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Should You Have Sex That Doesn’t Turn You On?

The two things I like most in the world are sex and cheese. Check my twitter bio: it’s true. Sex and cheese have been in my life for a long time, and I’ve developed a robust open-mindedness with the both of them. Stiltons that frightened me as a teenager are now a regular and welcome part of my sex/cheese metaphor. By the time I left University, I didn’t think there were many cheeses you could throw at me that I wouldn’t find a way to enjoy. When it comes to eroticism, my vision is 20/20; I don’t find it difficult to perceive. I’d always reserved a secret pity for the girls in the advice columns, writing in to lament a lack of sexual chemistry in their relationships. That had never been a problem for me, and arrogantly, I assumed it never would be. After my 2007 term in English class studying hubris, I probably should have known better.

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When I met Thomas* he seemed lovely, a good cheese. We dated, I liked it, and after two months, we had sex. I assumed it would be good, and when it wasn’t, I assumed it was an aberration, a freak accident. It wasn’t. He lost his erection. He always lost his erection. He couldn’t even orgasm in front of me. Not until he told me about his fetish. And for the first time perhaps ever, it was something I really, really didn’t like.

8494315062_e04b4e4118_kThomas was into adult baby play. For those of you who haven’t spent as much time on the internet as me, and quite frankly that’s probably most of you, adult baby play is unsurprisingly self-explanatory. It involves dressing up and acting as a baby for sexual pleasure and/or the emotional release that comes with the total abandonment of responsibility. It had never particularly appealed to me; sexual pleasure comes easily to me, and I find two bottles of white wine work perfectly well for the total abandonment of responsibility. Adult baby play had never really occurred or appealed to me, but not trying it never crossed my mind. I was happy to find something that turned him on.

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On a fairly normal, rainy Monday, I therefore found myself buying a baby bottle from my local pharmacy. I quite liked that. Buying things from normal shops to use in dirty bedroom games is, I’m fairly sure, a unanimously pleasing experience. We planned a scene, and being an English student, I liked that. He put on one of his adult baby costumes, drank from his bottle while he masturbated and I talked dirty, and finally, eventually, he came in front of me. I was elated. Adult baby was my new favourite thing. It wasn’t until the third time, when the elation wore off, that I noticed that I felt unusually detached and unenthusiastic. It was a genuine surprise to find something that on my sexual richter scale, registered a solid 0.

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That, perhaps, should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t. Being sexually open was such a core part of my identity that I didn’t feel able to admit that I didn’t like what we were doing. I’d always seen sex like any other activity one might do with their boyfriend. I’d tolerated spicy food, awkward family members, and truly abysmal movies in the name of love; I had always assumed that non-erotic sex would likewise be something to willingly endure. And I didn’t think any sexual act could be worse than having to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

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I was wrong. Unenjoyable sex is an entirely different kettle of cheese. Not only is it an unavoidably intimate activity to embark upon and dislike, but doing it involves, what I discovered to be a near nauseating level of pretence. While I’m perfectly happy to bitch my way through a Thai Green Curry, and I made no secret of my feelings about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, admitting I didn’t like adult baby play would have stopped it. If it stopped, Thomas would stop coming in front of me. And I would feel like a failure. I began to loathe it. Doing it inspired a strange frustrated rage inside me, unlike anything I’d ever felt before (except for every sodding time I’ve tried, and failed, to make creme brulee). I hated that he couldn’t tell that I hated it. Which was stupid, because I had never told him that I hated it. It became a more and more awkward conversation to have.

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Serendipitously, we broke up and I never had to have that chat. I was left with a handful of regrets, a few life lessons and some baby bottles I had absolutely no use for. I realised that when it comes to sex, compromise isn’t always a good thing. I realised that I need to separate out being good in bed from my self-confidence. I realised admitting you don’t like something in bed is necessary to have a good sex life, not a detriment to it. I’m still pretty open-minded on the cheese front, though.

Photos by Brad Fults, Casey Muir-Taylor, and Sam Caplat.

Red is a staff writer for AFT. Her interests include eating too much, drinking too much and saying too much. She believes in sex that makes you lose yourself, and in the thousand different ways to get there. Outside the bedroom, she likes board games, yoga and scented candles. Inside the bedroom, she likes most things. You can find her on Twitter @Lexical_Life.