Giving Sexual Feedback

Giving Sexual Feedback

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This is a big one for a lot of people. We all want to have an ideal sex life, or at least something close to it. We want to do right by our partners and feel like we're good lovers with skills and intuitiveness. Those are all very worthwhile desires and goals, but... The best sex also comes with feedback and response, which can be very difficult for a lot of people. To be clear, we're not talking about positive feedback. There isn't much to high fiving and talking about how awesome everyone is at sex. This is about giving constructive criticism in bed. NB: I said constructive.

Let's start with giving feedback, and we'll save getting sexual feedback for a subsequent article. You've got to come at it from the right place. Don't go into this wagging your finger (or any other appendages) and proclaiming yourself right and your partner wrong. That's not conducive to sexy results. Come to the discussion from a place of wanting to foster greater clarity. This still means that you have to be up front about what you want to change or improve, but you can be nice about it. Not so sweet that they get a toothache and roll their eyes at you, but gentle within your clarity. Take care to frame it things the way you'd like to hear them, and then see if you can be even kinder.

Depending on how serious the adjustment needs to be, you can bring it up during sex/foreplay, but be aware that it may grind to a halt if you've misjudged the situation and brought up something major. I'd advise only bringing things up during sex if it's something very simple like "Could you go a bit harder?" or "An inch to the left, please." A better time might be after sex, while you're still in that lovely afterglow, especially when it's something minor. Post-coital time can be good for snuggling and discussing what just happened. Just make sure that your language is positive so it doesn't come off like you were faking it or didn't actually enjoy what you just did. If that's the case, this probably needs to be a separate discussion apart from pillow talk.

Now it's time for my favourite tool for social interaction of pretty much any kind: the compliment sandwich! The key is to make sure that your compliments (the bread of the sandwich) are delicious in their sincerity and value to both you and your partner. This makes whatever makes up the meat of the sandwich (the constructive criticism) easier to take. Here's an example. Say you want to get your partner to use less tongue while kissing you. Start by emphasizing an aspect of their kissing that you really love. "You have such soft lips. They feel so good when you kiss me." Then bring up the intended feedback. "I tend to be a little less about tongue. I prefer really slow, subtle tongue." And finish with something positive like: "Kissing you makes my whole body feel electric, especially when you do that slow, teasing tongue thing. I love that." It's clear what you mean, you delivered the goods and there's a lot of good to be taken from that feedback, too.

Be aware of sensitivities. Try to think back to other things your partner may have said about general or specific feedback they've had in the past. If you have a partner who has voiced shame about their body, keep that in mind when you bring up something about their body, or even something that might make them feel unsexy. Has a past partner been really hard on them about not being adventurous enough? Tread lightly and think about framing things with care if you're going to ask them to do something outside of their comfort zone. This should never make you feel like you can't bring things up, because that's a very important element of healthy and happy sexual relationships, but it's just important to be aware that your comments don't exist in a vacuum. Everything has the potential to interact and connect. If you didn't know about something or you didn't remember, that's life. Be clear, be apologetic (within reason) and be gentle in the rest of your discussion.

Ultimately, you know your own sexual desires and your anatomy the best and you need to be an advocate for that. If you find that you're met with a lot of negativity, maybe take a break and come back to it another day. Often they will have had time to process what you've said and will have internalized it and accepted it just fine. Sometimes it takes a little time, even if you've phrased it perfectly. Criticism is hard for everyone, some more than others. Give it time.

Of course, you may wind up hearing feedback in return, so be open to that reciprocity. Ideally your set up of the situation will carry through and any response will be out of mutual respect rather than from being hurt. Then you'll need to know about how to receive sexual feedback. We'll save that for next time.

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