Dear VE,

I recently started dating someone and we get along really well. He’s about ten years older than I am but he is far less sexually experienced, in part because he is still in the closet. We’re still too early on in our relationship to have anal sex but we have had oral sex. Normally I love oral sex, both receiving and giving, but my guy just can’t seem to get it right. Given his tricky social situation, I don’t want to critique him too much lest he give up completely. What advice can you give someone who desires mutual oral pleasure but doesn’t quite know how to breach the topic of improvement?

— Orally Frustrated in Orleans

Dear Orally Frustrated in Orleans,

I know you have good intentions here. I understand that you see your guy’s tender, newly gay heart and don’t want to add to his pain. I really do. And I don’t think you’re doing yourself or your guy any favours by keeping quiet.

There’s an unfortunate, prevalent myth that being “good at sex” means being a mind reader. There’s a second, related myth that talking about sex is an immediate mood-killer. Neither of these things are true. But put together, they make us believe that expressing what we want in bed is a hurtful act that will kill our sex lives.

Realistically, talking about sex helps you learn more about how to please each other. Good lovers are mainly people who want their partners to feel good. They understand that everybody is different and will appreciate some gentle guidance in learning how to get you off.

So try not to think of this as telling him what he’s doing wrong but rather that you’re just letting him know what good, hot sex is to you. Food might be a helpful comparison here; you’re not telling him that he’s a terrible chef, you’re just letting him know that you like spicy food but don’t like green olives.

It can be a little easier on a lover when you ask for more of the things you love, instead of focusing on what he’s doing wrong. “I hate when your mouth is dry when you go down on me” might be a little ego-bruising. “It feels so fucking good when you cover my cock with lube and then take me deep in your mouth” is both excellent instruction and really hot dirty talk. Make sure to follow it up with some positive reinforcement. An “ohhhh,” a “yeeaaahhh,” or a “yes, just like that!” will do fine.

Outside of the bedroom, make it a regular habit to talk about sex so that you’re not having “a talk” only when something’s going wrong. Bring up hot sex scenes in TV shows or movies you watch together and share what turned you on. Or download an app like Kindu or Honi and let their suggestions help you get the conversation going.

Finally, make plans to learn more about sex together. Buy a book and read it at the same time or make a date to attend an oral sex workshop with each other. Overall, let this situation be an opportunity that leads to more intimacy and better, hotter sex.

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This article first appeared in Vol. 9, No. 5 (February/March 2017).