Much of this thought process about initiating sex started with a conversation. Not surprisingly, it was a conversation about what constitutes signals – what saying “I want sex” actively looks like in my relationship. Because it doesn’t always look like saying, “I want sex.”
I already knew that. The problem was, I was mixing up my signals, giving uber soft signals or not giving signals at all. And what I thought of as a signal wasn’t what my partner thought of as a signal.
Not unsurprisingly, in the beginning we used English a lot more to communicate. But as the relationship progressed, I assumed he knew what I wanted, and I stopped telling him as much. I also stopped giving the small signals in the beginning of sex – the ones that answer the question. He then progressed with the idea that unless I said stop, I was good to go. Which I was. But that’s not really a fair assumption for him or me.
Then he stopped initiating sex for a week. He said he’d been wondering if we would even have sex if he didn’t start it. Which presumes…a whole lot of things.
Of course, I got annoyed with him for not simply telling me this problem to begin with. (But he maintains that he didn’t think of it as a problem, per se, just a curiosity. It didn’t last long enough to become a problem.) And it did lead to a conversation of cues and signals, so it wasn’t completely a bad thing.
The specifics of what I learned in that conversation will not be applicable to everyone. But they were interesting due to the differences in how my boyfriend and I thought of the signals.
For instance, according to my boyfriend, extra touching (rubbing back, shoulders, etc) doesn’t count as a signal unless it’s 1) touching skin that is not open to the air (such as under a shirt) or 2) touching the genital area (or boobs, possibly). I can understand how extra touching is a grey area, and doesn’t count as asking for sex unless it includes number one, since we give each other backrubs, hugs, etc, very frequently. The line would become too blurry otherwise. But to me, number two feels like it’s actively starting something rather than asking a question. It counts as initiating only if you expect to get a yes as an answer.
But after thinking about it, I realized that I don’t mind genital touching being used as a question. For one, if the question is posed to me, I am almost always going to say yes (in this relationship). For another, my boyfriend explicitly stated that he doesn’t mind it being used as a question, so if I use it for him, I’m fully in line with what he considers appropriate, as long as I recognize that I could get a no as an answer, and I then act accordingly.
But if those are signals used for the question, what are signals used for the answer? I had a harder time figuring those out, and bounced from not going farther with sex even though it was wanted to continuing to probe with signals until I was finally rejected using plain English. (Language works wonders. I always fall back on English when unsure. For instance, in the former example of stopping sex, I finally asked if he wanted to or not, got a yes, and had a good time. But I almost didn’t ask and that would have been a mistake.)
The answer, I found out, was the same as the question. Extra touching under clothing? The same thing back is a yes. Genital touching? The same thing back is a yes.
And now that I recognize what a yes looks like, I make sure to use them when my boyfriend is the one whose initiating sex. I want him to feel like he’s getting an enthusiastic yes from me, not a lazy whatever.
The nos are still a bit hazy for me, and will probably require another conversation in the future. However, one possible no is not receiving the same thing back – touching but only over clothing, or merely a “that felt nice” and no response. Another no is a change in activity. A small response that’s similar as a “thank you” or “tease” in return, but no further actions, and a complete change of focus.
I find that if I’m confused or unsure, I go back to the simple English version of the question and everything works itself out. (I wholly recommend this pattern of fixing communication issues by communicating. You will be amazed by how well it works.)
THIS FRIDAY…our first guest post!