This is part of a series of posts about sex and desire in long-term relationships. CLICK HERE to read the full series.
Sex negativity gets in the way somewhere along the line in almost every long-term couple I see. Sex-negativity is the opposite of sex-positivity, meaning at it's core sex-negativity is about passing judgment that some sexual activities are good, normal, healthy, or right, while others are bad, perverted, or wrong.
It's not uncommon for sex-negativity to come from people who actually seem to enjoy sex or want it more often. But the judgment comes across and shuts down opportunities to sexually connect - even in the most vanilla ways.
And because judgment is both about your thoughts AND the way they're perceived by your partner it can create problems in surprising ways.
How sex negativity shows up
Here are a couple examples:
Partner A: "You know what I think might be hot to try sometime?"
Partner B: "No, what? Tell me."
Partner A: "I think it would be fun to maybe try ___(insert sex act here)___ sometime. If you're into it."
Partner B: If you answer any form of "yuck" or "that's weird" or "gross" or "never in your freaking life, I can't believe you would ever even ask me." You're giving a sex negative response.
And if your partner perceives that as your response, the impact still is shaming- even if that wasn't the intention. You might just say "that's not for me." but your tone could still sound condemning.
Often sex-negativity shows up in the giggles or smiles we give when we're uncomfortable talking about sex. They might not be about the content of our partner's fantasy at all but about our own difficulty communicating. The impact still is the same.
Not just for kinky sex
Sex-negativity isn't necessarily about kinky sex either. Most often it shows up in couples practicing the most vanilla (average or mainstream) sex. It might be one partner asking to have afternoon sex, or someone wanting to try it in the shower, or try anal sex, or watching porn together.
Judgment isn't sexy
Unless you're into certain kinds of power play (humiliation, or brat play or a few others) judgment from your partner just isn't sexy. In most sexy situations, even unintended (but perceived) judgment will kill the mood.
But most of us don't realize when we're passing sex-negative judgment so we might keep doing it for a long time without realizing the damage we're doing to our sexual relationship. I'm going to outline the four main forums for sex-negativity here for you to be aware.
Fantasies and desire
Couples with thriving sexual lives share fantasies far more often. But if judgment is present it's unlikely you'll talk about what you want, dream, of or get curious about sex out in the open.
And if there's no room to dream- there's going to be even less room to try it. Even if you never act on shared fantasies or desires, talking about them without judgment is essential to fostering healthy sexual connection.
Saying no and setting boundaries
Okay, so what if you really don't want to do the thing your partner brings up? What if your partner brings up something that really offends you or makes you totally uncomfortable?
It's always okay to say no to sex or sexual activities that you're not into. That fact doesn't change here. But the way you say no matters. And you can say no without passing judgment.
Here's an example:
Partner A: "I think it would be fun to maybe try ___(insert totally unusual I'm really uncomfortable with sex act here)___ sometime. If you're into it."
Partner B: "Wow that sounds really hot for you. I need time to think about that before trying it." OR
Partner B: "I am so glad you told me. I need to learn a lot before I would feel ready to try that with you. How can we learn more together?" OR
Partner B: "I can see you are really excited about that. I love when you tell me what you're thinking. I think it's not for me right now, but let's figure out ways to get your needs met."
You can say no without judgment if you use care in your response.
Similar to saying no, sometimes you're not into the same thing your partner is- or you might not be into it all the time. Most of the time you might just say "I don't like the way you ___(insert action here)___." without thinking about the impact.
But if you think about it, the feedback you give is likely perceived with judgment. Even if that's not your intention.
Just saying what you don't like shuts down the energetic connection between you when talking about sex. Instead, try focusing on what you're interested in, what you like, and what you're curious about. "I'm not as into ______ but I would love to try ______." is going to take you further.
Other people's business
FinallyOne last place where sex-negative judgment can seep into your relationship isn't directly related to your sex life- but can have a huge impact there.
Think about the way you pass judgment on other people's sex acts in conversation. Maybe you watch Fifty Shades, or you hear a Savage Love Podcast and someone is doing something that makes you uncomfortable. Do you snicker? Do you turn to your partner and say something like "that's crazy"?
Imagine then if your partner has always been secretly curious about that same action. By judging others you've shut down the possible conversation you and your partner might have about desire. Even if you would never try whatever the action is, talking about it brings you closer and judgment can make it really difficult to talk about anything.
Judgment can be really difficult to let go. If you want help, give me a call, I'm happy to talk.
READ THE REST OF THE SERIES:
Maintenance Sex - Break Free of Obligation
Lack of Inspiration - Invest in Creativity, Wonder and Awe
Assumption-Making - Get Curious and Explore
Initiation Hesitation - Live Courageously and Circle Back
Lacking Feedback - Highlights Reel
Poor Consent Practices - Talk During
Routine Boredom - Fantasy Sharing, Find Inspiration
Necessary Repairs - Move Past Resentment with Apology and Personal Responsibility
Desire Maintenance - Invest in Your Sexiness
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- rediscover passion in long-term relationships
- repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move beyond jealousy, insecurity or codependency
- resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
- break unhealthy communication patterns
- open your relationship and practice polyamory with care
Call me for a free consultation to rethink your relationship.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.
- Biology - See a Doctor
- Time Scarcity - Prioritize Sexual Connection
- Lack of Self-Care - Tune It Up
- Maintenance Sex - Break Free of Obligation
- Lack of Inspiration - Invest in Creativity, Wonder and Awe
- Assumption-Making - Get Curious and Explore
- Initiation Hesitation - Live Courageously and Circle Back
- Lacking Feedback - Highlights Reel
- Poor Consent Practices - Talk During
- Sex-Negativity - Don't Yuck Anyone's Yum
- Routine Boredom - Fantasy Sharing, Find Inspiration
- Necessary Repairs - Move Past Resentment with Apology and Personal Responsibility
- Desire Maintenance - Invest in Your Sexiness
- Alone Time - Masturbate and Fantasize