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Author Topic: how to receive constructive criticism
JollyHolly
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I've been dating this guy for a few weeks, and we've been sexually active together for most of that time. I've performed oral sex on him twice, and after this most recent time he asked if I'd be open to hearing suggestions about specific things to do that he likes.

In theory, this sounded like a good idea. Why wouldn't I want to know how to be better at pleasuring him, right? But in practice... I guess my feelings were hurt. I've done oral on other guys before, and no one had any complaints or suggestions, so I thought that I'd mastered the blowjob skill! Which I realize is completely ridiculous, because everyone likes different things, but I still feel like my self-esteem took a bit of a hit.

So my guy gave me the suggestions, and I attempted them, but it didn't go very well. I know that practice will make everything better, but that's the thing -- now I'm super anxious about performing well, and I'm too busy stressing about that to really enjoy myself. Whereas before I just did what I liked and the guys happened to also like it. (It also doesn't help that my current partner has had lots of past partners, and my other partners have been relatively inexperienced. I feel like I'm not measuring up to his other lovers sexually.)

I guess I'm looking for tips and ideas on how to get over myself! How do I stop thinking of the suggestions as personal attacks and stop twisting innocent comments like "I like when you use your hand" into mean self-talk like "he hates what you do with your mouth!"?

For what it's worth, my learning curve sucks in general, not just with sexual things. I pick things up very slowly, and I tend to be frustrated with myself the entire time. I HATE that I'm a slow learner, and I know that doesn't help matters at all. How do I relax?

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Heather
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I think it might help to remember that there really isn't such a thing as "the skill" at any given sexual activity in any universal way, because we're all simply so different and diverse per what we like and want. I hear you saying to know that, but just thought I'd pout in an extra pitch in that regard.

It sounds to me like some of what you're saying here is that you're new to the experience of actually communicating with a partner about sex in terms of pleasure: do I have that right?

Also, how do you feel about considering that the "learning" part of sex with a new partner, or any partner, is really the "exploring," part of it. In other words, it's really the part where the adventure is, rather than being some kind of prep so you can get to the end and know how to do everything just how someone likes it, then perform "perfectly." I mean, if you think about it, the latter doesn't sound very exciting, does it? It sounds less like intimacy and exploration and adventure than it sounds like passing a test.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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JollyHolly
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I appreciate you reiterating that there's no such thing as "the skill"! I really can't hear that enough right now.

I'm definitely new to communicating in words while not actively having sex. With other partners, it's all been learning kind of on the fly, while the sex was happening. If words were used, it would be something short and sweet like "less pressure" or "to the left". And a lot of the communicating was non-verbal, like a hand guided to the right spot or happy noises to indicate that I should keep doing what I was doing.

I do see what you're saying about the learning and the exploring, and I like the idea of viewing things in that way. I just can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm doing everything "wrong". I mean, he told me what to do, and for whatever reason I physically can't do it in a coordinated enough fashion to be successful. It's not like what he's asking for is super complex, but I keep screwing some part of it up, which makes me feel dumb and inadequate. And then I get more frustrated, and the whole act becomes more fraught for me.

I suppose I'm also not very accustomed to feeling so... vulnerable? Usually when I have sex, I'm caught up in the moment, so I'm not overthinking anything. It's almost like being drunk off the other person. But because I'm trying to do this specific thing with this partner, my brain is more... aware, like I'm paying more attention? So everything feels very deliberate, and that makes me uncomfortable because it's an unfamiliar feeling. I can't just "go with it" like I normally do.

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Heather
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I wonder if it might help to think of this kind of communication not as criticism, but as direction.

This is a lot like, IMO, the communication between a qualified, educated massage therapist and a client. They've usually had a ton of education in anatomy and techniques, as well as lots of experience.

But a good one still isn't going to just start doing things to your body, or do what they want to do or think will work for you. They're ask questions, explain different approaches, ask if anything has been hurting lately, ask if you tend to like deeper or lighter massage, and then, throughout, will keep asking questions in order to know what to do to best work with you.

Catch my drift?

You say "successful" with a given sexual activity: can I ask what you mean by that? What is "success" to you in this regard? For that matter, what's failure?

I'm also hearing what just sounds a bit like struggling to kind of hit a balance per communication with your partner, being responsive and attentive to what they communicate, but also letting go in the moment. Given, sometimes that balance is easier than other times. Have you talked about this struggle with this partner?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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JollyHolly
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I really like the massage therapy comparison! That actually helps quite a bit.

Re: "successful"... For this particular sex technique that he's requested (and sorry for potential TMI), he wants me to sort of twist-pump his shaft with my hand while I suck the head of his penis while he thrusts gently. There's just WAY too much going on for me to not lose my grip or get the sucking part right or whatever. Right now I'd define "success" as being able to coordinate all of that for more than 3 seconds at a time! He seems confused (but not negative) as to how I can't juggle all of that at once, so I'm assuming that this was a cakewalk for former lovers of his.

I actually haven't talked about the letting go thing with him, and now I feel kind of silly for not thinking of it before. Thank you for bringing that up! I will definitely do so in the very near future.

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Heather
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You know, I can see how with something that sounds like a pretty complex request, you'd feel pretty flustered. And you know, we can't always do everything a lover wants us to do (and I'd not assume others have been able to do this, but even if they have, it doesn't mean you can).

So, he seems confused, but really, the ish seems to be you can't do what he wants. Which is going to happen sometimes, with any given partner, so shouldn't be some giant big deal.

Have you said that you just can't swing this and then discussed from there?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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JollyHolly
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I haven't had any good one-on-one time with him since that blowjob incident, but I'm definitely going to talk to him about how it doesn't seem doable for me. And thank you for the reassurance! I honestly though that I was just weirdly uncoordinated, so it's nice to know that another person can see where I'm coming from.

Thank you for the great advice all around, Heather!

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Heather
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You know honestly, what you were describing that he wanted even addled my brain, if it makes you feel any better. It sounded, to me, too, like a whole lot to try and think about and do at once. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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P.S. If he has hands that work, an easy way to accomplish what he wants could likely be for him to do what he likes with his hands, and for you to do what you like with your mouth. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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crazyhorseperson
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I have a similar problem (gag reflex and speed, not giving more details than that) with my boyfriend, and we figured out different things that I can do that feel just as good. It might help if he 'takes care of himself' at least until he's close to orgasm and then you have less time to think and he'll be more...perhaps motivated to help you out with what he says would feel good.

Honestly, though, have one day where you just go in and tell him 'I'm going to do a bunch of different things completely unrelated to what you said works, and you can tell me if any of it works almost as well or feels equally good'. Sex of any type isn't always about orgasm, it can be about figuring out what feels good in that moment or what pleases both partners - even if one isn't specifically on the receiving end!

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