So, today we’re introducing what might become a regular feature here at Harpyness. We have on any number of occasions received comments or private emails from readers asking for advice, input, or an impartial opinion. We’ve done our best to respond thoughtfully and respectfully.
But recently, a reader (who shall remain anonymous) suggested we address her question in a post, and then open up the floor for comments and suggestions from the commentariat. Et voila: Help Me, Harpies! First, we’ll hear the the problem straight from the reader, then some of us will weigh in, then we can all have at it in comments.
So, the issue under discussion: TEH SECKS.
My boyfriend has not been super-responsive to my needs in bed lately and every time I’ve tried to talk to him about it, he would either say okay and then not do anything, or get sad that he wasn’t satisfying me. We ended up having a really long talk about it today and I am hopeful for the future, but it’s been really frustrating to deal with because I felt like I couldn’t ask him for anything to change without him taking it personally and I just don’t know how to deal with it when he won’t communicate with me. Le sigh. Is this something to Be A Bitch about?
BeckySharper: In this case, I don’t think Being A Bitch is the answer. I think most people–especially when they’re young–have major insecurities about whether they’re good in bed. And our culture screws men over by telling them that they have to be STUDLY! and make the ladies go wild! Unfortunately what actually makes the ladies go wild is thoughtful, attentive, communicative intimacy, which is pretty much the opposite of every message men ever get from the media/Patriarchy.
PhDork: Becky’s right: men are generally socialized to think and talk about sex in an extremely limited, (usually homosocially bonding) way: “yeah, I’d hit that,” etc., and I know from my own experience that saying “hon, we need to talk about sex” is more likely to result in stony silence than productive conversation. It’s a sensitive subject in any case, but that’s no excuse for shoving it under the rug.
BeckySharper: Depending on what the problem is, I tend to go for the “show, don’t tell” approach. Move his hand where you want it to go. Give him specific directions, in the moment –”harder, softer, faster, over there”–and praise when it works. And feel free to use visual aids. If there are sex scenes from books or in movies or porn that turn you on, share it with him and say “hey, see what they’re doing…that looks hot! Wanna try?” Now, if he’s the kind of guy who simply ignores directions or just blows off your requests, that’s a problem. Learning how to communicate “this is what turns me on and this is how I get off” and then putting that into action will serve you well for the rest of your life, because any decent partner–male or female–should want to know and use that information. And, of course, you want to get that information from your partner too, so encourage him to talk about what turns him on and what he would like from you..
PhDork: I think show-don’t-tell can work in the bedroom, but you do need to make yourself clear at a time and place where you’re NOT in bed. (Not saying you haven’t, of course.) And if the problem is that the bedroom has not been seeing any action, that’s a different kettle of fish. If there’s no action and no willingness to talk? “That’s a dealbreaker, ladies.” Okay, not really. But it’s a big problem, and I don’t think Being A Bitch is a bad idea in that case. Of course, by Being a Bitch I mean being clear and concise about what it is you need. That might mean writing a letter for him to read, or just clearly and calmly saying your piece (“I feel/I need/This is unacceptable”) and NOT expecting an immediate conversation.
BeckySharper: It’s okay to have a conversation where you say “You know, this ain’t quite doing it for me”, but that’s almost inevitably going to lead to defensiveness (and really, if some dude told you that you were not pleasing him, you’d feel insecure and defensive and sad too).
PhDork: In my experience, guys are *fucking terrified* of women’s anger and disappointment. Like, pants-shittingly so. They need to get the hell over that, but I’ve found that giving a dude time to process your requests/thoughts can be productive. In the 12+ years the Dude and I have been together, we’ve had periods wherein we’re all over each other, mutually quasi-celibate, and variously matched/mis-matched in desire. C’est la vie. We’ve had these conversations, and we’ve NOT had these conversations. It may be really hard, but NOT addressing the situation doesn’t make it a) go away or b) better.
BeckySharper: Totally second that: relationships have their ups and downs. Every LTR I was in–they usually lasted a couple years–had moments where I wasn’t feeling it or he wasn’t feeling it. There would be moments where one of us would say, “y’know, we haven’t…in a while…” and we’d discuss why–too tired, stressed from work, need some space, yeast infection, etc–and that was always helpful. But it was also always grounded in the mutual feeling of “hey, normally you rock my socks off.” If he’s never rocked your socks off, that’s a warning signal.
PhDork: I think a guy’s unwillingness to communicate is a much bigger issue than whatever sex-specific stuff is going on (not to say that sex is unimportant), and that’s a thing worth Being A Bitch over.
BeckySharper: And not that your dude is doing this, but if a man ever belittles your concerns or becomes verbally/emotionally abusive or manipulative when you want to discuss your sex life, then you should absolutely Be A Bitch. SRSLY. And then DTMFA (as Dan Savage says).
So, dear readers, what do you think?
If you like the idea of Help Me, Harpies!, let us know. First, by weighing in on this edition’s query and second, by sending us your questions or concerns. You can submit your question to us via email or through Facebook. You will remain anonymous, unless you wanna give us a clever sign-off.