My Boyfriend Doesn't Enjoy Oral/Manual Sex, and I Feel Bad About It

My boyfriend doesn't enjoy receiving oral or hand jobs, and it makes me feel inadequate, what can I do?
Mo Ranyart replies:

MojMycha's question continued: We've been together nearly a year and I am his first partner, both romantically and sexually. He only recently discovered he can feel sexual pleasure (besides that brought by orgasm) and he has never felt it in orgasm. I've brought him to orgasm by blow jobs and hand jobs before, but he has never felt pleasure in a blow job. Though I did bring him extreme pleasure once in a hand job (this was when he made the discovery), he always seems to push me away from both giving him oral and masturbation. We instead dry hump, and this does bring him pleasure. His masturbation style is something of that, but it brings him no pleasure at all. I thought maybe he gains the pleasure from the intimacy. He says sometimes I pull his foreskin too far and this causes him pain. I've suggested he might have a tight foreskin, but he rebuffs that idea and doesn't want to try stretching it out. He also has a very sensitive glans due to an injury gained in masturbation years ago which left a red and inflamed mark beside his urethra. I feel sexually incapable and slightly unwanted, as he is very capable of giving me pleasure in many ways, while I can barely seem to manage one. What can I do to feel as though I'm able to bring him pleasure, and to embrace my sexuality? It was a massive insult to my ego for him to say he doesn't enjoy them, so I want to bounce back up.

Take a moment to imagine that you and your boyfriend are making a big ice cream sundae to share with each other. Let's say you know you like strawberry ice cream with hot fudge, walnuts, and rainbow sprinkles on it; it's your favorite, and plenty of other people enjoy that kind of sundae too, so you start getting ingredients together to make one for your boyfriend. There's a decent chance that he'll like that particular flavor combination, because they're all pretty popular ingredients.

But what if he has a walnut allergy, or loves caramel way more than he likes fudge, or doesn't want to run the risk of strawberry seeds stuck in his teeth? What if he loves the same kind of sundae you do but wants to try something different this time, just for fun? What if he just wants to have more of a hand in making decisions about what he's eating for dessert? In any of those situations, him making a suggestion or wanting some input in what kind of sundae you make together isn't an insult to your sundae-making skills, or your personal taste; it’s just him expressing what his ideal sundae would look like.

Just as different flavors of ice cream and different sundae toppings aren't inherently better than any others, there isn't any kind of sex that's better to have than others; it all comes down to what people find pleasurable. Even if it seems like EVERYONE in the world loves chocolate, there are indeed people who don't! And similarly, there are people who just don't enjoy things like oral or manual sex that many others find pleasurable.

The process of starting a sexual relationship with any partner is going to be a time of experimentation and communication, as you share what has felt good in the past either with previous partners or during masturbation and spend some time seeing how past experience translates to a new relationship. It sounds like your boyfriend is still figuring out what kinds of sex and sexual stimulation feel good to him, so the two of you may need to spend some more time on this process of exploration. You might feel like you know your own body and sexual response pretty well right now, but your boyfriend's going to be the best expert on his body and preferences. Even if he's not an expert yet and is still learning, he's still going to be the best authority.

Feedback, when offered respectfully, isn't an insult; it's the best way for someone to let a partner know what they enjoy during sex. Of course there are polite and impolite ways to do that, and I'm hoping he isn't actively being rude when he's letting you know if something hurts or just doesn't feel great. If he is rude or angry when giving feedback, that's certainly not ok, and you can talk with him about ways he can let you know how he's feeling in a way that’s understanding and supportive. Something that might help you feel better about the process and lead to a more constructive conversation could be asking him to make sure he's also giving you positive feedback as well; it's nice to know what you're doing well and what feels great, and "please do more of this" or "that's perfect" is often just as helpful to hear as "please don't do that."

But on its own, the act of giving that feedback isn't rude; in fact, it's really important. No one is going to know automatically what a partner will enjoy, and the only way to learn is to hear feedback about what is or isn't feeling good. I hope that if at any point during sex you need your boyfriend to change position or pressure, get more lube, slow down or stop what he’s doing, etc. you would speak up and let him know. It’s not fun to be in pain during sex, but it’s also not fun to be causing your partner pain. I know it can be a bummer to find out that something you were hoping would feel good hurt your partner instead, but I assume you'd rather find that out than to continue hurting him unknowingly. It might feel upsetting or like a blow to your ego right in the moment, but if he didn't tell you then you’d just keep on thinking he was having fun when he was in reality feeling pretty crummy.

I’m thinking you’d rather get to a point where you can both enjoy sex, knowing you’re each doing things the other enjoys, right? To bring it all back to the ice cream sundae, it's going to be more fun to share a big tasty dessert with your boyfriend when you both like it, instead of one of you happily munching away while the other nibbles and pretends to enjoy it.

I want to encourage you to really listen to the feedback he’s giving you. It's important to keep in mind that orgasm, while wonderful for many people, isn't and doesn't have to be the end goal of all sexual encounters. From what you've written here, it sounds like the types of sex he enjoys the most aren't necessarily ones that bring him to orgasm, and if that’s what he prefers right now then that’s fine. You’re asking “what can I do to bring him pleasure?” and I think that’s a great question to ask - but he’s the only person who can know the answer, and it seems like he’s been giving some of that feedback already. It sounds like dry humping feels good to him; that’s a good place to start. Can you set aside some time when the two of you can talk more about what he knows he really enjoys, or when you could experiment with things he thinks might be nice?

When your boyfriend expresses disinterest in certain types of sex, the best thing you can do in response is not push the issue. If what he's not into are things you really enjoy, you can certainly say “if you change your mind, let me know and I'd be happy to try that again” so he knows the offer's open, but beyond that it's best to not pursue those kinds of sex with him right now since it's important to avoid a situation where he's feeling pressure to have sex he doesn't want. In addition, if he doesn't want to try stretching his foreskin out, that's his call - and doing so on his own, without consulting a doctor, can actually cause injury. We have some more info on foreskins here that you might find helpful! If he's worried about it he can talk to a doctor, but if he's ok with how his foreskin is right now, that's his call.

One thing that may help you in this is getting in the habit, if you aren't already, of communicating with your boyfriend in a similar way about what you enjoy during sex. Even if things are generally great in terms of your sexual pleasure, how comfortable are you speaking up if you want him to adjust things a little in a way that will feel even better? Even if you're mostly saying "this is great, keep it up," letting him know how you're feeling during sex will help you build up that habit so that if you do need to suggest a change, it's easier to speak up in the moment. Maybe the two of you could take some time - when you aren't about to have sex - to talk a little more about types of sex you're both interested in, anything you specifically want to rule out for the moment or make sure to try soon, and what's working well for you already. The checklist from this article could be a good place to start that conversation.

Your other question, about how to embrace your sexuality even in moments where your boyfriend isn't enjoying the sex you're having, has a slightly more complex answer. Sexuality is a huge and multi-faceted thing, and it’s not just tied to sex with a partner, or to even to one's relationship. For many people, partnered sex is a large part of their sexuality - I’m not denying that - but it sounds like it might be a good idea to take a bigger-picture view of your own sexuality, that's centered more on yourself. This article is a good place to start: Sexuality: WTF is it, Anyway? There's a lot to consider here, I know, but looking at the varied components of sexuality might help you identify other ways that you can view and express your own.

Even taking a look at how you're framing sex with your boyfriend might be a good step. Orgasms aren't really something you make someone else have or give to them, and sometimes people can be really focused on orgasms as an end goal, or as proof of Good Sex, to an extent that blocks out other aspects of being sexual with a partner. I'd encourage you to think about sex as an experience with a goal of shared pleasure, no matter where you both end up, and not a mutual race to the Orgasm Finish Line. In the moment, are you both enjoying yourselves? Do you feel happy afterwards? If it starts to feel like a performance, or a referendum on your skill or worth as a sexual partner, that's something to look at a bit; it might mean you need to talk about some other issue in your relationship, or take a break from sex while you sort out how you're feeling about yourself. Ideally, sex is something that partners do together, collaboratively, and not a thing one person is doing to the other or a way to prove their skill. If there's any real skill that sex depends on, it's the skill of communicating and listening openly and honestly with a partner.

You might even want to think about this in a larger framework of pleasure and intimacy with your boyfriend. Enjoyment in sex and relationships isn't just focused on genitals. People find all sorts of sexual contact enjoyable, and often will derive pleasure - you've probably noticed this in your own experience - from activities that are mainly focused on another partner's pleasure. I mentioned this a bit earlier, but it might be helpful for the two of you to talk a little about what you enjoy about different intimate activities, both sexual and non-sexual, that you do together.

I want to leave you with this quote about learning to create a satisfying sex life with a partner. It's from an article about faking orgasm, which isn't the issue at hand, but I think the message of this passage fits really well with your situation:

Sex isn't one-size-fits-all, where everyone does and enjoys the same things, or does and enjoys any given thing the same way, and a lot of people don't know that or don't figure that out for a long time. Some folks never do, sadly. Sex is something we create and experience in very diverse ways. As well, while sex can give our self-esteem a boost (or a hit), it's not the right place for anyone to be looking for all or most of their self-esteem, or to hold up a partner's esteem by themselves. In order to be ready to be sexual with people in a way that will work for us and them, we've got to have pretty good esteem already and feel pretty confident in ourselves. We also have to have confidence that our partners can take care of themselves just as well, if not better, as we can care for them, and only chose partners we know are capable of that. We have to be comfortable being very vulnerable and sometimes having our sense of self, our relationship, or our sexuality challenged, because that's going to happen sometimes
If one kind of sex isn't enjoyable, any one time or all around, even when you are honest and experiment to see if it can become so, you both can agree that's not the kind you'll have, and will keep experimenting to discover what kinds of sex and what kind of sex life does feel great for both of you, with or without orgasm (though the feeling great part is usually necessary to reach orgasm).

Here are a few links for additional reading:
Be a Blabbermouth! The Whats, Whys and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
Sexual Response & Orgasm: A User's Guide
Intimacy: The Whys, Hows, How-Nots, and So-Nots
Reciprocity, Reloaded

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