Question for you: If your partner wants a sexual behavior that not only isn’t your thing, but really turns you off, what do you do?
- Tell your partner no and expect your partner to shut down that desire?
- Do your best to accommodate your partner some of the time?
- Pretend to like it?
- Negotiate “I’ll do this for you if you’ll do this other thing for me”?
- Give your partner a pass to get that need met with someone else?
- Break up because you’re not sexually compatible?
If you’ve been at the other end of this — you have a passion for something that your partner doesn’t share — how do/did you resolve it?
I’d love to hear from you whether you’re encountering this situation now, or did in the past, or you’re thinking about how you might handle it in the future. Please describe the sexual behavior, fetish, role play, or desire if you’re willing and if it wouldn’t embarrass your partner or ex (no “revenge comments,” please). I’m also happy to hear from counselors, sex therapists and sex educators about how you advise clients.
If you want to answer anonymously, please pick a name that isn’t yours instead of using the name “anonymous” so that we don’t have a string of comments by “anonymous.”
I hope we can start a discussion about how to work with dissimilar and conflicting sexual needs.
Next week, I’ll have the pleasure of working in Minneapolis, giving three presentations at Smitten Kitten: two public workshops (register for these workshops here) and a staff training on sex and aging. I love sharing my knowledge with all of you, especially when my events are sponsored by sex-positive, education-oriented stores like Smitten Kitten.
One of the staff members sent me this question, and I’d like to open up the topic to comments from you:
I am 23 years old, and sometimes the oldest/most experienced person working at the store on a given day, but I feel that my age and the age of some of my co-workers makes us seem like we can’t relate to older customers, and maybe even makes them feel more uncomfortable.
Usually if we can get past that and into a conversation people realize we all have a lot of knowledge to share, but is there a way to relate to older customer more quickly, or make them feel more at ease? I know that this is a question that there can’t be one right answer for, but any tips would be helpful!
What a good question! Let me turn it over to you, readers.
Let’s say you’re going into a sexuality shop for either the first time, or with a question that embarrasses you. You look around, and all the sales people are about the age of your grandchildren.
- How do/don’t you want to be approached?
- What is the right/wrong thing for a staffer to say to you?
- How can a younger person help you feel more at ease talking about sexual concerns?
- Do you start a conversation that’s not about the real reason you’re there before honing in on the real question?
- What makes you decide whether or not you can bring up your real concern?
- What questions do you wish you had the nerve to ask, but you don’t?
A man I know was 67 when he gathered the courage to walk into a sexuality shop for the first time. He wanted to get advice about buying his first butt plug. He squeaked out the question to the tattooed, nose-ring wearing boy who barely seemed of legal age. The young man led him to the butt plug area of the store and calmly showed him various styles, explaining quietly and clearly which ones were best for novices, and why.
It was clear that (a) he knew his stuff; (b) this was his day job and no question surprised him; and (c) the older man was his valued customer, not an object of ridicule or amazement. The older man felt freer to ask more questions, and he ended up making a purchase that he enjoyed for years.
Would a calm, thorough, matter-of-fact explanation have worked to put you at ease, too?
If you’re age 50+, what experiences — good or bad — have you had in sexuality shops? I’d love to hear from you.
(Please include your age answering any of these questions.)
|Photo by Ruth Lefkowitz|
I discover it’s not just single women: I had a conversation with a man about my age who is no longer having sex with his wife because she’s too embarrassed about her weight gain to be naked with him.
Other men tell me similar stories — that their wives hide their bodies, and the men miss the sex and the intimacy, but don’t know how to ease their wives past their distaste for their bodies.
I’d like to talk to both genders here:
Finally, after meeting so many frogs (and not even tempted to kiss any of them), you’ve met a man who makes your heart flutter big time. You’ve flirted, you’ve gone on a few dates, you’ve talked half the night, you’ve laughed at his jokes and he at yours. On your last date, you kissed… and kissed. His hands went exploring, so did yours, and you know that on the next date, more than your lipstick will come off. You’ve even had the Condom Conversation.
But, your inner worrier keeps asking you, what if he sees your body and heads for the hills?
You’ve got to trust me on this, he’s not going to say or even think any of the following:
- “Oh, gee, you have so many wrinkles!”
- “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.”
- “Huh—I thought you looked younger with clothes on.”
- “I like firmer butts and perkier breasts.”
- “Uh, I gotta go now.”
No, whether or not he voices it out loud or conveys it with a smile or melting eyes, here’s what he’s thinking:
Partnered women: Does your husband have the same body as when you first dated? I doubt it. Realize that your man wants you, wants the bonding with you, wants the sexual pleasure with you. Instead of asking him, “Do I look fat?” try asking, “What do you find the sexiest part of my body?” His answer might surprise you, and I’ll bet he’ll be delighted that you asked.
Men: You may not realize how insecure we women are about our bodies. We need to hear from you that you find us sexy, alluring, beautiful. If you think our breasts are gorgeous, or our rear view turns you on, please tell us. Even an “I could gaze into your eyes forever” will make our hearts flutter. We need you to help us affirm our bodies. A hefty dose of romance does wonders for us, too!
We women are our own worst critics, always have been. Remember those teenage pimples? Those worries about our shape and smell? Let’s decide, once and for all, that our bodies are just right, capably of visually delighting a partner and of bringing us both great pleasure.
If we can’t do that at this time of life, when can we? Even if we don’t fully believe it, acting “as if” we’re proud of our bodies will help make it so.
So when it’s time for that get-naked date, prepare with some gorgeous lingerie, dim the lights if you feel the need, but don’t black out the view (candles are sexy and flattering), have lubricant handy, and enjoy.
I’d love to hear from both women and men about this topic! Please comment.
This post was originally published in a slightly different form 11/8/11. I expanded and updated it 11/20/2012.
He’s Just Not That Into It
After months of his wife’s pleading and an eventual ultimatum, “Ted” (not his real name) found himself sitting somewhere he’d never imagined—the office of a sex therapist. The three-year journey leading up to this day was painful; a strained effort along a cumbersome path littered with resentments, accusations, and much confusion.
As Ted told his therapist, “I just don’t get it. I love my wife. She’s intelligent, she’s compassionate. She’s a wonderful mother to our children. She’s my best friend and I love hanging out with her. I just don’t want to have sex with her anymore.”
It turns out Ted isn’t alone. In the United States, there are an estimated 10 million men in sexless, heterosexual marriages. And while many would assume that women’s lack of desire is the main culprit, recent trends indicate that it is just as likely the men who have lost that loving feeling. Many sex therapists are seeing an increase in heterosexual men coming to them for problems with desire, some noting that the percentage of men with low desire now outweighs the percentage of women.
Calgary sex therapist David Hersh, EdD, observes, “When I first started and I would see couples with discordant desire, it was mostly the woman who wasn’t interested. Now about 55% of these couples are seeing me because the man has lost interest.” Several therapists queried confirmed a similar trend in their practices.
It’s not clear if there are actually more men experiencing low desire or if it’s just that more men are now seeking help. Hersh says he believes the latter is the case. “Now, men are more informed about the condition. Traditionally there was a double standard where ‘real men’ always wanted to have sex. But you’re not so strange anymore if you don’t want it.”
Sex therapist Ricky Siegel agrees, stating, “I think there’s little doubt that the most obvious factor to the issue of low desire in men is that ‘Real men are not supposed to have low desire!’ So where it has become an acceptable script for women, it’s one of the things that men suffered about in quiet shame.”
In 2008, Bob Berkowitz and Susan Yager-Berkowitz published the results of their survey of over 1300 men who identified as no longer having sex with their spouses. The respondents listed several reasons for their loss of interest in sex, some of which included emotional struggles with things like depression and anger. Others reported they began avoiding sex because of problems with sexual functioning and eventually lost interest in sex altogether. And while many men initially suspect their loss of libido might be a result of low testosterone, research findings, such as those reported by Sari van Anders in the May, 2012 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior, continue to suggest this is more often not the case.
Despite his assertion that everything was okay, “Derek” told his therapist that he reluctantly agreed to a session because, “I love my wife and I will do this if she feels it is important.” Derek’s wife “Cindy” was concerned because recently Derek had stopped initiating sex with her, something that she said was “unusual” for him.
Derek said was likely due to stress or perhaps “getting a little older” but when Cindy was invited to talk about experiencing her own sexuality, a different kind of narrative began to emerge. Cindy stated that in the beginning of her relationship with Derek, “Sex was okay but I was never all that into it.” But she added, “Lately, something happened. And now it’s like I can’t wait to jump on this man.”
It turns out that “something” was her reading the best-selling 50 Shades trilogy. Cindy’s sister had turned her onto the books and to Cindy’s surprise the books turned her on, prompting her to embrace and embody her sexuality like never before. After some contemplation, Derek finally conceded that Cindy’s sudden interest in sex had a surprising blanketing effect on his desire for her. “I don’t get it,” he said. “I mean, this is what I always wanted. But when it happened, and all of a sudden she’s wanting to go to the sex store and buy toys and try new things—I don’t know, I guess it kind of turned me off.”
When it comes to treatment, experts often recommend a physical examination (just to be sure) and then consultation with a sex therapist. But what can therapists do to help men get their mojo back? Fortunately, those who practice and write about clinical sexology are continually developing ways for therapists to think about and respond to requests for help. The traditional model is to look at problems in the relationship first. One of the current trends in therapy is to go right to the sex.
As for Ted, the specific course of his future sessions will be guided by the choices he and his therapist make as their therapy conversations unfold. Today’s session marks a turning point in his journey, a change of direction toward the possibility of getting out from underneath the weight of low desire.
“This was good,” he told his therapist at the conclusion of their meeting. “It feels good to get this off my chest.” He added, “I guess I feel a lot more hopeful, like this isn’t just the way it has to be when you get married and are with someone for a long time.”
Jason Kae-Smith is a certified sex therapist with a practice in Grand Rapids, MI. Among other things, he is interested in ways people are able to give value to sexual pleasure throughout their lifetimes. The article from which this is excerpted first appeared in Contemporary Sexuality, the journal of American Association of Sexuality Educators
Counselors & Therapists (AASECT).