On the Burden of Kinksters, and on Dating an Outgoing Type

Roe McDermott

Roe McDermott is a journalist, arts critic, Fulbright awardee and sex columnist from Dublin. She lives in San Francisco, where she's completing an MA in Sexuality Studies.


Dear Roe,

I’m a 34-year-old man and I’ve been with my girlfriend for nine months. When we first got together, we had very open conversations about our sexual past and desires, and she revealed that in the past, she had been quite kinky and engaged in a lot of role play, BDSM, some threesomes etc. I was pretty excited about this as I was very interested in a lot of the same things but had never really had a chance to explore them in my previous relationships.

For the first six months of our relationship or so, our sex life was really fun and exciting, as she would dress up in lingerie and we tried some light BDSM and role play. She also has a few sex toys and would take them out and show me how to make her orgasm etc. But recently all that has stopped – we still have sex often but she doesn’t want to engage in any of the kinkier stuff we used to do regularly.

I’ve asked a couple of times if she can wear some of the lingerie she used to, but she says she doesn’t feel like it. I don’t really understand why she would suddenly stop doing all that stuff and can’t help but feel a bit disappointed in our vanilla sex life now. How do I try get our sex life back to where it was?

Dear Reader,

You know what I find interesting about your letter? That nowhere in there do you mention anything that you did or do to fulfill your girlfriend’s desires. You were interested in trying BDSM and role play and seeing her in lingerie – what did she want? Did you ever ask?

I know, she has engaged in this type of kinky play in the past – but that’s the past. You don’t indicate (and maybe don’t know) if this was in the recent past, like her last sexual partner before you, or was it years ago when she was in a more experimental phase?

And even then, engaging in kinky play doesn’t always necessarily mean they’re her specific desires or fantasies. Many people engage in kinky sex to try it out, to explore their sexuality and see what works for them, or to please a kinky partner.

This doesn’t mean of course that she didn’t enjoy or value her experiences – I hope she did. But I also hope that you’re not assuming that because she has engaged in kinky sex in the past, she always has to be kinky with you. Because that’s how it’s coming across in your letter.

I’m also curious about the dynamic of your sex life. Given that she had more experience with kink than you, I wonder whether she was put in the teacher role of constantly exposing you to new sexual experiences and doing her best to make sure you got to explore your sexuality.

While you were having an incredible time having new experiences and learning new things, was it all as fun and novel for her? Or was she having sex that was a bit one-sided in terms of how much effort was being put in, and whose desires were being indulged?

After she got all done up in lingerie that you wanted her to wear and taught you how to use sex toys and indulged all the BDSM fantasies you’ve had – what effort did you put in? Did you do special things for her? Did you ask her if she has anything on her sexual bucket list that she hasn’t done yet and wants to?

A burden of being the more experienced or kinky partner in a relationship can be that the kinkster is expected to constantly rock their partner’s world – and that takes emotional energy and can leave the kinkster’s own desires unaddressed.

If any of those reasons is at play, it could easily explain why your girlfriend is no longer particularly interested in engaging your every kinky desire. She could be a bit burned out, or feeling like her efforts aren’t being appreciated or reciprocated, and therefore what was once fun and sexy now feels like a bit of a chore.

There are also some other possibilities: maybe there are external factors that are affecting her sexual desires, such as stress or body image – or just the fact that you are no longer in a brand (pardon the pun) spanking new relationship, and so the novelty has slightly worn off. And maybe she’s just going through a spell of wanting some vanilla sex, without the bells and whistles.

And I think you know what I’m going to say now: you’ll never know unless you speak with her about it.

Given that you are still having regular sex, I really wouldn’t broach this as a complaint. I think spend a few weeks, even a couple of months, making sure that she is enjoying your vanilla sex,  and that you’re putting effort in to make sure she feels appreciated and desired. Then and only then would I bring up the fact that your sex life is a bit less kinky than it used to be – not as an accusation, but a genuine conversation starter.

Ask her how she feels about your sex life, about the slight shift recently, and whether she has any fantasies or desires she would like to try. Ask her whether she enjoyed your few months of kinky sex, and if there was anything you could have done to make it more enjoyable for her. Ask her if she feels like kink will continue to be a part of your sex life, and whether it will be regular or if she goes through phases with it.

Only then will you understand why your sex life has changed, and whether this shift is permanent or temporary. And then you can figure out if you and your partner have compatible visions of what your sex life will be – and where to go from there.

***

Dear Roe,

I’m a 27-year-old gay man and I’ve recently moved in with my boyfriend after going out for a year. He’s far more outgoing than I am and has always been a bit of a partier whereas I’m more introverted and can have social anxiety, so I prefer to head home after a couple of drinks. He’s also very charming and a bit of a flirt, which makes him popular generally and means he gets a decent bit of attention from other men.

I was always fine with him going out more than me, but since moving in together I’ve realised just how much he goes out – and how late he stays out when he does. In the past two months, there have been five nights where we’ve gone out together to meet friends, I’ve gone home around 9 or 10pm, and he hasn’t come home until 5 or 6 in the morning.  And I can’t even count the number of nights he’s stayed out until 1 or 2am.

Suddenly, seeing this is making me really paranoid about what he’s doing on these nights out, and whether he is cheating on me. I’m feeling really insecure and we’ve started fighting about how much he goes out. Am I right to feel like this isn’t normal behaviour, or am I being paranoid?

Dear Reader,

Can I say “both”?

You knew your boyfriend was a bit of a flirt and a partier when ye met – and I think that’s fine, honestly. Loads of people enjoy getting a bit of attention and having a bit of flirt, and it doesn’t mean they’re unfaithful to their partners.

I even think a bit of outside flirting can be good for a relationship. It makes the flirter feel a bit sexy and desired, and it can be a nice boost for their partner, if their partner can look at it as a compliment – the flirter is so fun and sexy that other people want them.

But only one person gets to go home with them. The person the flirter has chosen. Which makes you special.

So I’m all for a bit of external flirting, if it feels fun and respectful and inclusive, and is used to add some frisson to your relationship.

It sounds like it was this sociable, flirty energy that may have attracted you to your partner – but obviously, combined with the staying out late, it is now causing issues.

And to be honest, I don’t think you’re being unreasonable to wonder what your partner is doing, staying out until six in the morning. This isn’t just a fear of cheating – him not being there all night has other ripple effects, too.

Waking up in the morning to an empty bed and no idea where he is can just be worrying, generally, particularly if he’s not texting you to let you know where he is or that he’s okay. That in and of itself could result in a sleepless night of worry – and some understandable resentment when he comes wandering in, happily hungover, after you’ve spent the night stressing.

Missing out on sleeping together is also just missing out on some intimacy, and it’s injecting some instability into your routine if you’re never sure when an evening with friends is going to turn into all all-night rave for him.

Given that you have already just undergone a big change by moving in together, which can be stressful itself, that extra sense of insecurity is understandable. You’re in an adjustment period, and are learning new things about your partner, which can be daunting.

You’re allowed to bring that up, and communicate how it feels for you when he disappears all night.

However, even having said all that – I don’t think what he’s doing is inherently wrong. You knew he was a partier when you met him, it doesn’t sound like he ever hid that fact from you, and you’ve been together for a year. He obviously cares for you deeply, even though you aren’t as sociable as he is.

Which, by the way, can also be somewhat stressful. Having a partner who always leaves events early or who doesn’t want to join you for nights out or events can also be hard. And you haven’t said that he ever guilts you about that.

It sounds like you’re both just very different people, which is fine – but some communication would help matters immensely, and make you feel more secure.

Ask him to let you know where he is if he’s planning on staying out past two or three, and send a few texts while he’s out so that you’re not left worrying about his safety. Or you could make an effort to get to know the people he goes out with, so that you feel like you know the group and that even if you’re not on nights out, you feel more in the know and included.

The solution here isn’t for either of you to force each other to stop acting like yourselves. It’s just about communicating so that you can both feel secure.

Part of that may be telling him about your insecurities and seeking some reassurance – but there’s a big part of you that is going to also have to learn how to trust him.

You don’t have any reason to believe that he’s cheating other than him staying out late, which doesn’t mean anything. If there are no other issues in your relationship other than him being a night owl, then don’t create issues where there are none.

He may go out, but he comes home to you. Remember that. It’s important.


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Roe McDermott: Roe McDermott is a journalist, arts critic, Fulbright awardee and sex columnist from Dublin. She lives in San Francisco, where she's completing an MA in Sexuality Studies.

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