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Hump Day: Communicating With a Shy Lover

Welcome to Hump Day, TrèsSugar's sex advice column. If you have questions about sex, send them to TrèsSugar, and our friend Dr. Charlie Glickman from Good Vibrations will offer his sound advice!

Today's question comes from a man:

"How can I tell if a woman likes or dislikes something we do during sex if she is not one to talk about it upfront? Is it possible to read her reactions to see what she prefers?"

To see Dr. Glickman's answer,


If I could sell a sure-fire answer to that question, I would be able to buy my own Caribbean island! One of the most common questions that sex educators hear — other than "am I normal?" — is "how do I get my partner to talk with me about this?" And unfortunately, there aren’t any really good answers.

Some people will suggest that you can pay attention to things like body movements or sounds such as moans of pleasure. And there’s a grain of truth to that: lots of people give non-verbal feedback during sex and if you pay attention to those signals, you can get a lot of useful information. But the difficulty is that different people will give different signals. For one person, it might be a particular moan, but another person might move her hips in a certain way.

In addition, non-verbal communication doesn’t have a lot of bandwidth, so it’s pretty hard to interpret with any certainty. It gets even more complicated because many women have internalized messages that being too sexually expressive makes them one of “those women” and so they’ve learned to be as unresponsive as possible. On the other hand, some people will make noises or movements because they want to please a partner, not because they’re actually enjoying themselves. All of that makes it pretty hard to use non-verbal responses in a meaningful way.

But don't despair! There are some good ways to get the information you’re looking for.

One easy way to do that is to do two things and ask here whether she liked A or B more. Another way is to ask her to tell you on a scale of one to 10 how much she enjoys whatever you’re doing. This can make it easier for her to let you know what she’s feeling. Some folks also find it easier to be more verbally expressive if the lights are off.

You’ll probably find that it works better if you’re gentle about it or if you explain that you’re trying to be a sensitive lover. If you push too hard, she might retreat further, which is the opposite of what you want. There are a lot of possible reasons why she might be hesitant to be communicative, so it’s important that you give her the space to work through it on her own (with your support) instead of trying to fix her.

If she’s interested in coming out of her shell, Carol Queen’s book Exhibitionism for the Shy is a great guide. Queen talks about the many reasons that people have difficulty expressing their sexual selves and offers plenty of useful ideas for overcoming them. It’s out of print at the moment, but we expect to get it soon, so check the Good Vibrations website in a few weeks.

Image Source: Getty
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