Poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion leads to in­equal­ity in bed­room

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My new boyfriend is quite lazy in bed — he just lies there and ex­pects me to do ev­ery­thing. He says it’s be­cause he likes to look at me, but I find it ex­haust­ing af­ter a long day at the of­fice. We’re in our 20s. >> While your boyfriend’s be­hav­iour leaves a lot to be de­sired, your com­pli­ance both­ers me more. Why do you agree to in­dulge him? And what do you think would hap­pen if you told him to sod off? Equal­ity is im­por­tant be­cause in­equity cre­ates re­sent­ment.

Like most sex­ual dif­fi­cul­ties, the prob­lem you de­scribe is al­most cer­tainly a symp­tom of poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Af­ter all, if you have never chal­lenged your boyfriend about his be­hav­iour, you can’t ex­actly blame him for adopt­ing the supine po­si­tion and let­ting you get on with it.

In good sex­ual re­la­tion­ships, both part­ners ought to pull their weight. There is, of course, room for flex­i­bil­ity. Some­times it is re­ally nice to man the ship sin­gle­hand­edly. At other times it is nice to be the pas­sen­ger. How­ever, tak­ing turns tends to av­er­age out over time, so that nei­ther part­ner ends up feel­ing over­bur­dened. You don’t need to keep a log­book, but if one part­ner’s gen­eros­ity is ex­ploited to the point of in­equity, mutiny is an in­evitabil­ity.

I have en­coun­tered sim­i­larly anoma­lous be­hav­iour in a num­ber of fe­male mil­len­ni­als. These are ed­u­cated, suc­cess­ful, hard-work­ing, at­trac­tive young women who are in sex­ual re­la­tion­ships with men who only pri­ori­tise their own plea­sure, and yet they col­lec­tively shy away from con­fronta­tion and feel un­able to make ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual de­mands within their re­la­tion­ships.

Why do they set­tle for so lit­tle in their re­la­tion­ships? Well, it has never been easy for cou­ples to talk about sex in gen­eral, and sex­ual dif­fi­cul­ties in par­tic­u­lar, but twen­tysome­things who have grown up com­mu­ni­cat­ing through in­stant mes­sag­ing and email ap­pear to be dou­bly chal­lenged in this de­part­ment.

It is also true that nearly half of all dat­ing app users are mil­len­ni­als and this has cre­ated a kind of ‘kid in a candy store’ men­tal­ity, for young men in par­tic­u­lar. Be­fore dat­ing apps, young peo­ple were forced to fish from a much smaller pool of real-world con­nec­tions. Now a seem­ingly end­less sup­ply of al­ter­na­tive part­ners means that re­la­tion­ships feel much more dis­pos­able than they did pre­vi­ously. To achieve ex­clu­siv­ity and com­mit­ment, both part­ners must be will­ing to re­ject other op­tions and this cre­ates an un­ease that might ex­plain why young women seem to be pre­pared to work so very hard to please young men who give so very lit­tle in re­turn.

As things stand, you have ab­so­lutely noth­ing to lose by talk­ing to your boyfriend about the onesided na­ture of your sex­ual re­la­tion­ship. Although there are ex­cep­tions, most men want to be con­sid­ered ‘good in bed’, so they are gen­er­ally grate­ful for guid­ance that will help them to be. In this con­text alone, you will be do­ing him a great favour if you ex­plain to him that sex is meant to be a mu­tu­ally re­ward­ing re­cip­ro­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, how­ever awk­ward the con­ver­sa­tion feels at the time.

If he doesn’t sub­se­quently make more of an ef­fort you need to ask your­self whether the kind of man who thinks it is OK to lie back and en­joy the view while his ex­hausted part­ner does all the work is re­ally the ideal man for you. I didn’t think so.

“Young women seem to be pre­pared to work so very hard to please young men who give so very lit­tle in re­turn

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