How to Enjoy Sex When You Don’t Really Enjoy Sex

Physical intimacy is complicated, especially if you're queer. Let's talk about it.

Sex is a part of life. But what happens when you don’t—you know—like it? What happens when sex is the “price of admission” not just for a romantic relationship but for inclusion into an entire community? What happens when sex—an activity that delights, scares, and stresses you out all at once—becomes something you start pursuing despite feelings of fear and ambivalence?

Welcome to being queer and complicated in the 21st century! It’s a hard road to hoe, but don’t despair just yet. Whether you find sex painful, unpleasant, or simply have very specific needs in the bedroom, it’s easier than ever before to deal with the never-ending problems of bad sex, unexciting sex, or too much sex. All it requires is a little communication and a lot of preparation (H).

Ready? Let’s ride—platonically, of course.

  1. Use the Right Toys


    Everyone’s sexual journey is its own beautiful ride, but that doesn’t mean that we all have it so easy. If you sit at any kind of intersectional queer identity (queer and religious, queer and asexual, queer and differently abled, etc.) it’s probably going to be a bit harder for you to figure out what you’re into. Even in today’s world, where there’s porn for literally every mood and moment of the day, it can be challenging to figure out what you want, especially when you’re staring down the barrel of an expectant, fully aroused sexual partner.

    This is where toys come in. Hear me out: Discovering what you’re into is a lot easier when you only have yourself to please. Start getting comfortable with different toys, tools, and aids, and you’ll find yourself opening up in ways you didn’t even realize were possible.

  2. Set the Mood


    Sometimes, sex takes time. Even if you’re already in the mood, it’s nice to give yourself the space to actually become really and truly horny. If you’re not into foreplay, you might want to get into it. Grossed out by kissing and other slimy things? No worries: Take the time you need to change the lighting, put on some sexy jams, run a bath, and anoint your body with various oils. Everything in this life is stressful—checking Twitter, reading the news, leaving the house. You know what doesn’t have to be stressful? Pleasure. Take all the time you need to make it happen, honey!

  3. Go to Therapy


    No, seriously. Whoever you are, wherever you are, if you had a childhood you should probably be in therapy right now. I know what you’re thinking, Therapy can be expensive and isn’t always easily accessible, but if you’re anywhere near an LGBTQ center, it’s likely that you’ll be able to get that sweet healing for a price you can actually afford.

    Even if you’re not currently in crisis mode, therapy can be a wonderful place to explore your own relationship to sex and sexuality. You can try thinking outside the box without dealing with the pressure of somebody else’s aggressive kinks or expectations. You can also talk about the things that frighten you, and, let’s be honest, everybody has a bit of fear in them when it comes to doing the dirty. As fun as it can be, that stuff is heavy!

    Having a therapist around to help you sort out all that childhood trauma in a safe, non-judgmental place can be one unexpectedly powerful aphrodisiac (provided you don’t end up sleeping with your mental health provider, of course).

  4. Take Frequent Breaks


    Sometimes, even if you’re totally feeling it, the experience can be a bit—much. Whether you’re a top, bottom, vers, or switch, taking a nice break in the middle of a pound-down can be a good way to touch base with your partner, reorient yourself, and relieve the awful feelings of dysphoria, shame, and desperately needing to poop that might be descending upon you in the midst of a too-fast-too-furious fuck-fest. Need a breather? No worries. Take as much time as you need, my sexually adventurous yet sexually ambivalent friend.

  5. Be Honest


    You might imagine that the key to great sex is something a bit more…sexy than what I’m about to say. But here’s the thing: When you have a complicated relationship to sex, it’s not always easy to deal with all the conflicting feelings that sex can bring up. The best way to have the ride of your life isn’t to just suppress all those emotions until they magically go away: It’s to be open and honest with your partner, at least on the level of “this is what works for me” and “this doesn’t.”

    It’s also important to acknowledge that, hey, sex isn’t for everybody, and it might not ever feel the way you think it should. Sex doesn’t have to turn into a therapy session in order for you to get your needs met. All you have to do is pay attention to your body and be honest when you’re uncomfortable.

    Whether or not sex is something you want to have in your life, whether or not it’s something that you feel is valuable, it’s all about having it on your terms. Remember, the power is forever and always in your hands—or your butt, as the case may be. Use it well.

Henry Giardina is a writer living in Los Angeles.