Initiating sex — there is no “right” way, but there may be a “wrong” way. The wrong way to initiate sex is when one person assumes their way is the only way, without taking their partner’s preferences into consideration.
Missy and Pete, a great couple of three years and “going strong,” found themselves on the frustrated side. Missy had “lost all desire” for sex, according to Pete, who (not unsurprisingly) was feeling rejected. They clearly loved each other and were both tortured by this disconnected feeling. Missy missed her sexual desire. She had been to medical doctors, read books, tried different positions and used sex toys, but nothing made her desire come back.
In the first session they were asked how sex usually starts. They put their heads together and came up with the mutual answer of — a kiss. Pete described in a dreamy tone how deep passionate kisses made him feel so wanted and desirable.
Missy was staying suspiciously quiet, until Pete explained that Missy doesn’t like kissing as much as he does. Missy immediately qualified his statement, saying she likes kissing “sometimes.” But her words sounded much less dreamy.
Pete, a sensitive guy, had noted her lack of enthusiasm one day and asked her directly, “You really don’t enjoy kissing at all, do you?” Missy remembered answering honestly, but held back on the WHOLE truth, in an effort to avoid hurting his feeling or looking abnormal.
Clearly something is off here. Missy is not upset, but has simply ‘accepted’ that sex starts with kissing. She feels inadequate for not eroticizing kissing as much as he does, but had to admit that sometimes kissing can even be a turn-off.
When Missy is asked what turns her on, she describes her fantasies of ‘being pushed against a wall,’ and told what to do–no, ‘demanded’ to do something. Now it was her turn to light up. She has told Pete this a number of times and he always seems a little excited by the mention of it, but somehow they never got around to doing it.
When probed further, Missy admitted feeling uncomfortable instigating that type of power-exchange. It felt scary. Giving into the standard kiss was just easier.
I remind her that we can ‘desire’ only what we ourselves enjoy. Sex needs to be selfish at times. And doing those things that get Missy’s juices flowing will serve them both. Pete nodded vigorously in the background. We discussed that one of the main reasons her desire has fallen so much may be because they are not doing the things that turn her on.
When Pete was asked why he started sex with kissing, knowing it doesn’t arouse Missy, he looked confused. Then sheepish. It had not occurred to him to replace kissing as a prelude to sex. “Isn’t that how sex is ‘supposed’ to start?” he asked.
Actually, kissing is not innately sexual. It is a cultural construct. There are many places in the world (and in history) where kissing in not seen as sexual at all. Instead, an activity like breathing on the neck is the foreplay of choice.
And while kissing is a popular prelude to sex in our culture — listed in a current study as the most popular way people like to initiate sex (38% of women saying they get turned on by it)— the majority of women (62%) polled did NOT eroticize kissing. They may enjoy some kinds of kissing for a number of reasons, but did not necessarily get ‘hot’ from that activity. Read the list of ways people want their partner to initiate sex.
The prospect of having sex without kissing made Missy visibly relax. It had not occurred to her either to try sex minus the kissing. Now Pete was the one with the worried look. “Am I never going to enjoy kissing again?” Missy jumped in with, “Of course I want to kiss you! I just don’t want to HAVE to kiss you.”
This simple misunderstanding turned out to be a major turning point in their sexual relationship. They started ‘asking’ each other about turn-ons instead of ‘assuming’ sex needed to follow a particular script.
When Pete started to hold Missy’s hands down on the couch (instead of leaning in for a kiss), Missy’s desire started to awaken. She found herself thinking about sex during the day and would even play with ways to alert him that she was in the mood to “be taken.”
Pete enjoyed his new role, but had to confess at times he still craved the passionate kiss. Soon enough he figured out how to signal this need to her. And wow, even though passionate kisses were less often than before, they seemed to be amped up in passion. “Maybe because now she actually wants to be there,” Pete chuckled. No matter what they did, though, just talking about their sexual styles brought a tremendous feeling of intimacy, something they had been missing before.
More about sexual initiation:
- The 5 Styles of sexual initiation: Do you know your style? Get your Initiation Style immediately (fill out a questionnaire).
- Tips to initiating sex with your partner. How to initiate sex when you don’t know what else you could do.
- How women and men want their partner to initiate sex. In a survey of 500 we found out the list of most popular ways to initiate sex.