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Dear Sexpert,

I have been dating my girlfriend for about 3 months now. Recently, I’ve noticed that after we have sex, and I’ve seemingly fallen “asleep,” she sometimes reaches in her backpack for her vibrator. The mechanic hum isn’t what keeps me up, but the embarrassment from the fact that sex with me isn’t enough for her. I really care about her, but I don’t know how to confront her about this. What do you think I should do? 

Sincerely, 

Lackluster Lover 

Dear Lover,

Take a breath — this situation sounds challenging but not necessarily something to take personally. Good news, with some open channels of communication with your girlfriend, you will likely find a mutually pleasurable sex life together! 

First off, it is important to note that people (more often women-identified individuals) sometimes have more difficulty reaching orgasm (with or without a partner) than others, for any number of reasons. One reason is that traditional depictions of female pleasure often show orgasm resulting from penetrative sex and happening in tandem with a partner’s orgasm — creating that as the model for “how it should work.” Feeling stressed, being distracted/having trouble focusing, not being aroused enough, not yet knowing what feels good, experiencing physical discomfort, etc., can all impact whether or not someone experiences an orgasm. 

Your girlfriend’s desire to pleasure herself after sex could indicate a need for trying something different together. If your girlfriend’s comfortable masturbating in the same bed as you, then she will likely be comfortable enough to have a conversation about it. Although she’s waiting until after you’re asleep, she’s clearly not trying that hard to hide it from you. You two haven’t been together for that long, so it’s possible that she is apprehensive about bringing this to your attention, or is worried that you will take it personally. But, like I said, it’s important to establish honest and clear ways to communicate about it. 

So how do you go about starting the conversation? Well one thing is for certain, don’t wait until she pulls out her vibrator and confront her in a “gotcha!” moment. Instead, bring it up to her over a meal, when you’re just hanging out in your room, or in some other relatively private and comfortable space. Mention that you have noticed her doing this recently, and, if you’re comfortable, express your openness to trying out new things together. Vibrators and other sex toys don’t always have to be used for masturbation; maybe you can try your hand at wielding the mechanical hum. In fact, many sex toys can be used with a partner — some (e.g. vibrating rings) are even made for use during penetrative sex to enhance pleasure of both partners. But be sure to wash your toys thoroughly with soapy water after use, especially if you plan on sharing them between yourselves. You can also use a new condom on toys (e.g. dildos) for each use. Also, if you two often skip straight to penetrative sex, then you might benefit from some additional foreplay to “get things going.” Try oral sex or a sensual massage. Some couples find mutual masturbation (masturbating, individually, near one another) arousing, and this can also help your partner better understand what works for you.

Anyways, I wish you the best of luck, Lover. These sorts of things can be uncomfortable to initiate at first, but it is likely that, after bringing it up in a mature manner, your sex life (and relationship) will only benefit from the conversations that follow!  

Yours,

The Sexpert

The Sexpert is a biweekly column done in collaboration between the Prospect and the Peer Health Advisers (PHA program). For more information, you can visit the Sexpert’s website. If you are interested in submitting a question, you can email sexpert@princeton.edu

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