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Your Turn: “How Can I Relax in Bed?”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I have recently begun my adventures as a sexually active young woman. I have only had sex once in a “friends with benefits” situation a few weeks ago — something which I very much enjoyed. I look forward to seeing this man again, and certainly having another satisfying experience. However, I have been feeling anxiety lately. The guy I am sleeping with is very experienced, and I am… not. He knows this, and was extremely accommodating the last time (and first time) I had sex. However, I have been feeling a bit guilty because I was very passive in my first experience.

I always hold back sexually because I am genuinely afraid of doing something wrong in the bedroom department. The dating department of my life isn’t any different. I don’t flirt with guys because of my harsh experiences with rejection, and I don’t talk a lot because of my experiences with people violating my trust. I don’t want to screw up, so I end up doing nothing at all! I want to change this before it spirals and I end up a selfish sexual partner, but I don’t know how to convey this without appearing weak, vulnerable, or just plain stupid. I mean, it’s only a “friends with benefits” so I don’t want to look clingy when in reality I just want to let loose and have responsible, condom-wearing sex! What are ways to relax in bed and does anyone have any tips with how to physically reach out without changing my mind? — Sexual Newbie

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{ 43 comments… add one }

  • avatar Bossy Italian Wife September 8, 2011, 10:48 am

    First of all, I think it’s awesome that you are embracing your sexuality and wanting not only to be a great lover, but a more evolved person. I think right there, you are on the right track.

    I don’t think you have to come out and say these things to this guy; I think there are more subtle ways you can handle this situation. One thing I would do to become less inhibited with another person in your bed is to get down with your bad self… I’m talking about masturbation. If you are comfortable with yourself, this will translate in bed. Experiment with ways you like to be touched, stuff like that. Then you will be in a position to say, “hey I like this!” when he does it to you. Also, ask him what feels good to him and what he likes. If you don’t understand what he means, ask him to show you so you can get a better idea.

    I think it’s a little harder for you because you don’t have a partner who is a boyfriend, so perhaps the conversations won’t be as open as they might when you first sleep with a boyfriend… but the real thing about sex is that there are a thousand ways to do it, and really there are no wrong ways! My rule of thumb is always: if it feels good, do it!

  • Public Pearl Public Pearl September 8, 2011, 10:50 am

    You know, maybe you’re just not ready for sex yet. Despite what the internet tells you, it is okay to not have sex. It is okay to wait for a relationship with someone you love and trust and are committed to.

    I’ll probably get thumbsed down, but it is possible that you might be “beginning your adventures” for the wrong reasons, because you think you’re supposed to or something. Really think about why you’re having sex. Is it because you want to, or because everyone else is doing it and you think you should be too?

    • avatar Caroline September 8, 2011, 10:52 am

      I second this. LW, don’t have sex unless you really want to – there’s nothing wrong with that.

    • avatar ReginaRey September 8, 2011, 11:06 am

      I second this. There’s nothing wrong with casual, emotionally detached sex just for fun! But there are some people, myself absolutely included, who don’t feel comfortable with being that intimate with someone I’m not exclusively involved with in a romantic sense. I would advise the LW to certainly keep doing what she’s doing if it’s exciting and fun and not having any negative ramifications on her mental (or any other kind of) well-being, but to be introspective along the way to ensure it’s always what YOU want, and that you’re not doing it for anyone but YOU.

    • avatar Lindsay September 8, 2011, 11:20 am

      I think this is great advice. However, I’ve shared some of the same feelings as the LW. My anxiety was also over being less experienced and feeling awkward about sex, neither of which would have gotten better over time. Those were things that only started to get better after I figured out what I was supposed to be doing. So, if the LW isn’t ready, then I definitely agree that it’s best to wait, even if you think it’s what you’re supposed to be doing. But being apprehensive when you start out is also normal, even when you are ready.

    • avatar Bossy Italian Wife September 8, 2011, 11:37 am

      I don’t think that LW is saying she isn’t ready for sex… I think that she is saying she really enjoyed herself and wants to be a great lover and overcome anxiety in bed. There is a huge difference.

      Plenty of people have anxiety in bed–people in their 20s, 30s, and beyond. I wouldn’t classify those people as “unready” for sex. However, I do think that she needs to be comfortable with herself, and, of course, it would be easier if she had a steady boyfriend.

      • Public Pearl Public Pearl September 8, 2011, 1:30 pm

        Sure, maybe she is ready. But I read this letter as someone trying to convince themselves that they were wanting “to let loose and have responsible, condom-wearing sex!” If that’s really what she wants, then okay. But there’s nothing wrong with thinking more about it and being sure instead of forcing it.

  • avatar Caroline September 8, 2011, 10:50 am

    You should really engage in a lot of foreplay before you have sex. It’ll loosen you up and make you even more excited for the “real deal.” Aside from that, if you’re worried about being selfish, maybe you should talk to the other guy about what you both like in bed. Since you’re new to this, you should explore a bit to find out what you like or don’t like. But really, just don’t think too much about it (other than making sure you have protection) and once you stop doing that, you’ll probably loosen up more. Thinking about it makes it seem like a way bigger deal than it really is. Most importantly, have fun :)

  • avatar Elle Marie September 8, 2011, 10:53 am

    An important element of a great sexual relationship is communication. One great way to figure out what works well for your partner and you is to try a coy, “Tell me what you want me to do.” Regardless of how much experience a person has had, sex with a new person is always a process of learning what the other person’s needs and wants are, and how you can both enjoy each other. Letting your new partner know that you want to please him and want him to please you is never a bad thing.

    One way to help deal with anxiety is to spend some time visualizing how you would like your next encounter to go. Figuring out what you are comfortable doing, and what you’re not comfortable doing, can help you have less anxiety in the moment. Also, don’t forget that one of the sexiest things is confidence! Wearing things that make you feel sexy and confident about your body might be a way to help boost your confidence in the moment as well. Even with all of the experience in the world, starting a sexual relationship with a new person is generally a little anxiety-inducing. As long as you like each other and have (safe) fun, there’s no real right or wrong thing to do.

  • avatar Laurel September 8, 2011, 10:56 am

    The thing is, LW, part of being sexually active means being vulnerable. If you are experiencing such overwhelming anxiety that you cannot enjoy it, you might need to slow down a little. Here’s what I suggest. First, if you aren’t already, masturbate. Do it until you are completely comfortable with your body, and know what feels good to you. Next, try to make sure that you are with someone you feel comfortable sharing your body with. A friends with benefits might not be the best circumstance for you to explore your burgeoning sexuality in. I don’t know you, but it is something to consider. If you would feel more comfortable being sexual within the context of a relationship, it’s fine to wait (even if all your peers are hooking up). Next, get relaxed with him before you get naked. Tickling, play-wrestling, massage, or playing a sport together are great ways to be physical with someone without it being as vulnerable as getting naked. When you want to progress further, remember that you only have to go as far as you are comfortable. If that’s just rolling around and making out and over the clothes touching, that’s fine. If it’s oral, that’s fine. If it’s penetrative sex, that’s fine. Just monitor your level of comfort and take your time. A practical bit of advice is to try to do some deep breathing. It will help calm you, and also it will help your blood circulation (which will help with arousal :) ). Good luck!

    • avatar Nick September 9, 2011, 12:51 pm

      Just don’t say “penetrative sex” when you’re talking about it to him, lol!

  • avatar silver_dragon_girl September 8, 2011, 11:02 am

    It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. So first of all, I applaud you for starting off your sexcapades in what sounds like a responsible, mature manner.

    I think that a “friends with benefits” situation might actually be helpful for you here, because I’m assuming this guy is someone you’ve known for a while and feel comfortable with. It’s clear that he knows about your lack of experience, and given these things I think he will most likely be open to any questions/insecurities you feel like sharing with him.

    The number one key to sex (IMO) is, “do what feels good.” Sometimes it can be nerve-wracking to come out and ask for things during the act, so start small. Try just moving his hands to where you want them, or tilting your head/neck/whatever so that it’s in his line of oral fire (wow, did I really just type that?). But don’t be afraid to talk- guys are not mind readers, and they tend to stick with what’s worked for other women in the past, or what they know, unless you tell them differently.

    I know that fear or rejection can be hard to overcome…but think about it. He had, and wants to again have, sex with you! Seriously! He obviously finds you attractive, and wants to see you naked. Mission accomplished, right? There’s nothing to be scared of. :)

    • avatar Betty Boop September 8, 2011, 5:47 pm

      I totally agree FWB situation is a great way to explore your sexuality when you’re lacking confidence! He’s not going to judge you for not knowing how sex works yet. (And if he’s fool enough to do so? Dump his ass and find a respectful partner.) You’re in this situation simply to explore your sexuality so go ahead, ask questions, show or tell him what you like, watch porn alone or together to find things you want to try. Do try not to over think what you’re doing and just enjoy the moment for what it is, fun! Don’t take mistakes or laughter personally, sex is fun and funny, weird things happen but it doesn’t matter, it’s all part and parcel of getting naked with somebody.

  • Heather Heather September 8, 2011, 11:05 am

    Oh LW. Totally been in your position. I STILL get shy sometimes.

    Truth be told, the best way to do it is just do it without reservations. At least try. If your partner sees that you’re embracing your sexuality, he won’t even know what hit him. Guys love that.

    Cliche as it is, you just gotta go with the flow. :)

  • avatar soandso September 8, 2011, 11:06 am

    If you can’t bring yourself to talk to people because you don’t trust them then how are you ever going to relax and be comfortable in the bedroom? I think you need to work on your trust of others first.

  • avatar ReginaRey September 8, 2011, 11:11 am

    I totally understand the fear of not wanting to screw up or look less-than-experienced, especially with someone who IS more experienced, which can be very intimidating. I’d say – there’s nothing wrong with some good internet research! Also, do you have any close girlfriends who might have candid conversations with you? I had some anxiety in college about not being “good” at a certain activity, and one girlfriend really helped me to overcome the mental block I had about it by talking it out with me. Also – I think finding a more equally inexperienced partner might ease some of your anxiety. Part of my anxiety in college was caused by that lack of balance. But when I met my next boyfriend (ex boyfriend now!), I was much more comfortable because he was inexperienced, too. It was easier to navigate those waters with someone who you don’t feel is going to “judge” you.

  • avatar _jsw_ September 8, 2011, 11:14 am

    Men need to learn how to please women in order to become better sexually. Women need to learn how to please themselves to become better sexually.

    While no two people are identical in their sexual interests – we’re each our own sexual snowflakes – I think that it’s reasonable to say that, in general, the best way for a woman to become “better” sexually is simply to figure out and pursue what makes her feel good.

    Really, it’s that simple – do what you like, and you’re almost guaranteed to make him feel good as well, because there’s almost nothing that you’ll enjoy that he won’t. In fact, the single most erotic thing I can think of is a woman who is climaxing. Be vocal – at least in some way – when things feel good. Grind against him when you want to. Let him know – with your voice, your gestures, and/or your movements – when you want the pace/depth/aggressiveness to be increased or decreased. Good sex is what feels good to you. Generally, good sex for men is what feels good to you, too, because, let’s face it, it’s difficult for sex to feel bad to us.

    Most men are concerned that they’ll not do an adequate job of fulfilling their partners. When the woman helps to participate in that journey to orgasm (or at least sexual satisfaction), it is a very good thing. It’s OK to say you’ve never done something but are willing to try it, and it’s OK to decide you don’t like it – or do. As long as your goal is to be fulfilled, you’ll be fine. Don’t worry too much about the guy. He’ll be fine. And if he wants something different, he’s capable of communicating that as well.

    • avatar ReginaRey September 8, 2011, 11:26 am

      I love this entire response. My ex never enjoyed sex unless I enjoyed it, too. He also proclaimed that the sound of a woman climaxing was the best sound on earth, and that if HE was making ME like it, there was no question he would like it in return. Not that this means a woman can be totally passive and inconsiderate of her partner’s needs, but it definitely takes the pressure off of constantly thinking “oh my God, is this good?! Does he like this??”

    • avatar PFG-SCR September 8, 2011, 11:46 am

      While I don’t disagree with your comment, I think it’s important for both partners to be concerned about their own and each other’s pleasure. It’s not just about her pleasure, with the assumption that if that’s achieved, it’s good sex for both.

      • avatar _jsw_ September 8, 2011, 12:20 pm

        I wasn’t trying to imply that women need never be concerned about their partners. I was trying to say that, especially when trying to learn the ropes, I think it’s better for women to focus on what they like, because a being with a woman who is enjoying sex almost guarantees an enjoyable experience for the man from a purely physical point of view. Of course it can be better for the man, especially when the woman is open to making his experience better. But, typically, the gap between “bad” and “amazing” sex for men fits within the gap between “pretty good” and “amazing” sex for women… especially for novices.

        • avatar PFG-SCR September 8, 2011, 5:02 pm

          “…especially when trying to learn the ropes…”

          She’s had sex _one_ time, so maybe the BDSM should wait a bit.

  • avatar MJ September 8, 2011, 11:40 am

    Dude, it was your first time! Of course you’re going to be passive! It’s a whole brand-new thing, and you don’t know what you’re doing yet. In any life situation when you don’t know what’s going on, it’s natural to let the other more experienced person take the lead.

    But now you are starting to get an idea, and as things progress, you’ll get a much clearer picture of what to expect, what feels good, what you like, what he likes, etc. It’s such a fun adventure and you should totally look at it as a process of discovery. He’s not going to expect you to be mind-blowingly experienced and skilled if he knows that you’re just starting out.

    Be safe, protect your emotions and your body, and enjoy figuring things out together.

  • avatar Addie Pray September 8, 2011, 11:47 am

    Have a few glasses of wine first.

    • avatar lets_be_honest September 8, 2011, 12:13 pm

      Sometimes the simplest advice is the best advice.

    • avatar Hobbesnblue September 8, 2011, 12:53 pm

      I was afraid for getting judged if I said it, but that was my first thought. Not alone either–sharing a few rounds with your FWB can be a great way to relax and flirt with each other.

    • avatar redheadblogger September 8, 2011, 2:50 pm

      Margaritas can do a lot for bedroom anxiety as well, this from experience.

    • Heather Heather September 8, 2011, 3:28 pm

      Yeah, it sounds bad, but honestly just a small amount of alcohol can really lower inhibitions. It’s not always a bad thing, sometime it can be used to your advantage. Definitely agree with this.

  • avatar Morgan September 8, 2011, 12:48 pm

    Okay LW, I’ve been in your position. Sexually inexperienced me, rather more experienced FWB. We kept it casual, he was a great guy, and we had a lot of fun.

    Here are some of my general tips:
    1. Laugh. An awkward move? Someone’s head gets bashed into the wall? (Ow. That was me). The window? Someone elbows someone else in the side of the head? Laugh. Sometimes goofy, awkward things happen during sex when you’re trying to figure it out. That’s okay. Laugh about it. Better than boring, right? ;)

    2. It’s okay to let him lead, at first. He tries a couple of positions, you figure out which ones you’re really feeling, and next time, you take the lead in getting there. Use his knowledge to learn, and figure out which things you tried you want to do again, and which ones you don’t.

    3. Talk. Talk to him.

    4. Drink. Not every time, and not too much, but sometimes when you’ve got something to say and you’re pretty sure you’re not going to work up the nerve…well the alcohol helps with that.

    5. Figure out what makes you feel good, then help him get you there.

    • avatar Samantha September 8, 2011, 1:05 pm

      Morgan, I totally agree with your #1 point – laugh!
      I was in a very similar position with my current boyfriend – no experience, and extremely anxious. Having fun is vital, and laughing with someone can often be just as intimate and pleasurable as anything else.

      Masturbating is also really helpful. You’ll learn what you like, and when you figure that out, you can tell your partner. Be honest, but don’t be scared!

  • avatar Calm September 8, 2011, 12:59 pm

    Hey he wants to do it again so you weren’t bad at it! :) I would say get to know you first. Pick up a vibrator and figure out what feels good. When you’re in bed ask what he likes and you’re usually good to go. It sounds like you maybe overthinking things?

    Just do what feels good.

    What stands out to me here though is the situation.

    I was like you when I first had sex, it was a guy I wasn’t really planning on getting serious with, hadn’t really had much experience with men and I went from totally not caring what he thought to head over heels for him, thinking about him all the time, looking forward to when I’d see him next kind of thing after we started fucking. He liked the sex but he didn’t like me that way and for me it was a…rather stark wake up to how sex changes things.

    So I would say tread carefully and be honest with yourself in the emotions department but enjoy yourself. Sex is an adventure and its a fun one!

  • Budj Budjer September 8, 2011, 1:37 pm

    A lot of good ideas above me here – I would advise caution with the FWB situation since it is your first time though. I know there are exceptions to everything, but if you’ve never had sex before this guy then you don’t actually know how attached you will get to the person over a brief time period of casual romps. This effects people differently. So make sure you monitor yourself and don’t make this a messy situation i.e. break it off if you start getting attached. If this guy wanted to date you he wouldn’t have had the FWB label ready to go.

  • avatar Yammy September 8, 2011, 4:08 pm

    Don’t worry about doing something wrong, generally men aren’t very complicated sexually. I can only think of three things that you’ll want to avoid.
    1. Don’t bite his wiener. Or scrape it with your teeth. Some ladies claim to have it in their skill set to use a tiny hint of teeth & their men really like it. I’ve never heard this corroborated by a man, though. Even if they are correct, it’s not for the novice.
    2. Don’t smash his wiener. When you are on top, there’s a good chance that you’ll go up a little too far & he’ll fall out. Use your hand to guide it back in.
    3. Don’t touch his butt hole with out asking.
    Other than that, just follow everyone else’s advice and do what feels good to you. And there’s nothing wrong mentioning to him that you’re a little nervous. Oh! And be gentle with his balls.

    • Budj Budjer September 8, 2011, 4:24 pm

      Pretty much hit the nail on the head…..(don’t do that either)

    • avatar PFG-SCR September 8, 2011, 5:07 pm

      Your advice was classic!

      As far as 1. goes, you definitely shouldn’t scrape with your teeth, but you can use them for a different sensation or to apply a little pressure. It’s best if your teeth aren’t squeaky clean or dry or they’ll catch and drag.

    • avatar Mainer September 8, 2011, 5:27 pm

      Good advice. I’d like to add, however, that if you do end up talking to him about, or even during sex, don’t call it a “wiener.” He’ll go limp and you’ll be stuck figuring out what to do with the equivalent of a wet sock.

      Some of my more preferred alternatives include “your cock,” “his majesty,” “the peacekeeper,” “uh, that big thing,” and “your amazing penis.” Just to mention a few.

    • avatar AKchic September 8, 2011, 7:06 pm

      And NO BABY TALK! Believe me, nothing turns a guy off faster than hearing “does Daddy want to go ‘bump-bump’ with Mommy?”.

      I am not kidding. I will not say WHO actually did this (every single time they had sex), but the guy was ecstatic to dump her as soon as possible, even if it meant having to still see her at the mall where he worked as a security guard daily (she worked there). It took over a year for her to finally stop calling him.

    • avatar Chilosa161 September 9, 2011, 1:53 am

      I would add:

      4. Use your tongue. Everywhere. It might be ticklish, but it can be really sexy.
      5. Ask him to show you how he likes to be touched. Everyone is different, and he’ll probably know some of his own hot buttons. Then you can reciprocate. That means get to know yourself. Masturbate. A lot. Figure out what you like, and he’ll be able to follow your lead.

  • avatar meeple September 8, 2011, 4:51 pm

    experience is great, but i really learned a lot from reading. actually, i joined a “romance” themed book club and bought a bunch of instructional guides – from _The Joy of Sex_ and the _Kama Sutra_ to _The Good Girl’s Guide to Bad Girl Sex_. i learned so much. my (now) husband was equally inexperienced, and we had a lot of fun trying out the things i read about!

  • avatar SGMcG September 8, 2011, 5:56 pm

    I like all the suggestions that I’ve read so far to alleviate potential anxiety regarding sex. I think I’ve done every suggestion given by the comments so far to become the sexual libertarian (not libertine, yet LIBERTARIAN) that I am. Another suggestion that I haven’t seen listed here is to get a sexy song in your head and have it playback in your mind in rhythm with the melody/lyrics you’re thinking of.

    For example, my personal theme song while having unrestrained (but properly protected) relations when I was in the midst of sexual exploring was the song, “Kick It”. Something about those bass-thumping rhythms and highly suggestive lyrics made me want to “work it” myself. Thinking of a song to move to in rhythm also took off a whole LOT of pressue on the idea of doing it with someone and helped me focus on my partner more – How does his heartbeat relate to the tune in my head? What about his sighs? If I touch him this way, how does that change the tempo of my song?

    The other suggestions were great too – I found laughing while doing it and reading about sex took off a lot of pressure and helped me relax too. Yet if this one can help you as well, it’s worth a shot. Good luck LW!

  • fast eddie fast eddie September 8, 2011, 6:47 pm

    Three things will make you a better lover: knowledge, practice, and more practice. With a considerate partner you can hit a home run every time you step up (or down) to the plate. There’s lots of books with pictures out there so study hard, pun intended. ;-)

    A wiser man then myself once wrote that two things stand between you and happiness, regret for the past and fear of the future.

  • avatar AKchic September 8, 2011, 7:01 pm

    From what I’ve read, it sounds like you lack confidence. You seem to be a bit embarassed about your lack of skill/experience in the bedroom. Honey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not something that should be a limitation either.

    You need to be honest. If you aren’t asserting yourself and insisting on condoms, then you need to start. If you aren’t willing to protect yourself each and every time you have sex, then you aren’t respecting yourself. The first step to confidence is respecting yourself.
    You must have ground rules. Plain and simple. The phrase “no glove, no love” is very accurate. A friend with benefits is NO friend if he is not willing to protect you from pregnancy or STDs, let alone himself.
    Time to let him know that you are requiring a condom at all times from now on. Buy them yourself as well. Yes, some women may say that it is forward, crass, or slutty to do so, but I think that a woman needs to be just as much responsible for condoms and birth control and protection as a guy, if not more so since a woman is usually stuck with the aftermath more often than not. Hell, go to Sam’s Club or Costco if you need to and buy in bulk. There is no shame in wanting to protect yourself and your partner(s) from STDs and unwanted pregnancy.
    Tell your partner you are interested in experimenting in new positions, but you are unsure of how to procede, and if he has any suggestions. Go to a sex shop together and get some books with pictures, or go online and order a few basic books. Let him guide you into a few basic positions that you haven’t tried, see how you like them, then experiment a bit. You say he’s been considerate and very good about your inexperience, then I am sure that he will continue to be considerate, and will probably be willing to help you and help guide you into experimenting with new things. This isn’t selfish, this is mutual exploration for mutual sexual satisfaction.

    Be safe, and I wish you the best of luck in your sexual explorations.

  • avatar Chilosa161 September 9, 2011, 1:21 am

    Don’t worry, you don’t have to go from nun to Dominatrix in two encounters. Give yourself some time. The man you are with is understanding. That’s more than most of us got with the first man we slept with.

    Just enjoy.

  • avatar MiMi September 9, 2011, 10:54 am

    Is this letter for real?
    If there is any chance that a group of gigglers didn’t cook this letter up, LW you are a confused, very young person who doesn’t need advice on how to be a good sex partner – you need to dial it back and figure out how to get through a single day being rational and coherent, and without letting others take advantage of you.

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