Sex is Natural, Sex is... Fun (Right?)
June 1, 2013 8:26 PM   Subscribe

My very sweet, kind, funny, smart, caring, new, younger boyfriend is... how to put this... terrible in bed. Over several months, we've had about a half dozen "encounters" (we live in different cities), and they have left me feeling bewildered, drained, confused, and overwhelmed. It's not that there's one thing that isn't working, and it's not "technique"-- it's like the entire foundation is out of alignment. Either we're just super incompatible, or one of us is doing something wrong. I'd really like to figure out how to approach this, and I don't know how to even begin this conversation.

(Deep breath)

Here's the issue, as best as I can describe it. I'm recognizing that it's totally possible that I'm doing something to contribute to this, so I'm not trying to say "He bad, I good." I have had fulfilling sexual partnerships in the past, where none of these things were an issue. Mr. Anon really is a lovely, kind, giving person, so as far as I can tell, this issues do not stem from selfishness on his part.

A sampling:

*He doesn't respond to verbal or nonverbal cues-- like I'll say "that's great" and he'll start going faster, or I'll say, "Can we slow down?" and he'll slow down for a sec and then speed up again. If I encourage him to continue with what he's doing, he'll change it.

*I think of sex as sort of a conversation-- you're listening and responding to what the other person is expressing. With Mr. Anon, when we're "doing the deed," he seems tone-deaf to what I'm doing-- I'll try to get "in sync" so we're moving our bodies together, and he begins "jackhammering" out of left field, or moving in an un-synced way.

*He always wants to use tons of lube, saying it feels better. I've never wanted to needed to use it in the past. I don't love it, but whatever. I can deal.

*I really prefer soft, gentle touches, and though I've expressed this, he seems to revert to more grabby-type touching.

*He wants to try all these different positions, but the fundamental issue remains. I feel like, hey, let's get the parts of speech down before we start translating Balzac.

Is this a case of what Cindy Gallop- describes-- sex-ed-through-porn? Is it something else? I don't know how previous partners have dealt with this!

Possibly relevant details:

*I'm 32; he's 26. He's had several sexual partners, but no long-term relationship experience. I've had a few satisfying, healthy long-term relationships.

*He's not very comfortable talking about sex. I've tentatively tried a few times, and it hasn't gone well. He has expressed to me that it seems like I'm more focused on my own pleasure (which, in this case, may indeed be the case), and even that was very uncomfortable and difficult for him to bring up. I've asked him to tell me what he likes, what turns him on, and I haven't gotten much out of him.

*I really don't care how "experienced" or "suave" someone is AT ALL-- I'm not looking for some super advanced techniques. I just want to feel like we're syncing up with each other. And now, I feel this disconnection between myself and the person I'm having sexy times with. I feel fundamentally like he's not responding to me, but instead doing his own one-man show.

*I literally do not know how to talk about this. I want us to solve this, and I don't want to hurt his feelings or make him feel insecure. I also don't really know what to say. I've never had to have an explicit conversation like this before. What I *want* to say is, we need to completely start from scratch and maybe not even have PIV sex until we "get" each other. But then how do we even start that process of "getting" each other?

Internet, I turn to you. Have you handled this yourself, with success? What worked and what didn't? What might work? What should I definitely *not* do? How do I express my feelings without upsetting him deeply? Is this even a solvable problem?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a tough one.

I know you're nervous about talking, but if you don't express to him how much of an issue it is, you can't expect him to solve the problem.

You used your words really eloquently here. I'd suggest modifying them slightly, something like this:

"Hey. I know you're not very comfortable talking about sex, and even though I've approached you about this before we haven't really gotten anywhere. I literally do not know how to talk about this. I want us to solve this, and I don't want to hurt your feelings or make you feel insecure, but I am feeling unheard and un-acknowledged during sex. I think we should start from scratch and maybe not even have PIV sex until we "get" each other. Are you open to fixing this with me?"
posted by mynameisluka at 8:32 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some people are just flat-out physically incompatible.

I'll decline to publicly share how I know this.

It sounds like this may be one of those cases.

It doesn't seem like either of you are enjoying having sex with each other, and if no one's getting anything out of it, what's the point? On the bright side, you now have a very sweet, kind, funny, smart, caring, new, younger male platonic friend. Congratulations!
posted by phunniemee at 8:39 PM on June 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


Propose that you the next two times you have sex one person is in charge (within reason), and you trade off. This gives you sanction to be pretty bossy about exactly what you want, "no really, slower, like that, good, no you're speeding up again. Do X with your Y" Ideally this lets you train him up, but in a playful we-each-get-a-round-of-total-control way rather than a this-isn't-working-for-me-you-need-remedial-sex-ed way. Plus during his round, you might get a better idea what he likes.
posted by pseudonick at 8:44 PM on June 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


Sex is very much a conversation, and it sounds like you two don't speak each other's language. It happens. It can be a dealbreaker just like going to dinner and every time you try to talk about poetry, he says something about politics. Don't feel bad, but do move on.
posted by davejay at 8:58 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this even a solvable problem?

You could reasonably conclude that it's not. You've tried giving feedback in the moment. You've repeatedly tried starting a conversation about it. It sounds like he's practically ignored you on all these occasions. There are enough different things he's getting wrong that it would take a concerted, sustained effort to fix the overall problem, not just one good suggestion that happens to get through. You've done your due diligence, and he's demonstrated an unwillingness to change.
posted by John Cohen at 9:00 PM on June 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm wondering if its a sort of.... blue balls? on his part. If he orgasms once and is done, he might be kinda... desperate, when he finally does get to see you. If he can orgasm once and then try again soon when hes calmer, things might possibly improve. If not... well, good luck.
posted by Jacen at 9:10 PM on June 1, 2013


Sounds like a nightmare. He doesn't listen, what should you do? Does he remark on how good/bad it feels for him after you guys have sex?
posted by discopolo at 9:18 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


*He's not very comfortable talking about sex. I've tentatively tried a few times, and it hasn't gone well. He has expressed to me that it seems like I'm more focused on my own pleasure (which, in this case, may indeed be the case), and even that was very uncomfortable and difficult for him to bring up. I've asked him to tell me what he likes, what turns him on, and I haven't gotten much out of him.

This is the whole crux of the problem IMO! You two at out of sync sexually, and he isn't having this serious conversation with you about an important part of your relationship. It's not too "focused on your own pleasure" to admit you're not particularly enjoying sex/need other things sexually. Adults have these conversations about important topics. The red flag for me is - what other issues will he choose to stonewall you on when you're having problems in the future?
posted by fireandthud at 9:33 PM on June 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


seconding pseudonick. just tie the boy up and go to town! but also some stuff to ponder: you describe him as "sweet, kind, funny, smart, caring" but didn't mention things like sexy or attractive. is there a palpable chemistry between you two? have you done any other partner activities such as dancing or sports that involve teamwork? if not, i'd use that as an experiment to find out whether or not his asynchrony is isolated to the bedroom, because if it is, it might just be that the relationship is still newish and he's insecure and needs more time to figure out his mojo.
posted by colorproof at 9:38 PM on June 1, 2013


You can try giving positive verbal feedback when he does something you really like but I gotta, say, I've been in the situation where you tell someone what you want (nicely, gently, delicately) and they flat out ignore it. It makes you feel like crap that your needs aren't important.

What's worked for me is ultimately getting so annoyed that when they do*whatever* again, I just call a halt to the whole proceedings. I've the said something along the lines of, sex just seems to be about making sure that your needs are satisfied and I'm a means to that end. Until you care about whether or not I'm having a good time too, I really have no interest in being with a selfish lover. I've told you I need x, y and z and nothing. I don't know what more to do but verbal and physical cues aren't working. Are you interested in my pleasure too because right now, I'm feeling like a sex toy for you and not much else. When you actually care about my needs, sex is fantastic (it was) but that's rare because mostly it's about you. If this is how it's going to be I'm not interested in a sexual relationship any more.

This is pretty adversarial but it was after a good year of being completely ignored and sexually frustrated despite trying everything. It actually worked. I don't know whether he got caught up in the moment of his own needs or whether he really was just selfish but being called a selfish lover really snapped him out of it. Turns out he didn't need to be taught at all, he knew what to do, he just needed to care enough to do it. YMMV.
posted by Jubey at 9:38 PM on June 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


I just had a thought: you say he isn't paying attention to your pleasure, but he's also accusing you of the same thing. The communication between you in and out of bed isn't good, either. Sexual incompatibility does exist, and sometimes it is a subset of general incompatibility. Just because someone's a wonderful person doesn't mean they're a wonderful person for you.
posted by davejay at 9:54 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


anonymous: "He's not very comfortable talking about sex. I've tentatively tried a few times, and it hasn't gone well. He has expressed to me that it seems like I'm more focused on my own pleasure (which, in this case, may indeed be the case), and even that was very uncomfortable and difficult for him to bring up."

"Well, yeah, hon, that's 'cause you're getting off and I'm not. Seems completely reasonable to me to focus on the pleasure of the person who's not currently having a good time!"

My husband is something of a bull-in-a-china-shop, as well as being The Libido That Ate Oakland. Also, any time I make the mistake of saying "Did you notice…" he blinks at me and says "Did I… what? What was that verb you used?" Me, I'm Hypersense Girl who easily goes into sensory overload. Plus my libido tends to be on the low side, even when it's not getting squashed by my depression.

And still, over the years the mister has figured out how to rein in his innate FULL SPEED AHEAD! MORE! IS! BETTER! instincts, in the interest of our shared enjoyment. It's nowhere near instinctual, and yikes, not so hard! not so fast! is still an issue, but overall we do fine. A big part of that is that he's demonstrated an ongoing interest in my pleasure, not just his own.

Given what you describe, by now I'd be responding along the lines Jubey describes. It seems like the ways you've tried to communicate just haven't gotten through.
posted by Lexica at 9:55 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can't solve this, in my experience.

Of course, you should try if you want to!

I've never had luck correcting this type of incapatibiliy, so don't be too hard on yourself.
posted by jbenben at 10:02 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


He wants to use tons of lube. You say you've never needed to in the past.

This really jumped out at me as a keystone item.

A guy that wants to use tons of lube is either very experienced and doesn't care about what you feel ... or very inexperienced and doesn't know just how bad he is -- in other words, the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

Neither scenario is very helpful for you. Both point toward him being unable/unwilling to change.

Dump him gently but firmly and move on.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:24 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the fact that he's never had a long term relationship is a big red flag, and you are finding out one of possibly more than one of the reasons why. Bail.
posted by Dansaman at 10:24 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


He appears to have some pretty immature habits when it comes to sex, and not of the variety that are a) fixable or b) worth fixing. Stick with him long enough and you'll likely find this isn't the only area in which this is the case. Dump and move on. :(
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:27 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish I had a solution for you and I will read the rest of the answers eagerly to see what others come up with.

In my experience so far, this problem has come up when sex *means* totally different things to the people involved. So, perhaps to you, sex means a chance to explore the limits of pleasure and the things you can do with your bodies, and to him, it's just a means to find comfort and calm (that's what it was in my case when these differences existed). If, for example, comfort is his reason to have sex, it doesn't make any sense to him that you want certain things. Or maybe if it's a performance to him, it requires a lot of lube and jackhammering and positions to make him feel like he's performed well.

It's a different type of problem than if you don't like his kissing technique or he really hates position x or activity y and you love it. This gets to what the activity itself *means*, what the purpose of it is.

So maybe have a discussion with him about that? I don't think it will resolve the issue, but it may help you to see where he's coming from and then maybe for him to understand your perspective, and you can both move towards the middle a bit. (For example, you have comfort sex with him and he does some exploration with you, or whatever the different meanings are.)
posted by 3491again at 10:31 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


You mght try picking the thing you most dislike, say, the jackhammering, and responding negatively each and every time it happens. ("Ow, too hard!" or whatever.) You might also try to teach him one favorite thing that works for you. ("Let me show you MY favorite position.")

Basically, you may not be able to approach this by talking about sex as a complex conversation. You may have to teach some basic vocabulary before you can start trying to string together words.
posted by salvia at 10:36 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


If he won't talk about it, it's an unsolvable problem. Communication is key to fixing this. Move on if he won't do this.
posted by heyjude at 11:50 PM on June 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


i think you just have to tell him what you said here and gently communicate that this is kind of a big deal for you in looking at a relationship future with him:

*I really don't care how "experienced" or "suave" someone is AT ALL-- I'm not looking for some super advanced techniques. I just want to feel like we're syncing up with each other. And now, I feel this disconnection between myself and the person I'm having sexy times with. I feel fundamentally like he's not responding to me, but instead doing his own one-man show.

*I literally do not know how to talk about this. I want us to solve this, and I don't want to hurt his feelings or make him feel insecure. I also don't really know what to say. I've never had to have an explicit conversation like this before. What I *want* to say is, we need to completely start from scratch and maybe not even have PIV sex until we "get" each other.

posted by wildflower at 12:33 AM on June 2, 2013


Is this even a solvable problem?

I believe the tactful words I used recently to describe a past experience was " I really didn't have any more time to invest in training"
posted by infini at 1:14 AM on June 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


infini has it. He sounds immature and nervous, and I think you need to ask yourself if you care why, and whether you want to have all those hyper-directive training (ugh) conversations during what, in the past, for you, has been an experience of flow and pleasure.

I hate to be a knee-jerk dtmfa-er, but I do not think he's going to get it. He will find someone for whom his disinterest in pleasure (vs. interest in sex) matters a lot less.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:36 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


fwiw its usually due to too many one night stands, not enough relating day to day - as thinkpiece asks, you need to decide what path is worth it for you.
posted by infini at 4:40 AM on June 2, 2013


You can't fix this stuff, in my experience. Technique can be worked on together, but this is a fundamental cognitive issue. It's not ever going to go away, and you're never going to be happy with a sex life like this.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 4:49 AM on June 2, 2013


The position thing reminded me of one ex (and also a friend's ex) who were total porn addicts and who had developed this internal ideal that what happened in the porn they liked was a: normal, b: pleasurable and c:the best way. If you didn't like jackhammering, being flipped around and everything as slick as butter, well, you were doing it wrong. Not them. It isn't just about the porn habits, but the internalising of 'porn rules' with a huge helping of shame/selfishness.

Like seriously, when my partner said he was getting tired of missionary because it was hurting his wrist, we changed things up a little because his pleasure and comfort is kind of integral to the activity. Sure, he can get off with a sore wrist but I'd rather he were having more fun.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:00 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


In my experience, this type of selfish sex is unsolvable and for me, the anger about my wants and needs being ignored in bed tends to sync up with anger at being ignored in other areas and fill me with resentment. I don't know if it's actually selfishness or if it's just inexperience or excitement or nervousness or what but it's like trying to dance with someone who doesn't know the steps and doesn't seem able or willing to learn. I have not been able to stay with partners who were not able to put in a good faith effort to work together on this.

It also sounds like he's kind of immature in that he's not really able to discuss this stuff with you. I don't really like talking about this stuff with my partner, but we find ways to talk about it that we can both handle- we had to, because since I converted I've been abstinent and in the modern dating world, that requires some discussion. But even if that weren't the case, couples need to be able to share limits and boundaries and desires. It might sound shallow, but for me if the touching part of the relationship doesn't go well, the relationship isn't for me.
posted by windykites at 5:42 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


fwiw its usually due to too many one night stands, not enough relating day to day - as thinkpiece asks, you need to decide what path is worth it for you.

And the fact that you are living in separate cities and having occasional encounters is not helping.

If you don't want to dump this guy, try to find a way to spend some continuous time together so you can have less goal-oriented sex.
posted by BibiRose at 5:58 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


He sounds inexperienced, and maybe insecure.

You need to have a conversation about this while you're not in the middle of doing the nasty. If you can't talk about sex, this problem won't be solved, since he does not respond to you in the heat of the moment. So, yeah, maybe it will be awkward, but you have to talk. Even then, it might not work; but if you otherwise like him, you should try.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:46 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Back in the old days, we called this "having an ego problem" hence the lack of response to your requests.
posted by infini at 6:59 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


You've tried communicating during sex and he "doesn't respond to verbal or nonverbal cues". And outside of the bedroom "He's not very comfortable talking about sex. I've tentatively tried a few times, and it hasn't gone well."

You also say: "He's had several sexual partners, but no long-term relationship experience. I've had a few satisfying, healthy long-term relationships."

I think you know that the problem is not that you "do not know how to talk about this" or that you "don't really know what to say".
posted by moody cow at 7:12 AM on June 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Does the rest of your relationship actually function well? It seems unlikely based on how badly your attempts at conversation have gone. Sex is one of those things which can never, ever fix a broken relationship - and it is in particular specifically crappy at fixing broken communication habits.
posted by SMPA at 10:34 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"we live in different cities" - that seems like a huge issue. When you two do get together, is it for an evening, a week, a weekend? Sounds like your beau needs to have sex with you often enough to relax and enjoy it. Is it possible to arrange to be together for 48 hours (or longer) straight, so that you can have sex multiple times?
posted by at at 12:20 PM on June 2, 2013


Sounds like sex ed via porn to me, too. One thought I had is I wonder if you could find a video that was closer to the type of way you wanted to have sex, that was slow and talky and not jackhammer-y. Not sure where you would find that or whether it would get through to him, but if he is a visual learner maybe that would help. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:55 PM on June 2, 2013


Going to go against the grain here, but for reasons I don't want to go into in a public forum, I know this exact situation can be resolved. It's gonna take persistence and lots of tactful communication - definitely beyond his comfort level.
These sites may be useful for , uh, stimulating conversation - humansexmap.com and mojoupgrade.com.
posted by kudra23 at 12:56 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd bet a few thousand dollars he is worrying about "finishing" too fast.

So he's not listening to you or taking your input because listening is sexy and distracts him from whatever he's thinking about to not come.

Your going to have to:
A) have a conversion he doesn't want to have.
B) keep having what sounds like the worst sex ever.
C) dump him.

Or just email him what you wrote here. Seriously. He's a fucking grown up he can take it.
posted by French Fry at 1:25 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's had several sexual partners, but no long-term relationship experience

A friend and I discussed this some time ago: Even if you've had ten one-night stands, you've still only had sex ten times, and you also don't get to really learn how another person works. Someone who suffers during a ONS isn't so likely to provide constructive feedback. What I want to say with is that he may have the capacity to improve, if he sees that he has things to learn and a great opportunity to do so. His eagerness for trying new positions indicates that he feels inexperienced and has a checklist in his head where marks are missing.

For that to happen, you'll have to explicitly be his sex teacher and take full control and really show him. He needs to feel that he has nothing to prove and everything to learn. I think that might be both more effective and more gentle for his ego than what you have going on right now though. Instead of a low-level stream of unhappiness from you, he can have "I'm gonna make you really good at this". It might help if you phrase your wishes in terms of what "women tend to like" more than just what you personally like - most guys consider "being good at sex" as a valuable asset. Whether his attitude would allow for this kind of schooling is another matter, but it doesn't seem like you have a lot to lose.
posted by springload at 5:18 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh? It just sounds like he's inexperianced and nervous. Teach him.

He is not listening to anything she says.

Nearly every guy I've dated has been a virgin or a near-virgin (I have a type, maybe) and none of them have had this problem, despite myriad forms of nervousness and social awkwardness. They've all been curious about female pleasure and interested in "sexual harmony." I've never had to have a conversation about listening to me during sex. (Nor have I ever had a guy insist on a ton of lube? That is super bizarre.)

Additionally, none of them have been porn enthusiasts-- I think a guy not watching that much porn is a huge plus, if you are a woman who likes pleasure. Controversial statement (from a woman who watches the occasional porno) but there you go.

In conclusion, I would get blunt and tough and just tell him upfront what is wrong, and if his interpretation is that you are sooooo interested in your own pleasure (ugh), then he is probably a sucky lover.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:45 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mod note: A couple of comments deleted; Ask Metafilter is not for arguing/debating other people's comments. Answer the question, address the OP.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:04 AM on June 3, 2013


If you email or mefimail me I might have a helpful insight. I didn't get it to change, though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:09 AM on June 3, 2013


I'd bet a few thousand dollars he is worrying about "finishing" too fast.

Yes! I didn't even think of it, but this explains both the lube and the defensiveness. I think this guy has huge performance anxiety and may be spending all his energy trying to last longer. Lots of guys have issues with this in their youths, and I remember it as a tremendous pressure which would overshadow other aspects of sex. He could well be judging the quality of intercourse solely by how long he is able to go on.
posted by springload at 11:47 AM on June 3, 2013


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