A recent posting on my Sexuality Forum (www.askisadora.com) from a woman shot down by her boyfriend for initiating sex "incorrectly" occasioned a lot of comment. Most concurred the fault was his for criticizing but not offering any constructive suggestions.

Many of us have been in the sad situation of not picking up on an overture cast in our direction because the signals were so subtle that we missed it. If you don't think this applies to you can you really be sure? Hmmm?

There is also a category of sexual invitations that produce the opposite of the desired effect. A Richard Benjamin movie of the 1980's comes to mind wherein his customary approach is elbowing his cringing wife and leering "How about a little ol' roll in the hay?"

The thing is, like so many facets of sex and courtship, there isn't any one right way to do it. What will be perceived as delightfully sexy by one will be seen as heavy handed and crude by another. Sometimes it's in the delivery; sometimes it's just the deliverer.

A couple who came to me for counseling because they weren't having enough sex were forced to look at their methods of reaching out. She impatiently asked him "What do you think I'm telling you when I say I am going upstairs to take a bath?" Her mate, a literalist, responded "Your whereabouts for the next ten minutes."

There is just no way around it. Two people who do not want to run the risk of missing an opportunity for sex or of having their seductive communications style scoffed at have just got to talk about it in plain English."How would you like me to let you know when I'm the mood?"

Some people may have to think about their response since they actually don't know. Do you prefer words? Romantic or graphic? Sweet talk or sexual? Others prefer actions. Affectionate caresses or direct acts of sexual stimulation? Is it the same all the time or does it vary by your mood, the time of day, or your relationship with the initiator?

So then, how to initiate a conversation about initiating? Starting with a compliment never hurts. "I really like it when you...." "One of the things you do that usually gets me going is....." Do's are usually better than don'ts, even when the reason for having this conversation is to correct Sweetie's annoying habit.

An even stickier wicket in this conversation is the how-to of refusing a sexual overture. "How would you prefer to hear that I'm not in the mood when you do come on to me?" Actually, no one wants to hear that her or his partner isn't simultaneously interested, but those are the facts. Sometimes we're just not, so how to let Sweetie know that without ego crushing?

This is where there is often a division of the sexes. Women more often than men say they never initiate sex because they fear being rejected. Theoretically men are used to hearing "no" about sexual matters. Hey, no one enjoys being told no about anything, least of all that s/he is not sexually desirable by the desired one! Women and men need to learn the skills of asking for what they want and both need to learn the skills of gracefully refusing. The days of the constant "men propose and women dispose" are over and Halleluiah to that. With the perks of anyone being free to ask is the downside of everyone being free to refuse...or negotiate.

One way to say no to a sexual overture is to propose another time or even a likelier time if you can't promise. A non verbal response to a nonverbal overture might be clasping the wandering hand and giving it a kiss, then keeping it enfolded in your own hand. Holding hands is much sweeter than being swatted away.

Having discussions about sexual preference of any sort promote intimacy in and of themselves. So bringing the subject up, honestly sharing what you like and what you don't, teaching your partner the care and feeding of you, might very well lead to an invitation in your desired style of "Hey, Babe, you wanna?".

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