Traditions Is As Tradition Does: Sex in the “Classic” Sense

Q. Here’s the thing. My boyfriend has a medical condition, a blood disorder, the result of which is occasional ED. I’d like to be able to say that it doesn’t matter…but it does. I like very traditional sex, and I’m not sure that’s an option. Getting him off is complicated, and it’s not easy for him to get ME off — there are SSRIs involved, and I just don’t like that kind of sex. I want to have sex in the classical sense. I’m not sure how to broach the subject with him. I think he’s very open to talking about things, but this is not an easy thing for ME to talk about. HELP. -A Traditionalist

A. Traditional activities go one of two ways, sweet pea. There are the traditions we keep alive because they bring about a sense of togetherness. They honor the past by providing a repetition that is meaningful and warranted. The other traditions? Well, you do it because it’s always been done.

Now, where and when that line occurs is always tricky to find, but think about those folks who loudmouth back and forth in the name of “traditional marriage.” What they are really saying is that they pine for the days when “marriage” meant one man and one woman, with the woman being under the rule of the man. This rule brought with it subjugation, submission, and beatings. And not the fun kind. They aren’t talking about traditional white dresses and vows, nor are they talking about wearing grandma’s veil or uncle Jimmy’s air force wings. No, all those little things are like icing on the cake, traditions that enhance what is, to the dismay of the loudmouths, the evolution of marriage.

You, my confessed traditionalist? You might be falling in the camp of the latter. Now before you go yelling at me for placing you in the same camp as the loudmouths, let’s come to terms with the fact that yes, you are not tramping on other groups, but yes, you may be looking at something squirrel-eyed in the name of traditionalism. I mean, sweet pea, what is classical sex?

I’m not saying that your wants and needs are wrong. I am saying that you seem to be reserving “real” sex for a possible hold out scenario, when it’s most certain you are getting the sex you will always have with this person. You claim by way of tradition that there is only one type of good sex — the classical. Which leads me to ask again: Whose classical sex? Your partner, who by way of aiming for pleasure and intimacy for the two of you, is taking SSRIs (aka, Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors). Now, for those of you not in the know, SSRIs are used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and some personality disorders. However, they have also been found to treat OCD, eating disorders, strokes, and premature ejaculation. Now that we are all in the know, I want to ask, is this why classical sex seems so far away, Traditionalist? Because it can only come about with the help of SSRIs? Because it ain’t like the movies? Because it ain’t on a Roman fresco?

I don’t mean to ride your ass, Traditionalist, but your plea for classical sex has me a bit riled up, so do find it in your heart to forgive me for the moment. I just want to emphasize to you that there may be no such thing as classical sex unless you are in a Nicholas Sparks novel, and good Lord, who the hell would want to do that? While I do see the inherent frustrations in getting each other off, classical sex is not a a magic bullet for orgasms. Classical sex, whatever it may be, is something you need to know you may never get from your partner. What comes next is this: Is it worth it to continue in the current straits?

I implore you to unravel the stickiness of the idea of traditional sex and classic sex. What is it you are really looking for in this type of sex? Intimacy? Ease of getting off? Close to the perfection of normalcy? A life untouched by health dysfunction? Before you go into talks with your partner, know what it is when you say “classic” sex, not only for him to better understand what it is you need, but for you to know what it is you are seeking. Maybe you are looking for something that, while unfortunately defined by what you know as “classical” sex, actually happens to be something completely different. Maybe you do think it should be a pitch perfect performance. Maybe it has to do with the awkwardness of bodies that aren’t perfect. Maybe you just need something easier. But I can’t tell you what you mean by “classic” sex. I can tell you that it sounds like it needs some unpacking.

When you do figure out what it means and get to the point of talking to your partner, lay out on the table what it is you need. This is not only for you, but for him as well. Is it worth being in a partnership where one person cannot give what it is their partner needs? Is it fair for them to keep on trying? Can there be other options? I do believe the options are far more vast than the current scenario, but that is something you both will need to decide and perhaps you, sweet lady, need to decide whether it’s better to buck tradition or stay within the frame.


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2 replies on “Traditions Is As Tradition Does: Sex in the “Classic” Sense”

Nitpick: I suspect the LW rather than the boyfriend might be the one taking SSRIs, so they are a barrier to her [assuming from context, but apologies if I’m misgendering] sexual pleasure rather than part of his attempts to ensure pleasure and intimacy for them both. Whichever one of them is taking them, it’s fair to say that often SSRIs can throw a big spanner in the works when it comes to feeling sexual arousal.

I’m wholeheartedly behind the general advice here (unpacking what it is you actually enjoy about the type of sex act you’d like to have is always good, especially if for whatever reason you can’t do that specific thing) but the response does skim over the ways PIV sex (I’m guessing that’s what the LW meant by ‘classic’ sex) is particularly culturally and emotionally freighted. However much you know the reasons, not being able to achieve it can throw up a whole lot of doubts about desirability, sexual potency, etc. So – sympathies, LW! It’s really hard to have these conversations partly because of the cultural freight – I’m guessing it feels like even mentioning that you miss this specific type of sex might make your partner feel like he’s ‘failing’ in some way. (At least, that’s been my feeling in analogous situations – maybe I’m projecting here.) The advice to unpack what it is you want is great, because it is the starting point of a script for talking about it. So, if feeling desired is an issue, you can ask your partner to be vocally explicit about how much he desires you – starting with the solution rather than the problem.

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