Welcome to The Baffler’s agony corner, YOUR SORRY ASS, where Amber A’Lee Frost dispenses bossy, judgmental advice on how to live your life fairly, kindly, and with good humor. Send us your rants and pleas, please: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Your Sorry Ass,
I’m in the best relationship of my life right now. My boyfriend is extremely warm, caring, generous, conscientious, and is also just a generally brilliant and hilarious guy. The main problem? Our relationship is, to my taste, almost sexless. I wish sex weren’t such a big deal to me, but it is. At this point, we have sex maybe once every couple weeks. (If I had my druthers, it’d be twice a day, but I know that’s extreme.) In the last few months, he’s actually started going soft every time we have sex. It’s kind of humiliating, and I don’t like for him to struggle to achieve orgasm. When we first got together, we had some of the best sex I’ve ever had in my life, so I know he’s capable. I also know he’s not cheating, and it’s not as though he opts for masturbation instead.
He blames it on condoms and swears that sex isn’t a chore, but we’ve used condoms the whole time, so why would this just be starting recently? He’s still more than able to reach orgasm through oral; it’s just vaginal sex that’s the issue. That brings up another issue; the old advice to “spice it up” is complicated. I’m a huge pervert and he’s incredibly vanilla, so I’m not sure what I could do that he’d even be into, and he has no suggestions when I inquire. Also, due to this lessened sex drive, he’s way less likely to try to give me any manual or oral attention (I do ask sometimes, though I dislike doing this; he delivers for a couple minutes and that’s about it). Thanks to our known differences in both sex drive and kinkiness, he has always been theoretically open to me having sex with other men, but I want to have sex with the man I love (and don’t feel at all confident that I’d even be able to find another willing sex-only partner). He swears he’s still attracted to me. Do you see any options here?
Sexless Yet Not In Seattle
As I’m sure you already know, a marked decrease in sexual desire paired with the odd affliction of mild sexual dysfunction is a nearly universal and (barring some significant medical event) always temporary experience. I want to start by reassuring you of those two things because the anxiety that the sudden dearth of dick can elicit often weighs heavily on our psyches. We’re horny, insecure creatures, and the threat of sexlessness can set our primitive brains into an unnecessary panic. That said, a paucity of poundage can be very distressing and frustrating, so let’s unpack this coital lack.
“Spice it up” when sex is scarce: this may be some of the least helpful advice in all of ladydom.
It seems there are two distinct problems here: frequency and variety. As I mentioned before, your shortage of shagging is very likely temporary. He blames condoms, but he probably doesn’t actually know what’s wrong for sure. What’s changed since the sex petered off? Is he under a lot of pressure or very distracted? Any major changes in diet, sleep, work, living situations? The relationship itself is going great—but has he been in a lot of healthy relationships in the past? Major changes—even positive ones—can be incredibly stressful, and stress very often has an adverse effect on one’s sex life. If indeed your waning extracurriculars are due to environmental factors (again, something far more likely than anything medical or psychologically idiopathic), you’ll be far better off addressing the source rather than the symptom. By this I mean, yes, communication is key, and you should be (gently) honest about how you’d like to have more sex—but “How was your day?” is probably a better opener than “What’s going on with your dick?” (at least initially). Especially since the latter query is likely to compound the stress factor.
As for your fear of sexual incompatibility, it’s very likely that your fears of scarcity are exacerbating latent concerns. But you’ve said that you have had amazing sex with this man, so you know the vanilla-pervert pairing need not be inherently disharmonious! The weird truth is that given any prolonged period of time with one person, your sex life will change. And usually after a while together, couples . . . get weird. Perv-positive sex might not be something he ever really gets into, and you can decide how important that is to you as your relationship progresses, but right now you adore this person, so it’s worth working on your supply and quality problem before moving on to the ticklish (literally!) question of diversification.
As for the ubiquitous lady mag prescription to “spice it up” when sex is scarce, this may be some of the least helpful yet universally dispensed advice in all of ladydom. Oh you’re having problems with your sex life? Have you tried abandoning that which you find comforting and familiar and electing instead to engage in some activity that may be frustrating for or alien to one or both of you? What’s that you say? A very intimate and highly personal aspect of your romantic relationship is leaving you trepidatious and adrift? I know! Why not tear the training wheels off that rattling Schwinn ten speed and attempt to jump over ten flaming cars on it?!
I maintain that for situations where the issue is anything other than monotony, “spicing it up” is an absurd recommendation for couples, and yet it persists! Indeed, in contrast to the foregoing bicycle metaphor (which was highly literary and is sure to be noted in my biography as reminiscent of Yeats), the metaphor of “spice” itself doesn’t even make sense in the context of adventurous sex. Spice is something you add to an already substantial dish to increase the complexity of its flavor; it is not a sly way of disguising a bland and meager meal. You are not some sad college student pouring Sriracha on your ramen noodles, so if you do decide to pursue more eccentric erotic practices, that choice should be a compliment to an already rich and fulfilling sex life, rather than a desperate attempt to evade a more primary issue.
I believe in regularly going back to basics. For example, “wanna make out?” is a perfect low-pressure invitation. If you get excited, it’s foreplay; if it doesn’t escalate, hey, you still got to make out! There’s some potential for sexual frustration there, but the mere suggestion of sexual activity that doesn’t end in actual sex can really relax a nervous partner, and Sexless, nothing will make this situation more difficult than two anxious, insecure people trying to force something.
And finally, I would also suggest you avoid overthinking all of this if it gets to be too confounding. As I said before, this happens all the time, to basically everyone, and it almost always goes away. It’s not a crisis and it probably won’t end up being one. With a little patience and compassion, this will most likely pass, and I have the utmost faith in your cool head and hot body!