Here at 1800 My Options, we aim to promote healthy and supportive relationships which make you feel safe and fulfilled, and that includes in the bedroom. Read on for some red flags which should prompt at least a discussion with your partner(s) about why their behaviour isn’t okay, and advice on how to approach the chat.
Any partner who ridicules, judges or has opinions on how to “optimise” your body are exhibiting body-shaming behaviour. Commentary about weight, cellulite, stretch marks, acne or the appearance of genitalia or breasts only makes a person feel more self-conscious and less accepted in a relationship, in turn decreasing their enjoyment of sex. All bodies are unique and beautiful: for reference, up to 90% of women have cellulite,1 and all labia and breasts are unique to their owner (see the Labia Library) or the Normal Breast Gallery to view photographs of normal, varying anatomy). Similarly, shaming about noises you make, bodily fluids, or even sexual fantasies you have is problematic. Sit your partner down to communicate how their judgment reduces key factors like trust and openness in the relationship– and if they don’t adjust, there is simply no excuse. All bodies are good bodies, and your natural one deserves respect.
Open communication about what you enjoy, including firm boundaries about what you don’t, can not only help a partner to learn what you like, but also ensures you feel safe with them. If a sexual or romantic partner tries to coerce you into something you don’t feel ready for or don’t like to do, or tries to pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to, that is a form of abuse. Each person’s autonomy and consent is paramount, and attempts to change your mind or act against your will are unacceptable. In such a scenario, feel empowered to say no and leave the situation if safe to do so. If you do not feel safe to do so, call 000 or Victoria’s Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292.
Whilst receiving pleasure important, all partners deserve to feel satisfied, so providing pleasure to others is also important. Studies demonstrate a major orgasm gap between men and women, with one study demonstrating that 91% of men and 39% of women usually experienced orgasm during sex with a partner.2 Cultural focus on men’s sexual appetite and pleasure contributes heavily – there is evidence that women in heterosexual relationships value their partner’s orgasm more than their own.3 In one study including cohorts of women of different sexual orientations, lesbian women reported they usually or always orgasmed 86% of the time, compared with 66% of bisexual women, and 65% of heterosexual women.4
As a society we can challenge these biases by acknowledging female sexuality more openly, and personally women can more directly communicate their needs to their partner. Emphasis on the importance of female orgasm, open communication about desires, good sexual self-esteem and incorporating other types of sex aside from vaginal intercourse are known positive influences on increasing the female orgasm.
A major part of good sexual health is regular screening for STIs (according to your number of partners, frequency of change of partners, and communities). Discussing STIs you have and being proactive in protecting oneself is very important in keeping our communities sexually safe. However, if a partner is resistant to this discussion, refusing to use condoms or other barriers you’d like to use, or not inclined to undergo STI testing despite your appropriate request, it is very reasonable to not proceed with having a sexual relationship with this person. Being sexually responsible includes openness about STIs, consent and other topics. If a person is not mature enough to communicate about this without being awkward, dismissive or critical, then they are probably not mature enough to be having sex.
Maybe it was a throwaway comment, or maybe they did it to intentionally criticise you. However, this sentiment isn’t expressing support or helping to make you feel good. The approach for expressing feedback should always be positive and include helpful suggestions; it should not be mocking or derogatory. Feel free to not try any harder.