My wife is interested in exploring her sexuality a little further — things she might be interested in trying, etc. — but is hoping to do so in a way that is female- and feminist-friendly. Do you have any suggestions for things she can do or read either individually or with me?
— Helpful Husband
My favorite kind of husband is the one willing to lend a helping hand to his partner’s continued sexual exploration — especially when they’re flexible about their level of involvement!
Googling “sex” willy-nilly on the internet can get sticky to say the least. Before y’all surf the web, hit the books. Come As You Are by our very own local sexpert Emily Nagoski is the first thing to read. This is one of the most comprehensive, shame-reducing and normalizing books about sex I’ve read. Her helpful worksheets direct the reader through some great self-reflection and sexual explorations and can be done solo or with a partner (that’s you, HH!).
Other good readings include Mating in Captivity by my professional idol Esther Perel and O WOW: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm by Jenny Block.
Watching feminist porn either solo or with a partner is great sexploration fodder. Feminist porn isn’t that wam-bam-thank-you-whatever-your-name-was mainstream porn you find easily when you Google “porn.” Feminist porn is intentionally made for the non-male gaze, is often directed by women and queer people, features scenes co-created by the performers, and proudly displays real orgasms and consent practices. (Read my past column, Grass Fed Porn for more on feminist porn.)
Tristan Taormino directs great feminist-friendly sex educational porn she calls “expert guides” on topics that include female orgasms, the G-spot, oral sex, threesomes, and rough sex that blend smut and educational lecture for a real pleasurable learning experience.
Also, your truly humble sex columnist teaches a variety of workshops on topics such as the G-spot, kink, anal sex, non-monogamous relationships, and sex toys! You can find my upcoming workshops at yanatallonhicks.com.
Sexual shame can be a heavy shroud to lift for a lot of people — especially women, queer people and other folks who have not been granted the same social permission to talk about and explore their sexuality and experiences of sexual pleasure that straight men have enjoyed.
Give her space to explore without judgement or anxiety. Ask her what she desires and listen to her needs. Autostraddle.com’s Yes/No/Maybe List is a great way to structure this conversation.
But remember: Empowering her to explore doesn’t mean you have to say “Yes!” to everything she wants to try with you — never forget about consent — but this does give you an opportunity to challenge some old scripts about how men and women are “supposed to be” sexually. For example, let’s say she wants to have some solo masturbation time to her fav new feminist porn. It may make you feel nervous, angry and feeling left out or inadequate. It’s a common reaction; just as common as people telling women they “shouldn’t” watch porn or masturbate. If/when your anxieties about her newfound sexuality crop up, ask yourself “Is this my genuine reaction? Or is this me allowing social stigmas and gender roles to react on my behalf?”
Sometimes sexual exploration and growth can kick up some stronger feelings and changes, too, and speaking to a couples counselor can be helpful. I should know. I am now seeing clients at The Couples Center of the Pioneer Valley in Northampton as their LMFT graduate intern with a particular interest in — you guessed it — issues regarding sex and sexuality.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive sex writer and educator living in the Pioneer Valley. She has a website bursting with sexual advice, workshops, and resources at yanatallonhicks.com.