A Lesbian of a Certain Age

Friday, July 22, 2011

Question

I came out rather late in life, after raising two children, and my lover is about ten years younger than I am. I wonder if there is a difference between the generations that is causing me some problems in our bedroom?

My lover enjoys sex toys. She has a lot of them. I don't think I've seen them all, and we've been together for nearly a year. Our evenings together usually consist of her using as many of them on me as possible. Sometimes I have barely gotten used to the way that one toys feels before another one comes out. These marathons are interspersed with panic, love, resentment, desire, and some terrific orgasms. It's like having dinner at a buffet where you have to eat an equal amount of everything on the table.

If I refuse to let her use one of her gadgets, she gets huffy and tells me I am being a prude. This hurts my feelings because it seems to me that she only cares about getting to wield her implements, not about how they make me feel. We have an ongoing fight about anal sex. I just don't like it. She says it is irrational to leave any part of your body unstimulated. I would like some support for being “irrational” when I have been hurt in the past and feel protective of my body. If I try to talk to her about some of my abusive experiences, she tells me that I should “let go of negativity.” Did I miss the memo about where that switch is located?

In addition, I am not sure what she wants in return. When it is my turn to give her pleasure, does she also want me to be the Many-Armed Goddess of Erotic Devices? I can't get her to tell me what she likes and doesn't like. She says if we are in touch with each other, I should not need to ask. This implies that I am not very sensitive or sexually skilled. The more clumsy I feel, the less I want to do in bed. I find myself avoiding sex, staying away from bed until she is asleep. This is leaving me sleep deprived and grumpy.

Before I came out and met this gorgeous woman, I didn't have very many sexual fantasies. I just knew that being around other women left me feeling excited, dreamy, and very happy. If I thought at all about sex, it was to imagine kissing her, getting to undress her, and running my hands and my tongue up and down her body. I imagined long weekends spent mostly in bed, exploring one another. But vibrators, dildos, nipple clamps, clitoral pumps, etc. did not enter into this picture.

What should I do? Straight friends and family have all warned me that two people of the same sex cannot have a lasting relationship. I don't want to gratify their stereotypes by breaking up with her. Surely two adults can come up with a compromise.

Answer

It sounds to me like your lover is hiding behind all this equipment. Her intentions may be good. But she is not listening to your concerns. She expects you to serve as an object she can experiment on, which makes you quite vulnerable, but she doesn't take risks in the bedroom that would make her equally vulnerable.

If I could meet with both of you in person, I would advise the two of you to slow down, leave the toys in storage, and spend a couple of nights just holding each other, kissing, and giving each other massages. No sex below the waist for at least a week. Once you'd built up a head of steam from arousal that is unsatisfied, I would recommend mutual oral and manual stimulation—again, without the toys. There are plenty of exercises for couples to build their intimacy and communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal. A classic one is for one partner to sit at the head of the bed and hold the other, back to front, so you are both looking in the same direction. The person who is being held is supposed to just relax, breathe deeply, and enjoy getting touched. Some couples buy a massage manual and take turns learning new strokes. There are also some risque board games that are fun for couples to play together. See what is available on the Internet and locally.

Ironically enough, good sex often depends on being able to stroke the body without expecting anything to come of it. If there is no pressure to perform, a need to orgasm may suddenly make its presence urgently known. The tension between the two of you could probably be eased quite a bit if sexual activity became less goal-oriented. Perhaps without meaning to, your lover has made you feel that you must come even if the sensations she is providing aren't what you need and want.

Many if not most sex toys are capable of creating intense sensations. Even if a couple is not playing power-exchange games or doing role-playing, it's important to know one another's limits, needs, and preferences. People can be hurt physically or emotionally during vanilla sex, as well as by variant activity. For example, a vibrator may not look like a harmful item, but if it's applied with too much pressure or left in the same spot for too long, it can cause bruises and friction burns. Such play also sends a message to the partner that they are a thing rather than a person. This is what you've been feeling, I believe.

Much as I love sex toys, they can become a crutch. If you aren't really in the mood or feel insecure about your own prowess as a lover, it's easy to avoid eye contact, do as little touching as possible, and get out a few toys. That way, you look like you are being a daring and adventurous bed partner when in fact you are avoiding your lover and being covertly absent or distant. Of course, if the mood is right, the partners share a joint fantasy that includes toys, and they are wielded with consideration and care, these inanimate objects can send both of you on a wonderful trip of bliss.

The bottom line is that when sex is over, you ought to feel better about yourself and your partner rather than worse. It sounds to me like you are losing ground in this relationship, feeling more critical of yourself, making excuses for somebody who is disappointing and hurting you, and blaming yourself for things that are beyond your control (like the way a specific toy feels when it makes contact with your body). (A lover can put you down and objectify you without using sex toys, of course.) I would hate to see this get any worse for you.

It's possible that your lover can't get aroused unless she is using her toys. If that is her primary fetish, negotiation may not work. You may have to decide whether to leave or stay, knowing that the sex is not likely to improve. Don't let the negative opinions of straight people influence you! More than half of all opposite-sex marriages end in divorce. Being a same-sex couple has nothing to do with your chances of achieving a long-term relationship (LTR). An LTR full of alienation and bad sex is not a triumph over homophobia—it's a form of self-torture and punishment.

Share this letter with your partner See how she feels about what I've said. Ask her to agree to a 30-day moratorium on toys. Or tell her that she can't use a toy unless YOU request it. When you assess the future of this relationship, please pay close attention to her reactions. This could be a time when both of you drop your facades, get very honest, and bond with one another while you make a plan for better intimacy. Or voicing your opinion could turn into a crisis that increases the distance. Your strength and self-confidence are already ebbing; don't wait so long that you chicken out.

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