Spare Thoughts

By Caty Brown

Art by Sophie Williams

Womanizer: I want to buy a sex toy! What are your recommendations for sex toys for people with vaginas???

Dick von Kraft: Me and my girlfriend have been dating for about two months now, and it's been really great! Our sex life is pretty good, but I'm interested in exploring more kinky stuff and I'm not really sure how to ask to try other things out. I don't want to make her feel obligated to do what I want to do, but I also want to spice things up a little bit.

  • Answer: The number one problem in any couple’s sex life is communication. Have you ever thought about what your partner might feel like they’re missing in your sex life? Chances are they’re also interested in making things more exciting, but also worry about how to bring it up. But, you’re right, it’s hard to bring up the idea of introducing anything new, especially kink. It might be a good idea to start by expanding on things you already enjoy together. For example, it’s pretty vanilla to hold your partner’s hands above their head as a very simple form of control, and you might already do it. Or, maybe you already have tried light choking, which is fairly common right now. Start with something you already do, or start introducing something light like hair pulling or trapping their hands or dirty talk. Once you see what your partner likes, it might be easier to do more. Ask them later what they thought of it, and use the opportunity to ask if they want to try anything else. If they didn’t like the baby step, chances are you might want to pursue something different. (i.e. If they didn’t like having their hands bound, chances are they aren’t going to want to be your rope bunny.) If you think it went well, maybe do it a few more times, and then say something later like, “What did you think of ____? I thought it was pretty hot, would you want to try ___?” Don’t jump in too fast, and remember that telling your partner what you want and being patient and aware of what they want is the most important thing.

Lilith: My S.O. likes dirty talk and I want to do it and make them happy, but I am so bad at it and it feels so awkward! How do I get better at it?

  • Answer: First of all, making dirty talk feel natural is really hard. It’s going to be awkward, but that’s okay! Sex isn’t all mood lighting and gasping and simultanous orgasms. You might struggle with it, and you might end up laughing at yourself with your partner a couple times. Don’t worry about it. A good way to get into dirty talk is by thinking about what you actually want to say, instead of what you think your partner wants to hear. It will seem insincere if you don’t want to say it at all. So, what are you into? Do you like being held down? Like being praised? Like the idea of being watched? Focus on dirty talk that you find sexy, like, for instance, asking your partner to hold you down or begging them to do something. The first step to getting better at dirty talking is knowing what you actually find sexy, and what you won’t feel silly saying. Once you get more confident, you’ll be able to cater more to your partner without it feeling disingenuous.

Maya: So every guide to lesbian safe sex is always like use a dental dam but do people actually use them and how bad is really it if you don't? I have met exactly 0 people who use dental dams but also I want to have safe sex.

  • Answer: Dental dams rose to popularity during the AIDS pandemic, when gay women worried that, if gay men were falling prey to HIV, they might be next. But, it is really difficult to transmit HIV between two women. In the decades since the height of the AIDS pandemic, lesbians have largely realized that dams weren’t as necessary as they’d thought. Nowadays, you’re right, very very few lesbians and other vagina-owners use dental dams. To be honest with you, the external part of a woman’s genitals, including the labia, don’t transmit disease readily, like the vagina does. Cunnilingus, of all forms of sex, is not very likely to transmit disease. So, should you use dental dams? If you want to. Is it as necessary as a condom is for safe sex? Likely not. It certainly won’t hurt, but isn’t likely to provide a significant amount of protection, and they are cumbersome to use, as well as detrimental to sensation for some people (though not everyone dislikes the feeling). So, if you feel comfortable using one, use one! They do help, just not significantly. If you (and your partner) don’t want to use one, it isn’t something you should feel badly over. It’s about like wearing masks indoors as a vaccinated person, even though the CDC tells us they aren’t necessary. It might make you uncomfortable not to use one, but they are not totally necessary.

Alexei: My friends invited me to a group sex situation. At first I thought it was just a joke, but now I realize they’re being serious. I would be interested in trying things out, but I don’t want to ruin the friend group’s dynamic. Any advice on how I could approach this?

  • Answer: Well, if it makes you feel any more reassured, the fact that your friends asked you means that they’re aware of a potential upset in the dynamic for a bit. They know that it might be odd figuring that out, but they’re your friends! They wouldn’t have brought it up if they thought it would only end poorly. So, if you’re interested in it, then try it out! I can’t promise it won’t be a little weird, but if you’re genuinely interested and they are too, then it’s worth it to try it out. Ask what the group’s dynamic is, and be as genuine as possible in your interest. Just be reassured that these people are your friends, and it’s normal to feel a little out of your element.

Kalil: Over the course of the start of the pandemic, a close friend B and I realized we had some level of romantic feelings for each other. We were both in a weird place emotionally, so things stayed casual and just flirty for some time. Eventually, I felt that I was getting too invested without knowing if my feelings were real, and we took a month-ish break from talking frequently. Since then, I've realized that my feelings for B were/are real. We've talked a couple times about us and as far as those conversations have indicated, B isn't interested and/or doesn't want to try something. If B doesn't want something, I want to go back to being close friends, but I'm struggling to rebuild platonic intimacy when I know they had feelings for me in the past. Can you give me advice on how to rebuild our friendship and stop beating myself up over what could have been?

  • Answer: When you say “we took a month-ish break” was it truly mutual? Or did you make your friend feel unwanted and uncomfortable because you were struggling with your emotions? It’s entirely valid for you to have been unsure how to sort through your feelings, but really think through how you treated your friend. It’s also entirely valid for them to have moved on, after feeling like you treated them poorly as both a friend and potential romantic partner. Don’t make that same mistake again, forgetting to consider how your friend is feeling. For example, your wording, when you said “when I know they had feelings for me in the past,” it sounds like you’re ignoring how they might be feeling now. Listen to them, and don’t assume how they feel. But you’re right, it’s time to stop beating yourself up. It isn’t your fault that you weren’t ready to return their feelings at the time, and it isn’t your fault that your friendship is a little uncertain now. Things happen! Life is messy. But, just as it isn’t all your fault, it also isn’t all your job to fix it. A friendship is a relationship like any other, and your friend is your partner. Treat them like an equal, recognizing their feelings, allowing them to express themselves. Have a conversation with them, asking them what makes them feel valued, because you recognize you haven’t done a great job of ensuring they feel valued by you. It won’t be perfect, and it might feel really awkward. But, trying to focus on making a better relationship for the future, and not trying to just get back what you had before, is more valuable than you think. You’ve made your mistakes, missed your opportunities, but we all do. It’s time to think about how to be the best version of a friend you can be for the future, and try to learn from what you might have done wrong in the past. Just don’t forget about how your friend might be feeling.