Dear Dr Ren,
I’m a man in my late 20s who’s been dating a guy for the past six months who’s really confusing me.
We get along well and are getting pretty serious, but I’m noticing some behaviour that I don’t understand.
This guy is totally against any PDA. Okay, I can accept that as he’s only recently come to the city from a small town. He also has ‘stuff’ about nudity, even when we’re alone. He won’t even sleep naked with me, saying he gets cold.
Needless to say, anal sex is a no go without elaborate planning and preparations.
I thought all of this was about shyness until the other day when we were in the shower together and he actually got out to go pee. At first I thought it was just stylistic. Now I’m wondering if it’s a sign of something more deeply rooted.
I see promise in this relationship, but don’t want to get further involved with someone who in truth doesn’t like sex. Maybe I’m finding reasons to bolt before I have to make a commitment? Maybe he just has better manners and hygiene? Or maybe I’m dead on and should run.
What do you think?
I am fascinated with your letter and wish I could ask you a few more questions. You tell me about some of your boyfriend’s behaviours around public displays and private body functions, but you don’t tell me anything about how sex between you has been, other than that anal sex requires lots of preparation.
I agree that you are wise to see some of these actions as potential red flags, yet they may just as easily, as you suspect, be remnants of family of origin training. Let’s try to sort this out.
Is your lover enthusiastic about sex or do you feel like you generally manipulate or seduce him into the act? Is sex routine or do you mix it up? What percent of the time does he initiate?
Do you see him abandoning himself to the pleasures of desire and arousal? Does he ‘get lost’ in the experience? Is he enthusiastic in joining you in sensual teasing and playfulness even outside the bedroom? Is he generous and adventuresome with his own body?
Some other clues to someone’s sex-positive attitudes are how they react to body smells, functions, and fluids. If you are fluid bonded, does he revel in the touch, taste, sight and feel of your body, including intimate aspects like sweat and jism, especially during lovemaking?
It is true that some of this is influenced by body image and upbringing. Still, if when we are wrapped in the arms of our lover we still cannot forget our inhibitions sufficiently to give ourselves over to the joy of sex, it speaks loudly to our priorities and abilities and should be noted.
If you want wild monkey sex years down the road, it may not be with a fellow who needs to leave the shower to pee.
Lest we spend too much time on the details, I want to stress how important your letter is. You’ve touched on a global theme in sexual relationships. Unions that work well fall into two basic categories: those couples for whom sex is a banquet and they are consistently hungry, and those for whom sex serves a function. The function varies from couple to couple and often over time, but is seldom a beggar’s banquet after the initial limerent period.
Sex often becomes “an issue” when one person loves and craves sex and the other does not understand the need for more activity than meets the requirements of the function. That person feels pressured, used, and put upon — and eventually resentful. Sex becomes symbolic of the power imbalance within the couple. The person who does not “need” sex has control since s/he controls the “commodity.” It can get ugly.
Obviously you can’t determine this dynamic simply by gauging your boyfriend’s enthusiasm about swallowing cum or lounging naked. However, these are indicators when combined with hesitation to sleep skin to skin and uneasiness about his body functions.
I suggest you keep your eyes open and your wits about you. It’s been only six months, so you have time to continue evaluating the depth of your feelings and your commitment to this relationship.
Gently continue to push the sexual limits and pay attention to your lover’s responses. Maybe he simply needs time to feel safe, and encouragement to expand his boundaries. Give him both. If he withdraws, accept the truth that you are not well matched sexually.
On the other hand, you may be the first person who has welcomed his sexual expression. We all fear being judged, especially sexually. Your support may be just what he needs to blossom.
If he is holding himself back, time will build his trust. If you are mismatched, time will reveal that as well.
What is primarily important is that you both feel good about yourselves. Keep having fun and gathering information. Avoid making any decision until you can make a wise one.