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I want to bring something interesting/attractive/appealing to the table
February 19, 2013 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Help me process my post-foursome thoughts about being less interesting or sexy than the other participants.

Asked this question a few weeks ago going into a potential foursome. Now that the event is behind us, my wife has some follow-up questions. From her:


The foursome (me, my husband, and two women in a couple) went really well, all things considered, but now I have some questions as I'm mentally processing it. Generally speaking, I'm dealing with some personal insecurity, which is all in my head. Very little of it came to mind during the event, but the racing thoughts hit me surprisingly hard afterward. I'm prone to overthinking, and I know that,. My husband assures me that everyone enjoyed my presence and contributions, and both women indicated as much as well, but my brain doesn't seem to accept this. I need to know what to do about it. I'd like a proactive way of addressing and relieving these thoughts - either actions I can take or ways to reframe how I think. I suppose "just stop overthinking" is a fair perspective, but my brain won't shut up about it, so I don't think hearing it from the hive mind would be particularly helpful.

Throughout the weekend with the other couple, I noticed that I was a little bit of the odd one in a number of ways. The other three people are all part of the same creative industry. They're all extroverts. They're all casual. Those are some of the obvious surface differences. I'm a much more introverted, structured person. I know that being different from my husband makes me appealing to him, but the fact that the two ladies are very similar to each other (at least on the surface) made me wonder what they see in me. I fully appreciate that my husband loves me as a complete person, but the fact that I don't know either lady well led me to the conclusion that my main contribution to them was something physical, which my brain is not accepting very well. I'm used to being the smart, organized, thoughtful person, because those are my strengths and I've found ways to shine through those. Having grown up being on the heavy side, I don't trust people who are more attractive than me finding me attractive. (I'd say on the typical 1 to 10 scale, my husband and I are the same rank. I'd place them a notch or two above us.)

I could probably ignore all that when taken in isolation, except in the context of the actual sexual event these ideas were all heightened. In particular, I feel like I didn't have much to contribute other than my presence - I feel neither skillful in a giving or receiving context. On the giving side, while I did my best, I didn't have previous experience with women, so I was fumbling around (and they weren't particularly responsive to my request for directions). On the receiving side, I feel like my orgasm was a thoroughly unimpressive show. In contrast, the other two women seem to have sex like porn stars, and I didn't get the impression that they were doing it just for show.

Everyone seems interested in a repeat event in the future, but I need to sort through these feelings of insecurity and inadequacy before I'd feel ready for that. I'm pretty sure it's all in my head - my husband has been so incredibly complimentary, and the other ladies have been complimentary as well. (I wasn't privy to a lot of that because I went for a run and unknowingly missed the debrief they had with my husband.) I'd be interested in getting their feedback in some way, but I'm not sure how to solicit feedback, since they're not very communicative with us when we're not in the same place.

So I need to find a way to feel like a more attractive person, both in a general social context and in a sexual context. I feel like I need to find some ways to make myself more notable or like I have more to offer. I'm not sure whether I need to dive more seriously into some non-work activities that I already enjoy (running, yoga, knitting), take on new interests, or if I need to work on my sex skills. My husband and I invoke Dan Savage's concept of GGG a lot, and I feel like I've lost my "good" card (though I very much have my "giving" and "game" cards securely in hand). How do I work on sex skills, either in a general context (with my husband) or in preparing myself for a future encounter with the other couple?
posted by A Special Kind of Weird to Human Relations (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
My basic rule is that if you are invited back into a bed then you passed.
posted by srboisvert at 7:43 PM on February 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


You did an unusual thing. It's okay if you feel weird about it.

How do I work on sex skills

Same as anything else: practice.
posted by empath at 7:52 PM on February 19, 2013


Do you think your husband is more into the idea of group sex and you are just trying to convince yourself that you are too? Even if something is "all in your head" that just makes it your feeling.. which is ok to have. The way you speak about this is very distanced, like you can't bring yourself to say what you really want to. "it went well" instead of "i enjoyed it."

This askme just makes me a little sad because it seems like there is a group consensus without you, and maybe their presence is pushing you to side with the group in fear that you'll get left out if you say no. It really sounds like you don't want to do it and you being attractive or creative has NOTHING to do with this. Have you talked to your husband about what he will do if you say no? Are you afraid he will give his loyalty to the couple outside of your marriage instead of you?
posted by cakebatter at 7:55 PM on February 19, 2013 [21 favorites]


(I wasn't privy to a lot of that because I went for a run and unknowingly missed the debrief they had with my husband.)

Apart from anything else you mention, this comment stands out for me because of my reaction to it. I would be very uncomfortable with missing out on the debrief, and it would be a big issue for me that it wasn't a priority to have this discussion with everyone present. If it's a group thing, it should be a group thing.
posted by medusa at 8:03 PM on February 19, 2013 [41 favorites]


my husband has been so incredibly complimentary, and the other ladies have been complimentary as well.

Of course they have been. They want to have group sex again and (I infer) that they won't be able to again without your say-so. Notice that they pow-wowed while you were out on a run. They were getting their stories straight.

It is ok if you are uncomfortable and don't feel like doing this again.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:08 PM on February 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


the fact that I don't know either lady well led me to the conclusion that my main contribution to them was something physical, which my brain is not accepting very well.

Okay, well I'm not familiar with how these things work, so I may be waaay off target here, but...your main contribution was something physical, wasn't it? Isn't that what this is all about - purely physical enjoyment of each others' bodies? You're not looking to get into some long-term polyamorous relationship with them, right? (Or are you?)

That being the case, my diagnosis is: you're trying to convince yourself that you're into something that you're...not really into.

So I need to find a way to feel like a more attractive person, both in a general social context and in a sexual context.

Why? Did you feel sufficiently attractive when it was just you having sex with your husband? Honestly, I'd be really wary of getting involved in something that made me feel like I was suddenly inadequate and needed to do a whole lot of work on myself. That's not sexy or loving.

My husband and I invoke Dan Savage's concept of GGG a lot, and I feel like I've lost my "good" card (though I very much have my "giving" and "game" cards securely in hand

Again, I'm not a big Dan Savage groupie, so I have only a basic idea of the GGG thing. But, y'know... Dan Savage didn't invent sexuality. Some people are more into 'whole person' sex (i.e. can't 'perform' with people they don't have a mental/emotional connection with) than others, and that's fine. I'm certainly a lot better in bed when I'm in a situation that makes me comfortable (loving partner, feeling confident and accepted) than when I'm not. You feel like an outsider with these women, for various reasons. I wouldn't be very 'good' under the circumstances, either. And that's okay.

I wasn't privy to a lot of that because I went for a run and unknowingly missed the debrief they had with my husband.

I think this is disrespectful and insensitive on all their parts, frankly.

I feel like I need to find some ways to make myself more notable or like I have more to offer.

I don't. I feel like you need to be honest with yourself, and your partner, that you're not really enjoying these situations at the moment. That doesn't make you less 'notable', and doesn't mean you have 'less to offer'. This is dangerous thinking, and unfair to you.
posted by Salamander at 8:27 PM on February 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


(Wife again here)
Apologies for thread-sitting, but I want to make it absolutely clear that husband is not the bad guy in this. Part of the reason we explored this option is because I've been expressing bi-curious interests for a while, and we both thought this was a good set up for me to explore. It was new - it was a big contrast to the monogamous, hetero sex I've been having for the last 7 years. It felt a little bit like showing up to a flow yoga class with limited yoga experience. I'm interested in continuing, and part of that process involves feeling more comfortable in my own skin in an area where I wouldn't normally consider among my strengths. From my perspective, that means I either have to learn the skills or find a way not to care if I can't do a difficult pose as well as the other participants at this time (to continue the yoga analogy). If no one else is judging me, why should I judge myself? (I don't know - that's what I'm trying to address.)

As for the debrief... it wasn't explicitly set up as a debrief. The other women were out and about. They texted me in the morning to say they had a great time and were reminiscing about their favorite moments. I didn't ask for specifics because that was too much detail for a text conversation at 6am. Later that afternoon, they texted us that they were out for drinks and invited us to join them. I just happened to be on a run at the time. Husband went ahead and met up with them, because he would have done so with any other friends who extended this invitation. It just so happens that they offered some thoughts. I would never have expected him to say "Hold on, ladies, you can't say these things to just me - you must share them with the wife!" He figured (as I would have in his shoes) that he'd pass along the compliments.

srboisvert's response is thus far the most striking to me because it hits at what I'm struggling with. I know intellectually that I passed, and that should be all that matters. However, as my husband and I have discussed, my brain is treating things very linearly, instead of broadly. Passing isn't all that matters, it's the letter grade, and my B isn't good enough for me - I want an A! Maybe being raised in a hypercompetitive environment set me up to be like that, but I don't like it. (As a contrast, my husband treats things more broadly, passing is passing, sexy is sexy, there is no concept of who was sexier.) I'm trying to figure out how to ditch my competitiveness and embrace that idea. If I can't ditch my competitiveness, and instead I need to work with the way my brain thinks, then I need to figure out how to climb the ladder in my own linear thought process.
posted by A Special Kind of Weird at 8:44 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you try giving yourself a letter grade for how much YOU enjoyed yourself? Try focussing on that this time, and next time, rather than impressing everybody else. You're not in a movie, so focus on your own sensations.
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet at 8:51 PM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


> (I wasn't privy to a lot of that because I went for a run and unknowingly missed the debrief they had with my husband.) I'd be interested in getting their feedback in some way, but I'm not sure how to solicit feedback, since they're not very communicative with us when we're not in the same place.

You need a debrief. Your husband needs to help make sure that next time you are included in this. If the conversation is going in that direction, he can just say "hold up, let's wait until all four of us can have The Apr├Ęs-Talk together, it's not the same if Lady Special Weird gets it secondhand from me."

Meanwhile, for this particular episode, this is a totally legit reason to ask the ladies for some of their time for the official purpose of some needed girl talk. You don't need to catalogue the details of your insecurities and make it a Problem To Solve, obviously -- just tell them that you're into this, but nervous and maybe a little bit insecure, and then let them reassure you a little bit, and then accept that and try not to overthink it further, and you three get to feel a little more connected, and everyone wins.

Sex Skills = Trust That You Won't Be Laughed At. That's my opinion, anyway. If technical skill and achieving goals were the point, your group sex could have been a Fleshlight and three Hitachi Wands, right?

This isn't a stage performance. It's more akin to the way kids play "let's pretend." Ok-ok-ok, I'm Little Red Riding Hood and you're the Wolf and I say this thing, then what happens? [Okay, we run with that story until it's losing steam, and then] No wait I know ACTUALLY it turns out that ok-ok-ok-ok the Wolf is a Princess and the hood is an invisibility cloak [and we'll run with that until someone has a different idea] and meanwhile...this is all kind of hilarious but also profound because it's impossible to explain and you had to be there. Does that make sense as an analogy?

For preparation, maybe it would be helpful to just dive into internet eroticaland and read a bunch of blogs and fiction and whatever to get a broader view of the giant range of "not unusual" regarding what people like in bed, how they describe it, what they fantasize about, what they do in real life, how they think about sex. A sizeable chunk of it is fairly terrible writing, there is also some good writing out there, some of which you may find hot, and some of which you undoubtedly will NOT find hot -- but that's okay if you're reading it more for sociology purposes.
posted by desuetude at 8:57 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


The update helps, as I too was reading (probably also projecting from my own experience) a pretty strong "didn't like this enough to want to continue" vibe in the question.

Assuming you do want to, some advice: try to treat it as a party. A good party is about the group in attendance as a collective far more than it's about the individuals. People go to a party to forget themselves; and if you think about parties where you have a good time, it's usually when you forget yourself too. Just contribute through your presence and participation, your contribution to the sexual mood, which includes (is arguably defined by) your own enjoyment of whatever strikes your fancy. It's absolutely not about special moves you can pull off. A party's not a performance.

Practical secondary matters for fighting anxiety in sexual environment: don't eat much, do drink lots of water and a little alcohol, breathe through your abdomen, move twice as slowly as you think appropriate, and get someone to give you a massage.
posted by ead at 8:58 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sex is supposed to be fun. It is not a competition. If you want to learn ladysexing skills, there are certainly resources out there, but. You don't have to do anything "like a porn star" (and most women in professional porn are faking their orgasms anyway, so that's not a helpful comparison).
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:58 PM on February 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


If no one else is judging me, why should I judge myself?

Maybe if there is not an implicit judgement from the other three looming if you don't make yourself think differently, then there is at least pressure, and that what everyone is reading into. I don't think you were getting the answers you want because most people are hearing a different question than what you are asking in this question.


I still don't think that this is about you being attractive though. Maybe ask for a solo session with just the ladies? Or maybe get to know a lady who you pick out, and let attraction grow at a rate that makes you comfortable, especially if she is inexperienced too? Maybe those two just aren't the ones for you, and involving your husband could make it more high stakes to feel attraction that might just have too much pressure to get right.
posted by cakebatter at 9:04 PM on February 19, 2013


I still don't think that this is about you being attractive though. Maybe ask for a solo session with just the ladies? Or maybe get to know a lady who you pick out, and let attraction grow at a rate that makes you comfortable, especially if she is inexperienced too? Maybe those two just aren't the ones for you, and involving your husband could make it more high stakes to feel attraction that might just have too much pressure to get right.

Yeah. This. I get that these ladies were game but maybe this isn't the right mix for you right now. Especially if your husband has some other connection with them. I have a feeling that you'd feel like the odd one out even if you were all just having dinner together. Does it have to be a foursome? This sounds like a lot of pressure on you.
posted by amanda at 9:30 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


To echo the last few comments, it doesn't sound like this situation is going to get you the learning experience you are looking for and thus the overall experience you are hoping for either.

Per your insecurity surrounding the situation in general - learning to be vulnerable (which is what I think you are struggling with) requires practice by throwing your ego off the proverbial cliff again and again without knowing with certainty what will emerge on the other side.
posted by MillMan at 9:40 PM on February 19, 2013


Thanks for the added comments, particularly from those of you who have come back to the thread and considered my update. Thanks for sticking with it - I am trying to process a lot of these ideas, so the dialogue is helpful for me, and I hope it's not too annoying for all of you.

I think these recent responses are more helpful for me. Getting a debrief from the ladies could help me understand what specifically they found sexy, and I can try to find a way to start that conversation without it sounding like performance feedback. Reading erotica is another interesting suggestion, and I'm open to others along those lines. One thing I'd thought about independently was trying new ways of masturbating (I just ordered a new toy that is different from my regular standby) with the focus of just enjoying different sensations and not getting so caught up in an end goal.

What are some of the resources out there for ladysexing skills? I am definitely eager to learn more, but I don't foresee a ton of opportunities (this one lined up surprisingly well in terms of logistics). It sounds juvenile, but if there are ways to get practice without needing a partner (for example, exercising my tongue in certain ways), I would love to learn. I know technique can vary by person (which I observed first hand), but I think having some tools in the toolbox could help me feel more confident.

I'm willing consider other arrangements, but it's something I probably need to think about. Honestly, my husband's presence was really comforting. He did an amazing job making sure that he was always touching me in some way; he made eye contact and communicated verbally. It was comforting to know going into it that if things weren't working for me, I could easily call it off with his support. And after the main even wrapped up, it was great to cuddle with him. All four of us agreed in one conversation after the fact that it was good to have two couples there for a variety of reasons, and overall I liked that dynamic.
posted by A Special Kind of Weird at 9:54 PM on February 19, 2013


If you must be competitive about it, maybe consider not comparing yourself unfavorably with people who are unresponsive when you explicitly ask for direction and communication during sex. Also there's really nothing wrong at all with not orgasming like a porn star.
posted by headnsouth at 12:36 AM on February 20, 2013


This all sounds awkward and uncomfortable for you, but I'm wondering if you'd feel better if you just viewed that as totally normal and not as a problem to be solved?

Metaphor time. When I first started internet dating, on a first date we were going through line at the coffee shop. I felt terribly awkward: "uh oh, who pays? oh no, now I'm acting really awkward. Stop being awkward, self! Why do I always feel awkward when I don't have to!?? Am I just socially incompetent and create awkward situations?? Am I socially anxious and feel awkward during totally normal moments? What's wrong with me??"

Eventually, after about seven internet first dates, I realized that the moment of paying was awkward almost every single time. It just was. Even when I had a total plan and resolved not to be awkward, it kinda still was. Even when my date was socially slick, it was. So gradually, I got used to it. I'd take a deep inhale and swim into the waves of awkwardness, let them crash around me, and emerge on the other side 120 seconds later. The main difference was that I no longer thought those uncomfortable feelings meant anything. I wasn't doing anything wrong. I wasn't wrong for feeling that way. There was nothing I could solve, externally or internally. It was just going to feel like that for 120 seconds on every single first date. The best I could do was just maintain a little detached amusement and compassion for us both.

I think the same may be true here. What I'm trying to say is that maybe there's nothing to be solved. The issue may be neither (a) you're inferior to these people, nor (b) that you're an unreliable narrator because of your competitiveness streak. Your feelings and reactions sound uncomfortable, but also really reasonable and understandable. You are doing something new. You don't have any context for this. That makes it hard and scary. You are doing it with more experienced people. That can naturally provoke insecurity. It can also bring out whatever coping mechanisms you've used in the past to overcome challenges. Like, think of your first day on any new job. Isn't every first day boring, somehow incredibly stressful and exhausting, and full of awkward moments?

Once you try to look at what's going on for yourself through the lens of acceptance and not the lens of "how am I flawed?" maybe then you can look at how you're trying to cope with it, and which coping strategies are well-adapted to this situation (asking metafilter) and which might not help (putting a bunch of pressure on yourself to develop the strongest tongue of the group!).

If you do try to climb a ladder, make it a ladder of relaxation and enjoyment, where you can focus on having fun and on how much you enjoy these people's company, and not a ladder of performance. Be the subject, not the object. Track what percentage of your time you spend just being present in the room enjoying yourself vs. wondering what they're thinking of you.

A few other random comments:
- as a loosey goosey casual extrovert, I find structured people intriguing. They intimidate me and have a mysterious secret power. So I wouldn't assume the ladies were like "we only like you for your body."
- heavier can be super-sexy
posted by salvia at 12:39 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also, you might want to spread the word that you need more positive feedback. It's totally valid to need or want verbal affection during / after sex.
posted by salvia at 12:41 AM on February 20, 2013


Per your update...

You note that you're bi-curious, and I understand that the dynamic of two couples was helpful in some ways, but I wonder if you're trying to fly before you can walk? Why did you try a foursome before a twosome or threesome, for example? That's a lot of moving parts, and it by design creates the problem of worrying if you're enough lady for the lady when there's another lady in the bed, rather than to start something off that can be slow and build.

You said the ladies weren't much into giving feedback, and I think that makes it not ideal for your first experiences - not that you shouldn't ever sleep with them again! You totally should! But I think for your first ladytimes, you need to really be with someone who can give you feedback and kind of help you along, rather than an explicitly party situation. (Why I mentioned threesome - husband could still come but you wouldn't have the distractor of the extra lady and worrying about pleasing two ladies and blah blah blah.
posted by corb at 5:31 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


So you had zero previous experience with women and they are in a lesbian relationship? OF COURSE you didn't fuck them 'like a porn star'! I like to think about sex in terms of having multiple virginities, like: anal virginity, threesome virginity, orgasm virginity, whatever. Well, you were a group sex virgin and a gay sex virgin when you went into this experience!

You seem really hung up on the idea that you need to perform in bed- as in, act. But sex shouldn't be acting. You feel what you feel and that's ok; those ladies are responsible for their own pleasure and so are you. Hell, they probably loved the fact that you were inexperienced- that can be really fun!

But girl. There is no reason to feel bad because you didn't come dramatically enough.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:48 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it would also be really wise to make sure that you and your husband make an agreement that if group play is something you are doing together, that you do *all* of it together: checking out your potential new partners, playing with them, *and* relating with them afterward. Clearly a big part of your discomfort stems from him going to the first post-play meetup with them without you. Even if you were busy at the time of the offer to get together and talk with them, he could have countered with a suggestion of a time when he knew you could go. I suspect there's more than a little sense of abandonment around this episode--that it's pushing your buttons about your play partners being in your husbands' line of work, and extroverted like him, and maybe he likes them better than you, and maybe that's why he wanted to get together with them without you.

I think a lot of the time in new sexual situations, people don't know where the tricky parts are until they have done something inadvertently hurtful. I'm guessing this is one of those times. Believe your husband's reassurances, but build it into your rule book that you do it differently next time.

It occurs to me to ask, did you guys read Tristan Taormino's book Opening Up? If you haven't, you should. An excellent guide to covering all these kinds of issues, to thinking about potential hot buttons beforehand and to coping if real life turns out differently than you imagined. Check it out... And have fun!
posted by Sublimity at 8:22 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there any reason why you all four couldn't get together and have another debrief? There is no time limit on when you can have them, and it sounds like everyone is pretty open and understanding, you can just meet casually for drinks and not make it a big deal, but say you need to talk about things to feel right with it. Most people understand that sort of thing, and if you were planning to make it more than a one off event I think it would be a very important thing to do before you move on. You can bring up your fears, and maybe ask for suggestions or comments from the girls. If you are thinking about doing this again, you can get some ideas for things to try or work on next time, which might be kind of fun in the first place.

Remember though just because you were the one that wanted to do this doesn't mean you have to do it again, or that it has to work out just like you imagined in your head. Sometimes fantasy and reality don't match up, and that's OK but it can take a little time to process. I am wondering if that was the case here a little. Also remember the first time you had sex, it was probably awkward, confusing and not as good as you thought it would be and you wondered if you'd "done it right" well really this was your first time doing this sort of thing, so allow yourself some slack about making it perfect the first time.
posted by wwax at 9:45 AM on February 20, 2013


Sometimes there is so much "i'm cool, I can be GGG" pressure that we fail to acknowledge the fact that having sex with 3 other people might not be for everyone.

These anxieties aren't fake, they aren't imagined. They are real.


This may not be your thing.
posted by French Fry at 1:42 PM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Having grown up being on the heavy side, I don't trust people who are more attractive than me finding me attractive. (I'd say on the typical 1 to 10 scale, my husband and I are the same rank. I'd place them a notch or two above us.)

Having grown up on the skinny and big-nosed side, I never trusted people who were more attractive than me finding me attractive. I am *so* glad I got over that. It allowed me to date some jaw-droppingly gorgeous people. The trick here is that it was my jaw that dropped, but that's the only jaw that matters to me. I and the rest of the world are not blowing smoke up your ass when we say there's no objective, linear way to measure beauty. It's awesome that you find these two women a notch or two above you, and it's just as likely they would say the same.
posted by funkiwan at 2:07 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


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