How can I overcome my sexual shyness?
July 16, 2008 11:47 PM   Subscribe

I would like to be more, er, assertive in bed, but I'm too shy. How can I get past this? Is there a good self-help book on the subject? Is there anything you've personally tried that worked for you?

Sex with my boyfriend is like a graham cracker - I enjoy it while I'm having it, but I'm not often craving it. This is almost entirely my fault - I'm not making much effort to change anything or express my feelings on the matter. I don't really know how. The problem for me is that I'm painfully shy when it comes to sex. I get embarrassed so easily! Rational or not, I can't even bring up what I like because I'm too terrified of being made fun of. I haven't really had much trouble with this in the past because past boyfriends were a bit controlling, which worked perfectly for me in the bedroom. I actually like to be controlled a bit in (and only in) the bedroom. Besides, if someone else is calling the shots, you can't embarrass yourself, right? My present beau seems to be more about pleasing me, however, which would be wonderful if I knew how to tell him what I want. But I don't. Help me figure out how to get past this.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

One way to ease into being more vocal about what you want is to start out by saying what you already like while it's happening. When you're already "in the moment" and something feels really good, go ahead and tell your partner that it feels good. That'll at least give him some positive feedback and he can learn what you want, and what you like, based on your responses. Then, once you're comfortable responding to him verbally, you can work your way up to actually giving him direction and suggestions.

Also, do you feel comfortable talking about sex with him outside the bedroom? Like when you're having an "us" talk, can you tell him that you're shy about being assertive, just so he'll know that it's not anything he's doing wrong. Maybe you can also use that opportunity to tell him that you prefer him to be the assertive one.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. Start out taking little steps toward being more verbal about what you like, and what you want, and you'll get more comfortable with it as you go along. Have fun!
posted by amyms at 12:05 AM on July 17, 2008

do you have long periods of time alone where when he comes home he could be reliably in the mood for romping? if so - get yourself thinking about sex all day. drink a glass of wine, read dirty stories, watch porn...keep yourself in a purely sexual head space for at few hours, then have sex with him. find out for you if it's better for you to have many orgasms all day (so you're all swollen and wet and revved up) or if you want to hold off and never actually have an orgasm until he provides it (for the anticipation, the rise, the pounding heat of needs not met). repeat that about once a week or once every two weeks and i bet you'll find your thinking about him more often and what you'd like him to be doing.
posted by nadawi at 1:16 AM on July 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

Nadawi gives good advice. Also, if you're a morning person AT ALL, try initiating sex when you first wake up. It's a rare man who will turn that down, making it much less likely that you'll get rejected/embarrassed.

I know you say you're shy about this stuff, but it probably wouldn't hurt to tell your boyfriend that you like being controlled a little bit. Once again, it's something that (in my experience) most men react rather positively to.
posted by arianell at 2:08 AM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Roleplay. Pretend you're a woman who's more confident and assertive in bed.

This is not a snark.
posted by availablelight at 3:53 AM on July 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Write erotic stories to each other, or just find stories on the internet that you think are particularly erotic and email. Step B is collaborative writing. Step C is "collaborative writing".
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:27 AM on July 17, 2008

You say your current guy is "more about pleasing me," rather than being controlling like your exes. I think that the conversation you need to have is telling him that you need him to become more dominant/controlling/in charge in order for you to be satisfied.

My saying that doesn't immediately solve your fear of being made fun of for articulating your needs -- that sounds a bit like something talking with a therapist might help with, honestly. But I do think you need to clarify to yourself what those needs actually are -- is it that he needs instruction on lick here, now touch here, now lay back and let me do this? In other words, is he actually pretty submissive and needs someone to guide him through? Or is it that he is well-intentioned but is doing things that aren't quite working for you, and he needs to be told "do X not Y, A not B, and spend more time on P before you do Q"?

Or, which was my first paragraph, are you needing him to take a fundamentally different approach, and provide the sort of sexual experience that you have found so satisfying in the past?

Only after you clarify this to yourself will you be able to tell him what it is that you need.

As to how to tell him (once you are sure of what you are requesting), directly is probably the best way. But if that's too hard, you can write it down, or role play, or tell him indirectly ("I have this friend..." or "Once upon a time..."), or find a book or movie that portrays what you want and make him read or watch it.
posted by Forktine at 5:37 AM on July 17, 2008

In theory, this is the easiest bf you've had for this because he wants to please you. You can overcome your fear of rejection by writing out questios for him or requests and then ask yourself how a reasonable person would respond and how you are afraid they would respond. Acknowledge your fear, but that doesn't mean you need to give in. You will probably find a huge gap in your fears and in what a reasonable person would do. Then you can remind yourself that not only is he reasonable, he wants to please you. It should get easier.

Maybe you could also start with a metatalk about how to create a comfortable environment for talking about uncomfortable things.
posted by plinth at 7:29 AM on July 17, 2008

Following on to availablelight, act towards him the way you want him to act towards you.
posted by rhizome at 8:39 AM on July 17, 2008

A drink or two or a low dose of benzodiazepines can do wonders for overcoming shyness in the bedroom.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:00 AM on July 17, 2008

New man.

What? Horrible advice. If he likes to please you and if he is at all a decent fellow, then he will welcome suggestions on how to please you. If you are looking for ways to ease into the conversation Forktine gives some good ideas. "I have a friend who likes to do X in bed and I think it would be fun to try that out." That is an invitation to be naked with you and what bf wouldn't want that?
posted by mmascolino at 9:02 AM on July 17, 2008

New Man? Are you fucking serious? Christ.

Anyway, lame answer aside, I think you should write yourself a letter outlining all the things you'd like him to do to you to please you and what you would want to happen to enjoy sex with him. Do it by yourself. This way, first and foremost, YOU know what you want, and writing it down gives you time to think about it and express it accurately. Then...send him this letter. That way, he gets your thoughts without the embarrassment of you having to talk about them with him through your shyness, which can be hard. Then after a couple of days, have yourselves a romantic night and then ask him what he thought of your letter.
posted by spicynuts at 9:49 AM on July 17, 2008

to expand on what i said last night - too many women, i think, wait for their partner to encourage all sexuality based feelings. for some reason we seldom take responsibility for being or not being horny. the crux of my advice is, just be horny first and then see if you're still shy. the other advice on approaching your fears and telling him what you want are all well and good but it doesn't seem like you even have a firm grasp on that with your graham cracker descriptions. let's get you a few really good romps in hay to see if that shakes any of it lose.
posted by nadawi at 10:35 AM on July 17, 2008

Have you considered that your boyfriend may want to be more assertive but is terrified himself? I... that is to say, my friend is in a relationship that sounds a lot like yours, and he's only recently taken to being more controlling. See, he's been conditioned not to force sex on women and that conditioning might have had drawbacks. He doesn't always feel comfortable initiating because he's afraid of imposing or making his girlfriend uncomfortable. Plus there's always the fear of rejection.

Talk is good. Outside the bedroom you can talk about fantasies, bring home a movie that explores themes you might be interested in playing out. A little wine helps.

Inside the bedroom are you vocal? A moan here and there is good, but "yes, more, slower, OH GOD THAT'S GOOD" will give him some definite pointers as to what it is you want.
posted by lekvar at 12:31 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

See, he's been conditioned not to force sex on women and that conditioning might have had drawbacks.

Just to be clear here, I'm not saying that there is a problem with the message that forcing sex is bad, just that my friend internalized the wrong parts of that message.
posted by lekvar at 12:33 PM on July 17, 2008

Um, hi dear? If he wants to please you, you don't need to do anything beyond responding to him when he does good. Writhe, moan. Just enough to let him know he's pleasing you. Think of responding a bit like a pet cat. He'll learn.

If you're having trouble with even that, and just enjoy laying there, then I dunno.
posted by FuManchu at 1:13 PM on July 17, 2008

Read The Guide To Getting It On by Paul Joannides. Out loud. To your boyfriend. You can giggle if it makes you embarrassed; you will learn lots of great info; you will open up a dialog about sex; and you will get used to saying those uncomfortable words out loud. To help ease yourself into it you can start with the less racy chapters such as "Romance" and "Kissing - Lip Smacking Good." Another idea: listen to the Dan Savage podcast together (download at You need to get comfortable with the idea of sex and communicating about sex. After that the assertiveness will come a lot more naturally.
posted by JennyK at 5:28 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

This might not work for most people, but when I hit a wall with my boyfriend after about a year (we've always had great chemistry though, from the was so great though that it was starting to seem boring "on paper" so I was curious how it could be even better), I realized I was never going to be able to express my curiosity and desire for something more or different face to face without blushing and losing my nerve to fully explain myself. He broke the ice actually by writing me some very candid letters about how he felt about me physically, because I was still insecure about whether he really found me (specifically me) attractive. So I wrote him a very long letter one night after I was having trouble sleeping where I poured out all of my thoughts and potential desires. I was bright red after he woke up and I knew he had read it, but wow, months later I have to say I don't regret it. He gently, gradually began incorporating things I'd mentioned in the letter into our make out sessions. I think too though I'm lucky--my boyfriend (now fiance!) is a very tactful individual who's always been excellently sensitive to my needs. He notices how I hesitate and can be insecure and responds pitch perfectly in subtle ways, and his response to my letter was no different. So, success for me--I got off (no pun intended) easy, was able to do things with him I had no idea how to ask for in person without shuddering in mortification, and never had to acknowledge it directly because he's awesome like that. I know this sounds like avoidance and non communication, and results likely would vary depending on couple. But it worked for me. The best thing about it was it made things so much hotter AND cemented our relationship by confirming how much he cared about me and how sensitive he could be in how he reacted. So if you have the right type of partner maybe a letter could work or at least be a very good opener to some more direct communication about this.
posted by ifjuly at 10:57 PM on July 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by Jacqueline at 3:07 AM on July 18, 2008

Sex and chemistry between two (other) people is a tough thing to comment on. And I'm having a bit of a hard time figuring out what you're asking exactly. But if you're wondering how to get yourself more interested and excited about sex, I have a few ideas. Like you, I've always let the guy do the vast majority of the legwork sexually because they either liked to (the controlling thing) or because I have issues with being perceived as slutty and/or being objectified.

Do you know what things you like and what turns you on? Without this being about your current relationship, do you know what things you're into with any partner? I think that's the place to start - to build your sexual identity independent of the sex you're currently having. You can then begin to share that part of who you are. To take a wild stab in the dark, I'd say you're feeling shy because maybe you're not sure of yourself. The confidence comes with being sure of what you like and what turns you on - when you're so excited about something you can't not share it with your current partner. The internet is a bountiful resource of porn, erotica, etc. I'd highly recommend perusing various sources for inspiration. I'd also recommend having sex with yourself on your own time pretty regularly. I think confidence comes in this arena, as with most, with knowing yourself well.

Good luck! ~ss
posted by smallstatic at 8:27 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

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