Relationships / Doin’ It

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"My girlfriend has brought up several times that she wants to try new things in the bedroom, like me hitting and slapping her. I like to think that I’m open to anything, but this BDSM stuff does not feel natural to me right off the bat because I’ve never done - or really thought about doing - anything like this. But I want to make my girlfriend happy. What should I do???"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Whiskey Blue as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.

Whiskey Says:

Hi! What a great question. Thanks for sending it. I’m going to start right from the beginning. Ready?

What is BDSM? The acronym means Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism. The dynamic consists of a powerplay between a dominant partner and a submissive partner. The practices are countless—from spanking to tying each other up to toys and tools that facilitate creating BDSM scenes between consenting partners.

But what is BDSM really about? Our impulse might be to reduce BDSM to a specific act or set of acts—or a random image of a person tied up in a dungeon—but at its core BDSM refers to a playful exchange of power between consenting partners who have set down boundaries and chosen a safe word to use if anyone begins to feel they’re out of their comfort zone. BDSM doesn’t refer to any specific act, practice, or fetish. It requires trust on both parts, and open communication beforehand so that all parties can come up with the scene (the setting, the practice, toys, anything!) and, most importantly, communicate what is okay and what isn’t okay.

Now, all of this being said, if you don’t want to be slapped you don’t want to be slapped. Maybe you will never want to be slapped. Maybe that’s a hard limit. Maybe one day you’ll be open to it and it can be a soft limit and maybe it will turn out you like it. Maybe you’ll never want to try. All of these possibilities are totally okay and totally legitimate.

As for potentially trying BDSM with your girlfriend, you could start by asking her if there are any specific practices she’s particularly interested in. Maybe she can tell you what she knows about these practices, and why they’re enticing to her. Then you can do any kind of research you want. I think talking about this a few times will greatly relieve anxieties you have about BDSM as a concept, and that talking about specific practices will help you focus on a specific idea or image rather than tackling the infinite world that can be called BDSM. I recommend having multiple conversations with your girlfriend. This way you can take your time. You can avoid feeling rushed or feeling like you’re expected to do anything you’re not ready or willing to do. You can also do some research on your own (here’s a great Salon article about safe sex kink practices for teenagers).

If you decide to explore BDSM with your girlfriend, start out with something that you both can agree on and something that doesn’t scare you. I don’t want to assign any specific value to any specific BDSM practice but… let’s just say you started with the possibility of spanking. Spanking is a popular practice that can be very gentle. Partners can work their way up in terms of intensity depending on needs and desires. The potential for injury or damage is very low if this is done conscientiously. Start off really gentle and go from there. Start off with just one. Start off just talking about it, even.

If spanking is not of interest to you or if it’s triggering, there are other ways to explore a light powerplay. You could go so far (or not far) as to lie down with your arms above your head— pretending you’re bound, pretending you can’t move them. This gives you the sensation of relinquishing control without being physically constrained. Alternately, of course, your partner can lie on her back with her arms above her head, depending on who will be dominant and who will be submissive. You can take turns, too.

You can also write a script! Who is going to be dominant? Who is going to be submissive? Where will the setting be? What will the act be? You can establish hard limits, too, which means that you can explain what you would consider going too far. This ensures that, from the very beginning, you get to establish what is absolutely off the table for this first encounter. Then you can choose a safe word together (Dan Savage’s safe word is popcorn) and use it when one of you wants to stop. Say the spanking is a bit harder than you’d like—popcorn!Say your partner is asking you to slap her in the face but you’re not ready—popcorn! Say you’re not into hanging out tonight—just kidding, I guess you don’t need a safe word for that. Anyway, start by talking it out, then talk it out again, and again. Then take it as slow or as fast as you like, and let me know how it goes.

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"My best friend keeps bringing up that I have done next to nothing sexual. She does it jokingly, but it’s a very sore subject for me.. I don’t know if it’s just an insecurity of mine or if she’s being insensitive or both? PS I argued that according to a 2006-2008 CDC survey 54% of teens haven’t had sex, but she said that most teens wouldn’t report it. Do you have insights into this subject and to my problem?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I can’t give you stats because my insight is that your sexual experiences have literally nothing to do with the sexual experiences of those around you. I don’t care how many people your age have or haven’t had sex and how they’ve done it and how many times they’ve done it and with what kind of people they’ve done it, none of that matters.

The bummer in this situation is your friend, making you feel shitty for having a preference. Sex is like anything else in the world. You have to do the things that make you feel best. When you are making decisions about sex, do what it is that you want. Have sex when YOU want, with whom YOU want, how YOU want, and ask for the things that make YOU feel good. It doesn’t matter what your friends and your magazines and your statistics say. Don’t do it just to do it, don’t do it to prove a point, don’t do it because of your age, do it because you WANT to.

Tell your friend just that. She can keep making jokes, but you’ll do the sexy things you want to do when you want to do them, AND once you do them… you might not even tell her because you should only tell people about your sexitimes IF YOU WANT TO. Also, the last thing she wants is for you to have sex with someone you don’t want to have sex with just because she’s pressuring you. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?!?!

Kristin Says:

Agree on all counts HOWEVER, there was a tiny piece of that question that wondered whether or not you were interpreting her behavior a particular way because your were feeling insecure. I want to look at that for a hot second, and give your friend here the benefit of the doubt, just in case that is an important little clue you left for us…

There is a chance that your friend, in truth, doesn’t give a flying fuck when you have sex, what you do, or how you do it. There is a chance that your friend is, in actuality, your friend, and so cares more about you than what you are doing with your body parts. There is a chance your friend thinks that she is making light of a silly thing called sex, but that because this whole goddamned world makes us all feel like sex is a Holy Grail of achievement, that you are hearing her jokes as weighty judgements.

My advice is to start there, and start there in two ways:

1. Think about what Dannielle said. Really, truly think about it. Sex is fun for people who enjoy sex and who are ready for sex, absolutely… but like… it’s not the big mysterious all-powerful monstrosity of a thing that the world makes it out to be. It is bodies on bodies making biology do a thing that makes more biology do things that makes us FEEL GOOD BC OF BIOLOGY. You can get some of the same brain-responses from eating a cookie (I don’t actually know this to be true, but I am sure there is cookie/sex science somewhere?). Like D said, you do things when and how you want to do them and you tell who you want and you move along on your own journey. Anyone who judges you is a total dummy.

2. Talk to your friend!!! In a moment where sex is not at all even remotely being talked about, say, “Listen. You know how you’ve had sex and I haven’t had sex and sometimes you make casual jokes about it? I am having a hard time being casual in my brain, because I feel really conflicted about the fact that I haven’t had sex yet, and I am trying to work through what I even want when it comes to sexy stuff and feeling all sorts of wobbly. Is it cool if we put a temporary hold on the jokes for now, and if I want to talk about things more I will let you know?”

I think the odds are high that your friend will hear you out. Especially as a human who has supposedly had sex, she MUST know that it really isn’t a thing that is the same for any two people or worthy of such pressure. Yeah? Yeah.

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"My girlfriend reads erotica and I don’t understand the entire idea. It makes me feel like I am not enough for her."

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Whiskey Blue as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.

Whiskey Says:

Dear reader,

Thanks for writing in. This is a great question. Let’s identify what erotica is, and what it is about erotica that might compel you to feel like you’re not enough. I see two parts to your question, and I’ll start with the first part: what is erotica?

Erotica is a part of literature, and literature really boils down to people sharing stories. In literature we get to explore deeper aspects of the human experience, many of which elude us in the day-to-day but strike a chord on a profound and universal level, which is the very source of their depth and of their magic. When your girlfriend reads Shakespeare or J.K. Rowling, do you feel she wants you to start reciting sonnets or become a wizard? Maybe this sounds absurd but I think it sheds some light on how erotica is looked at differently when it needn’t be.

For example, the ideas your girlfriend encounters reading Romeo and Juliet or Harry Potter will make their way into her psyche and she will likely want to talk to you about these ideas. Perhaps they will illuminate something to her, perhaps she will find wisdom that helps her through a difficult experience, perhaps they will simply enrich her life by exposing her to new worlds, new ideas. And perhaps she will be compelled to audition for a play or write one of her own or dress up as Harry Potter for Halloween or ask you to come with her to his theme park just she might learn about something she wants to try, or find a model for something she has been wanting to do, when she reads erotica.

All of this is just fine. All of this is simply an opportunity to open her world up, to and invite new experiences into her life and also yours. You’re free to engage or disengage just the way you are free to go to the Harry Potter theme park or not. You’re also free to just think about it, maybe borrow the book and see for yourself what it is she is reading. There are infinite possibilities. Reading erotica just means reading stories with an interest in sexual or sensual experience, really. The reason it takes on a life of its own is because of our perception of erotica. The nature of the literary genre though is just that it’s a literary genre.

The second part of your question has to do with feeling you aren’t enough (for your girlfriend). It’s wonderful that you’re self-aware enough to identify how you feel and why you might feel this way. There are many possible reasons for your feeling this way. Perhaps you think that whatever she reads in a piece of erotica, she will want or expect you to try with her. Perhaps this challenges your comfort zone, and that’s totally understandable. The unknown can seem especially threatening.

Random ideas (some threatening, some titillating) pop into your mind when you think of your girlfriend reading erotica, and these ideas have little to do with the act of reading erotica. They have to do with projections – perfectly understandable and genuine projections. In truth, erotica is not a competition against your desirability or a challenge to the intimacy you share with your girlfriend. Erotica is an exploration just as reading a book is an exploration. To read is to imagine possibilities we have not necessarily experienced for ourselves. Some of these experiences we will never have ourselves, some we will, and all of this is true of everything we read. Because of its sexual nature, erotica can strike a vulnerable chord but this is a reflection of our emotional landscape, not of erotica as a genre.

This morning I was reading the Rebecca Solnit essay about Virginia Woolf, called Woolf’s Darkness. In this essay – the word “essay” is a direct translation of the French word essai, which literally means an attempt) this darkness is a metaphor for ideas we might fear or resist because their mystery challenges the limits of our own realities. I would posit that sexuality – the erotic – is a concept that exists mostly in darkness; it is shrouded in mystery, in curiosity, in unpredictability and taboo and the greatest, most un-tameable of things: desire.

Both Woolf and Solnit offer that darkness is a place of boundless possibility; that it is the very place from which creativity originates. I would say that erotica is a genre of writing that endeavors to wrestle with mysterious parts of the human psyche (and body) and that reading erotica is a fascinating and exciting endeavor. Surely your girlfriend will be enriched by this experience, and I can assure you that her reading erotica has little to do with you and much more to do with herself, and her own curiosity and sexuality. At the end of the day, your sexuality belongs to you and your girlfriend’s sexuality belongs to her. If she is talking to you about erotica or wanting to share it with you, this is an invitation to explore new world together. It’s an expression of trust and a reflection of her desire FOR you. She wants to share something with you.

In sharing this experience – whether by reading side by side or borrowing the book or finding your own collection of erotic stories or trying out something you read about or simply asking your girlfriend what book she is reading and then talking about it one afternoon just as you might talk about anything else – you’re welcoming new possibilities into your life and your relationship. And I think this invitation to explore together is exactly what we mean when we talk about erotica, and intimacy.

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"You have one girl who has never been with a girl before. You have a queer girl who has never been with a girl before. These two girls kiss. Now they are both queer. They are both confused because they both are now in a foreign relationship and don’t know how to ‘do it.’"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Here is the thing about ~~sexual relations~~… it is different with every person, it is new with every person, it is confusing the first time.. for every person. I think your situation is dope because you’re both starting in the very same place. You aren’t super aware of the things you want and neither is your gal. So, first, TALK ABOUT IT. Second, TRY SHIT. Third, BE SAFE.

Re: talk about it, seriously. It is that simple. Talk about things you’ve thought, things you’ve watched, things you’ve fantasized about, things you’ve wondered, things you’ve done when you’re alone, things you’ve done with other people. Talk before you do it, talk while you’re doing it, talk after you do it. Take it slow, ask questions.

Re: Try shit. After you talk about shit, try it. How TF is anyone supposed to know what they like and what works for them if you don’t try? It’s your first time together with all this jazz, so just try. Leave room for giggles and buy the books with the stupidly cheesy titles.

Re: BE SAFE. Get real, yall. You’re exchanging fluids. You’re trying new things. Be safe. Use protection, use safe words, be honest with one another.

and have fun.

Kristin Says:

Lucky for you both, I watched several episodes of Seinfeld this holiday weekend which, as you well know, is the encyclopedia of sexual knowledge. Here is a relevant quote:

Elaine: Hey Jerry when do you consider that sex has taken place?
Jerry: I would say when the nipple makes its first appearance.

So, there you go.
Each of you show the other a nipple and you’ve done ‘it’!

I’m sorry… I am SORRY. I just really wanted to use the nipple quote somehow and you gave me a decent segway opportunity. Dannielle hit you up with all the relevant knowledge, and I will add a tiny bit more:

There is no such thing as ‘it.’ You know what I mean? It’s like… this cultural phenomenon that is based on procreation and purity and shit, when in reality Sarah might consider having sex anything that results in an orgasm and Alex might consider having sex anything that includes penetration and Susie Anne might consider having sex anything that includes feeling like she had sex.

Talk to your human. If you aren’t good at talking face to face because you get a little FLUSTERED, then gchat or text each other about things you might want to do. Maybe go buy some toys together and explore things! If you don’t want to go to a store in person, check out Babeland online… they even tell you how to use things!

The bottom line is that you define what ‘doing it’ is for yourselves and each other, and that definition might change over the course of time… or you might just stop caring about what’s what and be totally stoked on having all sorts of naked (safe) fun together.

Yayyyyyyy!!
(  .  )(  .  )

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"I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU GUYS KNOW THAT I TOOK YOUR ADVICE AND TOLD MY BEST FRIEND THAT I WAS IN LOVE WITH HER AND GUESS FUCKING WHAT. SHE’S IN LOVE WITH ME TOO. AND EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL AND WE’RE PROBABLY GOING TO MAKE OUT THE NEXT TIME WE SEE EACH OTHER. WHAT IS LIFE."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

DANNIELLE SAYS:

HOW DID YOU NOT MAKE OUT IMMEDIATELY

I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE TRAJECTORY.

I WOULD HAVE MADE OUT IMMEDIATELY.

I AM ALSO IN LOVE WITH MY BEST FRIEND AND SHE LOVES ME BACK. LET’S GO ON A DOUBLE DATE.

THIS IS THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE.

KRISTIN SAYS:

This is how I feel for you:

This is how I feel for the next time you get to see your BFF/LOVE:

 

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