By E.J. Gordon
Last Saturday night, we were at one of our co-ed dinners, men on one side discussing their usual: sports, food, business, gastrointestinal issues … while the women were on the other side discussing our usual: mama drama, fashion, local politics, and, of course, sex.
One girlfriend said under her breath, “Bring it in, Ladies.” We leaned in, and she said, “So he’s been wanting to try this new thing for us in bed, but I don’t want to. It’s gross. What should I do?”
One of the women responded immediately, “Just try it! I mean, do you just do the same thing all of the time? Don’t you want to spice it up a bit?”
Another friend felt differently. She said, “Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. If you say ‘no’ — he just has to respect that.”
We all began talking simultaneously, debating the pros and cons of entering in a situation in the bedroom that’s new and different. This one question opened up an entire discussion among us, because all of us had been in that situation … sometimes even on the other side of it, but we’d been there nonetheless.
Whether it’s porn, toys, bondage, role playing, polyamory, fetishes, or just a different position, we’d all at least had The Conversation with our partners, current or former.
So what happens in a marriage when one partner is just dying to do something different sexually, and the other draws a line?
I mean, obviously, the line isn’t crossed without permission; this isn’t the Cave-Man Era. But do spouses have an obligation to be open-minded about each other’s desires?
When are we being reasonable to draw the line, and when are we being close-minded, or even a little selfish?
In 1983’s wonderful tearjerker Terms of Endearment, John Lithgow’s character complains to Debra Winger’s character that his wife has an injury that precludes them from having sex because she can’t bear his weight. When Debra Winger asks if the wife can’t just be “on top” — he says she refuses.
When it comes to some of the examples I mentioned above, it seems so black and white. But, when it comes to regular old positions, all of a sudden Lithgow’s character has the audience’s “permission” to participate in an affair. Now clearly it’s not the same, because at least in the case of my friend, they were still having sex.
Thinking about it that way, though, one spouse’s “line drawn” might be the other’s justification for dissatisfaction and maybe even adultery.
If a wife won’t have sex with her husband anymore, is it okay for him to step out? If a wife won’t blow his trumpet, is it okay for him to find another player every now and then?
Obviously married people made vows, and a simple, “That position’s not in my wheelhouse,” should not be the end of a committed, faithful marriage. And unless the couple has some sort of open marriage arrangement, lines are lines, and that’s that.
That said, in a healthy marriage, people spend a lot of time trying to make their spouses happy. Whether it’s making their favorite dinner, buying them a coveted piece of jewelry, or simply handing them their towel when they turn off the shower, we put forth effort. Should this stop in the bedroom because it’s something that doesn’t come naturally?
I’ve often wondered about this:
I don’t want to be a selfish lover and only do things that I want to do, but I’m not sure I want to do things I DON’T want do do either … is it selfish of me to draw my lines?
And how do I know the difference between being obstinate and just honoring my own boundaries?
So how do we decide whether we should hold our ground and go with our gut reaction or let our guard down and live a little?
When faced with your own bedroom stalemate, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is what he’s asking to do outrageous?
If you’re on vacation with your husband, and he’s begging you to pick up another woman at the bar and have her join in your hotel room, and everything about you is saying “NO!!” — it’s not being selfish to stick with your line. That goes for anything that most of your friends would be horrified by. Because we are now adults (not teenagers making dangerous choices), using “What would my good friends do in this situation?” isn’t a bad litmus test of your resolve.
But if he’s asking for something, and he’s asking, and asking, AND it’s not outrageous, and it IS something that people you know and respect do, maybe you should climb outside your comfort zone and give it the old college try.
2. Is it something you can ‘trade out’ for?
And I don’t mean that Cole Haan bag you’ve been eyeing … I mean in bed. Let’s say he’s wanting to bring a toy into the mix. Maybe the toy is a little terrifying to you, but you’ve been dying to get him to role play. Tell him, you’d be willing to let him bring in the toy, but only if it’s embedded in a role play scenario.
There’s nothing wrong with a little quid pro quo. Then everyone wins.
3. Is it something you can experiment with in small steps?
If it’s porn he wants, maybe you can agree to five minutes, or perhaps you can choose which one to watch. If it’s bondage, you can start with a tie situation that you know you can untie by yourself or even just a blindfold. With toys, there are small versions of most of them … this way you could wade in. And with role playing, an easy way to take a small step is just talk a little dirty while you’re in the moment. In any of these situations, a small step is a small risk, and even if you don’t like it, you can show him that you tried.
4. Is it something you can practice alone?
I’m just saying…. it’s not the worst idea. This way you have much more control over the situation. If you try something by yourself, you can be honest with yourself about whether you like it or not, without trying to prove a point to your spouse.
There’s nothing wrong with knowing who you are and telling your partner that you’re unwilling to participate in something. I remember my parents telling me to NEVER, EVER, EVER, let any boy, no matter how much he says he loves me, take pictures of me naked.
Even though I trust my husband with my life, at the end of the day, he’s still just some guy I met at a bar, and you never know, he could hate me one day, so I still say, NO, he can’t take any pictures of me naked.
And when we say no because of our convictions, or we listen to the voice inside of us that tells us not to do something, it doesn’t make us bad or selfish. However, if our spouses keep asking for something, and when we really think about WHY we’re saying no, we discover that the reason is not conviction, but it’s just because we’re a little scared or uncomfortable, we might find that trying something new will not only earn us lots of favor, but also it just might open our world to all sorts of new pleasures …
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.