What do you value more in a sex partner—a sexually confident leader or a more careful, tentative follower? A clear majority of men and women in my sex therapy practice opt for the former. For most people, a partner’s sexual boldness is captivating and exciting. People are drawn to lovers willing to take the lead. What is the almost universal appeal of sexual boldness all about?
It’s an interesting question that is poorly understood. For example, one shaming stereotype suggests that hetero men feel threatened by women’s sexual power, and thus they prefer submissive partners. Or that hetero women’s preference for dominant men in romance novels is an indication of women’s innate masochism. Ugh. It is true that some men and women feel threatened by a partner’s sexual power and thus try to diminish it. And a subset of people simply prefer being dominant in all situations, including sexual ones. But for the most part, these stereotypes and clichés are not what I see from clients in my therapy room. Instead, I hear people longing for their lovers to bring more boldness into the bedroom—to initiate sex more, to more actively show their desire, to be clearer about what they want, and to make it all happen by being more sexually assertive.
In sum, sexual boldness can enhance passion.
Think about it. A sexually daring partner can make us feel wanted and sexually desirable—what a confidence boost! Their brazenness offers us the exquisite thrill of feeling sexually consumed. We don’t have to worry about a lover’s needs because they are in charge, obviously excited, and having a great time. Their pleasure isn’t our concern. Being pursued so blatantly saves us any risk of being rejected. We don’t have to worry about feeling guilty, or second-guessing our partner's experience, because we are merely following them—and thus not responsible for what happens. Their letting go into passion gives us permission to unapologetically do the same. Their willingness to feel and show their emotions so profoundly means we needn’t be self-conscious about our own. When a lover is more forward, all of these elements can combine to create a super potent sexual elixir for us. It’s essentially the ultimate message—“I love and desire you in the most vulnerable moments of your life.” Its no wonder both men and women long for more sexually confident partners!
But fear and laziness can prevent us from showing a more sexually bold side of ourselves. For example:
- Sexual boldness has a dark side. If expressed without consent and good communication, it carries with it the potential for abuse. Men may be afraid that their boldness will result in their partner feeling hurt or disrespected. That’s the last thing they want to do to the woman they love.
- Sexual boldness exudes confidence, but it requires tremendous hidden courage. That’s because boldness in the bedroom intensifies the possibility of rejection. We make ourselves vulnerable when we so clearly demonstrate our longings and desires. What if we look silly, or our advances are unwanted? As a result, we risk feeling shame—probably the most toxic emotion we know.
- Sexual boldness takes effort and energy. It’s much easier to be passive and expect our partner to create a satisfying sexual experience for us.
- Sexual boldness requires self-knowledge. It necessitates being in touch with our emotions and bodies. We have to know what we like and give ourselves permission to have and enjoy our sexual longings.
As a result, it’s not uncommon for people to avoid bringing boldness into the bedroom. This is less of a problem for folks in short-term relationships because a partner’s newness is often enough to make sex worth wanting. But as a romantic partner becomes familiar and the excitement of a new romance dwindles, passion must be more actively created. Sexual boldness thus becomes more a critical element of love-making as a relationship ages.
If you aren’t used to it, finding a bolder sexual style takes courage and determination. But assuming your sex partner is the person you love the most, what really do you have to lose? First, talk to your partner about it—show them this blog post and share your reactions. Maybe you both would benefit from bringing a bolder side out for a trial run, or maybe one of you is carrying the burden of sexual boldness for you both. In my therapy room, people long for things like seeing and feeling their partner’s sexual desire for them, feeling sexually ravished or consumed by their partner, or being touched more confidently between the sheets. If you need specific examples, find appealing erotic scenes from movies or female-oriented porn.
Decide together what can bring more energy into your bedroom, and then play it out in the privacy of your own imagination first. Watching yourself in your mind’s eye can help you gain comfort with a new behavior. Be prepared to feel silly or awkward at first. And when your partner makes any effort toward boldness—no matter how small—reward them with love and attention. Your support and enthusiasm, rather than criticism or well-meaning critique, is essential for their willingness to assert themselves with you again.
For most couples, just the fact that you love each other isn’t enough to keep your sex life exciting over time. Our necessary focus on the dangers of sexual dominance can confuse lovers who avoid sexual assertiveness in favor of a more polite style. Unfortunately, these well-meaning couples risk a lifetime of boring sex. A loving partner’s sexual boldness can infuse your romantic connection with provocative erotic energy.
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