my experiences with my partners are a lot better now because I’m a lot better at communicating the things I want out of our interactions, and I’m also able to give them more of the things they want.”
There’s a longstanding joke that people in relationships like to argue with each other because the make-up sex is so good.
By Almara Abgarian
Similarly, many say that having angry sex (having sex before you’ve actually made up) is equally appealing, because it’s fuelled by a primal passion.
You just have to have each other, right there, right then – even if you’re furious with the other person.
There is likely some truth to it, but research around it has conflicting results.
For instance, a study from 2008 by Israel’s Bar Ilan University claimed that make-up sex is much better than plain friendly shagging, but another piece of research revealed that this works best when you’ve already made up on a psychological level (rather than having sex in the middle of a fight).
The physical reaction you have during make-up sex – feeling hornier and finding your lover extra attractive is actually your mind’s response to the ’emotional threat’ that it’s going through.
In other words, the possibility that you might break up with your partner is encouraging you to make up, while the sex brings you closer together.
But is this really the case?
Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney, tells Metro.co.uk that make-up sex can be a good idea as it allows partners to reconnect, but if you’re regularly turning to sex to sort out arguments, it’s worth considering why – and if there are deeper, underlying issues (that a round in the sheets can’t fix).
‘There is nothing wrong with make-up sex as long as you are doing for the right reasons – emotionally reconnecting with a partner that you love and trust,’ said Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney.
‘All couples row and make-up sex is a great way of getting over an argument. It can be especially exciting.
‘It is a reminder that even though you can hurt each [other], you are still there for each other.
‘The obvious danger with make-up sex is if you are in an abusive relationship.
‘You really need to look at the reasons why you are so often having make-up sex – because your partner’s unreasonable behaviour is causing too many rows. If that is the case, it is best to look at the fundamental flaws in the relationship and either address them or walk away.
‘Make-up sex is not going to paper over the cracks.’
If you’ve spent hours talking, shouting and fighting, sex can serve as a helpful break – letting you regroup, remember how much you love and care for each other and continue the fight in a settled manner afterwards.
It’s harder to be angry with someone when you’re cuddled up to them post-orgasm, full of happy endorphins.
The issue here, according to Pam Custers, who runs a psychotherapy clinic and specialises in relationship issues and couples counselling, is that men and women interpret sex in different ways.
‘Make-up sex can be powerful way to heal a rift,’ the psychotherapist, who is a Counselling Directory member, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Make-up sex says that all is forgiven, but it can’t be used as a quick fix.
‘Generally speaking men tend to have sex in order to feel loved and women tend to have sex because they do feel loved. This is where make-up sex can fall down.
‘If the underlying cause for the discontent is not discussed and resolved no amount of make-up sex will build the bridge. Soon one person in the partnership will start to feel like there is something missing in the relationship.’
So, is there a better option? Yes – talking.
‘Sex is a form of communication but it can’t take the place of all types of communication. Talking and behaviour are key to a good relationship and no amount of make-up sex can take its place,’ Custers explains.
‘The ideal would be for good communication to resolve the issues so both parties feel heard and understood, then a way forward that is in the best interests of the relationship and then followed by intimacy that rekindles the loving feeling.’
It’s worth noting that sometimes both talking and sex are off the table.
If the anger is taking over, go for a walk, try to cool down and then sit down with your partner to hash out your issues afterwards instead. As they say, cooler heads prevail.
The danger in having make-up sex is that it may not have the same effect for both of you.
And if it doesn’t ‘work’, the sex could leave you feeling worse than you did before (both about the relationship and yourself), and now you might also question why sleeping with your partner doesn’t help resolve your issues.
Especially if others around you are constantly discussing how great make-up sex is.
Each relationship has its own kinks and quirks; if make-up sex works for both of you, and gives you that time to connect before looking at the bigger picture (why you were fighting in the first place), then go forth and shag.
For some people a lack of intimacy can also be the reason couples are in a tiff, and so the sex might help.
Just be safe and if you feel sex isn’t enough to resolve the matter, then it’s time for a chat with your partner.
When couples start experiencing dissatisfaction and dysfunction with the quality of their intimacy and sexual interaction, they tend to focus almost entirely on what happens in the bed. The problem is, by the time you’re in bed, it’s already too late. You’re doomed, just like when you face a big life challenge, test, or exam, and you haven’t put in the hard work and time to study and prepare adequately.
A loving, intimate, and happy sex life takes time to manifest, and most of the real work and “emotional foreplay” needs to happen before the sex occurs. When that doesn’t happen, one or both partners can become resentful about the lack of intimacy, potentially interpreting the behavior correctly or incorrectly as a function of attraction. This can lead to a negative spiral of self-confidence in the relationship and an even deeper negative feedback loop in the bedroom. But the truth is, many dips in a couple’s sex life have little to do with being attracted to each other or not.
If you’re finding there’s not a lot of heat in your relationship these days, it’s important to think about what you’re doing outside of the bedroom to facilitate more intimacy. Here are a few ideas:
1. Foreplay doesn’t start in the bedroom.
Be creative and start setting the tone and warming up to each other throughout the day. Foreplay is about the connection—really feeling “seen” by each other. This can start over a quiet dinner at home or in a restaurant where communicating helps with connecting, or you can use an activity that loosens you both up and brings you both together—a concert, watching a thriller in theaters, hiking, or whatever else you both enjoy. It can also start with playful texting throughout the day, communicating about a suggestion for a planned night out together.
When intimacy becomes more about the “connection” than just the physical act, it shows your partner that you want to have sex with them, not just anyone. Sex begets sex, so having intimate sexual encounters will also make room for opportunities for quicker physical sexual connections with your partner to flourish as well.
2. Find ways to connect about the private—in public.
Reminding each other throughout the following day or week about an intimate encounter that you experienced together is a great way to keep it alive. You can do this by taking a few seconds to send suggestive texts or quick phone calls. The message is “I haven’t forgotten about what we shared together,” and it also subliminally sets the stage for “more to come.” Even a wink at a dinner party can set the stage for a private moment shared between a couple. It may serve as a reminder of something shared the night before or something they’re anticipating.
3. Shower appreciation on each other in your normal lives.
We don’t often connect gratitude and domestic chores to sexuality, but in truth, they can be deeply linked. Most people appreciate follow-through because it indicates that they’re on their partner’s mind. People like to feel appreciated for the acts of kindness they do and all they provide in a relationship. That helps them feel “seen,” which in turn allows people to feel more vulnerable, open, and confident—feelings that are necessary for a healthy, energetic sexual connection. Remembering to follow-up with a question about your partner’s day or a comment of gratitude, for example, can go a long way toward making people feel seen, appreciated, and connected to the relationship.
4. Schedule dates, not sex.
Scheduling dates is much more important than scheduling sex. Scheduling sex can feel robotic, and when sex becomes robotic as opposed to organic, it becomes harder to ensure that on a given day and time, each of you is in a head space to “connect” on an intimate level. If the sexual encounter becomes purely physical on prescribed days, it may feel forced and drive a wedge between the partners. When one partner has an expectation on a certain night that another may not be able to provide, it will inevitably cause a disconnect. Performance anxiety or insecurity may follow, leading to sexual avoidance.
Schedule the date, and try to connect with each other as human beings that love and care about each other. If that leads to a sexual encounter, great! If it doesn’t, the more meaningful the connectedness continues to be, the more likely the sexual encounters will follow.
5. Have a real talk.
Pick a night on which you both agree you’re not having sex but want to come together to talk about it—and I mean really talk about it. Get into the details about what you want and what you’re feeling: Are you bored? Do you feel overwhelmed by your partner’s overtures? Does sex just not feel good or exciting to you right now? Is it hard to have sex when you have other ongoing problems in your relationship or in your life?
These aren’t easy things to talk about, and even if they’re about sex, they’re by no means “sexy.” (Which is why I recommend setting a night aside to talk about this that is separate from date night.) But if you ignore and don’t address uncomfortable issues, you are at risk of not being equipped to confront more challenging topics later. If one partner or the other is feeling resentful about too much or too little sexual contact, a conversation, albeit difficult, is necessary to understand what is in the way of a synergistic sexual relationship. Once the partners have a better understanding of each other’s needs, it’ll be easier to discuss solutions to find the right balance that accommodates both people’s personal preferences.
Consistent and reciprocal communication is imperative. You might want to set aside a specific night for this initially; then over time, hopefully you can develop a rhythm where it’s easy and comfortable bringing these topics up organically as necessary. In order to maintain a healthy sexual relationship, it is critical to reach a reasonable comfort level of communication with each other. Having these mindful albeit challenging discussions about how to break through barriers of boredom to meet each other’s needs is essential.
6. Nurture, nurture, nurture!
Healthy sexual relationships need to be nurtured on an ongoing basis like you would care for all other important aspects of your life. Getting it back on track is one thing; keeping it on track is another. Even as you do begin to build new energy in your intimate life, make sure to keep putting in the work and effort to prevent you from detailing again.
If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, this might sound familiar: You and your partner tumble into bed at the end of each day completely exhausted, promising yourselves you’ll have sex tomorrow. Then that tomorrow-sex rarely comes, pun fully intended.
As a certified sex coach and sexologist, I often hear about how difficult it is to make time for intimacy while leading hectic lives. It’s why I swear by scheduling sex in relationships. This is exactly what it sounds like: sitting down with your partner and marking sex dates into your calendar.
Many of my colleagues in the sexual health space and I call this “maintenance sex,” which…doesn’t sound sexy, I know. But for some people, scheduling sex is critical for maintaining a healthy relationship, hence the moniker.
“It definitely feels like we’re closer now than when we’d wait for ‘the mood’ to just hit us. Without it being scheduled, we were like two ships passing in the dead of night,” Melissa B., 28, who’s been with her husband for eight years and scheduling sex for just over a year, tells SELF. “Either I wasn’t feeling it, he was working late, or we honestly [were] just too exhausted.”
Why I’m a fan of scheduling sex
Even though sex is typically so, so vital for relationship happiness, people often let it fall by the wayside in long-term couplehood. Scheduling sex is an amazing way for partners to keep intimacy and satisfaction alive.
If sex feeds your bond, it isn’t just some extra fluff you should try to work into your day if you have time. When it’s part of the glue holding you together, it deserves some respect and dedication. But there’s this very pervasive and annoying myth that sex should just happen. For a lot of people, sex in long-term relationships generally doesn’t work that way. And that’s fine!
“[Scheduling sex] has helped our sex life. Having to plan it into our lives gave us both a bit of a reality check that we need to make the time,” Brook W., 24, who’s been with her partner for eight years and scheduling sex for the last nine months, tells SELF.
How to actually schedule sex
1. Figure out a day and time that works for both of you.
It sounds obvious, but you can’t schedule sex without this bit. I recommend that couples sit down together and carve out a time that works, whether it’s a standing sex date or something you need to decide anew each week. It feels like a more intentional step towards intimacy than scheduling via text and the like. Technology is great, but there’s really nothing like IRL face time.
Don’t just think about when it logistically makes sense, also think about when you might feel most emotionally and mentally engaged or turned on.
“I suggested scheduling sex because my partner preferred late night sex and I’m such an early bird, and both our lives were pretty packed. We started scheduling late-afternoon and early-evening sex when we both had good energy,” August M., 40, who’s in a four-year relationship and has been scheduling sex for three years, tells SELF.
2. Actually put it in your calendar.
When you write your scheduled sex down, you’re granting it the same weight you’d give any other important appointment. So be sure it’s on both of your calendars. Even give it a designated color. I suggest hot pink or red. (You can guess why.)
“We noticed that the only day of the week that seemed to allow us to both have free time was Tuesday afternoons. We both [take] late and long lunches that day, allowing us to slip back to our apartment for one-on-one time,” Melissa says. “It’s something in my schedule that I protect at all costs. I mean, even my admin at the office knows not to schedule any meetings on Tuesday afternoons. I just always have a block on my schedule for that chunk of time.”
3. Be flexible about what kinds of intimacy are involved.
Having a sex schedule does not mean you need to have intercourse every time (or ever). This isn’t really about sex. It’s about intimacy. Many—but not all—couples often do experience this through sex, while others don’t.
The point is scheduling time to engage in whatever activities make you feel more closely connected. Perhaps it’s a make-out session. Maybe one week it’s oral sex and the next you spend time playing with your partner’s hair and talking about your fantasies.
This level of flexibility respects the fact that life happens. For example, I don’t expect you to toss aside a fight simply because sex is on the schedule. This flexibility also acknowledges that some people experience a more responsive form of desire and really only become aroused after seduction and sexual touching have begun. Scheduled sex is not about mandating a specific command performance, but creating a space where sex can happen if it’s right for you both at that time.
So, talk about what scheduling sex really encompasses. Be willing to compromise so both of you are satisfied. What’s most important is setting aside time for you two to be together and focus on your relationship.
4. Do your best to stick with the schedule.
One of the biggest issues couples have with this process is not following through. It’s really up to the two of you to decide how committed you are to this schedule based on everything else going on in your lives.
I often have clients who note there is a sense of pressure when they first start a sex schedule, which can scare them away. For some people, that drops off once they get used to it. But it may also take some playing around to land on a version of scheduling sex that works for you.
“We tried putting sex on the calendar for Saturday mornings, and it was so exhausting,” Britt K., 28, who’s been with her partner for four years, tells SELF. “I would feel so needy and terrible because Saturday would come and she wasn’t into it. That isn’t fun.” Instead, Britt and her partner decided to designate Saturday as their standing weekly date, which is a more natural way for them to have opportunities to connect physically. “It’s just us, but no one feels pressure,” she says. “So far, it’s been good.”
5. Lean into the anticipation.
Look, I get that “scheduled” can sound synonymous with “so dull I want to cry.” It’s not. While this tactic won’t work in every relationship, scheduled sex creates anticipatory excitement for some people. It sets the sex date into your routine along with the opportunity to explore new sexual terrain.
“[Scheduling sex] might seem boring, but scheduling a date, party, or vacation doesn’t make it less fun,” August says. “Doing so can add to the enjoyment because you can put more thought into it and benefit from that spicy anticipation. On top of all of that, occasional spontaneous sex rather than your typical scheduled sex becomes even more exciting because it’s so novel.”
Long-lasting sexual excitement is built on the unknown, the new, and the exploration of fantasy. Capitalize on that here. You might think of a different, intriguing sex position or pick up some cute new underwear for the occasion. You can even text your partner something like, “I can’t wait for our Monday night date. I bought something for us to try.” Then, when your partner gets home, they get to meet your new vibrator, set of anal beads, or whatever else has piqued your interest.
With all of the above said, if scheduling sex doesn’t work for you, don’t get down on yourself. It doesn’t automatically mean your relationship is over or in trouble. It might not be your jam. This advice can still serve as a blueprint for becoming closer: Sit down. Communicate. And draw up a plan for quality time that might work better for you both.
When heterosexuals have casual sex, previous research indicates it is typically the woman who sets the boundaries. If she’s not interested, usually nothing will happen.
“When men and women in the study met, about half of the men said they were interested in having sex with the woman, whereas most women were uninterested initially,” says Associate Professor Mons Bendixen at NTNU’s Department of Psychology.
So the women in the study basically have little interest in having casual sex at first – unless they find the man really attractive.
But a man who gives the impression of wanting to have sex with anyone, anytime, is definitely not what most women are looking for. That could be why men acted way less interested in sex than they really were.
“Men who are overly eager do not come across as attractive,” says Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair in the same department.
The whole thing is a tactical game, say the researchers, and the new NTNU research suggests that men and women’s real intentions may be different from the signals they send each other.
Bendixen is the first author of a recent study dealing with the sexual signals that men and women send to each other.
Do women really want to have sex?
Men who report being the most interested in having sex reduce their signals of interest more.
Evidence from the study suggested that women, on the other hand, might pretend to be a little more interested than they actually are.
“We think this may be to keep the man’s attention a little longer,” says Kennair, but this study does not speak to that directly.
Or perhaps the strategy gives her more opportunity to assess the quality of the guy. And as long as the woman does not seem to be excluding the possibility of sex, men across the board are willing to spend more time with her – and enabling her to check out whether he’s a good choice.
And, if a man is of high quality, that could actually shift the woman’s interest, so that an initially uninterested woman becomes truly interested in the man.
“The exception to this general sex difference is when the woman is as interested as the man. In this case, women also pretend to show less interest.”
“Both men and women who are truly interested in a partner might be trying to ‘play it cool.’ In economic terms, it’s about supplies and demand. The most in-demand people are not the most available – they are a rare commodity in the mating game,” says Professor Martie Haselton of UCLA.
“By playing it cool, women and men can also avoid some of the sting of rejection if their partner is not actually interested in them,” says Haselton.
University intro week leads to more sex
The researchers collected two rounds of data from students at NTNU. The survey included questions such as when they last met with a potential sexual partner, and whether they eventually ended up having sex.
The first round of data collection took place in the spring, when most students are busy studying. The second round was in the autumn, right after the start of the semester and the introduction week activities.
The researchers found a significant difference between the two rounds. Sexual relationships were far more common during the autumn introduction week.
Women choose the most attractive guys
“Among singles, we found differences between men and women when it came to who ended up having sex,” says Bendixen.
Women were much more likely to have sex if they thought the potential partner was attractive. This was consistent with previous findings.
They were also far more likely to have sex if they were new students. Female students who had been at university for a while were much more selective.
“More than half of the new female students who had met an attractive partner the last time they were at a pub or at a party ended up having sex with him,” says Bendixen.
“This behaviour is probably related to two factors: one is the absence of ‘daughter-guarding’ or ‘sister-guarding’” once students arrive at university,” says Kennair.
Fathers – and siblings – might keep a watchful eye on young women’s sexual behaviour and dissuade them from having casual sex.
This can be explained by evolutionary biology. But new students in a new city no longer have those same obstacles hindering their free sexual expression.
“The second factor has to do with the perception of increased competition for the men,” Bendixen says.
Female students outnumber male students. So in a lot of groups it can seem like there’s some competition for the men.
In this kind of a situation, women are more willing to have sex. The few guys that are available are simply perceived as more attractive.
Some get a lot – a lot get none
The most important factor in whether men had sex was how many sexual partners they have had previously. This could contribute to their being perceived as sexually attractive and available.
“It’s really the same reason for both men and women – the man’s sex appeal – that decides whether they end up having sex,” says Kennair.
So there’s a lot for some, and much less for the rest. Once a woman decides to have casual sex, she usually chooses the man she finds most sexually attractive.
Other studies show that long-term relationships function slightly differently. In this case women may have to lower their expectations a bit, because the most attractive men are often already taken or because they are able to pursue short-term relationships instead of long-term ones.
“A lot of women have had sex with more attractive partners than the men they end up with in long-term relationships,” says Kennair.
“In our research, women did not appear to act coy in general; rather both sexes downplay their signals if they are very interested. These are novel findings,” Bendixen notes. “Further, men do not pursue women that send signals of low interest.”
Being queer, in some ways, is a blessing. If there’s one thing the queer world is good at, it’s having really, really good sex.
Of course, there’s no such thing as “the” queer world — it’s a multitude of communities, localities, subcultures, and identifications. Within queer spaces, there tend to be prevailing attitudes of sex positivity and adventurousness that are hard to come across elsewhere.
While things like consent, communication, and kink have entered conversations about sex on a grand scale, some aspects of these things are just baked into queer sexuality. When there’s no set script for a standard sexual encounter — who does what and to whom — it’s liberating. And it makes communication, exploration, and mutual comfort absolutely fundamental.
The first time I had sex with a woman, my partner asked if I enjoy penetration. I was taken aback, because I realized I had literally never thought about it. No previous partner had ever asked me. It had never occurred to me that as a woman, I couldn’t like penetration.
Simply being asked about the very basics of what you like can be powerful, because it centers your actual preferences and experience over the assumptions that go along with whatever social categories you’ve been assigned due to your gender identity, presentation, or having certain body parts. It gives you permission not to like whatever it is you’re supposed to like, and to like whatever you’re not supposed to.
But these moves shouldn’t be exclusive to queer sex by any means — anyone, including cishet (cisgender heterosexual) people — can learn a lot from queer sex. Here’s some advice from queer folks* that’s good for everyone.
*Some last names have been omitted in the interest of privacy.
Sex doesn’t have to follow the same basic hierarchy of acts
If you’ve been through middle school, you’re probably familiar with the baseball metaphor for sex: First base is kissing, second base is feeling up (usually boobs) or sometimes handjobs or fingering, third base is oral sex, and a home run — going all the way — is vaginally penetrative sex — typically with a penis.
But if both partners have a vagina or a penis — or they don’t ascribe to the gender roles typically assigned to those parts — the script sort of goes out the window. For queer people, going all the way can mean whatever we want it to.
“Sex doesn’t always have to happen a certain way,” Isaac Van Curen, an artist based in New York City, says. “You should check in on how you’re feeling that day, what will give you pleasure in that moment. I first and foremost think sex should be for pleasure.”
The main event doesn’t need to be vaginal penetration, or any kind of penetration at all. If oral sex or digital stimulation gets you there, perfect! A sexual encounter isn’t any less valid if it doesn’t follow an arbitrary progression of acts. Just focus on doing whatever gives you and your partner(s) pleasure.
Mutual safety, comfort, and enthusiasm come before all else
This one point was echoed by everyone I spoke to for this piece. Because sex isn’t necessarily expected to happen one particular way, communication is extremely necessary to find out what each of you likes and definitely dislikes.
Sam Smith, a storyboard artist based in NYC — and my partner — explains that his transness makes boundaries crucial to intimacy for him, even in relationships.
“I don’t like to remove my shirt, with or without a binder. I’ll only allow you to put your hand on my chest if I’m wearing a binder,” Smith says.
“In the heat of the moment, people think that anything is up for grabs, like literally up for grabs, but that’s not true.” When he explains to other people that these lines remain even after being with a partner for any amount of time, he says, they often express disbelief.
“They’re like, ‘What do you mean? Why not?’ Because that’s my boundary.” Many trans people have firm rules regarding where they do and don’t like to be touched and which clothing articles they don’t want to remove during sex, often because they experience dysphoria pertaining to sexualized body parts. Talking about these boundaries before sex is necessary to having a good time.
But by no means should this respect for boundaries and tendency to ask questions — not make assumptions — be exclusive to trans and queer folk. Any individual may need to put boundaries in place for any multitude of reasons, ranging from past traumas to simply feeling uncomfortable with certain parts of one’s body.
Absolutely everyone should feel secure in setting limits to protect themselves from emotional distress. Knowing your partner’s preferences and boundaries — not guessing them — is the foundation of any good sexual experience.
“There should definitely be a level of trust between partners. I should be able to stop in the middle of sex and say hey, this isn’t for me, and not feel weird trying to communicate that I’m uncomfortable,” says Van Curen.
In addition to consent, safety and comfort pertain to other factors involved in sex as well. Van Curen points to the existence of medications like PreP, which can prevent the transmission of HIV, as something that a person might require to feel safe during sex. For others, that might mean one or more other tools, like condoms, dental dams, or oral contraceptives.
Good communication creates room for trying new things
BDSM, when practiced properly, involves lots of boundary setting and advance communication, for the sake of the physical and emotional well-being of everyone involved. All that talk might seem exhaustive, but it shouldn’t feel that way — limits and terms are as important as pleasure.
Tina Serrano, an art director based in NYC, describes her first experience with a femme domme: “She asked if I was into BDSM and I said yes without thinking — so we sat and talked about it. She asked me a lot of questions, we talked about consent and limits, about our lives, who we’d loved, she talked about her field research,” Serrano says. “We didn’t even have sex that night, we sat and drank and talked until we fell asleep on the couch.”
Communication shouldn’t feel an obstacle to sex — it’s a kind of intimacy that happens before clothes come off. Talking openly and genuinely caring about your partner’s limits, even in a casual context, can be romantic and sexy.
Claire and Katja, a newlywed couple who have been together for six and a half years, iterate that feeling safe and comfortable enough to talk with your partner means not only avoiding bad experiences, but laying the groundwork for interesting, new, good ones.
“Provide space for your partner to bring up things they might want to try sexually with you. Listening doesn’t mean you have to do or try anything, but it does mean that you are building trust,” they tell Greatist.
It’s easiest to voice your desire to try out new toys, positions, or kinky behaviors in a situation that feels safe and comfortable for experimentation. And if things don’t go porno perfectly? No sweat.
“Embarrassing things happen. Laugh about them,” the couple says.
Don’t be constrained by gender or appearance
Just like men are so often positioned to be dominant and women to be submissive, even non-heterosexual pairings can sometimes be subjected to gendered assumptions. Van Curen emphasizes that his appearance, down to whether or not he has facial hair at a given moment, leads people to make assumptions about his preferred sex positions — i.e, whether he’s a “bottom” or a “top.”
In sapphic or lesbian settings, the butch-femme dichotomy can function similarly. Katja and Claire point out the tendency of other people to identify them as the butch and the femme, respectively, when in reality they don’t feel that this binary describes them very well.
Attached to both of these scenarios is the assumption that the more masculine partner “performs” the sex act while the more feminine person “receives” it. But here’s the secret that queer people know: Gender doesn’t have to mean anything more than you want it to.
Gender doesn’t have to determine what you do in bed — but it can function as a sex toy in and of itself. Gender play can involve heightening or swapping typically gendered roles and behaviors.
“Performing gender roles during sex is a kind of kink,” according to Claire and Katja. Lots of queer people strongly identify with labels like butch or femme, twink, bear, sub, dom, and so on — Isaac mentions having friends who proudly call themselves dom bottoms, sub tops, bratty tops, and more — and some people think of themselves as verses or switches. Sometimes dabbling in behavior you otherwise wouldn’t, in life or in the bedroom, can be sexy.
And finally, don’t neglect the basics of having a body
Whenever, wherever, and however you’re having sex, stay in touch with your body — not just what it likes, but what it needs. “Sex is a physical activity,” Van Curen advises. “I take water breaks. Sometimes I make sure I have a snack on hand.”
Movie after movie, scene after scene, we see men and boys refuse to give up on the girl. Had a big fight? Give her a big speech about how she’s the only one! She told you to leave her alone? Go to her house with a bunch of flowers! She broke up with you? Never take no for an answer!
Once you put some music behind it and get Richard Curtis in to direct, of course it all seems unassuming – romantic, even. But real human emotions are much more complex, and coupled with a fundamental misunderstanding of what people want out of relationships, it can all lead to some seriously unwanted advances, or worse.
The fact remains that a man’s behaviour towards women doesn’t have to be violent to be aggressive. If you’ve ever met a boy who thinks he’s the star in a rom-com, you’ll understand the fear and dread that comes with having to confront him when he shows up at your door with a heartfelt poem yet again, after you’ve said ‘no’ more times than you can count on your fingers.
“God, I’m just being nice,” he’ll say – the words that boil my blood. I’ll say it loud for the people in the back: if you do something nice for someone, they don’t owe you anything, and they certainly don’t owe you sex or a relationship.
But well-meaning young men who just won’t get the message aren’t the whole story.
There are real women – and let’s be frank, there are also men as well – out there who face real, physical violence for rejecting unwanted advances. Actress Jameela Jamil has opened up about her personal, harrowing experiences with this, but those of us who don’t have an adoring fanbase and a huge online platform go through it too.
Furthermore, in a society where women still get asked to hide our skin at school and work, for those of us who aren’t in the public eye it’s easy to just shrink away and accept that there’s nothing we can do but cover ourselves up and hope for the best.
But there’s so much we can do! We don’t just have to wait for the world to change around us. You can shout that boys and men need to learn “not to rape” but let’s be honest – most of them bloody well know that already, and the ones who don’t are the ones who never will. So protect each other, stand up for your fellow woman, believe that you deserve better than someone who doesn’t respect you. And most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t have been wearing.
So, to the woman who puts up with leery co-workers; to the teenage girl who doesn’t know she’s allowed to tell her boyfriend “no!”; to any and all of us who’ve had a #MeToo moment – know that you are in control of your destiny.
Regardless of what gender and sexuality you identify as, it is never too much to ask to not face violence for not being interested in someone romantically.
Learn to say no, and learn to protect yourself. Because with a US President who brags about “grabbing women by the pussy,” it doesn’t look like the world is going to change in the forseeable future. It’s time to take control.
The idea of an open or polyamorous relationship can be exciting for some people — it’s the giddy freedom of sleeping with whomever you want with the warm, fuzzy stability of your boo by your side. Still, while this is attractive, a little green-eyed monster might creep in at the thought of your SO going to the bone zone with other people, too. Ultimately, the question of realistic and healthy ways to handle jealousy in open and polyamorous relationships seems to be the only thing stopping folks from taking that first step — from open/poly daydream to open/poly reality.
While poly and open relationships may be seen as “non-traditional” partnerships, the real tea is that jealousy is a big problem in monogamous relationships, too. Either way, whether you’re monogamous (and curious about your potential jealous twinges) or are open/poly now (and want to nip jealousy in the bud), you definitely want to keep some jealousy coping methods in your back-pocket. Here are five that will help your open or poly relationship be as successful and healthy as possible.
1. Talk it through
Communication is the foundation of any relationship and it’s even more important when there’s more than two people in a relationship. So if there’s an issue — particularly jealousy — you need to talk it out. Courtney Watson, a poly-inclusive sex therapist, breaks the process down to Elite Daily in four steps:
Clarify your feelings of jealousy and explore where they are coming from.
Arrange a time to sit down with your partner. (Pick a neutral setting, especially outside the bedroom, where you have enough time and privacy to discuss your feelings. )
Tell your partner and negotiate a solution that addresses your feelings, and takes into consideration their feelings and their needs.
See if the solution works and reconvene as needed.
Learning where you jealousy stems from is easier said than done, but there’s a reason why it’s the first step. “Your feelings are valid and deserve to be met with compassion and curiosity. Doing so will create more space for you to examine the story behind the feeling,” says Dr. Heath Schechinger, a University of California Berkeley counseling psychologist and a co-chair for the American Psychological Association’s Consensual Non-Monogamy Taskforce. “Be present and non-judgmental about whatever comes up and seek to identify the need behind the feeling.”
A good reminder from Schechinger is that jealousy shares many of its traits with anxiety: Both can be prompted by fear or insecurities, and how and when they pop up are influenced by genetics, environment and mood. “Like anxiety, jealousy tends to be heightened when we feel unsafe, unheard, or confused,” they explain. “And lessens when we feel safe, secure, and supported.”
So when you’re struck with that frenzy of emotion imagining what your primary SO is doing out on their date, recognize: Your jealousy could be a symptom of a greater underlying issue between you and your main partner. A supportive and non-judgmental chat about the root of your feelings will only make your partnership stronger.
2. Re-write your jealousy narrative
Another way to get to the bottom of this is to outline your jealousy — literally. With your partner(s) or alone, make a little guidebook to your jealous feelings. And then re-write it.
“Draw a picture or describe in detail a personified version of jealousy, to clarify how you experience and relate to the feeling,” they say. “What does your depiction of jealousy look and sound like? Is jealousy bigger or smaller than you? Do you get along well or hate each other? Are they angry, mean, scared? What do they tend to say to you? What are your physical cues that jealousy is present?”
Once you have a good sketch of “your jealousy narrative,” as Schechinger calls it, work on reframing it in a less threatening way. Confront what you’ve laid out and re-evaluate what about these attributes or behaviors makes you feel jealous. “When met with support and non-judgment, the discomfort generated by envy/jealousy can increase self-awareness and highlight a need that that may not be being met,” they say.
3. Re-establish boundaries
Sometimes, your jealousy in an open or poly relationship isn’t just a matter of personal insecurities that should be addressed. It might be a matter of unclear boundaries. Maybe your partner is doing something in regard to their secondary relationship(s) that is bothering the hell out of you. Talk to them about it and re-examine your current set of rules.
“There needs to be a clear establishing of what is OK and not, and the conversation needs to be revisited as one or more relationships develop and change,” Watson says. “If what feels good for both partners is unclear or what is hurtful for someone is unclear, jealousy and a whole host of other feelings can quickly emerge.”
It can be helpful to come up with a “Yes/No/Maybe” list for you and your main SO when it comes to your extradyadic relationships. (DJ Khaled voice: new word alert! A “dyad” refers to two people in a relationship. Extradyadic refers to any person or activity outside of those core two people.) You and your main partner can go through each sexual act or behavior on the yes/no/maybe list, and label them with a resounding “yes,” a hard “no,” or a “maybe.”
You don’t necessarily have to be active or even committed to the idea of an open or poly relationship to do this. A yes/no/maybe list can be the foundation of simply seeing if a non-monogamy would be a good fit for you and your partner.
For example, maybe you’re OK with your partner sleeping with other people in your open sexual relationship. But your SO cuddling their hookups or staying the night rubs you the wrong way. Maybe it blurs the lines between sexual and romantic relationship for you. Or maybe you get jealous or irritated when your partner posts about their other partner(s) on social media, or introduces them to family. Making and re-making a yes/no/maybe list with your partner might be super useful in helping you pinpoint the exact behaviors that make you feel some type of way.
4. Make a back-up plan
While you’re having the “re-establishing boundaries” talk, you can also revisit or come up with a backup plan. For example, what if you’re just in an open sexual relationship, and you or your partner catch feels for a hookup? What if one of your or your partner’s secondary partners or hookups catch feelings? If you or your partner are prone to jealousy, this shift in relationship dynamic — that’s out of your control — can stir up some less-than-desirable feelings.
Talk through all of the worst-case scenarios that could come from an open or poly relationship. Put it all on the table.
“It is a common pitfall to create agreements that prioritize protecting the primary partnership, without considering the impact on secondary partners or how secondary partnerships may evolve and deepen over time,” Schechinger explains. “Communicating about this upfront can avoid heartache later on.”
5. Know that it takes time
Schechinger mentions research that shows people in non-monogamous relationships typically experience less jealousy and more trust than people in monogamous ones. (One of them is 2017 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, which surveyed 1,507 monogamous people and 617 non-monogamous people.) They say researchers have yet to discover exactly why that difference exists. Their first thought is that maybe people with less jealous dispositions are drawn to open or poly relationships. And their second thought is that maybe it’s because non-monogamy helps lessen jealousy over time (a.k.a. through exposure).
Non-monogamous relationships also commonly experience the opposite of jealousy, which called compersion, Watson says. “One partner experiences joy and fulfillment by seeing their partner happy with someone else. There is less opportunity for compersion in monogamous relationships because of the exclusivity.”
If you’re currently in an open or poly relationship and are working to tackle jealousy, it may just take some time. And if you’re worried about jealousy in a future open or poly relationship, who knows? The relationship switch-up might just give you a chance to experience a new kind of happiness and support for your SO.