Student Sexuality Information Services (SSIS): Advice Column

December 7, 2018

Welcome back to the SSIS column, where we answer any and all of Brandeis students’ questions about sex, sexuality, identity and relationships. This will be our last column of the semester, but if you have a question you’d like answered in our next column, email or leave a question in the Google Form link on our Facebook page.
(Note: These answers are good-faith attempts by SSIS to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means exhaustive or to be taken as universal. If these answers don’t resonate with you, either pay them no mind or reach out to us with suggestions for improvement!)

“What do I do if my partner wants to move forward sexually, and I’m not ready?”

Thank you for reaching out with this question! It’s totally reasonable to have feelings of uncertainty and discomfort when your sexual readiness doesn’t match your partner’s. The most important thing to recognize in this situation is that your comfort comes first and foremost. No matter how long you’ve been seeing your partner or what you have done in the past, you are never obligated to move forward sexually with them.

It is important to take a moment to ask yourself why you think you are not feeling comfortable moving forward. Whether or not your end goal is to move forward sexually, it is good to know where your hesitations are coming from so that you can address them if you choose to. What have you communicated to your partner about this situation? SSIS encourages communication that is open, often and honest.

Being on the same page with your partner is important and being able to feel comfortable communicating your feelings and boundaries is fundamental for a healthy relationship. You and your partner could try exploring what you do feel comfortable doing sexually and create a “Want, Will, Won’t” list. These are lists of things you definitely want to do, things you would be open to trying and things you absolutely do not feel comfortable doing. Having this list will make it much easier to figure out what you can do together!

Next, perhaps you can start a conversation with them about alternative forms of sexual intimacy. The possibilities are limited only to the imagination: cuddling, “outercourse” (which can include kissing, massages, dry humping/grinding, talking about your fantasies, etc.), mutual masturbation and more. You and your partner can escalate things gradually so long as both of you feel comfortable and safe with it.

Ultimately, sexual interactions should always be motivated by feelings of enthusiasm and desire, not by a sense of obligation. If your partner is not willing to respect your comfort level, they don’t deserve to engage sexually with you.

“I want to make my relationship an open one, but I don’t know how to bring it up with my partner.”

This could be an exciting new time for you and your partner, but we understand that it can be hard to bring up the concept of opening the relationship with a partner at first. With a big conversation like this, the mindset and the physical setting you and your partner are in while you talk about this will influence the success of this conversation. It might help to bring it up when you and your partner are on good terms and not stressed. Do it in a place that will make both of you feel empowered and not on the spot.

In terms of approach: Being direct and honest can be a very effective method. If you do this, state point blank that you’re interested in opening up the relationship. If you’re a bit more shy, you could bring it up indirectly: Perhaps pull out a copy of “The Ethical Slut” (which we offer in our library!) and mention your interest in exploring some things that the book covers.

It might also help to explain your motivations for opening the relationship up: Some associate non-monogamy with infidelity and fear that you might not be committed to the relationship. If it is the case that your partner has this fear, it might be a good idea to reassure them of your commitment to them/the relationship. Non-monogamy works best when the relationship is on solid emotional ground and when both parties are informed and enthusiastic about what’s going on.

If your partner is not interested, it is important to respect their boundaries and not pressure them. However, you can try gently offering to explore their specific hesitations and see if through conversation and compromises, you can ease their reservations. If it is important to you that you are in a relationship that is non-monogamous and your partner is not comfortable with this, it would be understandable to revisit your priorities and whether or not your partner is compatible with them.

If your partner is interested, this will open up a new set of conversations and negotiations. One of the keys to successful non-monogamy is open, often and honest communication. This first conversation will be a good start to that! Make sure that at every point through this new stage in your relationship that you and your partner are on the same page and each feel that you have a solid understanding of each other’s boundaries. Non-monogamous relationships can look very different to different people and partner relationships, so find what will work for both of you.

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