Ask Sex Coach Leigh: Whisper to a Scream

Q: I could really use your help! My boyfriend of a year and a half and I are in a bit of a standstill. I am naturally a very quiet person sexually. When I masturbate, I never make a sound, and when we have sex, I only occasionally and quietly make noise. My boyfriend is incredibly frustrated by this. As a result, he doesn’t enjoy fingering me or giving me oral sex. The lack of foreplay has taken a toll on our sex life, because it doesn’t make penetrative sex enjoyable for me if I’m not warmed up first. We’ve talked about this extensively, so he has been trying to finger and eat me out more. However, it always ends with us arguing because he becomes very frustrated by how quiet I am. Now I’m at the point where I can’t enjoy it when he touches me/goes down on me because all I can think about is that I need to put on a show for him. I’d almost rather him not bother to touch me or go down on me at all, but this is not good for a healthy sex life. What can I do about this problem? I appreciate any advice you have to offer!

A: Hi lovely! It sounds like you have hit peak frustration here. You and your boyfriend are both not getting something essential to your enjoyment of sex: foreplay for you and vocal responsiveness for him. You’ve tried to fake it until you make it (which is not a bad instinct), but that has only resulted in distraction and more frustration. So what to do next?

Let me start by saying that your need for foreplay prior to intercourse is not only valid, but essentially a physical requirement for most folks. Unless you experience completely spontaneous desire (meaning you just get wet out of the blue, which is not common), then you need your partner to put in some time: kissing you, touching you, turning you on. It sounds like fingering and oral sex both work for you here, and that makes complete sense. The fact that you don’t make much noise during this arousal period might just be part of who you are. There are so many variables that make up an individual’s sexual blueprint, and there’s no right or wrong way to be.

Your boyfriend has a preference for vocal expressions of pleasure. This is also valid. The problem is, this just isn’t something you do naturally. It feels performative, and when you perform, you lose the connection with your body that allows you to feel pleasure. This is a sexual incompatibility. Most of us have some type of sexual incompatibility with our partners – it is nearly impossible to find someone with our exact sexual blueprint. The real question is how much this particular incompatibility matters. Some incompatibilities are insurmountable, especially in monogamous relationships. Only you and your boyfriend can decide if this one is, but either way I think it’s worth trying some things before you make any decisions.

Since over-exaggerating your responses doesn’t feel authentic, let’s think of some other options. What kinds of sounds are present when y’all are fooling around? If you’re in total silence, that could definitely call more attention to your quietness than necessary. Turning on some porn – even just the audio – might give your bf the vocal arousal cues he needs and help take the pressure off you. Any sounds, even if they are not explicitly “sexy”, could be useful here: your favorite playlist, a movie full of explosions, Rachel Maddow eviscerating the Trump administration on MSNBC, soothing sounds of the rainforest, Colin Firth reading The End of the Affair… whatever floats your boat. I’m not here to judge.

Another possible solution is incorporating dirty talk into your sexual repertoire. If you’re not comfortable initiating, this could be a good place for your boyfriend to take the lead. Coming up with what to say during sex might sound daunting, but it can be as simple as one person describing what they are doing/planning to do and the other responding enthusiastically. In the right mood, “I’m fucking you so hard right now.” “Yeah you are!” is a perfect exchange. Similarly, variations on both of these can feel pretty organic:

“Is this good? Do you like it when I fuck you?” … “Yes!”

“Tell me you want me to fuck you.” … “I want you to fuck me.”

Lastly, you could consider experimenting with a trade. Is there something you really enjoy that your boyfriend feels so-so about? Could you give a vocal performance sometimes in exchange for him doing that thing? My caveat here is that no one should participate in activities that make them feel uncomfortable: triggers and hard limits are nos, and those nos don’t magically disappear for the sake of compromise. But maybes can offer some wiggle room, and might be an option if both parties end up feeling honored.

I wish you luck and orgasms – whatever kind bring you the most joy!

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