Q: Hello, Frisky Feminist! I have a wonderful relationship with my boyfriend; however, there is a noticeable discrepancy in our sex drives – mine is much higher. He says that sex has never been very important to him. While we do have PIV sex semi-regularly, I am always the initiator, and more than 50% of the time, my advances are rejected. When we do have sex, I feel like he’s just humoring me. I feel hurt and unwanted.
For me, “sex” is not just PIV intercourse – it can be oral, manual, teasing…orgasm or no orgasm, I just want some kind of sexual attention, and I’m honestly not sure whether that’s too much to ask of my bf given his lack of interest.
My question is: how can we reach a compromise? Sex is not a deal-breaker for me, but something’s gotta give. I sense that he is uncomfortable about the subject, so I need to bring it up in a way that won’t make him feel more pressured.
Thanks a bunch!
A: First of all, thank you for going into a bit of detail about the way you approach and view sex! We don’t mean to get all up in our question-askers’ business (not too much, at least), but a bit of context really helps give us a frame of reference for your question and keeps us from telling you things you already know or do.
Now, this is something you probably know intellectually, but knowing it and actually believing it can be two different things – your boyfriend’s interest or lack of interest in sex does not reflect on you or how attractive you are, how good at sex you are, or what kind of partner you are. And you really can’t assume that when you do have sex, he’s only doing it to humor you – he very well may be doing it because he wants to, and it’s just that he wants to less often than you want to. (And if he were only doing it to please you, it still means that he wants to please you, and that also doesn’t mean he’s not enjoying himself when things get going.) Or, as future Mr. paperispatient put it, “I don’t crave macaroni and cheese very often, but when I do, I eat it and I enjoy it, and I don’t just want it because you made a pot of it, I want it because I’m in the mood.” (How somebody can only rarely crave mac and cheese is truly beyond me.)
Everyone’s libido is different: some people are horny all the time while others have a pretty low sex drive. There’s nothing wrong with being at either end of the spectrum and there needn’t be a reason behind it. For many people, it simply is what it is. But it might be helpful to consider if there are any other factors that could be contributing to him rarely initiating sex; for example, does he have trouble having an orgasm, or does he come really quickly? Either of those could cause him some embarrassment that could make him a bit reluctant to have sex.
It’s good that you’ve been thinking about how to bring it up to him in a way that won’t make him feel pressured; you seem to understand that both of your wants and needs are valid and that you want more balance between the two, and that’s important. It might be helpful to frame the conversation in terms of your feelings, like, “I feel hurt and unwanted when you turn me down,” as opposed to “You make me feel bad when you don’t want to fuck me.” You can remind him that you’re not judging him and don’t want to make him feel bad, but you’ve been feeling badly about this lately and you wanted to bring it up. You could tell him what you told us, that sex isn’t the be-all end-all of everything, but that you do want and need some amount of sexual attention from the person you love being in a relationship with. Remind him that you don’t want to make him feel pressured, but that you needed to talk about this.
Hopefully he’ll be open to having the conversation, and you can start to explore how the two of you might compromise. Is there a particular sex act or two he enjoys more than the others that he might be willing to do more often? Would he want to read you erotica while you masturbate? Would the two of you enjoy makeout sessions that may or may not lead to other things? If you haven’t articulated your inclusive view of sex to your boyfriend, that’s definitely worth doing to make sure that he also understands that sex can include a wide range of acts.
For many people (though of course not all people), sex can fulfill emotional needs as well as physical ones, and there’s no shame at all in communicating that aspect of those needs to your boyfriend and figuring out together how he can help meet those needs in ways besides sex. For the two of us, sex can make us feel very close and can be a way of expressing how much we love each other; if it means any of those things to you, it could be good to have a conversation about other ways that your boyfriend can show you those things, whether it’s through loving notes hidden around the house, giving you short massages every day after work, directly telling you how he feels about you, etc.
Persephoneers, have you ever been in a relationship in which your and your partner’s libidos differed? How did you handle it?
Keep the great questions coming! (Hee.) Got a question to ask, subject you’d like us to discuss, or myth you’d like us to bust? You can e-mail us at FriskyFeminist@persephonemagazine.com or send us an anonymous message via the spiffy, new Ask Us! feature here.