I’ve received enough questions like this to inspire a public response. My short answer is that if you don’t have the ability to communicate non-defensively and if you’re not willing to adjust your needs to suit your partner’s pace, you might want to save everyone the trouble and move on. But if that’s you’re response, you’re likely to find yourself moving on from the next relationship, and the next… Because part of ANY relationship is learning how to build the trust and tone to develop honest, nonjudgemental communication around important issues. And sex is one of the most important topics for any couple, so learning how to talk about it in ways that make your partner feel safe, supported, loved and un-judged is critical. If you can’t rise to the occasion, you should hardly expect them to.
The good news is that we all have the equipment and ability and (although it’s often latent) desire to get pretty freaky. Humans are the most sexual mammals on earth — we are literally built for sex. Sadly, most people spend majority of their lives struggling to reconcile the natural current of our nature with the cultural constructs that aim to control and redirect that flow. Imagine a world in which we had a more transparent lens through which to view our sexuality and a more mature approach to discussing and acting on our sexuality? If we had an honest view of just how sexual we are and a more sophisticated approach to acknowledging desire and navigating consent, I think we’d be a giant step closer to world peace. So the first step is to realize that it’s usually not an individual issue, but rather a cultural problem. Approaching your partner with the idea that there is a complex and frightful maze of cultural history to navigate should help you approach them empathetically rather than critically. I would not recommend raising the issue until you’ve done enough work to communicate non-defensively and non-judgementally, however. Not to sound like a new-age life coach, but your ability to change and enhance your sex life with your partner might hinge on your ability to change your perspective and communication style.
I am so optimistic about people’s ability to change only because I have personally witnessed suburban couples in ‘sexless marriages’ evolve from timid, fearful sexual neophytes into leather-clad duos cracking whips and hanging hog-tied from the ceiling at sex parties. I’ve seen uptight soccer moms transition from nervous toe-dippers into the sexual equivalent of Acapulco cliff-divers. I have also personally experienced the fear and lure and challenges of opening up to and accepting and ultimately acting on my own sexual desires. It is not always easy, but it is certainly possible for anyone to change how they see and experience the world.
The first step is to avoid the downward spiral of putting your partner in a box by saying things like, ‘I want us to be more adventurous in bed’ or, even worse, ‘I wish you were more adventurous in bed’ (and that’s what everyone hears even when you say ‘we’). While everyone has certain boundaries they might never feel comfortable crossing, as long as people feel safe and supported, most people are willing to consider just about anything. Start by approaching the topic in a way that demonstrates that your partner feels desired, respected and in control of the first step. It might be something as simple as, ‘I am so attracted to you and there are some things that I really want to do with and to you — and I want to tell you these things but I’m worried you’ll see me differently if I do.’ This subtle shift sparks curiosity rather than fear or a sense of deficiency. No one wants to hear they are bad lovers and that’s certainly not the way to get someone to open up and put themselves in a vulnerable position. And while language is a key part of ensuring safety and consent, it can also build formidable walls and quickly put people in defensive positions — so use your words very carefully.
Once you tactfully open the gate to exploration, start by exploring your partner’s body in creative ways that make them feel good and build trust in your intentions. Erotic massage, creative kissing, the suggestion of a toy. A next step might be to ask if you can masturbate in front of them, telling them how you fantasize about them. Check in. If everything is going well, you might consider introducing a toy and begin to safely explore and discover their pleasure response. For instance, your partner not might respond well to anal play but they may love spanking. You have to be open to shifting direction and first allow them to find a boundary they want to cross and enjoy crossing. Avoid pushing them in a direction that you want to go when the signs are not clearly positive. Once your partner euphorically crosses a boundary, the next will not seem so daunting. But if the first approach is frightening and unpleasant, they are far less likely to venture forth again — particularly with you. And just because they embrace a new form of pleasure doesn’t mean they’re immediately ready to move on to the next. You have to communicate with and read your partner carefully before escalating and you should acknowledge and celebrate the huge step they’ve just taken and avoid making it feel like only one small step in a long journey.
And this is a key point about compatibility: you might both be adventurous, but your definition of adventure might be very different. So if you’re primarily looking for immediate gratification of your sexual fetish and you’re partner isn’t there yet, you might lack the perspective and patience required to help usher your partner through some troubling terrain. But if your primary interest is facilitating sexual growth and you’re turned on by someone else’s progression, then you have the basic skill to help someone not only circumnavigate their sexual globe but also traverse the rich emotional contours of a healthy relationship.
This article is an excerpt from the book, ‘Better Than the Hand: How Masturbation is the Key to Better Sex & Healthier Living.’
Magnus Sullivan has been at the forefront of technological and cultural shifts for more than 20 years. In 1993 Magnus founded eLine, one of the first system integration firms in San Francisco, bringing some of the biggest brands in the world online. One of his first clients was the storied progressive adult toy reseller, Good Vibrations. This was his first foray into the world of adult and he never looked back, partnering with the powerhouse, Game Link, to help create one of the most formidable companies in the online adult market. He has created two of the most awarded and recognized movies in the adult industry (‘An Open Invitation’ and ‘Marriage 2.0', which won The Feminist Porn Awards coveted ‘Movie of the Year’ award in 2016) and recently launched www.manshop.com, a reseller of sex toys for men, and www.betterthanthehand.com, a sex positive blog that promotes male masturbation and discusses the various social issues associated with it. Sullivan has written extensively about the need to expand and enhance content production in the adult industry and is also the author of ‘Better Than The Hand: How Masturbation is the Key to Better Sex and Healthier Living’. He is a fourth-generation SF-native, lives with his wife and children in the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoys kite boarding, skiing, triathlon, cooking, reading, writing and just about everything else that engages his mind and his body.35 Articles