Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: I want to try bondage, but my partner isn't keen

"He goes into his shell when I mention anything like this to him"

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Dear Virginia,

I’ve been reading a lot of articles and books about sex and I feel that, at 30, I want to explore my sexuality. My partner and I have a good sex life, but I would love to know what it would be like to try bondage and spanking and perhaps role-play. I went to a sex shop and saw so many things I’d like to try. But my partner shrinks from the idea of trying out anything new. He goes into his shell when I mention anything like this to him. Do you think I should say that if he’s not interested I’ll be tempted to try things with other people? Would that change his mind?

Yours sincerely, Judy

Virginia says...

I have been trying to imagine your letter with the sexes reversed, written by a man who wants “to explore his sexuality” with an unwilling partner. Or, indeed, by a woman whose man wants to try out spanking and bondage, when all she wants is to continue the happy sex life they’ve already got.

Wouldn’t you imagine, in either case, the man to be an insensitive and selfish monster, even a potential sexual abuser, threatening to go off with other women if she wouldn’t go along with his ideas?

I’m afraid to say that you’re just the same as that bullying man. You’ve got a good sex life. Well, for heaven’s sake thank your lucky stars. Not everyone can boast that by any means. A good sex life means you both enjoy it and neither one of you wants sex fewer or more times a month than the other. Now you’re trying to rock the boat. You’re like someone saying, “I love this recipe for lemon drizzle cake. It’s delicious. But why couldn’t we try it with a corned beef filling and a Brussels sprout and parmesan topping?” 

Look, maybe your partner doesn’t want to try anything new! New things aren’t great just because they’re new. I wouldn’t want to try murdering someone just because I’ve never done it before. Or climbing Machu Pichu. Or standing for election as a Conservative councillor. Or, even, trying to live in a minimalist house. True, I’ve never done any of these things, but I know, deep inside me, that I don’t want to do them. I know it without having to try them out.

When your partner thinks about bondage and spanking, he’s not getting a twinkle in his eye and thinking: “Hmm! That might be fun! I’ve often thought about it but never dared ask!” He’s thinking: “Crikey! What an absolute nightmare! Totally not up my street!”

Not every man would like to try every form of sex under the sun. There are lots of men who’d absolutely hate to have sex with a prostitute, and get the creeps when offered a trip to a lapdancing club. That’s not because they haven’t “explored their sexuality”. It’s because they’re just not into those things. (And don’t think your partner hasn’t considered the ideas you suggest. We’ve all considered every sexual possibility, and some make us feel perky and some make us feel ill.)

If you go on about your longing for “exploration”, I think you’ll get your partner starting to dread having sex with you. He’ll feel that you think his “good” sex just isn’t good enough. And in the end, it won’t be you going off and having experimental sex with other men, it’ll be him going off and having conventional sex with another woman, a woman who isn’t quite so sexually insecure and selfishly demanding, and who just loves having sex the way that you clearly consider boring. If you want to explore your sexuality, use your imagination instead.

 

Readers say...


Take it more slowly

You appear to have stumbled into a typically fragile male ego. Many men, either consciously or unconsciously, fear that their sexual performance is falling short of what they believe to be ideal. Your suggestion has probably triggered a defensive reaction. To move forward, I suggest two possible courses of action, both of which are, of course, slightly manipulative.

Plan A requires patience. Put aside your adventurous ambitions for a while and make sure that, when you do enjoy sex, you let him know it in no uncertain terms. When you sense that his confidence has increased, you might find more acceptance for your ideas.

Plan B is explaining that you are concerned that you are not performing as well in sex as you could, and asking if he’s willing to help by attending joint sex therapy.

You might also bear in mind that Plan B could explore why it is that you feel the need for exotic variations, and whether there might be another route towards achieving more satisfaction.

Michael, by email

Love is all you need

Which matters more to you, Hattie: sex or love? If you are not committed to your partner, then you may want to explore other relationships, with or without the sexual “extras” – which may or may not bring contentment. If you love your partner and your sex life is good already, maybe you are already on the way to a committed long-term relationship that will make those extras seem optional at best.

Don Manley, by email

You’re bullying him

Does bullying and threatening behaviour produce results in other aspects of your relationship? If so, no wonder the poor man is a bit intimidated. Gentle encouragement is a better way to go. Maybe start with more conservative play, with massage oils, for example. If he is comfortable, you can introduce new elements later. You risk ruining your “good sex life”, along with any trust between you, if you take your proposed course of action.

Julia, by email

Next week's dilemma

I’m married and we have a boy of 16, a girl of 13, and twins aged four. My husband’s brother doesn’t have anywhere to live and sometimes crashes on our floor. The problem is that we live in a house with only three bedrooms and living room, kitchen and bathroom. We are on top of each other all the time and we’re often arguing, and the children have no space to do their homework in peace, and I don’t know how long we can cope. I often dread coming home when I anticipate the chaos that awaits me. We can’t afford anywhere bigger. Can you suggest anything?

Yours sincerely,

Margie

What would you advise Margie to do?  Write to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose advice is quoted or whose dilemma is published will receive a box of Belgian chocolates from funkyhampers.co.uk (twitter.com/funkyhampers).

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