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I’m 30, a cis female, romantically attracted to men and sexually attracted to men and women. (Whatever that is? Heteroflexible?) Anyway, I’m engaged to the absolute love of my life, it blows me away everyday how compatible we are, he’s the fucking best person I know.

My question is in regards to this: we are both sexually attracted to women and have been interested in exploring other people together. We’ve had a number of experiences, threesomes/orgies and while on the whole I feel like they were positive experiences, I always walk away with a certain degree of troublesome negative emotions from it. I feel a fair amount of shame/guilt when I participate in what society tells me is slutty/a-typical sexual behavior. I was also shamed as a kid for “playing doctor” with both boys and girls which has contributed to my feeling guilty about experiencing sexual pleasure in general. I’ve also been with plenty of guys that affirmed that my sexual pleasure was not as important as theirs, so it's safe to say I have some emotional baggage when it comes to sex. (Doesn't everyone? Thanks, religion and patriarchy.)

So the day after my fiancé and I have had a sexual experience with other people, I usually feel a mixture of shame and guilt while still being extremely turned on, and our sex life gets super-charged for days or even weeks after. So I feel really torn because I definitely have the desire to explore other people with my fiancé, but it’s never an entirely positive experience for me, which makes me avoid seeking it out, and he is the one who always has to prompt us to search for those experiences. He’s also expressed some frustration with me when I become closed off or reactive when he brings it up, which I try to understand and have gotten better with as time goes on.

The second part of my dilemma is that I have never been able to orgasm in any of the experiences we’ve had with other people. We have tried everything that normally works for me, but in that context it just doesn’t work. I have had trouble coming in the past and can only do so when I feel really comfortable with the person I am with, and even then, I would prefer that I am not being watched while I’m trying to cum — it’s just so much pressure and I get self-conscious. I’ve made huge improvements with my fiancé in this regard and can sometimes be turned on by him watching my face, how I moan, etc., although not all the time. I believe if I were able to orgasm during these experiences with other people, I may walk away with stronger positive feelings that would outweigh some of the conditioned negative stuff, and over time, I would strengthen the neural pathways that associate pleasure and goodness with having multiple sex partners at once rather than the associations of shame and ickiness.

At first I thought, maybe I should just be blindfolded next time we try having sex with others? But I don’t think that would take away from knowing that people are watching. Are there any other tips or tricks or ways of thinking that can help me start having orgasms when we play with other people?

Glaringly Restive Orgasms Unbelievably Problematic

There's a lot going on in your letter, GROUP, and I'm suffering a little setback on the recovering-from-shoulder-surgery front and am consequently back on painkillers. (One wee fistful, singular, today instead of the wee fistfuls, plural, of three weeks ago.) So I'm going to number my response and try to hit all of the issue you raise before the painkillers render me unfit to operate this advice column. Here we go...

1. Romantically attracted to men and sexually attracted to men and women = bisexual and heteroamorous. (Please see Robin Ochs's definition of bisexuality in this post about "lopsided" bisexuality; the lopsided variety Charles Blow talks about appears to be more common than the idealized equally-attracted-to-both/all-genders brand of bisexuality we tend to hear about.)

2. Oh, yeah — shame and guilt and traumatic experiences in childhood (like being punished for playing doctor) can really put the zap on your head. I would urge you to consider finding a good, sex-positive counselor with whom you feel comfortable unpacking your lingering feelings of shame and/or guilt. (The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists is a good place to start looking for a sex-positive shrink. And remember, GROUP: you may have to meet with a few counselors before you find the one that's right for you.)

But here's something to mull over while you search for a counselor you feel comfortable opening up to...

When you were a child you were told that sex was for one thing and should be reserved for just one person. If the sex-negative faith tradition you were raised in bears any resemblance to the sex-negative faith tradition I was raised in, GROUP, you were told that sex is for making babies and that sex is only good/healthy/blessed when it takes place in the context of a monogamous, opposite-sex relationship, ideally a marital one. Those were lies. There is, as the reproductive biologists like to say, "a lot of redundancy" built into human sexuality: the females of our species don't go into heat (ovulation is hidden), the males of our species produce a lot more sperm cells than are required to do (spew?) the job (at least for now), we are not a naturally monogamous species (precious few are). All of that and more point to a significant-if-often-obscured truth: humans don't just have sex to make babies. We evolved to have a lot of sex — most of it not about making babies — and why might that be? Well, we're social animals and sex allows us to connect and it can create and cements intimate social bonds. We do it because it feels good and it makes us feel good — and when you consider how much sex we have compared to how few babies we're capable of having, the connection and intimacy have to be seen as at least as important, if not more important, than the baby-making business we were told was the whole point.

So you're not having sex for the wrong reasons when you explore others together with your fiancé — when you attend those orgies or have those threesomes together — but for a very good reason. Look at the way those experiences super-charge your sex life and your connection to your fiancé for days or weeks afterwards. The sex you're having with others is doing what sex is supposed to do — it's creating and strengthening your intimate connection to your fiancé, first and foremost, and connecting you to others as well. Orgies and threesomes aren't right for everyone, of course, but they would appear to be right for you, hangups notwithstanding.

3. Got gay friends, GROUP? If you do — and I sure hope you do — open up to your gay friends about the feelings you've been having after your sexual adventures with your fiancé. Most gay men experienced post-orgasmic "troublesome negative emotions" when they first became sexually active, GROUP, thanks to the zap put on our heads by religion and patriarchy. Even if your gay friends are happy, well-adjusted, out and proud now, GROUP, odds are good they struggled with feelings of guilt and/or shame after they sucked their first few dicks — feelings of guilt and shame they struggled with and overcame. Talking with your gay friends about how they learned to accept and celebrate themselves and their a-typical sexual desires/orientations may help you do the same.

I was one of the lucky ones — I walked away from my first blowjob (thanks, Joe!) feeling elated. I was the same person after it was over, lightning bolts didn't rain down from the heavens, and my grandmother's ghost didn't appear in the room and attempt to slap the dick out of my mouth. Basically, nothing post-dick-in-my-mouth was as I feared it would be pre-dick-in-my-mouth. Biut for many of my cis male cocksucking brethren, GROUP, it took some time and lots of dick before they came around. Over time they saw that the dick was bringing good things into their lives — intimacy, joy, connection — and therefore whatever they'd been told about sucking dick by religious leaders, parents, peers, etc., couldn't be right. Something that made them happy and provided joy (and release) to others couldn't be wrong. Your journey toward self-acceptance could take a similar route, GROUP.

4. I hope your fiancé isn't pressuring you to have more group experiences than you're comfortable having. If he wants to have these sorts of sexual adventures weekly but they're not something you want to do more than once or twice a year, GROUP, his efforts to make arrangements are going to leave you feeling uncomfortable and will generate conflict. So make sure you're both on the same page about how often you want him to seek out additional sex partners for your both.

That said, GROUP, it's often the case that one person in an open relationship is the instigator/organizer — and that's fine, someone has to do the leg work, great sexual adventures rarely happen spontaneously. But sometimes when the non-instigator struggles with feelings of guilt or shame — which is often why they're the non-instigating partner — they will guilt, shame, and blame the instigator for making arrangements that they, the non-instigator, wanted made. It's no fun being in that position, GROUP; it's no fun being kink-shamed by your own partner for setting something up that your partner wanted you to set up. So if you value these experiences and want to continue having them, GROUP, you should continue to work on stifling the impulse to "close off" or "become reactive" when your fiancé brings up the subject.

5. Coming is nice, but it's not necessary — I mean, you report having positive experiences at the orgies and sex parties you've attended despite not coming, right? This isn't meant to downplay the importance of your pleasure or the legitimacy (or even urgency) of your desire to get off, GROUP. But anything you can do to take the pressure off — anything you can do to reduce performance anxiety — will make it easier for you to get off. In other words, GROUP, telling yourself, "If I come, that's great, but I can thoroughly enjoy this experience whether I come or not," ups your chances of having a good time while paradoxically increasing your odds of coming.

So the next time you head into a group setting, GROUP, tell yourself that coming isn't the goal; you can always do that later, at home, with the fiancé. Go instead with the goal of having a really great time.

6. Other tips that might help you start having orgasms when we play with other people: maybe a little bit of pot, maybe a blindfold, maybe a nice pair of noise-cancelling headphones.


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