sexpert

 Dear Sexpert,

My relationship with my partner has become pretty serious and we're ready to be more intimate with each other. While I'm interested in experimenting with oral sex, I'm still not ready to do more than that. How do I explain this to my partner without offending them?

—Expanding my horizons

Dear Expanding,

Expressing sexual desires to a partner can be daunting at first. The fact that you have established personal sexual preferences and are ready to communicate those preferences to your partner is an important step in a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship. Before we talk about communication, however, let’s make sure we are speaking in common terms. By oral sex, it is clear that you mean stimulation of a partner’s genitals by the other partner’s mouth. However, I’m not sure what you mean when you speak of sexual activities “more than” oral sex. Sex encompasses a wide range of activities, and activities that your partner deems “more” than oral sex could differ from activities that you consider “more” than oral sex. To ensure clear communication, it is important to be specific when speaking of sexual boundaries and desires.

The act of “sex” carries different meanings for different people. For some, sex means vaginal-penile penetrative intercourse. For others, it means any kind of genital sex (i.e., interactions between the vulva, vagina, penis, testicles, anus, or areas around them). Therefore, it can be useful to describe the specific acts you are comfortable with and see where your partner’s desires align. Regardless of the activities you are ready to explore, try not to assume that expressing your desire to experiment with oral sex will be met by discontent or annoyance from your partner. If you express your desires honestly and clearly, and are willing to have an open, back-and-forth exchange with your partner, it is likely you will both be more satisfied with the outcome and overall sexual experiences.

If you are apprehensive about the discussion, you may find it helpful to practice expressing your desires and boundaries as well as how you will listen and respond to those of your partner. If you feel stuck, you can always talk to a trusted friend or your residential college adviser about their experiences with communication within a relationship. You also may find it helpful to talk to a Peer Health Adviser, a private peer resource trained to listen to and assist their peers in the process of making personal decisions about all aspects of health and wellness, and connect their peers to resources.

Because there is a risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with any act that involves skin-to-skin contact or the exchange of body fluids, if you or your partner choose to engage in oral sex, be sure to use protective barriers. If one partner is performing oral sex on a penis, using an external condom on the penis will reduce risk of STIs.  Flavored or textured condoms are available to enhance the experience. If one partner is performing oral sex on a vagina or on an anus, a dental dam (a piece of latex used to cover the genital area to prevent direct mouth-to-genital or mouth-to-anus contact) should be used. Dental dams also come in various flavors. Condoms or dental dams are widely available on campus and can be obtained from PHAs, RCAs, McCosh Health Center, and the LGBT Center.  

As your relationship with your partner evolves, you may be ready to explore more sexual activities than you are now. Just remember to keep open communication between you and your partner to foster a mutually comfortable and pleasurable sexual relationship.

~The Sexpert

Information regarding the definition of sex provided by Go Ask Alice!

For more advice from The Sexpert, visit thesexpert.princeton.edu. To submit a question, email The Sexpert at sexpert@princeton.edu.


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