Sex and Its Discontents

The Indy weighs in...

by Dominatrix Pariso & Jane Argodildo

Illustration by Bryn Brunnstromm

published February 10, 2017


What’s your advice for when you feel too disgusted by your own body to have sex with someone even though you really want to? 

When I was eight years old, a doctor told me I needed to lose weight. So as you can probably imagine, any hope for a healthy body image went right out the window.

 I now think of that girl and all the years I wasted feeling worthless, and all the other kids like me and I think: enough. Enough of that.

 I want to say that I can write to you now perfectly content, and that you too can get here easily, but that would be a bold simplification. The fact is, it’s hard, and nobody is going to give you permission, so you have to take it. There are too many people who stand to profit, in both money and power, off our self-hatred, but change happens on the level of the smallest action. It’s you and me taking all our clothes off in front of our lovers and saying here I am, even when it makes us feel like we want to crawl under the sheets and die first. Especially when it makes us feel like that. Because doing so will bring us a little closer to the people we want to be.

 You have to find a way to get what you desire, especially in the bedroom, while being present in your own body. There’s no getting around it. We’re stuck in our skins until they go.

 Obviously, you should not do anything you’re uncomfortable with. But what I keep circling back to in your sentence is the ‘really want to.’ And if you really, truly, deeply, want this level of intimacy, you are going to have to build it. 

While we’re on the subject of intimacy: think about what would happen if you were honest with your partner about how you’re feeling. Be vulnerable. And, to be honest, the conversation that follows may be a good indicator of whether you should let that person stick their hands down your pants in the first place.

 In the end, I must defer to Charles Eisenstein: “The revolution is love,” dear heart. That’s gotta start somewhere. Might as well be with you.  

The only thing I enjoy about sex is the process of getting people to want to have sex with me. Once it actually starts happening, I’m just bored and waiting for it to be over. Any tips for getting more psychological pleasure out of sex itself, as physical pleasure seems impossible for me to experience? 


You say that physical pleasure seems impossible for you to experience, and that could mean a couple of things. If sex is difficult, totally unpleasurable, and especially if it’s painful, it may be a good idea to see a doctor if that’s available to you, because certain medical conditions could be causing some of your symptoms.

If a medical condition is not causing your issue, your very separation of physical and psychological pleasure may be the culprit here. For you, the psychological pleasure comes from the process of attraction and flirtation before it wanes, making the act of sex entirely physical. But to experience the physical pleasure of sex, one must be fully present, and continue to take psychological pleasure in what is happening. 

Totally abandoning oneself in pleasure is something that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re at your most vulnerable. But it can be practiced over time. Remember, there’s a thrill to getting someone in bed with you, but there’s also a thrill to being in bed with someone. The next time you find yourself feeling bored or distracted, remind yourself how fantastic, special, and fleeting it is to share this kind of physical intimacy with another person. Focus on every touch and sensation, and honestly, just look into your partner’s eyes every now and then. It’s not awkward, it’s hot.

How socially acceptable is it to ask for feedback on sex given [in any shape/form]? I like constructive criticism. Constructive criticism in the sexual realm would be nice, too.

While we here at the Independent are very supportive of healthy conversations about sex with current or potential partners, the term ‘constructive criticism’ sounds a little like you’re a student at office hours asking your professor what you need to do to get an A on the next paper. But sex isn’t a test, and you’re certainly not getting graded on it.

Rather than asking for feedback, start an open conversation with your partner or partners. Ask them about their desires and tell them yours. During sex, you should regularly check in with your partner and ask if they’re enjoying themselves, and if there’s anything they’d like for you to do. That’s a good way to keep your sex life healthy and exciting, with a little less criticism involved.

Sexperts! Simple question: where is the goldilocks zone for condom storage? Under my pillow makes me feel promiscuous. Too far away is a total hassle if and when I ever get lucky... maybe I should string some into my fairy lights? 

Simple question, simple answer: it is widely known that there are many Providence-based, community-oriented, sex-positive Rattus norvegicus running around; all you have to do is befriend one, and then every time you are about to take a little roll in the hay, merely snap your fingers and one will appear with a condom, probably ribbed, definitely flavored. Like we said, simple. 

Hey Indy sex team! My partner is into kink and light BDSM, and wants me to be/enjoys most when I dom. While I have also enjoyed this in the past, it is starting to make me uncomfortable now. Because I was socialized into masculinity, and they were socialized as a woman (though they do not identify as such), I can’t help but feel we are just playing out the implications of the unequal power that we bring to the bedroom. Even though we communicate well and are consenting adults, how do I navigate a space where those desires we consent to are shaped by broader social forces? Do I just need to cool it on the social justice stuff and enjoy a ‘problematic fave?’

Whole treatises have been written on the subject of BDSM. Everyone from E.L. James (ew) to Rihanna (!) have taken a crack at it. Of course, you should never engage in any kind of sexual act that makes you feel uncomfortable. However, you’re saying all the words we sexperts love to hear, words like ‘communicate,’ and ‘consenting adults.’ You, Social Justice Dom, are making our panties a little wet. You also used the word ‘desire.’ So let’s talk desire for a moment, shall we?

The question you are grappling with is a fair one: how do I get the pleasure I desire when that pleasure is tied up with the perverse? On some fundamental level, BDSM is so exciting precisely because it is tied up in larger social dynamics. But, your conflict is born out of the anxiety of domination/submission undoing your partner’s queerness. A tough spot to be in, for sure. 

I do believe there is a way for you to have your cake and eat it too, sweetness. There are plenty of sweet, sexy, perverted, queer couples like you getting down, and yes, even getting dirty. I recommend the following resources: Bound to Struggle: Where Kink and Radical Politics Meet, Salacious Mag, or even Queer + Kinky, an all-gender, queer community that organizes events throughout New England. 

However, if you’re feeling any level of discomfort, you should put your kink on a temporary freeze. At least until you’ve really thought it through and talked it over with your partner. Hopefully, if you are honest and upfront you both can find a way to make your particular sexual desires (kinks and all) work for the both of you. Then go get yourself some! 

Does anyone actually give a fuck about how much pubic hair their partner has?

It was just last summer when one of the Indy’s esteemed sexperts had a fantastic Tinder hookup with a man in a distant town. She decided to hit him up a second time, and he texted her back with a particular request. 

“Can you shave?” he bumbled.

Now, because this sexpert has better things to do than shave while on vacation, she had not packed a razor at all. But she was also put in the position of having to explain that she has never shaved her pubic hair (and never plans to) to a person she’d had sex with once and would likely never see again. They still had sex a second time, though she didn’t budge on the shaving thing.

Yes, some people do give a fuck how much pubic hair their partner has. But there’s pretty much no way of asking someone to change their pubic hair in a way that doesn’t come across as inappropriate—especially someone you’re not emotionally intimate with. Even if you are emotionally intimate though, you’re still asking someone to change something about their body entirely for your sake. In the long run, should you really give that much of a fuck?

The Agony Aunts remind you to practice enthusiastic and affirmative consent.