I have some sex issues, but I also have a potential partner who is willing to work with me on them. How to proceed?
July 6, 2011 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Late to the sex game, and for the first time, I think the boy I'm with is the one who might be able to work with me on this. He is aware of the issues. Looking for advice on best way to proceed. More inside.

For various reasons, I have hit my early 30s and not had intercourse. I had a very bad early experience in university (everything but the penetration) and had some personal issues which preoccupied me later on. This, combined with a perhaps innate prudishness and time getting away from me more than I thought it would, have allowed me to reach this point without the 'full' deal.

Now, the boy :) We have a lot in common, great vibe, it's been going super-well. He was briefly married and has a child who lives with its mother in another city, but other than that he has not had much experience either (he said his wife was his third partner and he has not dated since the marriage broke up). His big hang-up was that he had major surgery as a child and has scars on his body. He worried about telling me this, but it actually reassured me that perhaps he will not 'judge' my body the way I fear potential partners might because he understands that nobody is perfect.

Both of us are more the intellectual 'in our heads' type, and I think we would benefit from some direct ideas about ways to proceed here. The relationship is going very well and he has talked about some weekend trips. I think I want to resolve the sex issue before we do that. He is aware of my issues and says he is quite content to go very slow, make me feel comfortable and work with me on this. We seem to be in agreement that a strong friendship is the best foundation for a relationship and the physical intimacy can come as that strengthens. We feel we have the strong friendship well underway and perhaps it is time to begin addressing the other stuff.

I have sporadically and other a period of several years seen a cognitive behavior therapy specialist for coping strategies for anxiety (it was a regular thing over perhaps a summer and I have seen her one or two times since when a major issue has come up) and I am thinking of seeing her again about this now that a potential partner is actually in the picture. I have some time off work in mid-August and plan to do it then if things are still going as well as they are. But I would love suggestions, both for him and for me, for ways we can talk about this, explore physical intimacy in non-penetration ways (I don't love kissing but am a good cuddler) in preparation, and how we can work up to the actual sex part.

Both of us are, on the whole, healthy and productive adults. There are no big 'issues' here other than what's been mentioned. It's just that I have somehow gotten to this point without getting to the act itself, and now that it's so late in the game, I am a bit anxious about how to proceed---on both our ends---now that I have a potential partner who both understands and is willing to work with me on this.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A good vibrator and some non-offensive adult film viewing and a lot of hands on to see where these feelings go. As for the penetration, I have no idea but I think it happens when the time is right and the friction is lessened.
posted by Freedomboy at 11:28 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would say if there's any particular act that makes you uncomfortable to think about, don't force it. Take it slooowly, with the mindset that you guys have forever to explore, so drawing out the exploration process is a good idea. Savor it. Enjoy just giving massages and licking/touching the nonsexy parts too - shoulders, knees, tummies. Those get unfortunately ignored later on, good to put them into rotation.
posted by namesarehard at 11:34 AM on July 6, 2011

I would keep in mind that penis-in-vagina sex is just one of many forms of sex and we aren't obligated to define it just that way. Yes, you haven't done it yet, and since you wrote a question about it, I take it it's important and desirable to you... But keep your mind open to the option for lots of different types of sex, and remember that they are equally as valid, valuable and enjoyable! I hate the word "foreplay" for example, because that's sex just as much as anything else.

Furthermore, I'd highly recommend getting comfortable with your own body as you move through this process. Do you masturbate? Does he? Do you each know what feels good to you? Is orgasm important to you, possible? For him? If not, maybe take that off the table for your initial explorations. Talk about all this, in a non-sexual setting, and that can help you mentally prepare for all the fun times ahead.

tl;dr: keep an open mind and figure out what makes you comfortable and gives you pleasure; talk about it with partner; enjoy.
posted by Betty's Table at 11:42 AM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Also, remember that a good lube is your best friend and favorite sex toy. There are plenty of great options out there. See here for examples: lubes and safer sex
posted by Betty's Table at 11:48 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Being comfortable with your own body is an important first step. Explore your sexuality, learn what you enjoy and experiment with your partner. It would be ideal if you didn't see penetrative sex as a hurdle but as a natural extension of events. You need to be aroused to find the experience enjoyable, so work first on arousal. Get comfortable with each others bodies, developing that intimacy with each other.
There is really a lot to go into, but hopefully things will be driven by your want of things to proceed. You like cuddling, do you like massages? Does he have experience pleasing a woman? Have you built up a fear of penetrative sex or expectations? Some people want to rush into the fear of the unknown and get it over with. You need to give sex a chance and figure out what you like, which may take a while, but there is no rush. It shouldn't be something to be endured, that would be a waste of an experience. Work on your arousal and take it from there. Do you not like kissing in general or with him? There are so many questions to ask.
posted by provoliminal at 1:45 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might consider picking up and reading together (or separately and then discussing) The Guide to Getting It On. It's a book that explores sex—broadly construed—in very respectful adult terms. It includes a ton of specific advice geared towards exploring both your own and your partner's sexual needs/desires/proclivities. Much of the advice is about activities other than intercourse, and it strikes a nice balance between the fun parts of exploration and the more clinical (yet still valuable) parts.

Because your partner seems mature and understanding about your concerns, it shouldn't be threatening to him if you directly suggest exploring this together. Or, if you prefer to make things a bit more fun/spontaneous, you could either give him the book as a gift or simply read it yourself and start applying what you've learned a bit at a time.

In any case, congratulations on finding someone who sounds like a wonderful match for you! Your clear desire to overcome your anxiety, along with a supportive partner, should put you on the road to...well...getting it on.
posted by maxim0512 at 3:24 PM on July 6, 2011

I know someone who didn't have consensual, penetrative sex til her 30s. She met a guy, and started to have sex, and loved it. If having sex is okay, which it is, not having had much sex is okay, too. You aren't as weird as you may think (if you do); the range of experience is vast. When you start getting sexy with this guy, make sure it's a relaxed and fun environment, not a huge buildup. It takes practice for 2 people to get really good at sex together.
posted by theora55 at 3:35 PM on July 6, 2011

One thing to just bear in mind as you guys contemplate first-time sex for you: Things don't always...fit...right the first time. Bodies don't always cooperate the way they're supposed to either. Be patient with each other, be gentle, and if things are a little too, say, squeezy, or awkward, or ouchy, or whatever, to get the deed done the first time, well, practice makes perfect. There's always tomorrow night. Just don't go in sure that this will be a mind-blowing, Hollywood-style First Time.

It could be All That & A Bag of Chips, but it could also be awkward, wet, messy fun with a sideorder of frustration when one or both parties do not quite get where their body is telling them they need to be. Just keep in mind both of you, that this is someone you care about & who cares about you, because that is the most important part. You will doubtless have the opportunity to get messy again with them soon, and will quickly find out what works & doesn't work between you, so long as you keep the lines of communication open.
posted by Ys at 6:35 PM on July 6, 2011

Get naked together in a no-pressure situation. With the lights on. Human bodies are all funny looking, so nothing to worry about there :) Communicate, communicate, communicate! Tell him what you think you might like and what you might not like. Most of all, don't panic. Its wonderful when things all go well, but even long-term lovers have days when things don't go terribly well. Your age and lack of experience don't matter.

If you are extremely nervous about the first penetration, you might possibly make things easier on yourself by getting a small adult toy of the right shape and some lube. Or fingers, if toys are too embarrassing/difficult/illegal where you live.

Relax. Smile :) Enjoy it, him, you.... Just don't panic. It will be ok.
posted by Jacen at 6:54 PM on July 6, 2011

I have to recommend provoliminal's recommendation speaking as someone who has had two casual sex experiences. The first girl was comfortable with her body and willing to disrobe completely and I could engage in foreplay. The second girl was not and wore some lingerie that she didn't want to take off. There was no foreplay involved. I couldn't get in the moment with the second girl and just ended up giving up.

Guys aren't ready instantly. If you don't feel sexy, then that can translate to the guy not feeling in the mood. Oh, and the first time may be awkward and not some magical experience. You need to have more than one data point to determine if the sex is good.
posted by DetriusXii at 7:15 AM on July 8, 2011

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