Looking for resources to help my partner learn more about sex
July 3, 2022 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm a cishet man; my partner, a cishet woman, both in our 30s. Before we met, I had a lively and varied sex life, with many people, a lot of kink, a lot of experimentation. I know what I like, I know what I'm game for, I know what I don't like - and often from extensive firsthand experience. My current partner has much more limited experience, and also limited knowledge of what "options" exist. We're trying to make our sex life more varied and expand our repertoire of acts beyond PIV intercourse, for a variety of reasons. She wants to learn more about sex - kinks, acts, positions, toys. Where can I point her?

You might ask why we're not talking about sex and why I'm not sharing my experiences to help her learn - and that's actually a big part of the problem. I'm her third-ever partner, and while she (logically, intellectually) understands that my previous partners and experiences don't diminish my love or respect for her, the imbalance in our experience levels makes this challenging. When we've tried, I have a hard time not making her feel like I'm just recounting all the freaky crazy things I've done with other women and making her feel inadequate for not being equally excited for equally adventurous acts.

Also, I "know too much." It doesn't help that I've always just been very curious about sex, so I know a fair amount even about a lot of acts and kinks I haven't done or aren't into. For example, she wasn't even aware that some people are actively into their partners having sex with other people, never mind the distinctions between cuckold and hotwifing kinks, etc, but when that topic came up organically, she assumed I knew all about it from firsthand experience... and that I wanted to do it with her.

As you might imagine, I also just don't know how to 'start' somebody on this kind of journey; I'm used to diving straight into topics and picking out the parts I'm interested in, whereas that kind of unstructured "dive into the deep end and figure it out" doesn't work well for her at all. She needs introductions and guides and a gentle on-ramp that understands she might find a topic uncomfortable or at least intimidating.

So, what am I looking for? I don't really know - that's part of why I'm asking.

This could mean some kind of 'independent research' like a good book or website and as she finds something interesting, we can discuss it or try it out - knowing that I'm probably familiar with whatever it is, but putting the focus on what *she* finds hot or intriguing.

Alternately, it could be a resource (an app? A book?) that 'guides us' both as a couple, and if I happen to know in advance all about Topic X, that's fine too, I can just say "yes, I've done this and I know I like it" and I don't 'have to' recount details of my past life she doesn't want to hear.

I should note that she isn't from a religious or other 'sex-shaming' background, and any resources that put much effort into addressing that, she's going to find equally offputting. Her ethics and politics are sex-positive, she has numerous queer friends, she's thrilled that a good friend of ours is finally out as trans and hinting at lots of great sex with her new throuple. This isn't about convincing her that sex is okay, it's "just" about learning in a productive way.

If it helps, the metaphor we came up with is this: I used to travel several times a year, often to wildly different countries, and I sometimes went backpacking deep in the woods. Her vacations are usually a short drive to the same beach town, around the same time of every year. She knows that more varied travel is important to me and wants to expand her willingness to do it. She's probably never going to want to go backpacking - but maybe she'd like car camping! But I'm so gung-ho about the whole topic that I'm a terrible teacher, and I'm bad at explaining "this is how tents work and stargazing is a fun part of camping," instead I drop casual references to orienteering and geocaching. So she wants a Camping 101 book or app.

(Speaking to a sex therapist or similar professional is theoretically an option but talking to a stranger about this is not something either of us is particularly comfortable with, and we want to exhaust other options first.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

Some very, very good books on the subject -

I've not read it myself, but I've heard LOADS of people recommend The Guide to Getting it On.

I have read Larry Gonick's Cartoon Guide To Sex, which covers more than just "how people do it". It actually takes a very fair-minded look at "what are fetishes and what are kinks and why do some people have them", and I think that angle may be very helpful in this case.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:28 AM on July 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Does she read romance books? It is a very low-stakes approach and the genre is so big one can find nearly every kink covered. I think a “camping 101” guide is likely to be too clinical and highlight the experience difference between you two — but books about great camping trips will give her stories outside your own experiences to serve as an entry point. Likewise, some of them are so incredibly ridiculous and over the top that you can’t help but laugh, and she might need a bit of levity on this topic. It also has such a well developed community that you don’t have to remain her guiding star, which will also lower the difference of your experience gap.

BookTok has a very solid romance community, if she’s into TikTok. Reddit has r/romancebooks and r/romancelandia, both very supportive communities. (Romancelandia is more queer friendly; romancebooks tends to lean heavily into cis hetero books.) The genre entry point for a lot of people I know was Ice Planet Barbarians, though the first book has a pretty heavy rape scene that turns a lot of people off (after that, they’re all ridiculous cinnamon buns… but if pregnancy/kids are a trigger, this is also not the right series.) Katee Robert books are also a pretty solid starting point; some are sold in regular book stores and tend to have a bit more plot, and some are KU and those are the lightest of window dressings for plot/setting. (All are worthwhile.) Honestly, just investing the $10/month for a Kindle Unlimited account and you both just dive in isn’t the worst introduction.

I won’t take up more space with specific book or subgenre suggestions. MeMail me if that’s something you’d like.
posted by lilac girl at 11:10 AM on July 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

There's a Kink Coffee Shop and Boutique in San Franciso: Wicked Grounds. They offer classes, some on zoom, about different kink topics. I've yet to attend a class, but it seems like it would be a great place to learn more.
posted by skunk pig at 12:27 PM on July 3, 2022

I learn far more like you and have long had a kind of fascination with the plethora and variety of sexual activities and proclivities of people as a whole, so I don’t have specific recommendations. However, I would trust Babeland to do me right in most meanings of the word and they have a whole section of sex info and how to books. They also have a lot of lovely couples oriented toys that are approachable and effective, if your partner would like to peruse a selection of those.

Honestly it sounds like you should take yourself away from the equation for a bit. I’m not saying you should go on a break, just that she needs to feel safe to explore things at her own pace and not constantly be comparing to you or trying to meet you where you are. Point her to resources but don’t ask for follow up unless she brings it up herself. Stay interested in her romantically, of course! Whatever your relationship looks like when it’s loving, maintain that. But she needs space to absorb information and ideas without how they relate to you.
posted by Mizu at 12:52 PM on July 3, 2022 [10 favorites]

OhJoySexToy is a comic that might nice for her--they mainly focus on toy review but there's other sex ed topics. It's upbeat and cheery.
posted by foxfirefey at 1:11 PM on July 3, 2022 [8 favorites]

I'm a big fan of journalist Kate Sloan, who runs a sex-focused blog with a rich archive, including many, many toy reviews. She also co-hosts a fantastic sex-focused podcast, The Dildorks, along with educator Bex Caputo. Kate recently wrote a book called 101 Kinky Things Even You Can Do, which seems tailor made for your partner. Happy exploring!
posted by prewar lemonade at 3:29 PM on July 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Maybe OMG Yes?
Definitely seconding Oh joy sex toy.
Possibly Mojoupgrade?
posted by poxandplague at 4:32 PM on July 3, 2022

A step up from romance novels are books like Best Women's Erotica of The Year. Lots and lots of very short stories that explore all the different travel destinations, like all of them. It's a situation where she's in control of the pace and content, and has nothing to do with you (in the best possible way).
posted by Adifferentbear at 6:09 PM on July 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Reading sex toy review blogs really helped me feel more comfortable starting to own my sexuality & feel comfortable in it for myself (as opposed to what I could be for another person). Hey Epiphora is one I enjoy quite a lot (& has extensive & often absolutely hilarious archives).
posted by augustimagination at 6:56 PM on July 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Highly recommend a fantasy box subscription. It made a huge difference for us in extremely similar circumstances. The first box comes with questionnaires to help get you talking but without making it feel like one person “knows more”. From there the series focuses on different areas. Control, romance, role play, …. I forget the fourth. Sensual maybe? There are boxes for exploring anal, kink, all sorts of stuff. Customer service is top notch and will switch things out for you if you already have things or want something else. Everyone I’ve recommended this to who has tried it has gotten something out of it.

I don’t work for them. Just a happy customer.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:25 PM on July 3, 2022

Book: Guide To Getting It On
posted by Jacqueline at 11:17 PM on July 3, 2022

Vanessa Marin could be a great starting point:
https://vmtherapy.com/ (sry, linking doesn't work for me today...)

She is a sexual therapist, focused on couples in committed relationships, very non-threatening but also very explicit. I love her humor and the fact that she has a lot of easy-access digital content. You can meet her (and her husband) out on Instagram if you first want to check out her vibe.

If you don't have any particular issues to tackle and your wife just wants to check out what else there is to try, their playbook might be fun. https://vmtherapy.thrivecart.com/sex-position-playbook/

Or you play the yes, no, maybe playlist (without you having to go into specifics whether you have tried these things or not)

(no affiliation, just a log-time follower of Vanessa and a fan of her work)
posted by Fallbala at 2:40 AM on July 4, 2022

Another thought: does your wife watch porn? If not, you could help her find female-friendly/feminist porn sites for her to explore on her own. Maybe it can help her become more literalte about the things she likes / wants to explore.

Erika Lust will be a great starting point: https://erikalust.com/
posted by Fallbala at 2:44 AM on July 4, 2022

Drawn to Sex: the Basics isn’t only the basic basics, and it’s fantastic.
posted by umbú at 8:27 AM on July 4, 2022

Seconding erotica -- I and lots of my female friends love literotica.com. Erotica in it's many forms (fanfics are one) is to many girls/women what porn is to many boys/men. I'd suggest sometime when you are out of the house, she drink the drink of her choice, light a candle, and see if she can find some things that turn her on. Just following her curiosity into the various categories should provide some opportunities to learn about new things.

Secondly, in college and my early 20s I read the entire archive of Savage Love. Would read it for hours in deep fascination. Truly the best sex education out there!
posted by amaire at 9:20 AM on July 5, 2022

I definitely want to nudge her towards some well-written erotica, especially that written by and for women. I don't think you should choose this for her. Maybe suggest some things and let her pick it out, based on what sounds interesting. If you have a great bookstore with a solid erotica section, offer to buy her three books (or whatever). The more she explores this, this better. I also want to say... give her LOTS of space to read this stuff and think about it and dream without asking lots of questions about her. You have had lots of time to explore this and before that lots of time to fantasize about it all. If she hasn't yet peered around the corners of her brain, she will need to start peaking and exploring on her own time and in her own way. You sound like a great and supportive partner, but I can also imagine that you being a bit *too* enthusiastic might be stressful for her, you know? This is a great journey for her, and it would be great if she's taking it on her own terms.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:58 PM on July 5, 2022

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