Q. My boyfriend and I are in a long-distance relationship. We see each other about twice a month and chat by phone/Skype just about every night. We’ve even had a few “dates.” The thing I’m trying to figure out is the sex. IRL, we’re on fire. We ask for what we want and generally get it (unless, you know, it is too far outside of the other person’s comfort zone and then we compromise). How can we approach sexy sex long distance? I’ve suggested sexting, dirty phone calls or some sexy Skype time, but he’s a little wary of it and starts giggling. To be honest, I giggle too. I would like to add some naughty to our distance and would love your advice on doing something the both of us feel comfortable with.
A. A little birdie once said, “You can’t handle the truth!” Obviously the little birdie was a colonel in A Few Good Men, waxing about the destructive nature of man or the Marines, but the little birdie needs you to stretch context and imagination of metaphor. The truth: the naked, open, honest, none to agreed upon, and vulnerable truth, is sometimes quite hard. Rather, I can’t think it ever as anything beyond a slap in the face. It makes us self-conscious, frightened — awkward. All understandable, of course; one of the greatest feats that we as humans (not we the great creators, but we the sad, monkey meat bags on the hurling clod of dirt in space) can do is to move past our fears and self-doubts, those dirty, nagging, ugly spots disguised as “truths,” and to just love as fiercely as we can, warts and all.
Your sweet but scared partner is afraid of the truth: now what truth, I do not know. Maybe it is the one in his head that keeps telling him he might be a failure at sexting or Skype sexing. Maybe it is the one that makes him feel like it’s embarrassing or not like the real thing — you can’t see him like that! You can’t handle the truth might be playing in a loop through his head as mercilessly as Col. Nathan R. Jessup delivers the line. “Are you good enough to sext your girlfriend?” “What makes you think you have it in you, soldier?” “Are you or are you not going to make a fool of yourself when you have Skype sex?” “Can you handle it, soldier?” “Can you?”
That’s the funny thing about the truth. Sometimes it feels real, even when it’s not, yes, even when we convince ourselves it has to be, because we have to handle it. We can’t not handle it. That makes us weak. We have to handle the truth. Now, the even funnier thing about all of this is, of course he can. You know he can. You have witnessed the fun, awkward sex that keeps your relationship alive and kicking. Yet somehow, this truth has escaped him and his abilities to translate what happens in the real life bedroom to the Internet bedroom seem a source of anxiety; the truth conveniently turned on its head.
Of course, this is all completely understandable. The Internet or even the minor sext adds a third dimension to sex, turning what is often in the moment into a situation of looking and observing; what’s more, it’s a record. It adds a safe distance, or in your case, a distance that is potentially too safe, acting as a mirror into both of your desires, cut and dry, displayed for both of you to see. It’s like watching a nature documentary on PBS or COPS. You know that’s life, but good lord, it just looks so bad. However, like all uncharted territory, it just takes some getting used to. The map you both have for real life sex that is satisfying and good for you both? Think of it like a totem. It isn’t going to guide you to exactly where you need. Hell, it won’t translate half the time as you reach out for a body and are met with just the screen. But, it will shine a light on what looks like slightly uncharted territory, a beacon into landscape observed. It will teach you both about finding desire and pleasure beyond the physical, and also help you find something more the mental. Here’s a challenge: think of it quite literally as a mind game. Not the kind where you manipulate each other’s feelings as a game of oneupmanship, but as an exercise in trying to turn the brain on. Find a space to carve out sexual pleasure through the powers of your erotic imagination — you don’t have the advantages of touch and physical sensation, so how you can translate the same fleeting and wonderful feeling of touch through wifi frequencies is what you both need to know.
So the truth? The truth is as different for you as it is for him. Find a way to have a truth together, even if over Skype. If you giggle and are awkward during sex, give the space to giggle and be awkward over Skype or a text. Let each other have the same room to be as silly and stupid, and as loving and nasty as you would in the real life bedroom — it is just you two, even if separated by screens, distance, and a choppy connection. Unless you both feel like you can be yourselves, as opposed to giving a performance of Skype-worthy sex for the masses, then it will be harder to cultivate a genuine bravery to be so very out in the open and displayed with all those awkward moments of sex.
You can handle the truth. It’s just better to create your own.