Sex, Party of 1 (NSFW)
We’re all doing it, and if we’re being honest, we all have questions about it. Jaime is joined by sexologist Michelle Hope and, together, they answer listener questions about everything from spicing things up during quarantine to feeling sexy at any age. Plus: what to do if you and your partner have opposing sex drives and how to ask for what you want…even when it’s scary.
FYI: Tell Me What To Do contains mature language and themes that may not be suitable for all listeners.
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[00:39] Jaime Primak Sullivan: Hey, guys, you’re listening to Tell Me What To Do. I’m Jaime Primak Sullivan, writer, producer and host of the digital series Coffee Talk. For those of you who watch my Bravo show Jersey Belle, you know, I moved from the north to the south for love. I married Michael and we are now the parents to three beautiful children. So this week, in true Jaime fashion, let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. You guys didn’t think you were gonna get through this without hearing me sing, did you? When I first put out a general call for questions, a lot of you came back to me with questions about sex. And that’s what I love about this community. I got questions about sex drive, monogamy, sexual partners, bisexuality, open marriages. All of it. And a couple about the thumb in the butt. I’ll be direct messaging you when we are done with this podcast.
[01:40] Caller: Hi, Jaime. I am calling to see if you can help me out. My partner and I are pretty sexually incompatible, but every other aspect of our relationship is incredible. I feel like my sex drive is way higher than his is, and I’m often left feeling unfulfilled when he doesn’t reciprocate or initiate as often as I would like. Jaime, Tell Me What To Do.
[02:13] Jaime Primak Sullivan: Thank you so much for calling and leaving a voicemail. That is what makes this show run. So thank you, thank you, thank you. Also, this is so hard and I totally feel your pain. In fact, this is exactly what I feel with Michael. Michael and I have an interesting relationship dynamic. I’m a Libra, Scorpio cusp, kind of all over the place. Big Dick Energy, whatever you want to call it. He’s an Aquarius. Sort of don’t look at me. Don’t touch me. Don’t talk to me. I’ll let you know when I need something. My love language is physical touch, his love language is acts of service. I didn’t make this up. This is brilliant work developed by Gary Chapman, and he lines it all out in his bestselling book, The Five Love Languages. We can put all that information in the show notes, but the five love languages are physical touch, verbal affirmation, gifts, quality time and acts of service. Let me tell you a little something about physical touch and acts of service. They could not be at further ends of the street. One goes, “Touch me. Touch me. Touch me.” And the other one is “Please, I’ll do anything for you if you don’t ask me to touch you.” Literally, I am married to the man who would rather take my house down to the studs and rebuild it than stick his finger in my ass. And honestly, it has nothing to do with how much he loves me. He loves me. I am his person. He wants to grow old with me and raise grandbabies with me and die with me. He just is not the person who likes to be touched.
[03:42] Jaime Primak Sullivan: It’s just not his jam. And I don’t understand people who don’t like to be touched, because it is literally the way I give and receive love. It’s like a thing. I don’t know if it’s Italian maybe. Or it’s my sign. I don’t know. Is it a Jersey thing? I honestly don’t know. All I know is I want to hug. I want to kiss. I want to hold hands. I want to flirt in the kitchen and pinch your booty. And all he can think is, don’t you see, I’m trying to wash the dishes? Get off me. And usually those roles are reversed. That’s what makes our marriage struggle so embarrassing, because typically it’s the man that is clamoring over the woman, touching her butt while she’s washing dishes, trying to get at her while she’s trying to get the kids ready and clean up from dinner. He’s trying to stick his hands in her pants and grab her boobs. And how many years I’ve heard my friends sort of whine about how their husbands always want to have sex. And internally, I was so full of shame. Like, why doesn’t my husband want that? How could he not want me? Does he not find me attractive? Does he have a Madonna complex because he’s Catholic? Like, what is it? Why doesn’t he clamor after me? How come he doesn’t want to finger me while I’m washing the dishes? And then I learned about love languages and realized it has nothing to do with how much he loves me or how much he needs me. It just isn’t his jam. And that’s why I’m doing this episode, because it is the heaviest cross I’ve had to carry in my marriage. And if I’m carrying it, I know someone else is carrying it to.
[05:29] Jaime Primak Sullivan: So since sex turns out gets extra weird and complicated in the midst of a pandemic, I decided to call in an expert. Hi, Michelle.
[05:40] Michelle Hope: Hello. Hello. Hello, how are you?
[05:43] Jaime Primak Sullivan: Michelle Hope is a dedicated sexologist. She’s an educator and an activist with a master’s degree in human development and extensive postgraduate training in sexuality. In other words, she’s our kind of girl. OK. So I want to get right to it. I have, I think, what is one of the more — I don’t want to say embarrassing, but I guess that really is the word — sexual dynamics in my marriage, in that my love language is physical touch and my husband’s love language is acts of service. He would be fine if we touched once a month. It has no bearing on his love for me. Doesn’t mean he’s not attracted to me. He just doesn’t like people clutching on him. And when he wants it, he wants it. But otherwise it feels a little overwhelming and almost annoying to him. That makes me feel like I’m not desired. I’m not wanted. I’m being rejected. This has been an ongoing struggle in our 15-year relationship. So while my head understands the different love language, how do I get my heart and my vagina to get it?
[06:53] Michelle Hope: Well, the thing about this is not everybody’s love language is the same, and what you’re experiencing is totally normal. Even as a sexologist, I’ve been in relationships with people who don’t have the same love language as I do. And I’m like you, Jaime. I am a, you know, touch me, honey, touch me. And I’ve been in relationships where people were acts of service, so they want to care for you. This is very nurturing and mothering, saying it’s all about providing you with acts that will help you better your life. Maybe it’s washing the dishes. Maybe it’s washing the car. Maybe it’s, you know, taking care of you in some kind of way and really recognizing that that is their love language is super important. And just knowing that it’s different than yours, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different.
[07:47] Michelle Hope: And it might require a little bit more work to really be on the same page. But the fact that you know your love language is different puts you in a space where you’re ahead of the game. Like you said, you recognize that the fact that the person doesn’t always want sex doesn’t mean they don’t love you. You know that. So that’s something you have to continue to remind yourself of, because sometimes we get all in our heads. Once you start to deeply understand the differences in your love language versus your partner’s love language, if you so happen to end up with someone who doesn’t share the same love language, you can start to identify what makes you feel sexy. I am somebody who loves a good touch. But a lot of my partners didn’t share that. So I had to really recalibrate what made me feel sexy and start honoring and celebrating that sensuality and that sexuality myself. And I did that through masturbation.
[08:48] Jaime Primak Sullivan: I hear what you’re saying. And I definitely think there’s some value to the masturbation thing, because I also think it is a release and it kind of reminds you, like, OK, everything’s still working. It all still feels good. But how do I turn that acts of service from doing dishes to, you know, like eating pussy? So, like, take what you want to do for me, you know — and I’m not trying to be vulgar or, like, blow people’s minds. I’m trying to keep it 100. Like, how do I take you have a desire to do something for me. And I love that about you. So the act of service needs to be to service your woman, like, her body. And you know what? Like I’m open to your advice if you’re saying it may never get there.
[09:31] Michelle Hope: You love your partner because you love your partner, and you don’t want to try to change them, or you would not be with them, because that was not the person you fell in love with. So accepting them for who they are is super, super important. And recognizing that just because their active service isn’t eating pussy, which, by the way, is not vulgar at all. We’re all grown. Fellatio and cunnilingus, honey, I love it. But really accepting your partner for who they are. Trying to change someone will only foster resentment. So you don’t want that. You want to focus on what they enjoy doing and then give them a reward. So you want to reward them when they do something you like. So say, “oh, babe, you know, the last time you washed the car for me, or the last time you did the taxes, or you took the kids out or you vacuumed or you wash the dishes or you folded the clothes, I really got turned on. And watching you provide for me in that way makes me really hot and it makes me want to do all kinds of dirty things.” And you start communicating that. So now you’re connecting what they enjoy doing through their acts of service to what turns you on.
[10:58] Jaime Primak Sullivan: Aha moment! I think that’s what I was missing. I do understand that positive reinforcement. We use it all the time. We use it with our kids. We use it with our dogs. And sometimes we forget that men just want to hear like that, what we just did, you just took all the stress away. I feel loved. I feel seen. I feel desired. Thank you for that. Because now he’s like, oh, I got it. Acts of service.
[13:50] Jaime Primak Sullivan: Michelle, what I love about this podcast is listeners get to ask us their questions. That to me is so important. It’s literally why I wanted to do this show. We have a question now that says. “How can I continue to feel sexy as my body goes through so many changes with age? I feel like a different person almost each year.” I can’t relate at all because my body is perfect.
[14:18] Jaime Primak Sullivan: I mean, what woman, whether you’ve had children or not, doesn’t get up and look in the mirror at 43 versus what she looked like at 23 and and doesn’t think, how do y figure out what sexy is? I think I definitely relate to that. I mean, I think I have a certain sexiness when it comes to Michael because I know what turns him on. But I’d be lying if I said that I don’t struggle with what is sexy for me when I’m looking at a body that looks completely different than it did even 10 years ago. I find that I start to fixate on parts of myself that I struggle with, like the backs of my arms. Like the bat wings, as they like to call them. I find that, you know, one of my boobs is higher than the other. And I don’t have, like, nipple accuracy and it bothers me. And it’s hard sometimes to, like, look at where you are physically now, you know, everybody wants to say things like just get out there and be sexy. Well, all right, where’s the advice on how to take flight with your bat wings and your uneven nipples? I totally, totally get this. But these are my thoughts. So, Michelle, what do you think?
[15:37] Michelle Hope: Oh, my goodness. This is an amazing question. And when you think about all that we are bombarded with in media and in news to tell us what’s supposed to be sexy, it can be a very confusing landscape. So there are a couple of things that you can do to really tap into your own sexiness. First and foremost, masturbation, masturbation, masturbation. It is good for the mind. It is good for the body. As somebody who has done sex education for 15 years, something I grapple with often is that we do not teach young women the importance of self-pleasure and masturbation. We’ll go on and on and on about how it’s totally normal for boys to masturbate, beat their meat, spank their wanker, all these things. But we don’t teach young women that masturbation is healthy. And I think that is a disservice to women.
[16:29] Jaime Primak Sullivan: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think that when we’re young, masturbation feels like such a shameful practice that we then have to fight an uphill battle as adults to go, no, this is really healthy for us. This is actually really good for us. This is what will contribute to us feeling sexy and sensual and confident, by the way. Because once you figure out how to get yourself off, and then you take the next step to get confident enough to tell the person you’re in bed with, male or female, this is what works for me, and I know because I tried it. Then you can say, here’s what feels good to me. I don’t need you scratching the ones and twos between my legs. I’m not a D.J. booth. What I need you to do is do it like this. And if you can show them and kind of guide them, they will — first of all, show me a man that’s not turned on by a woman touching herself, and I’ll show you a man who’s probably six feet under. Men love to see women touch themselves. Kyle is dying right now. There’s a good chance Kyle is going to die. But also, men, I’ll tell you what, in the world, they don’t like to be told what to do. In the bedroom, they live for it. Tell Me What To Do. But don’t Tell Me What To Do. Michelle, we have another question, another listener question. I love this, like my favorite part. OK. First, Michelle, I have to tell you, this question coming from a listener really to me is like it’s the sex question of the decade.
[18:14] Jaime Primak Sullivan: How do you establish a sexy mood when you’ve been in the same house with someone for months or years with little to no break? Whew. Little to no break that is real, folks. You want to kill sexy time? Force two people in a house together for months on end with little to no break. But I do think that there is a way. There’s got to be a way, Michelle.
[18:37] Michelle Hope: So here’s the thing. You have to really work at it. You know, people talk about relationships are work. And that’s true. Relationships are work. But maintaining a healthy sex life? Also work. because as we’ve kind of discussed, your desires change as you get older. The longer you’re with a person, you can end up in a rut if you’re not actively partaking in making sex better. You have to actively work at making sex good because you change as a person and your partner changes as a person. And it requires check-ins. So how do you establish a sexy mood when you’ve been in the same space and the same sex life with somebody for months or years? Well, you have to get creative. This is an opportunity for you to explore fantasy and desire. There is this really great exercise that I sometimes urge couples to do, whether new couples or old couples. For new couples, it’s great to establish boundaries. It’s called the “I will, I want, I won’t list.” And I’m going to make sure that you have access to the link. A grad student created it and it is 16 pages of all the things anybody could do sexually. And on the chart, it’s like, yes, no, maybe. You take one, your partner takes one, you fill it out, they fill it out, you come back together. I always say have a sex date. Grab a bottle of wine, maybe order a pizza. And you sit there and you have a deep conversation about all these things. Nonjudgmental. It’s my hope that couples will be able to tap back into the person we first started dating when everything was exciting and we got butterflies in our stomach. That’s why I encourage these very short conversations. Start with three minutes of what is fantasy? What would you want to do if there were no kids? It was just the two of you when you were first dating? Plan that vacation that is a fantasy vacation. What would you do? What would you wear? Where would you go? How would you engage with each other?
[20:47] Jaime Primak Sullivan: So first of all, I have to tell you, I’m smiling because I know that Michael would actually love that. Do you know that my husband, who has a very, very hard time looking me in the eyes and saying romantic, sexy things because he is so shy, does very well if I text him dirty things from the other room. If I text my husband dirty things from the other room — and I see you getting fired up — he gets so excited, he starts texting me back. I texted him a picture one time from New Jersey because I go home a lot, and it was a half naked picture of me and I said, all yours. And he wrote, damn right. And it was like the hottest exchange we had. I feel like it was just four words. All yours. Damn right. And it was like, oh, shit. OK, Michael.
[21:44] Jaime Primak Sullivan: So if you know that your man is going to have an issue with sexy-time face-to-face, he’s not great with the like look at me and start telling me all the nasty things you want to do because not every man is like for that game, you know? Try starting with something a little less aggressive. Text him from the other room. Go in your closet and send him a picture of you in your underwear. A selfie. Hey, try to find me. Hide and seek, baby. You know, we have a good time with stuff like that and I love what you said, Michelle, about planning a romantic vacation even if you never go on it. It’s so nice to talk about the things you want to do together, because what it does is it reminds you that this is the person you want to be walking on the beach with hand in hand. You want to be at a hotel with, ordering breakfast and drinking mimosas. It reminds you you want to have shower sex, that uncomfortable one leg up water washing all the wetness away. And let’s keep it one hundred folks, shower sex only really works in the movies. It does not really work in real life, let’s be honest about that. But it reminds you that this is the person you want to do those things with. It’s the person you sit with in the dark. I always say if the lights went out in this life, the only person I want to sit with is Michael Sullivan. And I mean that for real. And we do have our sort of sex hurdles and we have our intimacy things, but it’s conversations like this that remind me he’s the one I want to text. He’s the one I want to plan those erotic vacations with. Even if we never go. And I love what you’re saying, Michelle, and you’re opening my eyes and you’re opening my ears. And I know you’re doing it for our listeners. And I want to ask you one more question, because this speaks to me as a member of the LGBTQ community. Those of you who have listened to me for a long time know I dated women before Michael, and I would definitely date women after him. The question came in that said “sexual love language as a single bisexual female and letting go, learning how to ask for what you want, when some people have rejected your bisexuality.” So when I met my husband, I was in a relationship with a woman. Not a committed relationship, but I was dating her and I said it matter of factly.
[24:04] Jaime Primak Sullivan: He said, Are you seeing anyone? And I said, I’m seeing a couple of people. I’m seeing a guy here and I’m seeing a girl in California. And I waited for his response. And once I knew he was like, OK, she’s not kidding. This isn’t a phase. This is a thing for her. He had some questions. And I knew because if he had questions that he wasn’t opposed. Because curiosity says this door’s cracked. And so I let him go at his own pace. And what I will say to people who are bisexual, because it is such a beautiful but very unique space we are in, you have to let people go at their own pace. Because a lot of times we are most vulnerable when we are sexual. Let me say that again, we are most vulnerable when we are sexual, because what we are saying is I want to give you the most unique, beautiful part of myself. And the fear that you will reject that or won’t want that or won’t desire that or don’t want it, need it, whatever, is such a vulnerable place to be for women. And when it is your spouse or your partner or your true significant other or whatever you want to call them, when you feel that they may reject your desires, it can eat away at your self-esteem. I let it happen to me. I blamed having baby after baby after baby. That was the reason, that was the situation.
[25:39] Jaime Primak Sullivan: Everything was on pause. We were gonna get back to it. We were gonna do this. And the truth is that I realized I was avoiding all of the hard conversations because I was so vulnerable. I could not stand the thought of it being true that Michael didn’t desire me. Because when you make a commitment to someone. and you are in it till the wheels fall off, what are you going to do if that person decides they are not into you that way anymore? And it’s a level of vulnerability. And I don’t want to stray away from the bisexuality thing because I can speak to this, let people meet you where you are. And I can certainly speak to what to do if your husband or your wife is into it. But, Michelle, maybe you can leave them with one last thought. If they do get brave enough to say this is something I’d like to try, you know, I’ve always been attracted to women. How do you feel about inviting a woman into our relationship for a night or some bisexual porn, like you said, or whatever? And if they say that is a boundary for me, I am not into that. Then what?
[26:47] Michelle Hope: You know what, Jaime? You’re right. Respecting people’s boundaries is a super priority when it comes to healthy relationships. While your partner may be into something that you’re not into, really acknowledging and affirming and holding space for them so they know that their desires and their fantasies are OK. Although they might not be OK for you and you might not want to engage, finding alternative ways to hold that space and provide them the opportunity to be their most authentic self is what really helps to make relationships sustainable. And when it comes to sex, what your partner is into sexually, as long as it is consenting, does not impact who they are when they show up for you in a loving space or a loving way. Once you’ve identified what boundaries you have and what you’re willing to experiment with, then you have to really communicate openly and honestly and say this is a hard line for me. And once you’ve identified those hard lines, what are the negotiations beyond that? So if you’re not into a threesome, what does that mean? Does that mean you might be open to your partner having one without you? Does it mean you might start to engage in a threesome, but maybe you’re more of a sidelined teammate. It’s really up to you. But you have to be respectful of your partner’s boundaries, whatever they may be, and for whatever reason.
[28:16] Jaime Primak Sullivan: OK. And I just want to echo that. When you are in a relationship and you introduce anything, whether it’s bisexuality and another woman, whether it’s anal sex, whether it’s open marriage, whatever it is, you have to decide how badly you want to go down a road and then what your bench markers are. How far you’re willing to push — because I’ll tell you, there’s two sides of it. The rejection thing is terrible, but being pushed or jilted or shamed into doing something sexually you don’t really want to do is a terrible feeling. And I will tell you that Michael from the door, in my relationship with him when I was just his somewhat kinda sorta of Monday, Wednesday, Friday girlfriend. I wasn’t even his everyday, all day. He said, I respect you. It’s a little sexy, but I never want another woman in our bedroom. That’s my full stop. So you do you. I’ll never get in your way. I love it for you. That’s your jam. But it’s not mine and it never will be. And not until the day we got married, literally at our wedding when we were dancing, he was like, OK, so it’s just the two of us now. You got that, right? And I’m laughing because we’ve been engaged and together for like three years. And he basically was like, I’m letting you know this right here is my boundary. We’re married now. I’m making it crystal clear.
[29:59] Jaime Primak Sullivan: I want to thank Michelle Hope for coming on Tell Me What To Do. She said so many interesting things, but there are three things that I am going to take away from this. The first takeaway here, I think, is to learn how to love yourself. And that includes your total self. So, yes, obviously, that includes masturbation. And to find your own sense of sexiness, like what is sexy about you to you? That’s I think the key. It’s not what you want your partner to find sexy, but what do you find sexy about you? Because I’ll tell you right now, if Michael came up to me today and was like, I think the sexiest part about you is your upper arms, I would flick him right in his Adam’s apple, because that is not what I find sexy about me. And there is no way we’re doing some weird fetish thing with the back of my arms, like it’s not happening. The second thing is understanding your partner’s love language and not taking it personally. Working with it and saying how can I meet them where they are and bring sexy time to them? Like, go, OK, you want to wash dishes? Why don’t you wash dishes while I’m here with my boobs out? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers for that one, but I like the tip.
[31:30] Jaime Primak Sullivan: The third thing that she said that I absolutely loved is if you’re the one that wants the sex, you’re the one that’s gotta switch it up. So if you’re in a rut and you’ve been trapped in the house with the same person for three to five months, like we all have, switch it up. It’s on you, do the work. If you’re tired of getting embedded 10:30 and going, do we want to have sex? We kind of want to have sex. I’m so tired. All right. Forget it. We’ll wait till tomorrow. It’s your responsibility to start it in the morning. Switching it up, having sex in a different room. You know, the bedroom is cool, but have you ever had sex on a toilet? Sounds gross, but it’s dope. I’m telling you, go in a guest room, have sex on the stairs, when was the last time you had sex on your own back patio? Switch it up. I love that tip from Michelle. Such a good reminder for me. We just moved into a new house. I should be christening every room. And by the way, let me also tell you, I had to get past the notion that because Michael wasn’t initiating it, meant he didn’t want it. Oh, no, no, no. He has never said no to me in 15 years. Not once. I can initiate it every day, all day, 60 times, and he’ll say yes every time. So when my self-esteem starts to lie to me, when the devil gets a hold of my earpods and makes an emergency breakthrough, I have to let him know it’s not because he doesn’t want it. It’s just not his style. And sometimes even with sex, you’ve got to meet people where they are.
[33:08] Jaime Primak Sullivan: OK, guys, that’s it for today’s episode. I want you guys to tell me what questions you need answered and what topics you want to hear about. You can call us at 833-4LEMONADA, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget, when you leave me a voicemail, be sure to end it with “Jaime, Tell Me What To Do.”
[33:45] Jaime Primak Sullivan: Tell Me What To Do is a production of Lemonada Media. The show is produced by Kryssy Pease, and associate produced by Claire Jones. It’s edited by Ivan Kuraev. Music is by Dan Molad. Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jaime Primak Sullivan are executive producers. Rate and review us, and follow us @LemonadaMedia on all your favorite social platforms. Of course, you can follow me at Jaime Primak Sullivan on Facebook or at Jaime P. Sullivan on Instagram.