Q: I am a versatile lesbian; I need to experience topping and bottoming to feel satisfied in my sex life. My girlfriend is a diehard top. I love her so much, but bottoming all the time is making me feel stuck and frustrated. How can I overcome my girlfriend’s stubborn stance, or at least feel more empowered in the bedroom? –Bottom Blanche
Carol Queen: You and your girlfriend aren’t 100 percent compatible sexually, as you surely already realize, although you haven’t said whether you and she have talked about this. I don’t have a clear sense of the kinds of sex you’re referencing: BDSM-style topping and bottoming? Or “active vs. receptive” in the sack? If that matters in my reply, I’ll try to be clear about it.
Less-than-total compatibility isn’t especially rare, and there are a number of ways to deal with it. Some couples open their relationships for just this reason, although if either of you are pretty monogamous, I don’t know that I would recommend it. Maybe if you’re “monogam-ish” (Dan Savage’s splendid word), it would be fun to add a third person to your play from time to time. If you’re into BDSM, that can be especially easy to arrange, but even if it’s vanilla play, take a page from the kinky crowd and clarify carefully what everyone wants out of the fun, and what everyone’s boundaries are.
If your girlfriend doesn’t want touch or tongue aimed at her body, that’s one thing, and if she doesn’t want to exchange power in a kinky sense, that’s another. If you feel that the kind of intimacy you like and expect is impeded, it could be worth a few sessions together with a sex therapist to unravel the various activities you engage in and their emotional meanings for both of you. It’s a pretty broad distance from “Touch freaks me out and I’m not sure why” to “I don’t have orgasms easily so I just won’t put you through that” to “I am a top, and I do not give up my power, ever.” Digging in with a professional could help shift dynamics, uncover workarounds, or make clear exactly where you are on the compatibility matrix.
Any couple can make choices based on sexual interests, ranging from “I’m willing to try that thing you want” to “Go find a playmate on the side, honey.” What may be most important is not which choice you make, but whether you are both able to participate in the decision. When it’s one-sided, you really need to ask yourself whether in the long run you’ll get what you need from the partnership.
Top photo: Bettie Page
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