Girlfriend emotionally damaged by previous relationship?
August 18, 2009 10:16 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I have been seeing each other for a couple of years now. We love each other, and have a lot of fun doing things (even hard work) together. When it comes to sex, though, she seems to have inherited a lot of hangups from a previous, long-term relationship.

Her previous mate was apparently obsessed with getting her off, and would insist on performing oral sex on her for ridiculous lengths of time rather than admit defeat. She can make herself cum pretty readily using her fingers, and I've been able to do it the same way once or twice, but she always seems to get upset when I do. She always thanks me fairly formally for getting her off, and often has tears in her eyes. I love going down on her, but it seems to do nothing much for her; in fact, sometimes I look up and find that she's been crying quietly while I was doing it.

I've read books devoted to the subject and tried a lot of things, so I don't think it's my technique. I love looking at/stroking/licking her body (especially her pussy) but it just seems to embarrass her. She seems to think her pussy is "dirty" (it's not - it's always just tasted/smelled/looked like clean skin) or that it's demeaning for me to do it (because she pees through there? She won't say.) She gets teary-eyed whenever I try to talk to her about it, too. Even when she makes herself cum, she doesn't make any sound, and she has to be lying on her back with her legs together. I suspect that she used to have to pleasure herself secretly in her old relationship, since her partner didn't approve of her masturbating if he couldn't get her off, and that's why she has taught herself not to move or make a sound when she gets off. She seems to enjoy being penetrated, but can't get off that way either, and rarely makes any sounds or moves during the process. I care very much for her, and I want her to be happy. I'd like to beat the person who taught her to be ashamed of her body and of enjoying sex. She probably should see a therapist, but every time I bring it up, I get more tears and denials that there's any problem. I understand that you can't "make" someone happy, but I love her dearly and I'd appreciate any suggestions anyone can offer who has had experience in this area. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

"I suspect that she used to have to pleasure herself secretly in her old relationship, since her partner didn't approve of her masturbating if he couldn't get her off, and that's why she has taught herself not to move or make a sound when she gets off."

I mean this with all kindness, but to me this seems to be a big leap logically. It might not be her old partner, but just part of her general tableau of hangups. The situation might be complicated enough without conjecture on your part.

I am quiet as a doormouse. I just am. I don't mean to be. It could be that she is the same.
posted by ian1977 at 10:45 AM on August 18, 2009

The ex-boyfriend may have been a complete jackass and the cause of this problem. However, now she has the problem. It is in her ballpark to address it. If she won't talk with you about it, and won't see a therapist, and insists that there's no problem (even though she cries during sex), there is nothing you can do. Until she's ready to address the problem, she will continue to have the problem.

(My guess, though, is that it's not necessarily the ex-boyfriend, but something going back much further. If the ex-boyfriend would perform oral sex for "ridiculous lengths of time," that doesn't match up with a subsequent belief that she's "dirty" or that it demeans the guy. Either way though, if she doesn't want -- or is not ready to address -- the problem, and in fact denies that there is a problem, nobody can fix it.)

The only possible solution I can see, and I'm not sure it would work, is to take the pressure off her. Stop sex when there are tears, have sex only when she initiates, don't quiz her about the problem or causes, make a few casual remarks but don't go overboard on the whole "you taste fine" thing, and stop watching her when she's masturbating and evaluating what "legs together" and "no sound" might mean in terms of her enjoyment of masturbating.
posted by Houstonian at 10:46 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

It seems like you are pushing her to do something she is not comfortable with. She's often silently crying when you go down on her? It sounds like she doesn't want you to be doing that. And her reaction of crying when you try to discuss it with her? Have you considered the possibility that something traumatic happened to her involving oral sex, that may or may not have anything to do with the previous lover? Unless she is also telling you, "No, no, sometimes I just get teary eyed when something feels pleasurably intense." I'd say that maybe she doesn't want you going down on her.
posted by piratebowling at 10:49 AM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

My experience is that whenever someone's getting over Bad Stuff in their past, the best thing to give them is acceptance. It is really, really tempting to try to push someone into feeling better — here they are climbing up this big rocky mountain towards happiness, wholeness and self esteem, and you want to put your shoulder behind them and dig in your heels and HELP, right? But my own experience is that pushing doesn't help, not really. What does help is saying, "Hey, you're halfway up the mountain? Cool! Let's camp out here together and rest for a while and enjoy the view. I trust you to do more climbing when you're ready."

In your situation, acceptance means enjoying sex with her on her terms. She doesn't like getting oral sex? Don't push it. She likes to masturbate a certain way? Don't try to "retrain" her.

Look at it this way. Orgasms are beautiful, right? And part of what makes them beautiful is that they're personal — everyone's are different — right? Well, your girlfriends' are no exception. They're not weird, broken, inadequate orgasms. They're not work-in-progress orgasms that will be better or more beautiful when she's gotten over her hangups. They're the special personal orgasms of someone who you love, hangups and all. Enjoying them as they are is one way you can give her the acceptance she needs.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:55 AM on August 18, 2009 [27 favorites]

partner didn't approve of her masturbating if he couldn't get her off

this is extremely messed up and means that something was really wrong in that relationship.

That being said, I'm not sure whether they way she masturbates has something to do with that - it may just be the way it works for her and, by the way, a lot of women masturbate that way. Neither do all women scream and moan when they come.

There is also one thing that I find very problematic; you wrote that you like having oral sex with her, but she doesn't seem to enjoy it and cries when you do it. So...why do you do it if she's obviously not feeling comfortable with it and apparently had horrible experiences with her ex-boyfriend??? Frankly, I don't think your technique is the issue here.
posted by Bearded Dave at 10:58 AM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

By "read books about the subject" do you perhaps mean watched a great deal of porn?

Obviously the crying is not good (unless that is her kink, it doesn't seem like you've really addressed any of this with her directly) but otherwise I think you are reading a whole lot into your girlfriend's behavior.
posted by shownomercy at 11:03 AM on August 18, 2009

I'm assuming the tears in her eyes aren't a good thing, which isn't always the case. I think the easiest thing you can do is not pressure her.

Not being able to orgasm from penetrative sex is not unusual at all. I'm a guy, and it's happened to me. Some times the magic works, sometimes... not so much. Oral sex doesn't have to be a race with a finish line that must be crossed. It can just be a jog around the block.

It's not unusual for some women to think of their genitals as being unclean. This misconception can come about for a few different reasons (internal, hard to see, societal norms, &tc) (The Vagina Monologues, though I dislike the culture around it, has plenty of perspective on this.) Not all girls are screamers/moaners and orgasm is a LOT harder then Vivid or BurningAngel would have you believe. Amateur dancers are

Dan Savage (via the Savage love column) has given the advice that orgasms should be your own responsibility. He's not advocating being a selfish lover, but there can be a lot of pressure to orgasm. That, coupled with any "hangups" she has regardless of origin, can result in overwhelming stress which is the exact opposite of the desired effect.

There are a lot of Is in your question. It's great that you're concerned for her well-being and pleasure but the suggestion that she see a therapist because doesn't enjoy the sex you want her to have is a bit misplaced. Why not use this as an opportunity to try some mild conditioning of your own? Is she willing to share her masturbation with you? Can you praise/pet/hold her while during? Let her show you how to play with her, and if she doesn't know how (it's not like these things come with instruction manuals!) take the time to explore together.
posted by now i'm piste at 11:08 AM on August 18, 2009

When it comes to sex, though, she seems to have inherited a lot of hangups from a previous, long-term relationship.

I wouldn't let myself get so hung up about making her come.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:25 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Quiet means nothing. Legs together means nothing. (It's a not uncommon masturbatory position, I think?)

But the tears indicate a problem.
posted by kestrel251 at 11:44 AM on August 18, 2009

This doesn't sound like a "hangup," it sounds like sexual abuse and all the emotional baggage that comes along with it. Her ex, by forcing her (even if not physically) into receiving oral sex when she didn't want it, was violating her. It wasn't giving her any pleasure, but it was giving him power over her body, and it sounds like she was very uncomfortable with it, even if she didn't speak up.

Stop trying to push her into receiving oral. I'm sure you have only admirable intentions, but she's not associating this act with anything positive. Maybe she will eventually, but you need to stop doing something that triggers her so intensely that she cries. If she can feel safe with you-- that is, if she KNOWS that you won't violate her, that she can say no, that she can trust you with her body-- maybe you can approach oral again.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:47 AM on August 18, 2009 [8 favorites]

She can make herself cum pretty readily using her fingers

So what's the problem? She's getting off. Are you making this about you -- do you have the idea that her orgasm doesn't count if you're not the one causing it? It sounds as if there are in fact underlying issues here, but there's also a good chance that you're also pressuring her too much.
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:49 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

She probably should see a therapist, but every time I bring it up, I get more tears and denials that there's any problem.

You've done what you can, talking to her and failing that, suggesting therapy and she is unable or unwilling to do either. It's time for you to drop it and let her be who she is. If you keep pressing her on this, you're being a jerk. If you love her, then love her and quit trying to fix her.

Yes, she obviously has issues it's ok if you decide now or later that those issues are too much and leave her, but for now, just let it go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:00 PM on August 18, 2009

Definitely past abuse, and probably long before her previous boyfriend.

posted by coolguymichael at 12:04 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please stop doing things that upset her or make her cry. She does not want you to finger her or perform oral on her, ok? Don't turn into her ex-boyfriend.
posted by iconomy at 12:05 PM on August 18, 2009 [11 favorites]

You seem to realize that she's not going to change unless she wants to change, which is good.

That said, she's crying quite a lot if she's crying every time you try and get her off--so it does sound like on some level something is wrong, but also like she's overwhelmed by the difficulty of making it better. You can't push her all the way there, but you're her partner, this is affecting you, and you need to see if there's something both of you can do together to make her tears stop.

So I would suggest framing the problem differently. Don't turn this into her problem by saying "so you should go to therapy" or "so I suspect this is because your ex made you get off silently"--that sort of approach is just going to increase the pressure on her, which is going to make her more overwhelmed, which is going to lead to more tears.

(It's also worthwhile to consider that making this about her orgasm might make her feel like she's with her obsessive ex again. So try to speak and think more holistically about it--it's not whether or not she can get off that's important, it's whether she's happy, and getting off should be a secondary consideration. If she cries while you're fingering her to orgasm, maybe she would rather be doing something else.)

Try telling her that you love having sex with her, but you want her to love it as well, and when she cries you get the sense that she isn't loving it, and what can you as her partner do to make sure she will love it? If she says "There's no problem," you can continue to insist that if she's crying, there's a problem, because that's true, but make sure that you're not putting pressure on her to figure out what's wrong with oral sex specifically, and don't project your suspicions of what's wrong onto her, because that's going to make her clam up. Be open to what she thinks the situation is, and be open to exploring her ideas of what would be fun and sexy.

Maybe crying is just what she does when it's oral sex overload, and you need her to give you a better signal of when to stop before it gets to be too much. Maybe she wants to get herself off quietly and motionlessly while you stroke her hair. Maybe penetration is good, but penetration with her touching herself at the same time would be better.

If you start from the place of "How can we improve our sex life as a whole?" instead of the place of "I love oral sex and you're not into it, can you see a therapist?", I think you could potentially make much more progress here.

Good luck to both you and your girlfriend.
posted by besonders at 12:18 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you need to back off her, a lot. Your post made me very uncomfortable--I sound a lot like your girlfriend, and there's definitely no trauma or abuse in my sexual history, but you seem intent that there's something wrong with her.

Like her, I'm not crazy about receiving oral sex. It doesn't do much for me, although it can be pleasurable. I don't think I'm dirty, I don't have any bad associations with it, it's just like someone stopped the sexytimes to give me a footrub. Okay, that was nice, but can we do something that's going to get me OFF? Maybe she's crying because she's frustrated that you're doing this again after she's indicated that she's not crazy about it, or because she wants it to feel better/different than it does and she can't do that to please you. Maybe they're happy sex tears (it's possible).

I care very much for her, and I want her to be happy...She probably should see a therapist, but every time I bring it up, I get more tears and denials that there's any problem.

If she says she's happy, and that there's no problem, and she doesn't want to see a therapist about this, leave it alone. One of MeFi's favorite sayings: Believe what people tell you about themselves. Leave the door open for her to talk to you about it, but next time you talk about it, let HER bring it up.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:02 PM on August 18, 2009 [5 favorites]

(I thought there were some people who just cried as a reaction to orgasm, the way some people laugh or sneeze. But I'm assuming this isn't that sort of crying.)

If she says she's happy, you probably should take her word for it. Don't confuse your unhappiness with hers.
posted by Casuistry at 2:40 PM on August 18, 2009

Spend plenty of time telling her she's beautiful, desirable, and telling her, as you told us, how clean, tasty, wonderful, etc., she is. Stop talking about/thinking about/discussing her old bf. Invite her, as in "No" is an acceptable response, to do more sexual play without orgasm. Naked, bed, candles, and exploration. Reduce the pressure to reach orgasm.
posted by theora55 at 2:42 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely past abuse, and probably long before her previous boyfriend.

Is this a joke? On what basis do you equate "woman who doesn't enjoy receiving oral from current bf" to "definitely caused by prior abuse"???

Maybe the OP is terrible at it, all his "reading" not withstanding. Maybe she's just shy and he's forcing her into it. Maybe it just doesn't feel good for her, regardless of whose performing it. But to instantly leap to abuse? For fuck's sake....
posted by modernnomad at 2:43 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

You first need to drop the assumption that every "normal" woman wants and enjoys receiving oral sex. It may be some cliche man advice that all women love, it, but it just ain't true.
posted by ishotjr at 3:35 PM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

When I first became sexually active, I had a very hard time getting off. Oral did little for me, manual and penetration were better but I still couldn't orgasm with them. I could only come from masturbation, and yeah, I was quiet and I didn't move much. I grew up in a house with thin walls and I didn't want my parents to hear, liberal and sex-positive though they were.

It took a lot of exploration for me to learn what could get me going. A lot of time and effort and creativeness - and some wonderful partners who not only wanted me to have a good time but were willing to wait for me to do it on my terms.

It sounds like her previous boyfriend was not such a good partner. Newsflash: you're not such a great partner either. A healthy appreciation for her body and a strong desire to see her pleasured, while wonderful, are NO USE without the understanding that it is HER body and she can do whatever she damn well pleases with it - even if that means behaving in ways that make her seem embarrassed, ashamed, or sexually unenlightened to you. When you try to change her behavior or influence her desires, that sends a message to her that there's something wrong with them. And there is nothing wrong with them! Being unable to come from specific sex acts, masturbating quietly - by god, that's utterly normal.

My advice to you is to make it clear to her that you're happy with whatever makes her happy. That while you'd be excited to explore and experiment with her, you are perfectly content with the way sex is now. In the end, it's her call - and trying to change her behavior will only make things worse, especially when she's had problems with partners trying to change her behavior before.
posted by shaun uh at 3:55 PM on August 18, 2009 [6 favorites]

If she's crying then something is really wrong. Be supportive. If you can, go to therapy with her.
posted by xammerboy at 4:05 PM on August 18, 2009

It's sounds like maybe she was abused in the past, and her behaviors are not necessarily linked to the mentioned "ex". Crying during sex, (unless it is, as some mentioned, some sort of pleasure in pain type deal), is most likely a sign of issues associated with the sexual act, or repressed feelings about a past experience.
I know a lot of friends who are uncomfortable with guys going down on them, mostly because they feel dirty, but in a hygenic sense. They are just not comfortable with it.
But allowing someone to do it, and then crying about it-- if shes uncomfortable, she needs to set boundaries.
She should seek therapy.
posted by shannie-bananie at 4:17 PM on August 18, 2009

You know, I'd like to offer a slightly different perspective. I am female and have had a few male partners who had deep desires for sex but tremendous culturally based shame about their bodies. From your description, I would put your partner in their category, personal shame about the body. It a mystery why some people have it and others don't. I've know males who had extremely liberal parents who still had a lot of shame and disgust about their own bodies.

Lots of people are in abusive relationships, get out, and go on to leave all that baggage behind.

If your girlfriend won't budge on talking about it, working on it, and participating with you in moving forward, you have to figure out if you are willing to accept that, as much as you care for her.

I will tell you personally that my male partners' aversion, disgust, and unwillingness to move forward made them an unsatisfying sex partner eventually.
posted by effluvia at 5:36 PM on August 18, 2009

But allowing someone to do it, and then crying about it-- if she's uncomfortable, she needs to set boundaries.

Generally I would agree with this, shannie-bananie, but I think here it is a little more complicated. Arguing this way moves the responsibility back into her lap (no pun intended) and I don't think that is fair.

I'm sorry, but some people are not that self-assertive, and especially for survivors of sexual abuse these things can be very difficult to talk about. (And her former partner forbidding her to masturbate when he was not able to make her orgasm is counting as abuse in my book).

There might be a psychological trigger and, thinking about her past relationship, she obviously seems to have a problem with setting boundaries. However, this doesn't give her current boyfriend a free license to do whatever he pleases until she says something, especially if he's aware that there is an issue.

She doesn't enjoy oral sex. God, there are legions of women who don't enjoy oral sex. She might say that everything is okay because she just doesn't want to talk about it. He should try to talk with her without being pushy and give her the space to answer on her own time.

And by the way, an orgasm is not the make-it-or-break-it of healthy sexuality - there is so much more.
posted by Bearded Dave at 5:55 PM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think that "don't do things that result in your partner crying and feeling ashamed" is a generally applicable rule for good sex, yeah?

Why, for now, not do the sex things she likes and let her know that there are other sex things you'd like to do when/if she feels like doing those things? Then, after you've gotten past the crying/ashamed sex for a bit, talk about what you would like in a non-pressurey way.

You have the right to want to go down on her, but that's trumped by her right to not want to be gone down on. If, in the long run, that's going to be a deal-breaker for you, you can give her that information in a non-pressurey way and she can decide how she wants to respond--give it a whirl again, see a therapist to work on what's behind her current feelings about oral sex or whatever, or let you know that it's not something she wants.

Also, the time to talk about people's issues with particular sex acts is not: a) during sex; b) just after sex; or (worst) c) just before sex.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:07 PM on August 18, 2009

My latest ex couldn't understand my revulsion for receiving oral sex either. I told him - several times - that I DO NOT LIKE receiving oral sex. I hate it. I loathe it. I've never liked it - and there's no *reason* for me not to like it. I. Just. Don't. Like. It!

But he insisted that it was a must for him, and that I would learn to love it.

I didn't.

If your girlfriend doesn't like oral sex and she cries when you go down on her, then I would suggest you not attribute that reaction completely to an ex but perhaps think that it might be that she's not enjoying what you're doing to her right now, and stop doing it. If you really do love her and want to please her, why are you making her cry? There's so much more to do in a sex act than oral sex and penetration. Explore and find things both of you find pleasing so that both of you can enjoy your times together.
posted by patheral at 10:42 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with the pile on and just say their is something "icky" about the way you are approaching this. Sex is about the emotional connection as well as the physical, if not more so. Orgasms aren't everything anyway. And your emotional connection seems to be severely lacking at least in this context if you are doing something that makes her cry. I'm not sure why she doesn't just tell you to stop, but sometimes it may help you to look at actions as well as words for whether to do something and her actions are saying, "don't do this."

I think your intentions are good and you probably mean well. But your question sounds more like it is subconsciously saying, "I can't make my girlfriend have an orgasm in a way that I want her to and that makes me feel bad. How can I get her to stop making me feel bad?"

She may or may not have issues, I don't know. But YOU sound as if you do. Perhaps you should go to therapy.
posted by Bueller at 12:25 AM on August 19, 2009

I'm probably going to regret this, but I'm the OP. I'd like to thank those of you who gave me good, friendly advice and suggestions, and I'd also like to tell those of you who made catty, snide remarks where to put them. That being said, it's all given me a lot to think about. As a bit of background, I'm a 46-year-old bisexual man. I've been with a number of males in my lifetime, all of whom were very appreciative of oral sex. I'd never had any real experience with a female before this, and I guess I took my past experience with 15 or 20 males all loving oral sex, combined it with various things I've read in the past that seemed to suggest women sometimes have trouble getting their men to go down on them, and my enthusiasm to please my new girlfriend, and concluded (obviously incorrectly, I see now) that all women enjoy having oral sex performed on them. She said her ex insisted on carrying it on for far too long with the idea that he could get her off if he tried hard enough. She married him when she was 18 and still a virgin and he was 35 or 40 or something. From what she's said, he was very controlling and inflexible, so I've tried to keep sex playful and fun, and show her that it doesn't have to be a death march to orgasm. She doesn't get much out of having any other parts of her body stimulated, so I was left with oral. She says she enjoys being penetrated, which we also engage in, but the importance of foreplay has been emphasized so much in everything I've read that I'm at a bit of a loss. "Get undressed, screw, get dressed, the end" seems like it would leave us (or at least me) feeling pretty emotionally shortchanged, so I've been trying to introduce some other activities. Any useful suggestions?

P.S. - Just because I'm inept, don't assume I'm a self-centered bastard, okay? The reading I did on how to please a woman came from self-help books at the library - not "porn" as someone suggested. And as for the crying, it's not like she's bawling her eyes out and I'm saying, "Just shut up and take it". I'll be gently trying something I think she'll like, and thinking she _is_ liking it, and then glance up and see tears. Sometimes it's even something I've done before that she seemed to enjoy. I immediately stop doing whatever it is, dry her eyes, hold her, and try to get her to talk to me about what she's feeling (which she seems to have real trouble doing). I don't claim to be perfect; far from it. But give me credit for trying to be a good partner, okay?
posted by Death by Ugabooga at 2:19 PM on August 19, 2009

Wow, that's a lot of extra information!

What if you slowly moved into foreplay area? Really slowly. Is she ok with holding hands? Touching in general (like, rubbing her shoulders, spontaneous hugging, pats as you walk past)?

If those are ok, what about the next steps? Can rubbing her shoulders move to touching her breasts? Can spontaneous hugs sometimes turn into a playful pelvic push? Things like that? Can you two do that while laughing and goofing off, just playing around and not as an immediate lead-up to sex?

Is it possible that, (assuming some lack of experience with many partners) she's feeling kinda lost and confused, pressured and frustrated?
posted by Houstonian at 2:36 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

My apologies for the tone of my response. I definitely stand by the substance, but I used rather strong wording, which I would have edited down a little bit if, you know, Metafilter had an edit function.

If she's only had one partner, and that partner was controlling/abusive, she's probably not going to have developed healthy ways of communicating her needs and desires. I would focus less on trying to change her behavior - again, trying to do so implies that she needs to change, which is a terrible implication for her to have to deal with - and more on opening up effective lines of communication.

I think this is especially important for you, since you are basing so much of your interaction with her on assumptions and on what you've read. Not that knowing how to interact with and please one woman will translate automatically into understanding and pleasing another, but there is something to be said for a partner who knows how quirky and unpredictable a woman's body can be. I think what set a lot of people off in your post was precisely this - your assumption that most women behave in certain ways and that, because she didn't, you needed to fix her.

So how can you help her communicate with you? One suggestion is to try talking with her about it at different times - not just before/during/after sex but at other times, perhaps when you're cuddling together on the couch or sitting together after dinner. Another is to try to make clear to her that your discussion is just talking - that there's no underlying goal to change anything, there's no problem the talk is aiming to fix, you really just want to get to know her better. Yet another suggestion is to start by talking about yourself in a sexual context, open yourself up to her, let her empathize with you first. Above all, don't push the communication issue too hard. In the end, it's up to her, not you.
posted by shaun uh at 2:57 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

but there is something to be said for a partner who knows how quirky and unpredictable a woman's body can be


Just as a data point, there are times of the month when I just can't get off. I still enjoy sex, but an orgasm just isn't going to happen. Thankfully the guys I've been with have been understanding.

Also, what men what in sex and what women want seem, from my experience, to be pretty damn different. I respectfully suggest that you throw out everything you think you know from your experience with men and start fresh.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:23 PM on August 19, 2009

what men WANT in sex..
posted by small_ruminant at 3:24 PM on August 19, 2009

I agree, that gives a lot more background. From what you wrote, it appears like she didn't have many 'good' or empowering sexual experiences (assuming that this guy was her only partner before you met her) and I think the power balance between an 18-year-old virgin and a 35-40-year-old very controlling and dominant man is extremely uneven, to say the least.

Houstonian is right, you should take things very slowly. I don't know what the age difference between you guys is, but I assume that you are older than she is, which, if this is the case, can lead to the same power-dynamic even if you are not aware of it happening.

You looking at books to figure out how "women work" is good, but I think you should include her in your learning and talk with her about it. Don't read stuff and then simply apply it, assuming that she will like it.

Considering the situation, I would take a look at some books that focus on relationships and trust and sexuality. Barbara Carrella's "Urban Tantra" could be a good place to start. It involves a lot of relaxation exercises, massages, breathing techniques, etc. Given that both of you, in one way or the other, are inexperienced, why not start from zero together and move on from there and explore?
posted by Bearded Dave at 5:42 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for being brave enough to step up and say more. (FWIW, it's also possible to get extra info posted in an anonymous thread by emailing it to one of the mods — usually people send it to Jessamyn, since she's the one who spends the most time in AskMe. It's totally awesome that you came in with your own account, but in the future you don't have to if you don't want to.)

"Get undressed, screw, get dressed, the end" seems like it would leave us (or at least me) feeling pretty emotionally shortchanged, so I've been trying to introduce some other activities. Any useful suggestions?

There's a pretty strong assumption most places these days that foreplay in a hetero relationship is all about the woman's body.

Really there's at least two hidden assumptions in there: One is that women always need time to get turned on and in the mood, and men never do, so you only ever do as much foreplay as the woman wants. The other assumption is that the way to get a woman turned on is to focus on her body — kiss her, stroke her, touch her breasts, go down on her — rather than interacting on an equal level or letting her focus on your body.

I'm gonna suggest that both those assumptions are wrong. First off, men are entitled to foreplay too, if they want it — and some men want lots of foreplay, just like some women don't want much or any. If you want there to be a step in between "get undressed" and "screw," if going right from one to the other keeps you from enjoying sex, then there should be a step (of some sort! that you both like!) in between there, even if it feels a little silly or extraneous.

And second off, foreplay doesn't have to be all focused on her. On some level, you know this, because you've seen how it works in gay relationships. Yeah, getting oral sex can turn you on. But giving oral sex can turn you on, and making out in a generalized way with no top-bottom roles can turn you on, and having a tickle fight can turn you on, and talking dirty can turn you on, and....

Introducing a woman into the relationship — or setting up penetrative sex as the Main Event that everything leads up to — doesn't change any of that. Foreplay, for you guys, doesn't have to mean Typical Straight Dude Sex Guide Foreplay (which, yeah, can be summed up as "Have her lie back and relax and then touch her a lot with body parts that aren't your penis"). It can be makeouts or tickle fights or swapping dirty stories. It can also be her giving you a massage or a handjob or oral sex. That might change the power dynamic in a way that really works for her, since it gives her a chance to control the situation and takes the focus off of her body and her orgasms entirely. ('Course, it might be No Fun, especially since a lot of women do have hangups about, say, giving handjobs or oral sex — for some people it's not a pleasant being-in-control thing, it's an objectifying jeez-I've-got-to-service-this-lazy-asshole thing. So maybe talk about it first, but don't assume that she'll hate it.)

Like Bearded Dave sez: Given that both of you, in one way or the other, are inexperienced, why not start from zero together and move on from there and explore? I like that way of framing it. Stop thinking about hetero foreplay as something that you do to her — a way of thinking that I can't blame you for, because, yeah, it's culturally ubiquitous and you don't have experience with women to balance it out — and start thinking about it as fooling around and exploring together.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:29 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I, too, apologize for my remarks coming off as catty. I didn't mean them to, and I do think you are well-intentioned and trying to be thoughtful and caring about this. It was more like I wanted to get you to look at yourself as well as her. And I appreciate the additional information, because it appears that, yes, this is at least equally about your past experiences/hang-ups with sex as it might be about hers. I agree with the others, you both are inexperienced, albeit in different ways. If you did go to therapy (either together or alone) I think one of the first things the therapist would say to you is to lose all of these assumptions of stuff you read in books or found with past partners to be true (for the past partner) and focus on getting to know each other from scratch. No pressure, just discovering each other. If an O happens, great. If not, that's not the main goal in life. It is all about loving each other and making each other feel loved and feel good. Good luck.
posted by Bueller at 8:30 AM on August 20, 2009

Is this a joke? On what basis do you equate "woman who doesn't enjoy receiving oral from current bf" to "definitely caused by prior abuse"???

Finding a sex act that you willingly engage in so horrible that you weep silently the whole time is a sign of serious previous trauma (likely early childhood, but who knows?) So no, it's not a joke. The guy is clearly insensitive, but the girl is equally clearly f-ed in the head. Therapy.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:15 PM on August 20, 2009

I think "insensitive" is a bit harsh. An insensitive man would not even consider this a problem. If he did consider it a problem, an insensitive man would not ask for possible solutions.

Maybe he's confused or hurt. I know if a sexual partner cried during sex, I'd be confused and hurt, as it would be the last thing I'd want to have happen. Maybe he's even goal-oriented, and thus frustrated. It's a man's approach to make things work, to fix problems. It would be frustrating to have a sexual partner who you believe never enjoys sex. He might even be ashamed, feeling inadequate in his attempts. He's read books, he's giving it his best try, but it's not working.

So yes, maybe a double-helping of therapy would help, but she won't go and she won't admit there's a problem. He's still sticking by her, and trying to find solutions. That's not too insensitive.
posted by Houstonian at 12:37 PM on August 20, 2009

Hey guys - thanks. Really. Sorry it's taken me a few days to respond. I kind of f'ed up here because I forgot she reads Metafilter, and she recognized herself in my post, so I'm kind of in the doghouse at the moment. When you ask someone "Hey - what's wrong?" and they say, "WHY don't you ask METAFILTER???" while death-rays shoot out of their eyes and the ambient temperature drops to somewhere around absolute zero, you know you're in trouble. I really don't know at the moment what's going on. I apologized over and over, and finally just left her alone. She eventually came and found me and seemed to be willing to let it go (note: not necessarily forgiving me for airing her (anonymous) dirty laundry in public, but she's talking to me again). I ordered the Urban Tantra book a couple of people recommended, but I may be using it by myself. I don't know. I miss warmth. I miss the laughter and the fun we had when we first met. Maybe it's a case of familiarity breeding contempt; maybe she's decided I'm an ass. Maybe I am. But dammit, I'm doing the best I can. How do you approach it when you really want someone to be happy, but you suspect that you're part of the reason they're not?
posted by Death by Ugabooga at 6:47 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

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