Working at an adult boutique can be an eye-opening experience and a practice in ridding yourself of expectations and stereotypes.
You become immediately comfortable speaking of intimate things with strangers, saying out loud words and desires that may have before only been rehearsed in your mind. Selling sex toys as a part-time job is rewarding to say the least, and being a part of someone’s self-guided, self-determined journey to pleasure always feels like an astute honour. There are moments when we are called to help people break through hang-ups and the lingering beliefs of a generation much more sex-negative than ours. This responsibility can also seep into our personal lives, for instance, when a co-worker recently had someone reach out to her for help with an issue, as often happens to those of us whom people feel safe with.
The person in question had a problem with their partner viewing porn. They felt cheated on and betrayed and asked their partner to refrain from using it while continuing their relationship. Their partner could not agree to this and the couple’s sex life completely fizzled out – one of them felt betrayed and one of them felt censored.
We live in a monogamy-based society and this is not an uncommon problem.
We are taught that our partner is our property; we alone are allowed access to their bodies, minds, emotions, affections, and sexual experiences. Looking at another person, having sexual fantasies, masturbating alone, going to see strippers, or watching porn are usually seen as deviations to this ideal. While monogamy (or non-monogamy) is something that must be defined by each partnership and needs to be something both partners feel comfortable with, I think that the idea of what our own individual sexuality is in a multi-person partnership deserves a little challenging.
The fact is that as soon as we enter a partnership, we do not lose our individual sexual desires or sexual agency. Our bodies and sexuality are our own, even if we have committed to sharing that with a partner regularly and/or exclusively. We get to choose when we have sex or don’t, we still have the absolute privilege and duty to ourselves to be the source of pleasure to our own bodies.
Masturbation is, in my opinion, an important part of self-care. It makes sense – I nourish my mind with books, films, and meditation, my spirit with music and time with friends, and my body with vegan food, long baths, and giving myself orgasms.
We are still allowed to explore what turns us on, what definitely doesn’t, and what makes our stomachs churn. It might be an active imagination that allows us to fantasize about different scenarios that excite us, that allow us to partake on this journey, or we might want or need visual aids. Yep, porn. There are many politics in porn and we will discuss them another day, but the fact of the matter is that there are many of us who use it.
We humans are complex and multi-faceted and when you put two or more of us together to navigate those facets, it can be messy and complicated to say the least. We all come to relationships with varied life experiences, belief systems, baggage, and stuff of some sort. Our job as partners is to help one another unpack that baggage.
We will be comfortable with certain things because of our life experiences so far and we will be uncomfortable with some things for the same reason. Neither one is right or wrong. It’s understandable that we could feel jealous at the thought of our partner having an orgasm without us, something that is so intimate when done together. It is also understandable that someone is excited by the images of people they will never sleep with doing things that they may never do – but masturbating and sex are completely different things. Having a partner who is in tune with their desires and is still excited and invested in their pleasure is a gift.
Drawing boundaries and having your partner respect those boundaries are important. If the idea of a partner using porn, sex toys, or masturbating is threatening to you, that is a valid feeling. If your partner agrees to not do any of these things, cool. The chances are, though, that at some point these things will come up. When they do, at the very minimum, be open to doing the hard work of figuring out where your hesitation comes from and communicating that.
“It makes me feel insecure that you watch porn with people that look different than I do in them,” can lead to a conversation about insecurities and an action plan to have your partner reassure you of all the things they find astounding about you.
Of course, there are many reasons why you may feel uncomfortable. So explore them, communicate, and take baby steps towards being more comfortable and open. It is important to remember that shutting out a partner for talking about their desires and closing yourself off just leads to them feeling like they can’t share their most intimate thoughts, which means that they’ll just keep things secret – the exact opposite of the intimacy you are craving.
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