Recently, I was reading a certain popular women’s magazine and wondering if my masochistic streak was widening. It was the only reason I could think of for why I continue to read articles entitled “500 Ways to Please Your Man” (because apparently only straight girls read it), even though I know it will be the same tips from the “_ Ways to _ Your _” piece I read last month.
It’s not even that the advice these articles offer is bad — it’s just that there is a tendency to only talk about a set number of sexual activities. Unless I’m reading an “alternative” magazine, the advice comes from a world in which there are never any gay or lesbian couples and no gender non-conforming folk. “Alternative” sexual behaviors are mentioned, but all too often there is an undertone of OMFGSOOOWEIRD.
I am a sex positivist. That means, as far as I’m concerned, if a sexual activity is consensual and safe you, then your partner(s) should go for it. We all have our quirks, kinks and preferences when it comes to sex. And some of us want to explore our sexuality and find new quirks. So, in the coming weeks this column will feature advice and information on everything from foreplay to fetishes. To begin with, however, I want to talk about the most important aspect of any intimate relationship: communication.
When communication between partners is unclear or, worse, non-existent, it can lead to all manners of problems. On the milder end, there is dissatisfaction or frustration with the experience. There are also far more severe instances in which poor communication leads to sex with someone when that person doesn’t want it or you don’t want it, or sex without sufficient protection. This is why the most important parts of communication are discussions of consent and protection.
The concept of consent ought to be obvious. You don’t get to engage in any sexual behavior with someone without their permission. But in the moment, there are many ways it becomes unclear. The rush of hormones, the desire to not be labeled a tease and sometimes the presence of alcohol or other substances can lead to pushing or being pushed farther than you or your partner really wants to go.
The best solution to this is to agree to boundaries (i.e., no penetration) prior to the heat of the moment. However, if that doesn’t happen, then you’re going to have to ask during the interaction. If you want to do something but aren’t sure if it is OK with your partner, ask them. Be willing to stop if they say no, regardless of how much you want to do that certain thing. If you are the one asked, answer honestly. Your partner might be taken aback or frustrated, but if they are worthy of your sexy presence they will not push or pressure you.
While communicating consent may seem like it only matters in the early stages of a romantic relationship, it is also an issue for long-term couples. Granted, if you have been intimate with someone for a while you probably have a sense of their preferences and boundaries (and if you don’t, you might want to start paying more attention). But something that felt good before may suddenly become uncomfortable. If that happens, the same rules apply. If it’s your boundaries that have changed, be willing to say so. Length of relationship does not cancel out consent, so if you’re the one being told to stop, stop.
Lastly, a few words on protection (there will be more when we talk about foreplay). Read any article regarding whose responsibility protection is and you will be confronted with pages of vitriolic comments. It’s a touchy subject. My advice? If you are entering a situation in which sexy-times are a possibility, bring your contraceptive of choice with you.
That way, when you have the (pretty much mandatory) “Do you have protection?” conversation, everyone can reach into their purses/wallets and go “ta-da!” Remember, sharing responsibility is a total turn-on.
Next week, we talk about the greatest zones in the world and why lube is your best friend.
SAM WALL wants you to send her your sex questions and concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.