Ask Debby Herbenick | My boyfriend mixes up his dirty talk pronouns in bed
TOC's sexpert tackles your most penetrating questions.
Q Something’s been bothering me for a while now and I have to ask. I have a really, really good relationship with my boyfriend. He’s awesome, as is the sex. During sex we do a lot of dirty talking. The weird thing is that sometimes my boyfriend says things like “your dick” or “my pussy” even though he is the one with the dick and I am the one with the pussy. Usually he gets the pronouns right; it is only sometimes that he mixes them up. When he does this, I worry that he is imagining himself as a woman and me as a man, or that he is secretly gay or bisexual when he says things like “I want your cock” in my ear. I don’t correct him in the heat of the moment. Are these just innocent mix-ups or signs of something else?
A In all likelihood, your boyfriend’s sex snafus are indeed plain old vanilla mix-ups. However, if you want more clarity about the inner workings of his mind during sex, you’ll have to ask him directly. Are mix-ups common? Of course! Sex gets heated. Fantasies flash by, body parts smoosh against each other and juices flow. Thoughts run the gamut (everything from “this feels so good” to “ugh, I still have to do laundry after this!”), and let’s face it—brains work differently when a person is sexually excited than they do during more logical, rational moments. As such, mix-ups happen. People call their partners by the wrong name, they make uncontrollable moans and groans, and yes, sometimes people even switch some pronouns. Then again, sometimes people imagine themselves as the sex that they are not, or they imagine their partner as the sex that he or she is not, as part of fantasy. It does not necessarily mean that your partner wants to be another sex or that he wants you to be another sex, or that he is gay. People indulge in a range of fantasies while they are having sex: group sex, circle jerks, sex with strangers, sexual activities other than the types they are currently engaging in, and yes, sometimes even being a different person. If it bothers you, certainly check in with him; otherwise, relax, enjoy the ride, and let go of any worries about pronouns.
Q When do your pubes go gray? Mine are still black. The hair on my head is turning gray, though, and I was wanting to know when I could expect the hair down there to turn colors, too.
A Pubic hair tends to gray later than the hair on one’s head or, for men, face. The wide window begins sometime between one’s forties and sixties. Should you ever think about dyeing your pubic hair, please think again. Before taking the plunge, check in with a dermatologist or salon aesthetician first, rather than trying it at home. Thanks to gravity, hair dye on your pubes may drip downward and trust me, you do not want hair dye on your genitals. Handle with care and take good care of your parts.
Q I am a 57-year-old man. I started dating a 51-year-old woman about a year and a half ago. I am truly enamored with her. I was kissing her after a few dates and started to caress her breast. Right away she removed my hand. I was angry and let her know it. After thinking it over, I decided maybe I was rushing things (even though I am used to things going a lot further after a few dates). I sent her flowers and we continued going out on dates. Months later I commented about her kissing me like a brother (mouth closed). She said she never kissed her brother like that. I then told her she should go out with gay guys and stopped seeing her. I then met a woman almost 60 and we had sex almost immediately and she was orgasmic and happy. I didn’t feel a good connection, but she said as long as I could get her off it was okay to be friends with benefits. The emotional soon took over the physical and I could not get an erection or reach orgasm. I ended that relationship. I told the first woman about what had happened, and that I realized that sex was not the most important thing in a relationship. She was very happy to hear that, and now after six more months I finally got one adult kiss after a lot of beers and pleadings. She claims that because of menopause she has no desire for sex. I want to know if a doctor appointment might help. I am beginning to think it is a deeper problem. No real kisses or physical touching? She has never been married and says her last relationship was on and off again for 18 years. She also had a friends-with-benefits relationship that ended the same way as mine. Please advise me. I am tired of masturbating every day. I know this isn’t your age demographic, but you are gonna get there sooner than you think.
A When I first read your e-mail, I was struck by the anger you felt when your date removed your hand from her breast. Sure, it can hurt to be rejected—people commonly feel confused, frustrated, upset, embarrassed, sad or worried they’ve overstepped some boundary. But angry? What’s that about? You sent her flowers, but did you ever apologize, or talk about why she removed your hand or why you felt upset? Then, although you were frustrated for months with her closed-mouth kissing, rather than approach it with a gentle conversation, you criticized her for kissing you “like a brother.” While you are worried about “adult kisses,” I am focused on “adult conversation.” She finally talked to you about menopause and her lack of desire, and your response is to get her to change through beer, pleading or a trip to the doctor. Again, really? I understand if you are feeling hurt, rejected or frustrated. It is hard not to take it to heart when you find someone you feel so connected to, and yet you are unable to connect in the intimate way that you want to. I get that. It may be that her sexual desire can be increased through the use of hormonal therapy, other medical treatment (e.g., if depression or anxiety are to blame, different treatments may help), or sex therapy—but keep in mind, these are only options if your partner wants to feel more desire. What if she doesn’t? I think you two need to talk: How did she feel, sexually, in previous relationships? Did she enjoy her sexuality or did she sort of “go along” with things she didn’t enjoy? Many women in your generation did not receive information about sexuality as they were growing up that allowed them to accept their sexual feelings. That’s true even for some much younger women. More so than men, women are often raised with restrictions around enjoying and exploring their sexuality. Taboos may be so strong that some women have never seen or touched their own genitals—not even once. Consider reading Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty (Seal Press, $15.95). Though I realize you both are younger than 60, as you said to me, “you’re gonna get there sooner than you think.” The book does also focus on themes that are relevant to younger readers, too—I know several women in their 40s and 50s who have felt that this book helped them out.