Poll Results: What makes sex hard?

Thanks to everyone who participated in my last poll! The question was what do you struggle with most in your relationship? The intent of this poll was to see what made sex most difficult for you and your partner. A friend of mine pointed out that I didn’t include “everything is awesome” as a possible choice. This was actually an accident. I had intended to focus primarily on the idea that everyone struggles sometimes. It doesn’t matter how often you struggle or if you’re currently struggling. Sometimes you’re too tired. Sometimes you’re too busy. Life happens. Here are the results.

Most of you voted that you just didn’t like sex the same amount. Your partner liked it more or less than you did, and that influenced how often you had sex. The two results with the second highest number of votes were also about time. Finding enough time to have sex, or not being turned on at the same time.

These results say something pretty interesting. Solo sex (masturbation) is easy because it revolves around you and your schedule. Any sort of partnered sex is more difficult because you have to match up your partners libido with your libido and your partners schedule with your schedule. Those things aren’t always easy.

I had a few fill in responses, one which I should have thought of: having enough privacy. If you don’t live alone or with your significant other, or if you have kids, this can be a big one!

Even if we exclude things like time crunches, having privacy, and liking sex the same amount, there are still a lot of things that can make sex hard. Some people struggle getting aroused. Some people struggle with actual pleasure. Some people have mental or physical issues that have pushed sex from being a priority. Some people, indeed, are single, and either don’t focus on sex or cannot find a partner.

Do you have any tips for conquering these issues? If you voted in the poll, have you had success in combating some of the time issues or arousal issues with your partner?

Q: Kegels & Sexual Satisfaction

I am 34, with two children. I had a vaginal delivery with my first, and an emergency C-section with my second. Shortly after having my second, I had a bladder sling procedure as I could not hold my urine at all. I am 4 years post-op, and now the urologist is saying I have over-active bladder. I am not a candidate to use the medications due to side effects. I am extremely embarrassed. I smell like a diaper. I leak for no reason. The urologist says my bladder sling is doing its job, this is something else entirely. I have been reading about Kegal exercises and Ben Wa Balls. Is one way to strengthen the PC muscles better than the other? I feel like my odor and embarrassment are going to start causing a distance between my husband and I.

I’m very sorry to hear about your medical issues. I don’t have any experiences with bladder issues in particular, and I hope that your doctor is providing you with the best medical care. The reality of sex and sexuality is that things like this happen all the time. Especially as we get older, there may be physical or mental conditions that come into play that require us to seek and understand new ways of being sexual.

I do not believe that what you are experiencing is something that is going to require you to do things very differently. However, you may need time to become comfortable with yourself, and your body. You may need time to work on strengthening that intimacy with your partner that you feel you might be losing out on.

Yes, I would suggest kegel exercises for helping gain better control over those muscles. To exercise the pelvic floor muscles, flex like you are trying to stop the flow of urine, and hold. After a few seconds, release, and flex again. You can do these easily throughout the day while you’re going about other business.

You can also buy toys specifically meant to help you exercise. I would not say one method is better than the other. Ben Wa Balls can provide added weight, and something to clench on. There are a variety of Ben Wa Balls in a variety of sizes and materials, some with strings for easy removal, and some without.

As far as the actual sex goes, if there is anything that influences the leakage (drinking a lot of caffeine, for instance?) try to avoid those things prior to sex, if possible. It may be that you find certain positions make a difference as well.

As you go about your business, find ways of having sex that make you feel comfortable and satisfied. If there is leakage, keep a towel under you or near the bed. Sex has never been spared of bodily fluids, and never will be. Light a scented candle, and go for it.

It may be a process. You may find seeking out a physical therapist helpful the health of your pubic floor. You may find that reading books about sexuality and sex-positivity make a big influence as well. Don’t give up. Keep finding ways to connect with yourself and your partner and commit time every week towards keeping that intimacy alive.

Do you have experience with this question? Please leave your advice in the comment box if there has been something that has worked for you, or if you have general words of wisdom. Lift each other up!

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit at the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer on my blog.

Q: I think I’m trans* but I don’t know how to profile myself

Hi, I hate to bother you again. I am very,very confused by this realization I discovered about myself last week. I have it listed below in quick points: 1) I believe myself to be transgendered (closeted). 2) I am attracted to men. 3) I hired a life coach to help get my life in order. 4) She had me try online dating ,profiling myself as “gay” but describing myself as eventually becoming MTF trans. I had previously had a profile as a CD, planning on transitioning. 5) As I tried to find matches, and sent out messages,no one returned any. I have never had this problem before dating women when I was trying to cover my true feelings, or as a CD. 6) I felt kind of wrong seeking gay men. Nervous and like I was doing the wrong thing. I had no such feelings seeking str8 guys in previous profile. what’s wrong with me?

It sounds to me that if you are a MTF transgender person, despite not being fully-open and out at this moment, you still might view yourself as heterosexual. More simply put, without the labeling, you might prefer men that prefer women. You want men who want women, not men who want men. If it’s this simple, it makes complete sense to me. If you do not view yourself as a man or identify as a man, why would you want a partner who wanted you to be a man?

The problem with dating sites – at least in my previous experience – is that they rely heavily on sorting techniques. This means you enter things like your sexual orientation or your gender in order to get matched with someone else. Well, those things might not always be clear, or constant. They might not always match up with what you’re looking for, or with what someone else is looking for.

If it feels wrong to seek out gay men, don’t seek out gay men. While gay might cleanly describe how you look right now, a man looking for another man, there’s clearly a lot more depth to who you are. That simply just doesn’t begin to describe it.

Labels make things easy for people to understand. This may be why you experienced success with cross dressing. There was that label that told people what to expect. Using the label trans may offer similar assistance in finding dates. I realize there is a lot of pressure in figuring out where you fit in, who you are, and what you want. Gender and sexuality are complex and fluid and sometimes it can take a while. Sometimes people just shrug and go with queer.

If you’re not ready to commit to something, continue to think on ways of expressing who you are and what you’re looking for that don’t put you in these boxes.

Good luck!
Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit at the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog.

Happy Maysterbation!

May is Masturbation Month!

This month I’ll be spending some time reading the book Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dobson. I have not read this book yet, but given what I study, I’ve heard about it over and over again. The summary indicates that Dobson works to take the shame out of masturbation. She also views masturbation as a kind of sex. If any of you have read this book, let me know what you thought of it. If you haven’t read it, join me by picking up your own copy!

While masturbation might be the safest sex, it is also the foundation for other forms of sex that might come later.

Masturbation:

  1. Encourages you to learn your own anatomy.
  2. Helps kids/teens develop healthy ideas of pleasure.
  3. Allows you to navigate your own system of arousal.
  4. Helps you have stronger and more powerful orgasms.
  5. Is a way to relieve stress and tension from the day.
  6. Can be an easy way to ‘treat yoself’ .
  7. Is not exercise, per say, but does get the blood flowing.
  8. Can be done alone, but also with a partner for intimacy building.
  9. Is a part of partnered sex for added stimulation
  10. Feels good. Which is, for most people, enough.

I think for me what is most important about masturbation is the focus on sex as something that can be fun and harmless. There is little attention given to this idea in sex ed courses, which I believe to be very dangerous. If we taught young people how to protect themselves but also how to enjoy themselves, we would destigmatize a lot of sexuality. Those who grow up with a fear or inherent shame about their bodies end up really struggling with their sexuality later in life. This is heavily weighed towards women.

I will get questions from male partners and questions from women themselves asking “What do I do? My female partner can’t orgasm. She doesn’t masturbate. I don’t think she has ever orgasmed.” That shame is pointed towards women and the sanctity of the female body. To touch oneself is to ruin oneself. Why don’t people view pleasing the self as a form of respect for the self? Why does it have to be so… wrong?

There are men who get tossed into the mix, too. There are a large number of online support groups for men who can’t stop masturbating. This is at times tied to viewing pornography and the general wrongness these men feel after they are done masturbating. That wrongness is also tied to a sense of shame that they developed as they themselves developed.

So this month do something positive for yourself. Whatever that means to you. Reclaim yourself and your pleasure and learn more about your bodies.

Thanks to Jade for the title of this blog. 

Submit Now: Sex & Love

My queue is empty, which means its a great time for you to submit your questions, calls for advice, or writing prompts for subjects you would like to learn more about!bed-book-breakfast-1880

Haven’t submitted before? It’s super easy. Any time day or night, click ask advice at the top of my blog. Enter in the question you have, or the thing you’d like to know more about, and I respond on my blog. It’s anonymous, so no worries about feeling weird.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Generally people ask questions about sex, sexuality, gender, love, relationships, monogamy, non-monogamy, and anything else under these great umbrellas. But I’m always open for other questions that you’re struggling with. Don’t let it toss around inside – get it out. Let me help you, or help you find the help that does help.

Submit Now

Q: I don’t orgasm during sex – so what?

Hi! Love your blog! I’m a 20’s straight(ish) female struggling with reaching orgasm during sex, or rather my partners’ reactions to my inability to orgasm. I am able to orgasm while masturbating, but that is a pretty long and arduous process and almost always requires the addition of a toy or porn. With a partner I am almost completely unable to have an orgasm. With a vibrator I can orgasm with my partner, but I’m not a fan of incorporating a vibrator, as the loud buzz and the general addition of a toy are mood killers for me. I’d rather just enjoy my partner. Rubbing my clit myself during sex, or having him rub it, has never worked. Only three times has oral ever worked on me. That being said I absolutely enjoy sex without having an orgasm, and am working really hard at becoming okay with the fact that orgasms are not really a part of my sex life and that that doesn’t mean I’m broken or need to be fixed. I feel like I’ve tried everything, and accepting that this isn’t actually a problem is the only solution. My partners on the other hand have seemed to struggle with this even more than me. I am always careful to express that it is not their fault, that they did a great job, that I enjoyed it, etc. but they have a really hard time accepting that. I can’t recall a single partner who’s reaction was to just accept that I know my body. Most of my partners start by wanting to try a million ways to get me off, and insist that they’ll figure it out like I’m a rubix cube they’re trying to solve, and many then go on to get sort of mad about it when none of their techniques and persistence works, and then blame it on me, claiming that it’s because I’ve been using a vibrator or because I’m not telling them what I like (I do communicate what I like frequently and openly, but those things don’t get me off) or that I need to stop spectatoring (they’ll find some sex advice about this on reddit because apparently I’m a googleable problem who never had the sense to google this shit for myself? Not sure where they get the idea that I’m not aware of these concepts). It can be really hard for me to accept this about myself when my partners are so busy trying to fill me with hope that they’re special and will fix me. And I want them to feel happy and sexy and talented and such, and I understand why me never having an orgasm can interfere with that, but it just seems that short of me communicating my enjoyment verbally and with body language as I already do there’s nothing I can do to calm them. So I’m wondering if you have any advice for how to get my male partners truly content with not giving me an orgasm and still maintain their pride. How can I make them understand that I’m happy and they are good lovers despite what they see as evidence to the contrary?

Men and women are told a lot of stories about sexuality. One of those stories is that sex is about the orgasm. There is a very clear narrative of what sex is and how it works, even if that is nothing like the actual reality of sex.

This sex happens when a heterosexual cis-gender couple come together for PIV (penis in vagina) sex. After some PIV sex, the female orgasms, and the male ejaculates. Either the female first, shortly followed by the male, or both at the same time, in perfect harmony. This story is reinforced over and over again in many different ways – through film, television, romance novels, even taking an influence on what is taught in sexual health courses. (How many of you were taught how to safely protect yourself if you weren’t having heterosexual PIV sex? Were you even taught that anything else was sex?)

PIV orgasms are one tiny little sliver of sex pie that don’t happen for everyone – even couples who are heterosexual. Yet still, many of us try to closely align with this story, because we have some very sturdy beliefs about sex that are difficult to change.

These beliefs can become even more difficult to stray from depending on what specific messages you’ve been told growing up. For instance, men may be raised to be fixers. They may associate their skill in the bedroom to how quickly and how successfully they are able to get their female partner off. If you say “I cannot orgasm” that may be seen as a challenge. It might be seen as a challenge because they cannot see sexuality through a different lens than the one they’ve been looking through their whole life. To them, it’s not just that you want to enjoy a different kind of sex. It is as though you’re giving up on sex entirely.

Of course, anyone can be a fixer. (Hello!) And it’s hard to look at a situation like this and not offer up advice. There are a lot of things you can do to improve your chances of an orgasm. There are a lot of things that can stand in the way of making the orgasm easier to obtain. And having an orgasm can really be worth the extra work we put into the bedroom. But not if it’s distracting from how much fun you have. Not if you just want to kick back and have a good time. Not if the orgasm becomes the pinnacle of your sexual experience.

If you can’t just enjoy each other, if its genuinely become a race to the imaginary finish line, whats the point? We think about orgasms as things that are “given” to other people but thats not right. We don’t give orgasms. We discover them together.

I don’t have an easy solution. How you have this conversation might vary depending on who you’re with, and what your sexual relationship is like. I have heard of some women who are in casual relationships faking orgasms because they don’t want to bother to take the time to explain to their partner what makes them feel good. To me, this is absurd. Isn’t the point of casual sex that you’re going into it to have fun? However, I can see how some aspects of this that make sense. Sometimes it’s just easier to leave the bits and pieces out that you already know are going to hold your partner up. If it’s going to take 3 hours to try and convince someone you don’t need them to freak out about their sexual ego, thats three hours you could have had sex, said goodbye, and gone out for pizza.

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In an ongoing relationship I would say that you sit down with your partner immediately and express basically what you expressed to me.

Look, this is what I want. I want to feel good. I want to feel good with you. And you make me feel good. That’s going to have to be enough. I can’t enjoy myself when you feel pressure to get me off. That’s my holdup. That’s where my struggle is. Maybe some day I’ll have an orgasm with you, maybe some day I’ll have a really good one with you, but I don’t judge my sex life on this criteria like other people do.

I can’t say for certain he will believe it. He might even still, on his own, try his damnedest. At the end of the day, that pressure is going to be on him.

Here’s one last thing, and if you don’t want that unsolicited advice, maybe just skip it. You don’t have to just become OK with not being able to orgasm during sex. You’re not broken, you don’t need to be fixed, but this isn’t necessarily how its always going to be either. Look at it like a long game. This is just one level. Maybe the next level will prevent new excitements and challenges. Roll with the punches. Keep exploring. Communicate openly. And see where it takes you. Whether thats to partner-shared orgasms or just way better more satisfying sex, either way, you win.

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit at the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog. 

Q: Avoidance of Clitoral Sensitivity

I had a request to talk a little bit about clitoral sensitivity during oral sex. This is clitoral sensitivity specifically tied to the desire to urinate. Many women have reached out to me in the past with similar issues. “It feels too sensitive, I have to ask my partner to stop, it feels like I’m going to pee.” Stimulation has varied from g-spot to clitoral. Descriptions of the symptoms sound more or less the same.

In the case of this question-asker, she had already seen a doctor. Bladder tests were done, and apparently she had been put on different medications to treat the sensations. It is helpful to seek medical attention if you are feeling pain, particularly if that pain is ongoing. A need to urinate and the feeling of pain could be something like a UTI.

Thinking specifically of the sensitivity during sex (or masturbation, or oral sex, or any other clitoral stimulation) I have some advice.

The long term advice would be to masturbate often and learn if that sensitivity is located at a certain area on your body or if it is associated to a certain stage of arousal. As you get closer to orgasm you may find that the area around the clit gets more sensitive. It may no longer be comfortable to stimulate as you were stimulating before. If this is the case, changing the mode of stimulation or how you are stimulating could make a difference.

For example: If you are rubbing your clit directly and find that it is becoming painful, move your hand to an area away from the clit and continue to stimulate. The clitoris has a lot of nerve endings packed into a very small space, and as blood rushes down, things become more sensitive. Things become even more sensitive the closer you get to an orgasm, during the orgasm, and after the orgasm. In this case, your partner may be stimulating too directly with his mouth/lips or providing too much direct suction to the clit itself.

Some short term advice would be to try this with your partner the next time he does the thing that was causing sensitivity issues. If you experience discomfort, tell your partner to go more slowly, to stop for a moment, to go more lightly, or to move his hand/mouth/body to a slightly different area.

It is hard to say what could have happened to make these stimulations appear suddenly. Perhaps something emotional/environmental has changed that has made your body react differently to stimulus. Maybe you are on or off a new medication. Maybe you are more relaxed and feel more connected to your partner. Perhaps your partner is trying a new technique that is stimulating you slightly differently than they used to.

There are a lot of reasons why a woman may experience pain, sensitivity, or the need to urinate. The above advice will only really be helpful if the sensitivity is coming from an issue of sexual technique. The most important thing to do is to continue communicating with your partner. If something feels uncomfortable, stop doing that thing, and do something else. If the pain is constant/persistent, continue seeking out medical advice until you find a doctor that is able to help you.

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit at the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog.