The Sadness of Sex 


Dear Audrey,
I’m a straight girl in my 20s. I love sex, and I consider myself adventurous and sex-positive. But there are certain kinds of sex that sometimes make me feel, for lack of a better term, degraded. For example, anal, facials, rough blow jobs. In my mind I know there’s nothing degrading about this stuff, and I usually enjoy it while it’s happening, but afterward I feel this sad little lump in my chest. I want to be the kind of person that loves all kinds of sex, and in my mind I do, but in my heart, I guess, maybe I don’t. How do I stop feeling this way?

Oh, feelings. They make everything so complicated. Why can’t we all be the vodka ad sex robots of the future, just fucking and fucking and drinking the purest vodka, empty of everything but jizz and ethanol? Unfortunately, we are stuck being complicated meat bags until the singularity or whatever, so it seems like ignoring your feelings and hoping they go away isn’t really the best plan. Here’s the thing: your views about sexuality weren’t formed in a vacuum. All of the input you get from society at large, starting basically at birth, has informed the way you think about sex. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but societally, we’ve got some pretty fucked up attitudes about sex, sexuality, and women. Understanding that the messages you absorb from culture are harmful doesn’t mean that you can erase their impact.

Anal sex, facials, head-fucking—these are culturally coded as “dirty,” which is exactly why they are heavily featured in porn, and why they are so exciting. What you’re feeling as a negative is what, for many people, is sexy about that stuff. It’s sort of silly to pretend that facials would be exciting if every sex act was completely value-neutral.

And there are lots of people, male and female, who feel like straight sex is a zero-sum game, where a woman “lets” a man do things. That women “give it up,” that sex is performed on their bodies. In that scenario, where a man doesn’t give a shit about his partner’s pleasure, maybe coming on her face is an act of disrespect. It’s really, really not a good idea to push yourself to do things you’re uncomfortable with because you feel like you “should” enjoy them. Nobody’s going to come along and tear up your fourth-wave feminist card for not taking it in the ass. Instead, try unpacking exactly what makes you feel bad about the stuff you feel weird about. Is it because you don’t enjoy it? Because you feel like your consent has not been adequately sought? Because of the power structure of the encounter? Maybe you felt pushed into trying something you weren’t ready for. Maybe it’s a symptom of feeling disrespected in general by a partner, manifesting itself as sexual discomfort.

Think about it, sort it out. And for fuck’s sake, stop saying yes to things you’re not enthusiastic about. Yes, part of sex is doing stuff for your partner, but be selfish for a little bit. If you can figure out why anal makes you feel sad, you can find a way to approach it that makes you feel good. Or not. You don’t have to like everything! It’s ok to not enjoy stuff. The first step to feeling respected during sex is respecting yourself, and that means listening to your head and your heart.


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