I recently started going out with this girl, but it already feels like we are magnets to one another (both inside and outside of the bedroom). But the last time we had sex an issue came up that broke up that magnet-like feeling for me.
I’m someone who really wants to communicate about sex so I know how to make partners feel good in all the ways they want. So I was really confused when, during sex, my communication caused her discomfort. I was trying to ask her what she was into or if she wanted me to do this or that to make sure that she was comfortable, but she told me she was uncomfortable with all the talking.
I feel myself in a strange double bind here. On the one hand, I want her to feel comfortable during sex and she has told me that quieting-up will do that. On the other hand, we just started seeing one another and I really don’t know what kinds of sex she likes and dislikes, how she likes to be touched, etc. The prospect of having sex without communication seems unethical to me.
Do you have any suggestions? Looking to get that magnet-like feeling back, but I’m not sure how to do that in a situation where communication is a turn-off.
— Don’t Talk Dirty to Me
Striking a balance between constant communication and losing ourselves in the pleasures of our bodies can be a tightrope, especially if our partner’s preferred ratio of Talk:Action is different than ours. I tour colleges teaching workshops about just this. It can be complicated.
What’s not optional is getting someone’s verbal permission to touch their bodies before you do it, especially sexually. However, what happens next is where many get stuck. Some might think, “Hey, I gave you my consent to have sex with me, why are you still asking me so many questions?” Others, like you, may want to have a more continuous checking-in process.
Established partners, on the other hand, may have a greater understanding between them of what activities don’t require a check-in (example: It’s always okay to pull my hair!) or definitely always do (example: Whoa! No backdoor exploring without talking about it first!).
Active, continuous consent isn’t a one-way arrow, but is more like the recycling sign, with several processes looping back into each other. Meaning, keeping sex consensual between the two of you also includes your views of what makes for consensual, enjoyable, pleasurable sex — not just hers. You do not feel comfortable performing silent, check-in-less sex on this person’s body (Yeah! Makes sense to me!). So, you shouldn’t.
Does this mean you can just run your mouth, continuing to make her uncomfortable in the name of your personal consent crusade? No, of course not, but let’s explore the middle ground.
First, remind your partner that you blabbing whilst banging is likely temporary. As you get more familiar with having sex with her, you’re likely to ask fewer questions as you gain more knowledge.
Talk about sex outside of sex. Go out on a hike and talk about what she does/doesn’t like, what her definite no’s are, and vice versa. A Yes/No/Maybe list might be helpful here (yanatallonhicks.com/the-yesnomaybe-list).
Ask her if she’ll agree to always speak up when something feels bad or just not good. If you trust her to speak up when something isn’t sitting right, then perhaps you’ll feel less pressure to check in quite as often.
Finally, trust your gut. If her preferred lack of real-time communication still kills your magnetic force, it’s likely because this kind of silent sex doesn’t feel safe to you. Again, just because you’re the act-performing partner, doesn’t mean that you don’t have your own consent process happening. Keep it consensual for yourself, too.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationships therapaist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.