How I found my voice in bed
I recently watched the heartwarming Love on the Spectrum, and one scene in particular had me thinking. Dani buys Adan cupcakes and uses them to teach him how she likes to kiss. While some people cringed at the discomfort of this scene, I thought to myself – why does this feel uncomfortable? Dani is simply showing her partner what she likes in a goofy, thoughtful way. I think we could all take a page out of Dani’s book. My new year's resolution is to start prioritizing my own pleasure in the bedroom.
As it turns out, the challenge of speaking up is a common fear among women, and the problem stems into broader gender issues. When women are assertive, society may perceive them as bitchy. Whereas when men are assertive, it is deemed an attractive quality. There seems to be an underlying social expectation for women to be submissive, accommodating, and easygoing. While that pertains to gender roles more broadly, the logic can be applied to the bedroom; and considering the inherent anxieties and complexities of sexual relationships, it makes sense that those social expectations could be amplified in a bedroom setting.
This type of power imbalance also exists outside of male-female relationships; for instance, in many sexual partnerships, one person may take on a submissive while the other a dominant one. Additionally, differences in sexual history can cause anxiety for a less-experienced partner. These dynamics can create anxiety around speaking up in bed, especially for those who are less experienced or dominant.
With this in mind, I sat down with some of my (girl) friends to talk about our personal experiences with speaking up in bed, and concluded that we are all bad at it lol. We chalked up our unwillingness to feeling anxious (especially if we don’t know our partner very well,) feeling like speaking up could ruin the mood, feeling just flat-out awkward correcting someone, and even feeling like our pleasure was not as important as our partner’s. With one-time hookups we tell ourselves we can deal with the dissatisfaction, and with consistent partners we don’t want to hurt their feelings.
So, in thinking about all of the external and internal influences that affect our abilities to speak up… where does this leave us?
Regardless of what may be preventing us from speaking up, it is clear that in not doing so, we reinforce the idea that our own needs are not as important as our partner’s. In my opinion, the only way to break that barrier is to recognize our feelings and try to empower ourselves in our own pleasure. I know that it is scary and difficult, but you got this, even when it feels hard! Just know that you are not alone in your fears, and even by being open to communicating your feelings, you are already making so much progress.
Based on everything I have learned and my own experiences in trying to improve my speaking up skills, here are some pointers:
- Think about the situation outside of yourself. Give yourself the same advice and grace you would give to those around you. If your best friend was telling you they felt uncomfortable or unsatisfied in bed, what would you say to them? If your partner was uncomfortable or unsatisfied, would you want them to stay silent? Or would you want to know, and try to make sure they felt better?
- Just ask. Think about what you want to ask, take a second, and share your feelings. “Can we try this?” “Can we slow down, go faster, etc?”
- Show them. In certain situations, you don’t have to speak up — move their hand for them, switch positions, etc.
- Be confident. Take pride in expressing your feelings! The more confident you are when you communicate, the less awkward you will feel afterwards.
- Know what you want. Ask yourself, what is the potential solution to the discomfort you are experiencing in bed? Try to think about this before communicating with your partner, so that way, together, you can test out solutions more easily.
- Try things out. If you don’t know what the solution is, try something new! Any new positions you want to try? Sex toys? Experiment on your own and learn what your body likes!
- Have a conversation OUTSIDE of the bedroom. Communicate before you have sex that you feel pain, feel nervous, feel dissatisfied, etc. That way, you won’t have to worry about communicating a larger concern while having sex, and during hookups your partner is already aware of what you could be experiencing.
Speaking up is not placing blame on the other person or telling them they are bad at sex, kissing, etc, but simply explaining what you like! Recognizing and prioritizing your own needs in the bedroom is incredibly important, and any partner deserving of you should be happy and receptive to your willingness to communicate.