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April 5, 2010 5:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm somewhat less than satisfied with my sex life. How do I talk to my girlfriend about this, without sounding critical or exacerbating her shyness (which is part of the problem)?

(This will be fairly explicit. Just so you know.)

We've been having sex for about six months. She tells me all the time that she loves to have sex with me, wants to do it all the time, comes a lot when we do, and generally can't get enough of these biscuits. That's great!

But she is very submissive, passive, and shy. I don't mind playing the dominant role, but I literally have to do everything. She kisses back when I kiss her, but she never initiates a kiss (in or out of bed). I embrace her and stroke her and touch her (in bed), but she does not reciprocate. She will occasionally fondle my penis a little during foreplay, but it is infrequent and half-hearted. I always take off all of my clothes; I always take off all of her clothes. She lies there and receives. Rather than gradually heating up, foreplay often seems to be leading nowhere.

For a while I was having trouble, er, standing at attention—which puzzled me, because I'd never had that problem before. Finally, I realized it's because I'm not getting any foreplay, unless I ask for something specific. I've taken to asking her for fellatio to get me hard—which she does without complaint—but it's kind of a buzz kill to stop in the middle of awkward, one-sided foreplay and say "hey, can you please suck my dick for a couple of minutes so I can have sex with you?".

Also, she's very shy about her body. As a result, we've been mostly limited to missionary and (often at my prompting) cowgirl. Those are both fine positions, but they get boring after a while.

I've tried telling her what to do. I've tried just putting her hands, etc. where I want them. (She says she likes these things.) She's glad to give anything I ask for (which is appreciated), but I hate having to ask for everything—and there's never any enthusiasm behind her actions.

(On the other hand, she turns into an animal when she's receiving pleasure. She was dumbstruck when I showed her the dozen bite-shaped bruises she'd left on my chest one evening—she didn't remember doing it, and refused to believe it until I showed her.)

In general, we communicate well. She is aware that she is "shy" and "timid" in bed (her words), and we've talked about it a fair bit. (I haven't brought it up, but I talk openly and frankly about it when she does.) I've done my best to be patient and low-pressure, and to assure her that I'm enjoying sex with her (which is true, although my frustration is obviously growing). I've encouraged her and expressed appreciation when she does things I like. I've never pushed her to do anything she's not comfortable with; quite the contrary. I've gently communicated a couple of small things that I would like (e.g., if she would touch me more during foreplay), and she has been receptive—but so far hasn't actually done those things. I have been pretty GGG—she's said more than once that I spoil her (and I'm not complaining a bit; I enjoy doing it).

There is certainly more to our relationship than sex, and I hate to complain about this—because I adore her, and she is a total sweetheart to me, and otherwise things are pretty great. But, goddamn, I just want her to express some of the passionate feelings she keeps telling me about.

I know she wants to please me. I really want to respect her feelings and her boundaries. I don't expect her to start swinging from the chandelier overnight. I don't mind that she's on the shy side. But I gotta have something here.

How do I talk to her about this without making her anxieties worse? Is it even possible—or do I just have to accept that this (sweet, wonderful) girl might always be this way?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you asked her to initiate? Not hinted at, but actually said the words "I need you to take the initiative during sex sometimes"? Be open and direct about it. It appears from your comment that she is not afraid to discuss your sex life, but you mentioned that you don't bring it up. Why not? If she is bringing it up, then there might be things that she wants to discuss, and maybe some gentle prodding from you to discuss these things is what shes hoping for.

If I were her, and shy about my body, and my boyfriend was finding it difficult to get an erection when having sex with me, I would think that my body looked so bad even my bf wasn't attracted to me.
Telling her that you love her body, love having sex with her, but need her to be more of an active participant is not a bad thing for either of you.
You need to have an open and frank discussion about this with her.
posted by newpotato at 6:30 AM on April 5, 2010


Have you told her everything you have told us here? If not, why not?
posted by TheBones at 6:48 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This sounds like an excellent training opportunity. Just be willing to not DO everything, but to take the initiative to GIVE HER INSTRUCTIONS, frequently, such that she is also fully involved.

My friend told me about his current relationship, and how his woman was quite shy and uncertain. What he did was gradually ramped up his directions, and that she now very happily rubs her own clit, sucks cock, gets into whatever positions, etc etc. It has helped her become more self-aware and more open to being an active participant. He also tells me that this is actually very very hot for both of them, and that he feels like he is directing his own porno movie.

Carpe diem!
posted by Meatbomb at 6:52 AM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think you need to be direct, with no chance for misunderstanding what you're asking for, but couch the feedback in lots of compliments. E.g. "You know how you go wild when I give you ABC? I love watching you enjoy yourself. I feel the same way when you give me XYZ. I would like more of XYZ from you, please, because it turns me on a lot."

I've gently communicated a couple of small things that I would like (e.g., if she would touch me more during foreplay), and she has been receptive—but so far hasn't actually done those things.

It's okay to bring it up again. :) "Remember how we talked about you getting involved more in our foreplay? That's been on my mind a lot lately, how good that would feel and how turned on I would get. Will you do that?"
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:00 AM on April 5, 2010


I will refrain from sharing too many details since this post won't be anonymous, but I've run into this before as well. My findings:

This came down to equal parts comfort level, self-acceptance (on her part), and level of desire. One thing you might want to try is to not initiate sex for a week (this might or might not be something you'd want to tell her about, depending on whether you think it would help or not) and see if she tries coming onto you instead. Be close, and intimate, but don't do anything overtly sexual. (Difficult, I know!) If she enjoys sex, at some point she's going to have to take at least a little initiative. If she asks why you haven't had sex in a few days, tell her you're waiting for her to make the first move. And smile. (Seriously, whatever you do, keep this playful and not passive-agressive. That would be a mistake.)

Having some heartfelt discussion about this, where you first and foremost express your love for her and then ask her if she's happy, can really help as well. Hold her close, at some point when you're not actively having sex or headed that way, and ask her how she feels. Not necessarily about sex, initially. But have frank, open conversations with her. This may take time because she is shy. I heard things I wouldn't have heard otherwise from my significant other, and it brought us much closer together both in and out of bed.

And also, one totally possibly anecdotal thing I've heard that my google-fu is failing me on--people in bed whose feet are literally cold may not be as adventurous or amorous. Maybe I even read that here, can't remember. Something about blood flow. But maybe you could check on that whilst in bed? Can't hurt to hit all the bases.
posted by Phyltre at 7:06 AM on April 5, 2010


You mentioned being GGG, so I assume you read/listen to Dan Savage. It's weird, but just listening to his podcast (RSS link) every week (and catching up on the backlog) and hearing people talk about sex (and the issues that go with it) has helped me make some sort of mental paradigm shift. Sexual desires (and the many variations thereof) now strike me as a completely normal -- even commonplace -- thing to think about, talk about, and act upon.

Load 'em up on her iPod. It might help.
posted by supercres at 7:37 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


And weirdly enough, it is actually hearing people's voices -- Dan's (often hilarious) and his callers' -- that I think helped so much. But the column is great too.
posted by supercres at 7:38 AM on April 5, 2010


How experienced is she? She might feel timid if she doesn't have a lot of experience and is afraid of doing something wrong. If she is more experienced, though, this could just be how she is. Regardless of the cause, a few thoughts:

Could creating a lower pressure situation help? If she's worried that she's going to do something "wrong", she might be afraid to try anything during intense foreplay or sex that might screw things up and disappoint you. Could you work on this in a scenario where (either because of practical limitations or because you decided beforehand) intercourse isn't possible? Think high school. Taking sex off the table might encourage her to get creative in the foreplay department. Semi-related to this, could you try closing your eyes while she touches you? If she feels like you're watching and judging her "performance", she might lose confidence.

It's a little weird to put it in these terms, but in a way, you are trying to train her. Make sure you're responding in a clearly positive way when she does anything that you like, especially if it isn't prompted by you. If she's not confident in her abilities, she might need more unequivocal- explicit, if you will- praise and feedback. Even when she does something because you asked her to, tell her how good it feels, how well she does it, whatever.

This is all assuming that the fundamental cause of her actions (or lack of them) is a lack of confidence. If trying to boost her confidence doesn't help, then maybe this is just an aspect of her personality you can't really change. If that's the case, you'll have to figure out if she's at all willing to try to change, and if not, if you're willing to deal with it or if you're incompatible.
posted by MadamM at 8:07 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree that hearing other people talk about their sex lives can be liberating...it normalizes all this sex-thinking. Maybe listen to those podcasts together as a habit?

I've tried telling her what to do. I've tried just putting her hands, etc. where I want them. (She says she likes these things.) She's glad to give anything I ask for (which is appreciated), but I hate having to ask for everything—and there's never any enthusiasm behind her actions.

And I can't be the only person who wonders if perhaps she would respond favorably to a little more authority from you in bed. I'm not saying that you should bark commands at her like a drill sergeant, but maybe she's just, well, submissive. In the moment, have you tried telling her to be more enthusiastic? Can you get her ramped up enough that she'll reciprocate more aggressively before you make her come?
posted by desuetude at 8:51 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If she's shy about her body, what about making the room pitch black a few times, or her leaving on most of her clothes? Or you being blindfolded?

Do you think she might be into role-play? Would she be up for pretending to be your strict schoolteacher, jail warden, etc?

Even though she is shy, I think there are ways to bring up a conversation about this stuff. In a totally non-sexual situation I might say something like this. "So, I remember you told me that you felt shy initiating things in bed. I was curious, have you ever thought of what the reasons behind that could be? Do you have any interest in doing a bit more initiating some time in the future? Is there anything we could do, any conditions we could create, where you would feel a bit more comfortable with that? (I wouldn't just ask these questions one after the other, I would try to do a lot of listening between each one.)

Other than that, I think someone might have said this upthread, but every time she *does* initiate something, however small, I would give her as much genuine positive feedback as I had in me. I know you said you express appreciation, but you know how she responds to the things you do? I think it would help if you were just as demonstrative or more. (But *not* so much that it seems fake) It can feel really weird/pointless/awkward even for experience people to be doing something to someone who is mostly silent, not moving, etc, even if you know they want it.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:21 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes people are just not sexually compatible. I'd give the good advice from other people here a try, buy a nice book or two, maybe watch some of the less porny instructional movies, then if things don't change you should consider carefully whether a different partner might make your life more fulfilling.
posted by meepmeow at 12:32 PM on April 5, 2010


In my experience I've acted like your girlfriend when there was something specific turning me off, and usually it was something that I didn't want to bring up because I'm a wimp when it comes to personal criticism. I obviously have no way of knowing if you have any problems like that, but here are some small things that have been problems for me and are easy to test in your specific case. (Again, I have no way of knowing if any of these could be a problem for you. But since you're unhappy, it's certainly worth considering.)

Anything smelly... Try showering beforehand. Make sure you wash everything using scentless soap, or try using her soap (presumably she is OK with how her own soap smells, it is possible that even if you're clean, the actual smell of your soap or shampoo is off putting to her). Dry off afterward (being soaking wet just leads to chafing). Brush your teeth with mild toothpaste or use a toothpaste similar to what she uses.

How is your kissing technique (not too deep, not too fast)? Are you too aggressive with your teeth? Try holding back until she kisses you (if she doesn't, she may be a non-kisser, these people exist...may be a deal breaker for you) and then responding with the same type of kiss.

Is the place where you have sex clean? Free of distractions? (NO TV!) Is it well insulated so she doesn't feel like your neighbors can hear everything? Is your bed spacious, solid, and non-squeaky? (You can try taking her to a motel.) Is it a good temperature?

Does she have an opportunity to pee and generally tidy herself up beforehand? Are you approaching her at times when she's well rested but doesn't have things to do (not at night, but not right before work or while she's trying to do something)?
posted by anaelith at 12:46 PM on April 5, 2010


Having been in a position of inexperience in bed and shy in bed moi had the pleasure of having a boyfriend who taught me what it meant to be GGG in bed.

Comfort level and self acceptance do play a big role and this can be increased with more intimate talks occurring on the couch where you share anything and everything. Another thing to consider: Is her family physically affectionate with each other? Maybe she grew up where physical affection or sex was not openly discussed? This could contribute to her shyness in bed.
One last thing: Is she from a culture different to yours? Maybe that is a contributing factor if the culture's are different.

Another way to increase the comfort level is: Complimenting her when in bed will boost her self confidence. Also ask her if there are any parts of her body that she does not feel very confident about and then express praise and lavish special attention to the same. Tell what you love about her body. Use this as an opportunity to instruct her of what to do and tell her specifically what you like, either doing to herself or to you. This is an awesome opportunity to have some awesome sex together.

Viewing her actions as unenthusiastic will ruin the experience for you, maybe what it is, is uncertainty on her part (am I doing it right, I hope he likes it ). These could be the thoughts running through her head. Here I will second the idea of closing your eyes and keeping an open mind towards her actions. I realize giving feedback while experiencing pleasure can seem like a task to some, but I highly recommend it. (boyfriend would close his eyes and it would worry me if he was liking what I was doing) Luckily, after a session in bed, bf read my mind and told me that he enjoys it more with his eyes closes because he can focus on the sensations on his skin.

Another place where she can learn stuff about sex is from reading magazines and watching porn. Start with Cosmopolitan and read more stuff on the internet from there onwards. Sharing these things together brings couples much closer and expands her knowledge about sex.

I've gently communicated a couple of small things that I would like (e.g., if she would touch me more during foreplay), and she has been receptive—but so far hasn't actually done those things.

Maybe she hasn't yet done those things is because she doesn't know when! Sometimes people are like that...Some people had to do a lot of reading of sex situations and watching of videos and talking to bf and to gather the courage to build up to making moves on their own.

The fact that she is like an animal in bed and doesn't realize it also speaks tons, bf once recorded moi screams to make me believe that moi is loud in bed. (because moi couldn't believe it myself).

I think what you have is a gf. who needs coaching and you could have one of *best* (positive adjective) times in bed, you just have to make her comfortable enough to accept her own tigress self in bed. Some people become comfortable enough to accept it and some don't...I hope she is of the former variety.
posted by pmononoke1 at 1:45 PM on April 5, 2010


You should mirror her behavior a little bit and STOP initiating sex. Withdraw a little....not with any unpleasantness but just stop and become a little asexual. She will then probably start mirroring you by getting more aggressive and START initiating.
posted by Nicholas West at 7:06 AM on April 6, 2010


You should mirror her behavior a little bit and STOP initiating sex. Withdraw a little....not with any unpleasantness but just stop and become a little asexual. She will then probably start mirroring you by getting more aggressive and START initiating.

Wait, if she's going to mirror his behavior, and he stops initiating, won't she just backslide into even less initiation?

Girlfriend knows that anonymous would like her to be more proactive. If anonymous then backs off from starting sex, and girlfriend is already really shy and insecure about her sexual performance, it seems to me that there's a huge risk that she'll just interpret this as him rejecting her sexually.
posted by desuetude at 10:48 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's worth a little experiment. Maybe she wants to initiate but thinks that anon, being the man, has to be in control so she lets him. If he backs off, if she wants to have sex she'll HAVE to do something. And he'll learn something about HER sexual rhythms. On the other hand we might just have a serious mismatch of sex drives here and it will never be the way he wants it.
posted by Nicholas West at 4:07 PM on April 6, 2010


(This is going to have a lot of specific DIRTY TALK and BOSSINESS, so if that bothers you, don't read it. Everyone is all happy and consensual and full of smiles and hugs.)

DISCLAIMER: If at any time, she starts seeming upset or hurt instead of nervous, a little frustrated, and/or horny, back off. Communicate what you want to get out of what you’re doing. Make sure she knows that you’re not punishing her. Have fun. Be lighthearted. Play.

I am a very dominant person with a very submissive (and passive) partner. I am going to tell you many of the techniques that I use to get initiation and, for lack of a better word, work out of my partner. Some of these might not be your style because I, personally, get a kick out of making my partner uncomfortable and pushing him to do things that make him nervous, embarrassed, shy...as usual, take what works and leave the rest. I could write a thesis. You will just get the outline.

One simple tactic is asking her to tell she tell you what she wants. Feel completely free to tell her what she wants and ask her to repeat it, or ask her if she wants x activity and then insist that she say yes. Push her a little bit, if she seems up for it. If she says something subtle, make her clarify. If she whispers, ask her to say it louder. Be firm. That doesn’t mean you have to be mean. Just firm.

Get sexual without doing anything she likes so that she has to find a way to ask for what she wants or she just won’t get it. Also known as teasing. What is the guy equivalent of flashing cleavage or wearing a tight skirt, bending over and waggling your butt? I don’t know. You might have to get more obvious about it and rub up against her in the hallway or come up behind her and nibble on her ear. Or, if it would work for you, just start masturbating and see what she does. Gee, that sounds creepy. Guess you’ll have to figure this one out on your own.

Another variation is to initiate sex, ask for what you like, and don’t do anything for her. Get a blowjob. Encourage her to be more enthusiastic. Instruct her in detail. Orgasm. Tell her how much fun you had and how hot she is, and relax. Congrats, you’re done! See how she reacts. Ideally, she gets really horny and feels compelled to poke you and remind you that you forgot about her. If she does, insist that she tell you what, exactly, it is that forgot. This can be done very playfully if you want, be silly and act like you genuinely forgot about your normal activities. Again, positive reinforcement for even small steps towards your goal. If she gets in a bad mood or seems hurt by your actions you don’t have to automatically start sexing her. Hold her, give her kisses, and talk about it.

Quid pro quo, some people hate this, some people find it unbelievably hot, so be forewarned. Tell her you won’t do x until she gives you a highly enthusiastic blowjob, or that you only feel like having sex in y position.

For body issues: blindfold her. I know it seems counterintuitive and that you would want to be blindfolded, but the actual result tends to be the same as having sex in a dark room, but it’s not dark for you, just for her. It might help release inhibitions enough to get some sexy talk going on her part.

The fact that she just lies there makes me think she would enjoy being tied up. This might be annoying for you because you’re already sick of doing all the work. However, it makes teasing (as mentioned above) much easier. Get very close to doing something she loves and then just…don’t. Make her ask very, very nicely. Enjoy it if she struggles to get closer so that you can continue the action. Rope tends to be affordable and multi-purpose. The Twisted Monk has good tutorials; their rope is expensive so look around.

Tell her to initiate but leave the timing up to her. Pick a window. Be firm. Example: "Today between 6 and 8, I want to have sex with you. Let me know when you really, really want it." If she’s the type to forget, remind her half an hour or so before the appointed time. Other than that, go about business as usual. Ignore any too-subtle hints. Make her really go for it. Positively reinforce success with hot sex. If she doesn’t go for it…let it go completely and treat her how you always treat her. Try again another day. This lets her practice and you get to think about sex all day. It keeps her from procrastinating and just waiting for you to do it. It provides structure and she knows that she won’t be rejected. It is awesome.

Possibly more advanced [warning, dirty language]: make an agenda before you even start and make her repeat it back to you: first we'll make out, then you'll suck my cock like you like it, then we’ll…whatever. Keep it somewhat simple to make it easy for her, make it more complex and give her dirty hints, have her take notes. There are numerous variations. You can let her decide when to move from one activity to the next, but I doubt she will, so enjoy at your pace and when you’re tired of any one activity, “What’s next?” You can let her just move on to the next activity, or you can ask her to look at you and tell you what she’s going to do before she does it.

In terms of getting her to do more positions or activities, "make" her choose one out of a few options. “We’re trying something new tonight. Doggie-style or a blindfold?” Then make sure it’s fun and pleasurable for her and move on to something else while she’s still enjoying herself.
___________
Hope some of these ideas help! Feel free to memail me.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:05 AM on April 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh and she might always be this way--so you might as well find a way to have fun with it. Which is why I have so many detailed approaches to the subject...
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2010


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