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Heather Corinna replies:
I was wondering how one goes about learning to share their sexuality with another person? I'm 21 and a virgin (older virgins do exist!) for personal and religious reasons. My relationships thus far have consisted primarily of a series of bad first dates... until recently, that is. 3 weeks ago I met a 31 year old man who has opened my eyes to so many things. We get along great, he makes me laugh and appreciates me for who I am.
I have told him I am waiting for marriage to have sex, and he thinks that's great. We have decided to do other stuff, and he has been really good about letting me take the lead, talking about what we're doing and sharing his feelings and experiences. However, for a lot of things he is looking to me for guidance (how to touch me, kiss me, etc.) and I really don't know what to tell him. I've masturbated for 10 years, and have never had a problem having fun by myself, but with another person it is totally different.
There are a number of aspects to it- having another person in my 'personal space', experiencing for the first time what I've been fantasizing about for years (and the reality is quite different!), being nervous, wanting to pleasure him, how to communicate in bed etc. Since I met him, I have been having a hard time masturbating, too. All my fantasies are different.... I'm not sure how or where he fits in.
It's certainly exciting and fun to be discovering these things, but any advice you can give would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Hey there, Naptha.
You're right: while masturbation teaches us plenty about our own sexual responses, likes and dislikes, it IS very different from partnered sex. To boot, seems you're finding out one of the lessons a lot of folks often aren't prepared for with any new partner, and that's that with any given partner -- not just your first, but every single time someone has a new partner -- the landscape changes, sometimes radically. What we like and dislike, what we're comfortable with and are not, and figuring out what feels best for us both is always a new experience, for everyone, no matter their level of sexual experience. And it seem like a whopper of a thing to suss out, but it's pretty easy to get the hang of in time.
While I think it's vitally important to openly communicate about sex verbally, it's just as important to just be able to go with the flow a little and experiment. "I don't know, but why don't you try what you'd like, and I'll tell you as we go," is a perfectly acceptable answer to a partner asking you what you like or how to touch you. The way any of us learns what we like and don't with a given partner -- especially since interpersonal chemistry and dynamics are so diverse -- tends to be through simply exploring things, feeling them out as we go, and via trial and error. And that SHOULD be the fun part (and it sounds like it is for you: hooray!) None of us should be expected to have simple answers to what we like with a new partner. Needless to say, we also have other ways of communication that aren't so verbal, or are verbal, but much more monosyllabic than the big talks. Obviously, you also get to have whatever limits and boundaries you need intact, whether that's that you're saving vaginal intercourse for marriage, or if certain language is a turn-off for you, or if you need to be asked before your partner tries something you haven't discussed or negotiated in advance, and all of those things do need to be discussed verbally.
For both you and him, it's the same gig: a lot of experimentation, coupled with that communication you've been nurturing. Positive feedback is a big helper here: if the other day, you two did something or did something in a certain way that really knocked you socks off, then afterwards, or the next day, you can simply say, "I really liked it when you did X. I'd like to do that again sometime, would you?" That doesn't mean it's not okay to give feedback that's not so glowing, too: it is. If you two did something the other day that wasn't so great, a "I thought I'd like this, but it wasn't that fantastic for me: how about you?" works. Or, "Remember when we were doing X? It felt really good, but I think it might feel even better if when we do X, we also do Y and/or do X THIS way."
You say you're concerned about pleasing him, too, so just ask the same sorts of questions of him that would elicit the kinds of answers I've suggested for you, above. And of course, during any given sexual activity, you can always ask for cues, like asking if what you're doing feels good, plain and simple. Again, this kind of communication isn't just for beginners: it's how everyone of every level of experience, with every partner, nurtures a healthy and satisfying sexual dynamic.
In terms of your shifting fantasies, that's normal. Our sexuality and sexual identity changes over time, and a lot of that has to do with cumulative life experience. Obviously, too, if all our sexual fantasies before weren't based on any sexual realities, they're likely to change once we start to experience sex with a partner in real life, not just in our own heads.
Lastly, I may not need to say this, but just in case: remember that "everything but intercourse" does often carry some STI risks. So, do be sure that whetever activities you're engaging in, you're doing safer-ly, with safer sex in mind. Be sure that with all of this communication, you're also talking about safer sex, about STI testing, and about how to do what you're doing with your health in mind. I say that because sometimes, when people define sex as intercourse, they either never realized, or just plain dismiss, that other kids of sex are not only just as much sex as intercourse is, but often carry risks just like intercourse does.
I've added a couple links for you I think may be of use, including a link to the page on my book, which I'd suggest as a great resource for you right now. Sounds to me like you've got a great start here with a relationship that feels really right for you: some extra foundations and a note to yourself now and then that you don't need to have it all down right away -- it can help to think of sex as a journey, not a destination, however cornball that may sound -- are likely all you need additionally.