Sex and Pancakes

Dear Melissa,

My boyfriend and I are both into talking dirty. More specifically, he likes calling me names and stuff. This really turns me on too, but all of my girlfriends tell me that I’m letting him degrade me, and that it shows a lack of respect for women. Can it be so wrong if I’m actually enjoying it?

—Dirty Girl

I’ve got a simple test for you to see if there is really a problem here: do you ever actually feel degraded by your boyfriend in your relationship? I’m guessing you don’t. (If you do, then you wrote in about the wrong problem.)

If you’re still unsure, think about how your boyfriend treats you outside of the bedroom. Do you see signs of your “degrading” sex life creeping into your relationship?

If not, then I think you’re both just acting out a fantasy, which is perfectly healthy. In fact, acting out a fantasy together that involves an amount of vulnerability is actually a positive thing, because it requires a certain level of trust and means you don’t need to censor your fantasies with this person.

To explain it further, consider rape fantasies. If a person were actually being raped, they obviously wouldn’t enjoy it at all. However, pretending to be raped by a partner who you are really attracted to and probably have a personal connection with isn’t the same as actually being forced into sex.

Furthermore someone who has actually been raped probably wouldn’t want to role-play it because it would force them to relive a reality they have faced. But the fact that it’s make-believe and is taking place within the safe confines of a bedroom makes the experience completely different.

If your boyfriend were someone who disrespected women on a daily basis through his words or actions, then you probably wouldn’t be so into him mouthing off to you in the bedroom, but I’m guessing he doesn’t do that.
You might also want to talk about this with your boyfriend to see how he feels about the situation. Keeping the conversation open will also help if ever there comes a time where you stop feeling comfortable, or want to draw a line somewhere.

My personal opinion has always been that the partner with whom you can experiment and truly let your guard down is the one who you will have the most fulfilling relationship with, since you’re free to try anything.

I also know plenty of women who let themselves be disrespected in public by their boyfriends, but then feel truly loved because they have “romantic” sex. I don’t think the kind of sex you have is an accurate representation of the kind of relationship you’re in.

The biggest problem with sharing intimate details about your sex life with friends is that it opens it up for analysis and personal reactions that aren’t necessarily representative of your feelings. It also really sucks because it might make you question or doubt your own desires.

Sexuality can vary hugely from one person to the next and openness to exploring and accepting your sexual self will only lead to positive experiences. You can’t help or decide what turns you on. Your friends may not understand it, but they don’t have to—because they’re not the ones trying to turn you on in bed.

—Melissa Fuller

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 25, published March 8, 2011.