I’m a bisexual woman in a LTR with another woman. My issue is that I’m super bashful when it comes to asking for what I want during sex. I’ve been partnered for a while now and even though I’m really comfortable with her and trust her, it’s hard for me to drum up the confidence to speak up. She’s great at asking me what I want from her but in the moment I freeze up and don’t even know how to start answering her questions! I get nervous, I get anxious, and I can barely say much at all. Any way you can help me spit it — anything! — out during sex?!
— Bashful Babe
The modern sexual revolution has been fueled by anti-slutshaming, the freedom of popular hookup culture, and being outspoken about taboos (getting-more-formerly-by-the-day) such as birth control, genuine sexual pleasure, the gender spectrum, and designer relationships. So much open space to move around in! So many rules to bend and break and disregard so that you can make your own! So many things on the sexual menu to pick from! How is a bashful babe to choose?
No but really, how is a bashful babe to choose?
Though part of the battle is finding the bravery, freedom, and permission to ask for what we want, the other part is figuring out: wait, what the hell do I even want to ask for?
Maintaining your own independent sex life, even when you are in relationships, is a crucial aspect of having a great and satisfying sex life. Just because you are partnered, doesn’t mean that the solo sexplorations needs to or should end. Reading books about sex, talking about sex, finding porn you actually like, masturbating, trying new sex toys out, or even just fantasizing on your morning commute are all great ways to discover and build on your own independent sexuality.
Being unsure about what you like, if you like something, or even if you want to try to see if you like something is an intensely personal process that doesn’t necessarily need to be done in front of an audience — even if that audience is your wonderful, trusting, long-term mate.
Tell your partner that you’re in a research phase and take some sexy soul-searching time alone. Check in with a therapist about any specifics that pop up during this exploration that seem to be triggering an extreme anxiety reaction for you to help process them out.
A good place to start your research is by reading about sex. Your brain is your largest sex organ and will do most of the legwork in determining what turns you on. I highly recommend Come As You Are by local author Emily Nagoski and What You Really Really Want by Jacklyn Friedman, both excellent books for tearing down barricades to discovering and building the sex life you want.
Then, start to play around with new sexual things — solo. Give yourself permission to stop-and-start, to have a weird response to something you just don’t like, to binge on that one thing you really like, and to diversify beyond what you think you already like. Then when you’re ready, bring back some of your findings to your partner along with your ideas around how you want her to be involved (if at all). But for now, keep her out of it.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationships therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.