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Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010

How Can I Bring Up Using Toys and Bondage With a New Partner?

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I am a lesbian and have been dating the girl I've had a crush on for two years for a couple of months now. Even before we were dating, we did a good amount of touching, groping and breast play, but personally I would like to take things a little further, and I think she would, too. What would be the best way to go about bringing up the possible use of toys or even some light bondage? She certainly is the dominant one, but I feel extremely shy admitting that I would like a more submissive role in things.

Exploring different types of play with a new partner is part of the fun of starting a relationship. Sharing your likes and dislikes, fantasies and turn-ons can be exciting, but also intimidating, especially if you're unsure about whether they'll enjoy the same things you do. There are lots of different ways, depending on your personal style of communication and level of comfort, that you can bring up using toys, bondage or dominant/submissive play with your new girlfriend.

You say that you think your girlfriend would also like to take things further. What gives you this feeling? Has she dropped hints or made jokes, either in or out of the bedroom? It's not uncommon for people to be indirect or humorous about sex, since we don't have a lot of models in our society for talking frankly about this topic, but that doesn't mean that you can't use these subtle signals as a way to open up the conversation ("You know that joke you made about strap-ons? I actually think that would be really hot…"). Has she tried a new sexual technique with you recently? Let her know how much you enjoyed it (if that's true); if people get positive feedback when they're being adventurous, they're more likely to continue to explore new territory. Whatever cues she's giving, watch out for chances to follow up on them with more direct communication.

With toys or bondage gear, it's always best to have an explicit conversation about your mutual interests instead of suddenly busting out a giant vibrator or handcuffs. "Toys" and "light bondage" can mean different things to different people. Are we talking dildos, vibes, anal toys, blindfolds, rope, paddles? Post-sex "pillow talk" can be a good place to start asking questions, as long as it doesn't come off as critical of the sex that you just had. You can frame a question in the context of how much you like being with her, such as, "I'm kind of shy about bringing this up, but you make me feel really comfortable/sexy/safe. I've always been curious about using sex toys… What do you think about that?" Or you can praise a specific technique and follow it up with a question, such as, "I loved it when you pinched my nipples. Have you ever thought about using nipple clamps?"

If you feel that your girlfriend is naturally more dominant than you and you want to take on a more submissive role, then talking directly about sex to her may feel like a disruption of this dynamic, as if the more dominant person in a relationship should be the one to decide or initiate everything. However, with any type of bondage or power exchange in a sexual relationship, direct communication between all partners is crucial. You might be able to establish that she's interested in bondage or dominant/submissive play by picking up on hints or post-sex talk as suggested above, but this should be followed up by a conversation in a non-sexual context about your boundaries, what you're willing to try and what you don't want to do under any circumstances, and how you will let each other know if a sexual situation becomes uncomfortable or overwhelming for either of you. Using a "yes/no/maybe" checklist can be a great way to get this conversation started. One of my favorite websites, Scarleteen [http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/yes_no_maybe_so_a_sexual_inventory_stocklist], has an extremely comprehensive one, while Austin's That Other Paper [http://thatotherpaper.com/austin/yes_no_maybe] has one of the many BDSM-oriented versions that you can find on the Internet.

You can also enlist the help of some other communication props, like erotic books or games. Get a copy of a book like Best Lesbian Bondage Erotica or Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 and mark a story or passage that you like with a note saying, "I'd like to try this with you," and give it to her. Find a lesbian-specific or gender-neutral "truth or dare"-style game that requires players to share their fantasies, or role-playing games that have one person play a dominant role and the other submissive, and have fun playing them with her.

There's no one "best way" to talk about new types of play with a partner; the best way for you will be the one that feels most comfortable and natural. It can be hard to overcome shyness, but you'll be well rewarded for your efforts!

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to
laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the
Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.