Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a professional tweeter/blogger for Mother Jones and a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley.
This June will mark a year since my girlfriend and I have been dating. Both of us came out of the closet around the same time, met each other through a mutual friend and have been together since.
Neither of us have any lesbian friends, and this is our first relationship with a woman. Things have been going smoothly, except that when it comes to sex I always push her away when she tries making love to me. I don’t know why. When she does make love to me, my body responds the way it should, but it’s just getting past me pushing her away.
I feel confused, and like a complete idiot. Any advice?
Anna Says: Your question reminds me of something I recently read about in Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine, which I don’t pay for, but keeps mysteriously showing up every month. (Stop judging me!) It was an article about how to make your own potpourri using the discarded remnants of soap slivers.
Just kidding — I’m not that straight.
It was about sex drive. In the article, author Kate Hanley cited a study that showed how women physically responded to sexual stimuli, in this case erotic film clips, but mentally didn’t know their bodies were turned on. This led researchers to believe that the problem of their sex drive wasn’t physical — it was that they couldn’t get out of their own heads.
First of all, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re not remotely alone. Studies from all over the world indicate that approximately 30% of women (even those in their teens and twenties) experience a lack of sexual interest. It’s one of the biggest concerns that couples face, right after fights over money and who has the bigger crush on Christina Hendricks.
Your initial resistance to your girlfriend’s advances leads me to believe that it might be a mental block for you as well, especially since you say your body “responds the way it should” after that first bout of resisting. (Ed. note: I’m operating on the assumption that you’re still attracted to your girlfriend and that there aren’t other glaring red flags in your relationship that would cause you to not want to sleep with her.) I am curious though if your girlfriend is always the one initiating sex. If that’s the case, then taking charge once in a while might help solve the problem. When we feel we are in control of a sexual situation, it becomes easier to focus on the now, i.e. giving your girlfriend pleasure, which in turn will turn you on as well.
When you find yourself starting to worry or having a negative response, try focusing on the pure, physical sensations — the feeling of your skin pressed together, your quickening breath, etc. — the more connected we feel to our partners and our bodies, the easier it is for our brains to release those happy chemicals (dopamine, oxytocin) and for us to relax and enjoy ourselves. Sometimes it also helps to play along. Even if you’re not in the throes of ecstasy, the simple act of moaning or offering some verbal encouragement can help trick our bodies into responding in the ways that we want them to.
And lastly, don’t rule out the importance of fantasizing. I know, some consider it a cardinal sin to think of anyone or anything else besides your partner in the bedroom, but sometimes fantasizing is the easiest and fastest way to get yourself in the mood. Once you’re there and the blood is flowing, then do bring your attention and awareness back to the hot gal in front of you, but don’t be too quick to dismiss those images from Saturday Night Beaver as a short cut to sexytime feelings.
I came out as a lesbian when I was 21 and have been exclusively with women for several years. Then I met this girl who happened to have a boyfriend and we discovered we were all into each other and decided to become a triad. It’s going pretty well so far, but I’ve found it difficult to “come out” to people who’ve known me as a lesbian all this time, also because I’m not just bisexual now, but I’m in a polyamorous relationship too. Any advice on how to make this easier?
Anna says: You can do what I did: edit some flattering video footage of the three of you together and post it to YouTube. Extra props if you do it around Christmas time, because then it’s one less holiday e-card you have to send to Grandma.
Coming out is often made out to be a big, dramatic event, with grand speeches and slide whistles and such, but it rarely requires all the fanfare. Also, coming out is never something we do once. We do it all the time — when we change jobs or make a new acquaintance or hit on our local FedEx carrier. Hell, I just came out to my hair dresser today. It was so liberating. She thought I was just a wayward hipster.
You have to decide, as an empowered bi poly female, when it’s worthwhile to tell other people about your presumably private relationships. For instance, does your boss need to know? Probably not, unless you’re trying to bend the “plus one guest” rule at the company picnic. I get the hesitance though. There’s still a stigma about coming out, whether it’s as bi, queer, poly, kinky, or a fan of Martha Stewart, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Also, the more people realize that not everyone fits the “traditional” relationship mold, the less shame and stigmatizing will be associated with it. When coming out to friends or acquaintances, I’ve found that it’s better to not make a big deal out of it. You are happy about your situation, after all. It’s not like you’re telling them about a recently amputated limb or that you’re secretly in love with Katy Perry. (Stop judging me!)
Some people might come back at you with stereotypes and assumptions, a la the “who’s the man in the relationship” shiz we get when coming out as lesbians, so be prepared to have a few awkward or possibly infuriating encounters. I’ve found it helpful to throw those stupid questions back at them, which works particularly well in straight relationships. Like, who’s the man in your relationship?
Remember that it’s your life, though. You can divulge as much or as little as you want. And keep emphasizing how happy you are. Be gross about it even. The more people see that your life choices are having a positive effect on you, the harder it’ll be for them to not share that joy. Unless they’re douche canoes, in which case send them up the creek without a douche paddle.
Readers, what about you? How have you handled coming out as bisexual or polyamorous or vegan pagan witch or any other non-mainstream lifestyle?
Got a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.