December 2, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Candles or cuffs?

By |2018-03-21T20:04:23+01:00November 30th, 2016|"Lost In Translation"|
Finding your sexual baseline is essential.

uestions about love, dating, and relationships frequently get tossed my way. Never mind my own less-then-perfect relationship record, or that I struggle as a mother, sometimes lack patience, and I hold no degree in counseling. Here are a few answers to questions I’ve collected.

• Q: I’ve been dating a really great guy for the past six months. We spend a lot of time together, which often includes hours in bed. He’s a very sexual man, which I like, as I consider myself quite sexual too. Recently though, after he found it hard to climax for a few days he asked me if he could show me his collection of sex toys he kept in a box by his bedside. I consider myself to be an open-minded and free thinker when it comes to sex and have often enjoyed the use of vibrators, and such, but I found myself slightly turned off by his collection of butt plugs he enjoys playing with. There were also cuffs, ropes, and ties. Seeing all this left me feeling pretty conflicted.

How do I handle the sex part of the relationship when he’s into stuff I’m just not into, but everything else about him is perfect? Signed, Do I Have To Go There?

• A: Even though you mentioned being sexually open-minded,” this is very much an individual matter. Do you chose”no,” as in an unequivocal “no, thank you”; do you take the “don’t knock it till you try it” approach, or do you look for something in between?

The first step is to consider your own sexual baseline. We all have one. Webster’s calls it a “minimum or starting point used for comparisons.”

If your baseline sex is a good ole fashion romp in the hay with a splash of oral followed by a bit of hair pulling and love bites, great. Once in awhile you can spice that up with sex outdoors, anal, bondage, or whatever else seems “naughty” to you and your partner. Whatever gets us off is our baseline.

That said, if your baseline includes ropes, metal, various sizes of plugs and crops, what then? It can happen that one person’s “naughty” is another baseline.

Your words “after he found it hard to climax for a few days” keep playing in my head. They make me think your lover’s baseline is very different from yours. Maybe he didn’t know how to bring it up. Maybe he needs a kind of sex you see as eserved for wild nights after too many cocktails.

That doesn’t make him the devil and you a saint. It only sets the tone for individual sexual preferences. Since you seem to have very different sexual baselines, it also begs the question whether either of you will be truly satisfied.

Part of a great partner is sexual compatibility, plain and simple. It’s also what most couples seem to wash over or ignore, either out of immaturity or fear of vulnerability.

In your case, that means you aren’t going to satisfy him if he’s always having to talk you into lubing up the plug and oiling the leather crop, and he won’t satisfy you if you’re yearning for some tender romance via candlelight and he’s daydreaming of installing eyelets on your walls.

Whether we want to believe it or not, sexual imbalances and dissatisfaction can trickle into the rest of our lives, opening the door to resentment. Consider your own baseline and needs and that of your partner.

Think about give and take. How about bondage two nights a week and candlelight for three?

Or you could leave the relationship now, respectfully, since it’s only been a few months. The last thing you want to do is grow despondent or uncomfortable sexually, changing your high opinion of him.

You could also go the route of most couples: ignore the situation, stay together a few more years while slowly picking at each other, eventually ending up in couples therapy (after you’ve co-purchased a home). Personally, if I really liked the guy and thought he was compatible in all other ways, I’d opt for finding a balance between his needs and mine, at least for a while. If it works, great, if not, you move on to a decent end to the relationship. Anything but finding yourself 10 years down the line having ignored everything.

About the Author:

Jennifer Allison wrote the "lost in Translation" column from 2014 to mid-2018.