Let’s be honest: sex does not always “flow.”
We all love those moments of perfect synchronicity, when it seems like our lover is reading our mind, feeling our heart, and vibrating as one with our body! Those moments when everyone is on the same page, desires match each other, and everything develops with harmony and grace. When there is no need to speak a word.
Alas, sex is not always like that. There are times when our sexual desires are different, perhaps even incompatible. I would love to have hot, steamy, passionate sex and you feel like cuddling. I’m up for kink and you’re feeling like sweetness. You get the picture.
It would be tempting to consider these “mismatches of sexual desire” as lost opportunities or, even worse, symptoms that something is wrong between us and our lovers. But it isn’t necessarily so. Differences in desire, just like differences in opinion, can be great opportunities for both intimacy and personal growth. With one condition: that we are able to speak our truth and listen to our lovers’ truth. And speaking our truth isn’t always easy—at least, it hasn’t been for me.
Personally, one of the patterns I developed was the following: I would agree to having sex even though I was actually tired and wanted to sleep and rest. I would make up my mind to get an early night’s sleep, but then if my beloved showed the desire to make love, I would agree with poorly disguised reluctance.
Needless to say, that didn’t lead to the best intimacy. Not only was I tired: I would often feel resentful. Sometimes, I would go so far as to blame my lovers for having “seduced me” into making love when I really wanted to rest. In doing so, I was stepping out of my power and responsibility, and not taking ownership of my choices. What a mess!
With the help of patience and introspection, I discovered that what was really motivating me to step out of my truth and engage in sex when I really wanted to rest, was a hidden fear of losing my lover. I was scared that if I owned my feelings and declined an offer for sex, my lover would lose interest in me and literally “go find someone with a higher sex drive.” Ouch!
Discovering that wounded part of myself hurt, yet, in time, I began giving myself permission to show my true desires and longings, even when they weren’t the same as my lover’s. I realized that lovers would not abandon me if I wasn’t always ready for lovemaking whenever they wanted to. I was once more reminded that it was my responsibility to speak my truth, and that it didn’t behoove my lovers to read my mind, anticipate my desires, and make decisions for me.
More importantly, I discovered that most of the time, the person in front of me would react positively to my honest communication, and thank me for being transparent. Granted, it may take some courage to express to our partners that we wouldn’t like to engage in sexual play, but the irony is that most often, our partners will react positively to such honesty. (And, if our partners don’t accept a “no,” we might need to re-evaluate our relationship with them.)
Learning to say “no” was, for me, the most difficult part, while receiving a “no” was more natural, though still challenging. Perhaps because of my gender and sexual orientation, I pretty quickly got used to accepting that my lovers weren’t always in the mood for sex even if I was. Yet, there are people for whom listening to the words, “I don’t feel like making love with you right now” is a nightmarish experience. Sorry folks, but receiving a “no” with an open heart is just as important as being able to say it.
We all need to develop the ability to listen, with an open heart, to our lover’s sexual desires—or absence thereof. On a practical level, this means being able to stay with an open heart when our delicious lover says no. That hurts, right? What about adding “anymore” at the end? Can we stay open and empathetic when someone announces that they have lost all sexual interest in us—possibly forever?
As strange as it may sound, a “no” is one of the greatest gifts we can receive. First of all, a “no” shows us reality and shatters all projections and illusions. But even more than that, receiving a no prevents us from ending up in a situation that, in that particular moment, wasn’t meant to happen, much like a “stop” sign on the road can save our life from a deadly accident.
In our skewed, sex-obsessed and simultaneously sex-negative environment, we may get trapped in a goal-oriented attitude toward sex and feel that if we don’t make love right now, we are missing our objective. But if we realize that the true meaning of any interaction resides in mutual enrichment, harmony and growth, then it is clear that no sex is a much better option that unharmonious, half-hearted, or, God forbid, non-consensual sex.
When the person in front of us declares that they would rather cuddle, chat, or leave than engage in sexual play, they are doing us a favor by showing us the way to the best possible result of our encounter together, the one that will enrich us the most. For tonight, that might mean just a lovely chat or cuddle. Tomorrow, who knows.
So, let’s be grateful to our friends and lovers when they say “no, thank you,” especially in something so delicate as the sexual realm. Let’s honor their freedom, thank them for their transparency, and match them in honesty by speaking our truth whenever we need to.
Author: Raffaello Manacorda
Editor: Catherine Monkman