Today’s question comes from Marianne:
Here's what I would like to see discussed - the women I was involved with, it didn't really matter which one of us was more or less sexually experienced. There wasn't any sort of expectation aligned with gender presentation.But the plain fact is that I've got more sexual experience than my husband and his lack of comfort with some stuff actually makes me more uncomfortable than I have any good reason to be. It's not really about being perceived negatively - it's sympathetic anxiety. And because women are not customarily the partner who leads in a hetero sexy situation (outside of some specific bdsm/power play situations that I'm not sure everyone is into), I've kind of flailed around without being sure how to introduce him to some Stuff I Like.The answer is probs simple and obvy - talk it out and be confident and what not. But it feels weirdly isolated to, like, never discuss this kind of situation. How do you lead a partner who maybe a little embarrassed by their lack of experience (because they're a dude and dudes are supposed to know, right?) into the kinky garden you'd prefer to play in?
I’ve heard this sympathetic anxiety thing a lot. It's hard to see a guy struggling through the weight of gendered expectations and just want to do something to help--whether it's about trouble getting an erection, inability to make you come from oral sex, or a difference in experience and knowledge. And while it may seem simple and obvy, Marianne, often those solutions are the hardest to implement!
Okay, you're supposed to communicate with your partner--but how?
Hint: The answer is not “threaten him with a tiny purple flogger.” Though it might work.
I know that some jump to the power of the almighty checklist here--both partners filling in their interest in different sexy activities so there’s less pressure and you can look for matches between your lists--but I'm going to have to disagree.
The fact is, it's hard to know whether you have an interest in something if you've never seen it done, particularly if your only exposure comes from subtly anti-kink or sensationalizing forms of media. Rather than presenting a kink in the theoretical form of a three-word list item, you’ll probably have more luck describing what you’re into in very specific terms.
One way to do this, of course, is to talk about a fantasy. Depending on your relationship, you could start by describing a situation you were in once, or something you witnessed that got you hot and bothered, and then add on details that would really enhance the experience for you, basically giving him a roadmap of how to give you an even better time than before.
If that’s likely to push jealousy buttons, you can also start from something, no matter how small, that your partner’s done to remind you of that interest.
For example, let’s say you like having a hand on your throat during sexual play, but you get the feeling he’d misunderstand and think you’re talking about breathplay that he considers dangerous and scary. You could confess that when his hand brushed your throat during sex, it really turned you on--and maybe he could do that intentionally.
If you demonstrate the pressure you’re talking about by putting his hand where you want it, you’re taking some of the “I feel like such a n00b” out of it because you’re presenting it in a very personal way--this is the particular pressure and sensation you like, which of course he’d have no way of knowing if you’ve never done it together.
The same basic idea would work for any kink, focusing on the details of your personal preferences. You also don’t have to bring it up right in the moment, which can cause some anxiety if he feels that getting it wrong would ruin this particular encounter for you.
Just letting it come up naturally in conversation when you’re both relaxed works well, and you can figure out an easy enough segue--something on TV that makes you think of it, being in a position or touching each other in a way in non-sexual context that reasonably suggests the thing you’re thinking of, etc. This might be a little less anxiety-inducing for him than the big “So I’ve been thinking...” opener.
I also have another suggestion, since you mention that isolated feeling and that it’s not easy to just talk it out and be confident, despite your own confidence and lack of concern about being negatively perceived. One great introduction to a wide variety of sexy activities is a subscription to either Kink Academy or Passionate U (the more “vanilla” version).
Though I hesitate to say “give your partner homework” instead of “talk it out,” these sites are a great start. You can watch together or he can watch on his own. If you have some favorite things you want to suggest, the sites let you create a public or private playlist. The videos vary from sexy demos verging on porn to very academic, clothes-on discussions of almost any kink you could think of, as well as theory (safer sex, negotiation, communication, etc.) I find them to be great conversation starters.
They even have cheerleaders! What’s not to love?
Of course, there’s also the porn method, but I don’t find showing porn to be a particularly helpful ice breaker. The nice thing about sex education videos is that they appeal to the visual male brain while at the same time avoiding the ridiculous expectations and unrealistic techniques of many kinds of porn.
You can also learn from them yourself, in which case, “Hey, did you know this? I learned something new today...” can work as a way to indicate your interest while at the same time showing that you don’t know all the answers. If you’re modeling how fun you find curiosity and learning new things, it might take some of the embarrassed edge off for him.
In general, particularly if you’re more loud/confident/brash than your male partner overall, the “I’m learning too” approach can be really useful as you’re bringing up new sexy ideas. Whether it’s telling your partner something new you learned from a sex ed resource, admitting that you’re curious about something but don’t know a lot about it (or don’t know a lot about X aspect of it), or even just saying, “Yes, I’d like to teach you something new with which I’m already experienced, and it really turns me on that I get to be the one to show you this,” it’s important to humanize the experience.
You’re not some sort of all-knowing sex goddess anymore than he’s an unattractive, emasculated kink virgin. You both are going to have feelings going into a new experience, and it’s good to just get those out there, be honest, and take a big sigh of relief and have a laugh together before you break out the toybox or the fancy positions cushion.