Why am I unwilling to try sex things that would make my boyfriend happy?
September 21, 2015 7:05 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are in our early twenties. He would like some things out of sex and related things that I do not want to do. Given everything I explain below, I would certainly understand if my boyfriend didn't want to be in a relationship with me anymore. I feel bad for not even wanting to try these things when they would make him happy and when it could mean throwing the relationship away. Why do I feel so unwilling to try these things?

My boyfriend would like some things out of sex and related things that I do not want to do. I'm quiet during sex, but he'd like me to make noises or talk dirty. Along with that, he also asked me if during sex I could say typically demeaning things (considered demeaning outside of sex) to him. I do not swear or say demeaning things at all. When we're apart, he asked me if I could give him encouragement through text when he's horny and gave some suggestions like telling him to imagine me there doing something etc. I don't want to do these things or try them or work towards them. Sometimes I cry thinking about doing these things or reading about them. I don't really know why I don't even want to try.

On top of that, the times we've tried penetration, I couldn't relax my muscles even though I'm aroused and we've been doing foreplay for a while. I have not had penetrative sex yet. At one point at the beginning of the relationship, I had felt the desire for penetration, but I wanted to get on hormonal contraceptives first, so I asked him to wait. And then at some point after I started taking the pill, I didn't really feel that desire for penetration, so I decided that it would be ok with only one form of contraception instead of the two I wanted, and I stopped taking the pill. That desire didn't really come back though. But maybe it was caused by something else instead of the pill. I had never had that desire before I started dating my boyfriend, but my other sexual-ish encounters were outside of a relationship, and I hadn't had a boyfriend before my current boyfriend.

Now I only want to try penetration in an off-hand, theoretical way, just to know what it's like. I don't feel the desire to have penetrative sex. I did Kegel exercise a little so that I could use vaginal dilators. I tried using the dilators with a handle that came with them, but they are very uncomfortable to hold in the only position I find comfortable for my body. And I don't feel very motivated to find another way to work towards penetration.

I did have to go to a gynecologist to get the prescription for the pill, and I did attempt to have a bimanual exam at that time. I guess I was a bit nervous, and I couldn't relax my muscles and the examiner wasn't very gentle. It hurt a little bit and I don't think she actually was able to perform the full exam without hurting me further. But I'm not sure she's very knowledgeable because she talked about how it would be easier after my hymen was "broken", and I do not believe hymens break.

I have not been abused, and I do not think I was raised to think sex was dirty or wrong. But, sex isn't really something we talked about at home.

Given my unwillingness to even try the things my boyfriend has asked for and my disinterest in working towards penetration, I would certainly understand if my boyfriend didn't want to be in a relationship with me anymore. I feel bad for not even wanting to try these things when they would make him happy and when it could mean throwing the relationship away.

Why do I feel so unwilling to try these things? Do you have any suggestions for how I can find that out?
posted by SillyEvelina to Human Relations (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Therapy and some basic sex education. Hymens do break -- it can happen before you have sex for the first time, but it's pretty typical as a first time penetrative sex thing. That you are saying you don't believe they break leads me to think you've gotten sub-standard information about your body and about sex in general. I'm sure someone will have better books to recommend but Our Bodies, Ourselves is a classic. A therapist can help you work through your feelings about yourself and this relationship and give you more outside perspective, too.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:11 PM on September 21, 2015 [13 favorites]

Best answer: First, please be gentle with yourself. I'm sorry to hear how frustrating this is for you, and I'd wish to relieve you of all the pressure you're feeling. For now, I'd recommend stop having any and all forms of sex that you're not enjoying. You can always try stuff later but for now I'd work on taking a break, allowing yourself to feel the way you do, and educating yourself.

Some questions: sex aside, do you actually want to be in a relationship with your boyfriend right now? How does he react to how you're feeling? What are the positives of the relationship? What are things outside of sex that are difficult for you two? How are things in your life in general? And finally, very blunt: Do you masturbate on your own?

As for the education bit, Scarleteen is one of the best sex ed sites out there with so much to read. You could just jump in or start with this article on "When Sex Is Just a Bummer."

You have lots of options and I'm sure you'll find something that works for you, perhaps it's with this current relationship or perhaps it's something else. In any case, I'm sorry about your challenges but am also glad you shared them so you can start feeling better about it all.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:16 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It's okay to not want to do things during sex, even once, even if other people think they're no big deal. You are under no obligation to do anything during sex that you don't want to do, no reason necessary.

That said, it sounds like you might benefit from some sex-positive therapy, just to delve into what sounds like perhaps (I am not your gynecologist or your doctor or your therapist) might be a bit of fear of having penetrative sex. It sounds like you theoretically and intellectually want to have penetrative sex but some signal might be getting blocked or you might have some unexplored feelings related to penetration. That's okay! You can work on it, if you want to.

So yeah. Maybe go and talk to someone about all of this.
posted by cooker girl at 7:17 PM on September 21, 2015 [15 favorites]

Everything else aside, get a new gynecologist. The first, gosh, maybe three or four gynecologists I saw in my life all totally sucked for various reasons and I didn't ask the questions I needed to ask because of it. Not all gynecologists suck. Ask around among your female friends and see if anyone would recommend theirs. If you don't have anyone to ask, post another question next week with your location asking mefites if they have anyone to recommend. You deserve to feel safe and comfortable (as comfortable as can be expected, considering where they're poking) with your doctor, and coming away feeling like they're "not very knowledgeable" is not a good sign. If you're in Chicago, memail me. I'm very happy with the doc I have now.
posted by phunniemee at 7:25 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

The way you describe your body reacting to penetration makes it sound like you could possibly have vaginismus.

What you should say to your boyfriend is that you're having a lot of trouble with this stuff and you need him not to put pressure on you. There are all kinds of ways you can try to address this if you want to, but him pressuring you to do things is not going to be helpful in making you feel more comfortable with them.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:26 PM on September 21, 2015 [10 favorites]

Given my unwillingness to even try the things my boyfriend has asked for and my disinterest in working towards penetration, I would certainly understand if my boyfriend didn't want to be in a relationship with me anymore. I feel bad for not even wanting to try these things when they would make him happy and when it could mean throwing the relationship away.

If he's not patient or empathetic, then he's the one throwing the relationship away, not you. You're doing your best. He needs to be a mature and empathy-having adult.
posted by discopolo at 7:28 PM on September 21, 2015 [29 favorites]

It’s ok that you don’t want to say demeaning things to your boyfriend, it’s ok that you don’t want to sext him, it’s ok that you don’t want to be penetrated, and it’s ok if you want to be quiet during sex.

We live in a society where people are taught that male sexual pleasure and male sexual entitlement are priorities, and when we don’t do x things, there’s something wrong with us as women.

In this relationship, your wants, your desires, and your needs are as important as your boyfriend’s wants, desires, and needs. Even if, right now, those wants, desires, and needs involve NOT having sex.

Maybe, right now, you want to be in a relationship where all you do is cuddle, and hold hands, and occasionally make out, and if that’s the case, that’s totally ok.

I know other posters have suggested going to a doctor/therapist etc and I agree that this may be useful and very beneficial, I really want to emphasize that you’re ok as you are, right now.

I was 22 when I first had penetrative sex with a man because I thought I *should* want to, even though I didn’t actually have any desire to do it. And you know, it was pretty shitty sex. Rather than going into the reasons why I didn’t want to have sex at that time, I wish if I could go back to that 22 year old self, I could have sat her down and just said, “there’s nothing wrong with you. Pay attention to your own feelings and what you want. You’re really ok, right now, just as you are.”
posted by twill at 7:37 PM on September 21, 2015 [57 favorites]

Best answer: I don't mean this rudely but I think the "why don't I want to do this preference-based thing, when it's not rooted in trauma or abuse"? is kind of a nonsensical question. Like yeah, I guess you could journal the heck out of your feelings about dirty-talk during sex but it's also possible you just find it offputting, in the same way one might dislike the colour pink or going clubbing or something. If you don't find it arousing (in fact it seems like you find it actively de-arousing) and you feel uncomfortable doing it, that should really be sufficient for your boyfriend and for yourself. Whether he considers it a dealbreaker is up to him, but you shouldn't feel bad about asserting your own preferences and boundaries, whatever the cause.

The penetration issue kind of seems like a second question embedded in the first. I also thought of vaginismus when reading that, but it could also be that you just aren't into that either. I would talk to a (better) gyno about it, or maybe even a sex therapist. If you're really into exploring the roots of this stuff anyway, maybe a sex therapist would actually be helpful.

When you say you're aroused do you mean physically aroused only or like, you were really excited about having sex with your BF? How attracted to him are you honestly? You don't have to answer these things here, it's just something to think about. Frankly, thinking about having sex with someone I didn't actively WANT to have sex with (no matter how much I wanted to want to have sex with them, no matter how much I loved them or how handsome they were) would make me want to cry a little bit too. Ultimately, it could be specific to this guy, it could have to do with some weird attitudes about sex , or you could just not be wired that way period. Asexuality is real and many asexuals do get physically aroused but just don't want to have sex with people. I think these are all things to consider here.
posted by hejrat at 7:45 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I also want to heavily agree with twill. I'm an early 20s female also who has zero desire for penetrative sex and wouldn't be down with some of what you mentioned in your post either. I was never sexually assaulted either and I don't really have any conceptual hangups about sex. I'm just...not especially into it and that doesn't have to come from a "wrong" or "defective" place.
posted by hejrat at 7:48 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

bitter-girl.com, it's interesting that you suggest Our Bodies, Ourselves re: the hymen thing when this is what they have to say about it:


"“Usually, the hymen looks like a fringe of tissue around the vaginal opening,” adds Roye. “It is not an intact piece of tissue draped across it. Some girls are born without a hymen, others have only a scanty fringe of tissue. Moreover, for all its fabled mystery, the hymen is just a body part.”

Furthermore, while hymens can be torn during sex or other physical activity, they don’t “break.” These torn areas can bleed, but it doesn’t always happen."

I assume this is what the OP meant?
posted by hejrat at 7:51 PM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like your boyfriend is suggesting new things to mix it up. If you don't want to try his suggestions, that's ok, but I bet he'd love to try any suggestions you may have! If you're not sure, lots of women (and men!) who aren't super comfortable with overtly out-there sexuality find new avenues of their own sexual enjoyment through reading - beginning with books like Our Bodies, ourselves, through fandom stories with familiar characters playing out romantic and eventually sexual stories, to erotica. I'd encourage you to explore what you do like - you absolutely have the right to say no, and you also deserve to enjoy sex as well.
posted by samthemander at 7:51 PM on September 21, 2015

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but the tone of your question makes it sound like you're uncomfortable in your own skin. Do you masturbate? If not, I'd start there. And I say this as someone who had to google "how do girls masturbate" when I went to college. It took me a while to figure it out, but it will help you immensely in partnered sex.

As to partnered sex: you should absolutely respect your own boundaries. But to know what those are, you might need to know a bit more about yourself. If you can confidently say, "I'm not ready for penetrative sex because I'm not prepared to handle an accidental pregnancy." Or "dirty talk is a no-go for me. It feels icky and it turns me off.", then those are limits you shouldn't compromise. But if you're just turning down all your boyfriend's ideas for spicing things up, without suggesting alternatives, that's not great for him either.

I agree with all the above people that if you're really set against doing something, you should not do it. Period. But there is an in-between world of, "I dunno, that sounds weird as hell, but $partner seems really into it so I'll give it a go and see what happens." In that scenario, you give it a go and determine that: (1) Nope, not for you; (2) not your cup of tea but you could do it for your partner now and then; or (3) actually fun. But again, you really need to know yourself to make these judgments.

Discovering your sexuality can be complicated and messy, but ultimately it should be fun. If this relationship is consistently making you feel bad, the two of you may not be right for each other, through no one's particular fault.
posted by telepanda at 8:16 PM on September 21, 2015 [10 favorites]

"Along with that, he also asked me if during sex I could say typically demeaning things (considered demeaning outside of sex) to him"

Are they demeaning things about him, or demeaning things about yourself? It's super obvious to me why this request would upset you (and should give serious pause to anybody).

Anything that's considered demeaning outside of sex has the potential to be twice as demeaning during something so intimate as sex.
posted by serena15221 at 8:17 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Which brings me to the thing about penetration hurting and tight muscles. Your body is trying to tell you to quit having sex with this guy. It's sending you a signal that you don't feel safe or respected.

I think stoneware may be on to something here.

It doesn't really matter why you don't want to talk dirty, any more than it matters why your bf wants to. The important thing is that you don't want to.
posted by bunderful at 8:22 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree with others that have brought up vaginismus, I've known a couple people with it. It's not bad or wrong, it's just the way your body is / might be. That being said, if you do want to have penetrative sex, you should talk to a gynecologist (a different one, your current one sounds awful) and maybe a therapist who has some knowledge of sexual issues. It might be that you never have penetrative sex with anyone and that's a perfectly fine way to be - if it's what you want.
If you don't want to have penetrative sex, or talk dirty, you don't have to. Don't let anyone make you feel bad about it. But also know that it might mean that this relationship you currently have might not work out. That's not a bad thing either - don't think of it as "throwing the relationship away" - think of it as just finding that you two are not a good fit.
posted by permiechickie at 8:45 PM on September 21, 2015

Response by poster: I just want to mention that I don’t think anything is wrong with me. I want to understand why I am feeling upset at these things. I don’t want to build a life together only to find out that we are sexually incompatible and then have us be miserable. I want to find out if my feelings on this could change or not and then see how important this is to him.

We've been having sex for 1.5 years.

I wanted to say a lot of things, but I guess I'm not supposed to in here. But thanks for all the suggestions
posted by SillyEvelina at 8:50 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just like how you shouldn't expect your partner to change to be with them, you shouldn't expect yourself to change yourself to be in a relationship either. (What I mean by that is preferences and personality, not of course like small things like how you fold towels.)

I think sex positive therapy is a great idea! It can help you explore what you may be into, and what you may want to do, or not do. Speaking of sex-toys and sex, Oh Joy, Sex Toy is a great approachable blog. I think Come As You Are is also a highly recommended book.

The problem here is we can't answer your question. We don't know what you may be into now or in the future. What we CAN tell you is that it's okay to NOT want to do those things and that your pleasure and needs are just as important as your partner's.

As far as building a life with this guy, you are currently sexually incompatible. Often in relationships we think about what may happen in the future, but right now is also really important, and right now you are not compatible.

And yes, I think you should find a new doctor and experiment with yourself to be comfortable in your own skin. I know I needed that for sure as a young adult. Part of that tightening can be due to your own feeling about your partner, too. And it's also okay to not want penetration, but I think figuring out what you want regardless of what this guy wants will be really helpful for YOUR (as in just you) future health and happiness.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:00 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

When you're with the right person your body relaxes. It doesn't hurt. 

I want to push back on this. Having vaginismus or another source of pelvic floor pain isn't necessarily a sign from the cosmos that your current partner is bad for you.
posted by delight at 9:27 PM on September 21, 2015 [46 favorites]

You're just inexperienced and new to everything, so don't leap to conclusions like "break up" yet. First, read stuff, especially some good, modern, thoughtful, respected books for inexperienced ladies like yourself. Then start asking questions.

I think most of the answerers above may not really take into account what it's like to be both physically inexperienced and uninformed. Get informed -- check out a couple of books; if you're very very shy, you can go to a library and just read while you're there without actually taking the books out.
posted by amtho at 9:29 PM on September 21, 2015

Best answer: I too highly recommend "Come As You Are" by Emily Nagoski. It's changed my outlook on desire, arousal and sexuality in so many ways. She also has a blog, The Dirty Normal. It's all grounded in science, great stuff.

I think a more helpful way to frame your question is "What do I like, and how can I explore my sexuality... by myself and also with my date?" rather than "Why am I choosing not to please my boyfriend?"

It's quite possible to change your feelings, but not for someone else. Because you want it. Because you value your own journey.

I would search the internet — try "sex positive sex education." Here's a link to get you started. I would also talk to a sex-positive counselor who offers cognitive behavioral therapy and can suggest hands-on exercises to learn about your body. I even have some friendly feminist porn links! PM me if you want them.

PS Good sex doesn't require penetration. Ever. There are lots of ways to have sex and for many people with clits, that's a minor one. If you're curious, try a finger sometime when you're alone.
posted by fritillary at 9:43 PM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

Sometimes I cry thinking about doing these things or reading about them. I don't really know why I don't even want to try.

I'll just focus on this. Everything else aside, don't ever do anything that makes you feel this lousy. You really, really don't want to. Don't do it. Maybe you'll want to with more education, maybe later in life, maybe some other guy, but right now, you simply flat out don't want to. And maybe that stuff just isn't to your taste and that's fine. It's nice to be able to indulge a partner but it should be an act of giving not the result of great reluctance and guilt.

He sounds kind of insensitive, or maybe you're not making it clear to him that you don't want to do this things. Maybe you don't communicate well because overall you're not actually compatible or deep down, maybe you just don't feel right with him.

We can't know those things out here on the internet obviously but I just wanted to say the first thing, really. It's okay to not want to do those things. Don't feel beat yourself up about it. You're not some sort of freak for not wanting to send sexy texts and in fact you're very SMART to not want to send sexy texts, and if you feel like something is 'demeaning' for god's sake, don't do it!
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:41 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

If you can handle it, send your boyfriend to be demeaned by a pro. If he craves that, there's no reason it should have to be part of your intimate life with him.
posted by zadcat at 11:52 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I feel like not a lot of posters are trying to answer the actual question being posed here. And the reason is: nobody on Ask Metafilter can read your mind to tell you why you feel the way you feel. The best we can do is suggest you can seek therapy. Between this question and your previous question, it seems like maybe you're not terribly happy in general; it might do you some good beyond addressing this specific issue.
posted by phoenixy at 1:28 AM on September 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's fine that you feel this way and I disagree with anyone saying you necessarily need therapy or more experience or need to relax. It could have to do with those things. It could also have to do with your relationship, the way you perceive men treating women in general, the way sex seems to revolve around men's pleasure and needs and women are a means to that, that a lot of your boyfriend's requests seem to come straight out of porn, that you might not feel he's happy with you sexually, or a lot of other things. A lot of things about the way male and female roles play out in society and heterosexual sex just make this whole issue a minefield. I love talking dirty but I've had guys ask me to talk dirty and hated it because in those instances, they were using me as a living porn doll which made me feel like shit. So maybe look at your relationship first, look at what you like and want from sex, at what's missing for you, and how what your boyfriend wants plays into all that. Come As You Are, which has been mentioned, is an excellent book recommendation that might help you to figure yourself out.
posted by Polychrome at 5:41 AM on September 22, 2015

Best answer: I find dirty talk, etc. off-putting because it feels like lying to me. I'm not an actor and it makes me feel really uncomfortable to pretend to be into something I'm not. Is that part of what's happening for you?

Is no penetrative sex an issue for your boyfriend? Do you or he penetrate with fingers at all? If so, how does that work for you?
posted by metasarah at 6:11 AM on September 22, 2015

Best answer: I have been willing to try things that I am disinterested in or uncomfortable with when I've been with partners who I trusted to be kind, supportive, non-judgmental, and most of all, who I trusted would let it go in the future if I decided I wasn't interested in it. Your limits are not wrong, and you're under no obligation to push them, but if you do want to, your partner needs to meet you more than half way by creating and maintaining a safe space for you to try things. So I'd suggest thinking about whether you feel like your partner is able do that for you, and if not, what he'd need to do and how to communicate that to him.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:22 AM on September 22, 2015

Best answer: "…I want to find out if my feelings on this could change or not…"

Most of the activities that get defined as "sex" are learned behaviours, i.e., different to the kinds of ways people tend to express their sexuality before they're exposed to sex with another person. Some of the things people do with each other sexually may take a while to become really enjoyable and there will be some things that some people will never want to do. It's different for everyone and it changes over time and it usually takes a while to work out what you like.

Why do I feel so unwilling to try these things?

Perhaps you're just not ready for some of what your boyfriend would like to do and maybe you never will be ready for some of the things he would like. This is absolutely your prerogative and it's important to not do things you don't like. As long as you can both deal with that ok then you are free to explore each other and learn about what feels great for you and what brings pleasure to your boyfriend.

Learning and exploring this stuff should ideally be relaxed and fun and hopefully joyous. If it's not that way with your current guy, at least some of the time, then it's probably not the right situation for you at the moment.
posted by mewsic at 8:57 AM on September 22, 2015

I have been where you are, in a way. But I was lucky enough that my then boyfriend didn't push the issue and never asked more than once for me to do anything I wasn't comfortable with. I didn't have penetrative sex until 2 boyfriends later, when I was 24. I tried before, there was just no way. And like I said, I was with someone that didn't put me under pressure. At 24 I met someone else and it just happened. I suddenly was mentally ready.
Stressing yourself doesn't help one bit. It makes it worse. Just accept who and what you are and go with the flow.
From your question I am not quite sure if your boyfriend is just making suggestions to get you to open up more, or if he does the whole "it is normal and you are just weird" thing. Either way, if you don't feel comfortable, say so and that should be the end of the discussion. It doesn't matter what it is, there is always going to be something, no matter how old you get, a guy likes in bed which you don't feel is for you. Confidently saying "no, not happening" is important. Nagging you until you give in is horrible, making you feel insecure and it is him being in the wrong. Not you.
Be you, and only you, and don't worry.
By the way, I also hate demeaning talk in bed. But if a guy does the opposite, he gets very lucky indeed :-)
posted by Madpiano at 1:17 PM on September 22, 2015

Oral contraceptives have a variety of side effects and everyone is different, but the pill is well known to lower your sex drive. Try a few months off of the pill, and check in with yourself to see if you feel more motivated.
posted by Dashy at 4:26 PM on September 22, 2015

Best answer: There's nothing wrong with not wanting to try _________ just because your partner is into it, or wants you to or insists. I don't think you should make that your problem, because it isn't. If you're not into it, you're not into it. That's enough, and that's OK. Being open minded is a good quality, but that's not the same as having no boundaries.
posted by cnc at 9:20 PM on September 22, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you for your suggestions. Those questions were helpful and of course there's the option to see a therapist.

I also found some of the information you all mentioned pretty interesting. That Come As You Are book sounds pretty informative and like it will remind me of what I've read but forgotten. And I didn't consider that it's ok not want to try things even once, which makes sense. Thank you.

I don't know why people thought he might be pushy or insensitive. He's only asked me one time and I've been thinking about it the last couple of days.
posted by SillyEvelina at 4:38 PM on September 23, 2015

SillyEvelina, I have no idea why anyone didn't mention this yet, but after reading your question I immediately thought "it's emotional, duh."

Most people who have been having sex a long time (and some people who haven't been having sex a long time) treat sex like a sport, that is to say, like an academic, physical exercise or game that has "rules" and "steps" and that you "practice" for "fun." This is a very common, almost ubiquitous prevailing opinion in modern life. So when I read all these suggestions that are essentially "this part of sex isn't fun for ou, find what is fun for you" they ring a little hollow to me.

Sex is an extremely vulnerable, emotional, primal experience in which you trust another human being with your body, your pleasure, potentially giving you a disease or getting you pregnant, your reputation (unfortunately) and to some extent involves an implicit emotional, human component, especially for women and especially for those who feel in any way vulnerable or inexperienced.

Unfortunately, many a young man these days who is not in love (perhaps inspired by porn) will treat sex like a video game, and woman like a doll. Like it is an abstract activity and you are the literal object that gets them off. They don't necessarily do it to be cruel or even realize what they're doing. Much of it is just blundering unawareness. But it can feel very empty and unmotivating if you aren't yet in that space of "sex for fun."

My suggestion, honestly, is to find the sappiest, most ridiculously over romantic boy you can find and see if that inspires you to get between the sheets more. They are more rare, but young men of this type do still exist. (And suffer their own youthful delusions, but that's another AskMe question.)
posted by quincunx at 5:31 PM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

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