Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

How Do I Tell My Partner I Need Better Sex?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a question about shy nerdy guys and sex. I’m married to one of these types of guys – we’ll call him Tom – so I hope you can offer some special insight in this issue. He’s wonderful, funny, sweet, intelligent guy. With the exception of sex, our relationship is perfect. I know – BIG exception. That’s why I’m writing.

I was Tom’s first lover, and he was mine. No one is good at sex when he or she is a virgin, of course. He’s helped me through some sexual issues I had, and has always been great about learning and doing what I ask. I’ve been happy knowing that it will keep getting better–and it has. However, along the way I’ve had trouble with him being easily offended and not very motivated to improve, and so we’ve come to a bit of a standstill.

I’ve been with Tom for over five years and have had an orgasm during sex exactly 3 times. He orgasms every time, which is the determining factor for when we’re “done”. He’s not overly concerned with the fact that I don’t orgasm during sex, because he thinks it “shouldn’t be all about the orgasm” (a line from our therapist when I was working through my sexual issues), and that I’m “really difficult.” I don’t always have to orgasm, and it’s true I am very difficult to get off. I don’t expect him to be a sex god. But am I wrong or selfish to want him to care and work at it? 

Like most women, I need a lot of foreplay plus clitoral stimulation to orgasm. I’m really turned on by cunnilingus, so I’ve tried to urge him to go that route, but to be blunt with you, Doc: He’s no good at it. He doesn’t like to do it very long, doesn’t get into it, and has a pretty wimpy technique. I have a special clitoral vibrator that I use during sex sometimes, which I got in hopes to alleviate the cunnilingus issue, but so far that hasn’t done the trick either (though that might be because it’s loud and annoying). 

However, he does do things I ask, and I know he will listen to me if I bring this up. These are all things I’ve mentioned to him before, but somehow the message just isn’t getting through to him. He doesn’t totally blow me off; rather it seems like he just completely lacks confidence. He constantly tells me he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and then gets frustrated when it’s not good enough.

So my question is: How can I approach this with him without hurting his feelings? Like I said, Tom is a shy geeky guy, which are traits I love about him. I don’t want to offend him. Is there a good way to approach this with sensitive guys?


Woman Wanting Good Sex

DEAR WOMAN WANTING GOOD SEX: No, you’re not being selfish.

However – and I hate to be the one to say it WWGS – your husband is being something of a selfish dick. I notice that when it’s YOUR orgasm on the line, he’s all about the holistic sexual experience… but I imagine if you happened to quit giving him oral sex right before the point of no return he’d be all kinds of pissed. Orgasms for me but not for thee and all that and if you complain then all the sudden his fee-fees get hurt.

Look, I can understand the frustration that comes with someone feeling like they’re not good at something that they should be (in this case: getting one’s significant other off) but there comes a point when it’s not about him being sensitive, it’s about him throwing mini-tantrums because… well who knows. So you’re going to have to sit him down and have a bit of a Come (as it were) to Jesus meeting with him. This is one of those times that I would recommend a mix of firmness and positive reinforcement with just a wee bit of appealing to his ego… and possibly the occasional boot-to-ass. It’s time to have an Awkward Conversation with him and advocate for your own needs.

Take some time and have a sit-down with your husband and explain that you just aren’t satisfied with your sex life and you really want his help with it and if he’d just do X, Y and Z which turn you on SO much, you would be ever so grateful. Make it clear: this is a solvable problem, one that you want to work on WITH him so that the sex is good for both of you.

Let’s start with the cunnilingus problem. You get turned on by oral and frankly I agree with my Dan Savage on the subject: Unless previous agreements have been made between partners, oral comes standard and any make or model that doesn’t have it should be returned to the lot. But I’m also not going to tell you to throw the man out because he’s lousy at giving head. Sometimes it’s a matter of just getting him over the hump (seriously, I guess we’re not doing phrasing anymore…) – finding out exactly what his problem is with giving oral in the first place and then teaching him how to do a proper job of it. I’m hoping, of course, that your husband’s not to bust out the whole “smell” or “taste” issue; unless you have an actual problem like vaginosis or trichomoniasis (which are pretty hard to miss), this is one of those times that a dude needs to grow the f—k up and get over it. After five years, he should be used to the fact that bodies have smells and flavors. After all I’m sure he doesn’t expect you to complain about the taste of his penis or ejaculate, which doesn’t taste like maple syrup after all.

(Side note: smoking can affect the taste and smell of both men and women’s secretions. If you smoke, this can be a very good way to help motivate you to quit…)

But assuming that it isn’t about that little immaturity, let’s nail down the specifics. Is he bothered by how long it takes? Does he get fatigued midway through or feel like his jaw’s killing him? These are things that take practice… and you’d be more than willing to help him practice. With technique, explain exactly what it is you need, where you need it and just how hard it has to be. It may help if, as a bit of foreplay, you show him what you need on yourself with your fingers, then demonstrating the necessary tongue action on a sensitive bit of his anatomy, especially the neck or nipples. If you’re the (lucky, rare) sort who tends to orgasm vaginally or needs vaginal stimulation as well as clitoral, encourage him to get his fingers involved (gently). While he’s practicing, make sure to offer vocal encouragement: he’s doing great, you’re getting so hot, just a little harder here baby, etc. He’s probably not going to get you off at first, but don’t let that discourage him (or you) – tell him how close you’re getting and how next time, with just a little more work, he can totally get you there. The more he feels like he’s performing like a sex god, the more he’s going to want to continue and get you off.

If it takes a while for you to get going even with oral, then it might help to pre-game things (as it were) with a vibrator. Your current one isn’t doing the trick, so you should consider trying a different one. Sex shops like Good Vibrations or Toys in Babeland have toys that are specifically supposed to be discrete – helping to eliminate that annoying buzzing sound that may be throwing you off. They also have reviews and suggestions that can help you find your match.

Speaking of which:

Most women can’t have an orgasm through penetration alone; they need clitoral stimulation as well and that’s very difficult to do through penetrative sex. If your husband wants to get you off (and I would certainly hope he does…), then it’s going to take going the extra mile or two. If you aren’t already, I would recommend touching yourself during sex to help things along. Now admittedly, some guys can get a little weird about this; after all, porn has taught them all the wrong lessons including that women can have “Look Ma, No Hands” orgasms at the drop of a hat, so the implication that a woman is going to need some extra assistance can feel like a condemnation of their virility and sexual prowess.

This is one reason why sex toys can be of use – teaching him how to use one on you can be incredibly sexy and helps take the intimidation/ego-deflation out of the equation. Make it about how he’s getting you off, not the toy; the toy is nothing without him. There are also a number of couple’s vibrators, including rings that are meant to be worn on the base of the penis that help stimulate the clit during penetration.

Emphasize how important it is that you both enjoy sex as much as possible – and how you want him to please you. And if he starts to get butthurt about it, even with your being encouraging and open… well, then it’s time to drop the hammer. No oral for you means no oral for him. Period.

Good luck.

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