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Are You "Sex Shaming" Your Partner?

Shame has no place in sex. On any level.

Sex

Not too long ago, while being interviewed, someone asked me how (or maybe they meant why) I was so comfortable talking about sex. More specifically my own sex life. That's kind of a layered answer. One, I'm pretty open, in general. Two, it's been a billion years since I've had sex. And three, when you're a relationship writer, it's kind of par for the course that the more, let's go with the word "authentic", your content is, the easier it is for folks to receive it. Where exactly am I going with this?

Well, in the effort to really drive the point home with this piece, I'm gonna provide you with a bit of a TMI tale. Recently, I watched a video from a YT channel called Cey & Jai (Jai is actually Joycelyn Savage's younger sister, by the way). The channel features a couple who pranks each other from time to time. On this one, Jai is pretending to talk to a friend of hers about Cey having a "shrimp" (talk about triggering somebody and Cey was indeed triggered!). Anyway, it caused me to reflect on a past sex partner and the first time I saw his, uh member.

Y'all, I didn't mean to yet back then, I had far less of a filter than I do now. Anyway, when I looked at it for the first time, the first thing that came out of my mouth was, "So, that's it?" I promise that didn't mean to yet oh, the devastation that was on his face. The real tripped out part is when it comes to vaginal orgasms, I've had the most with him to-date. Moral to the story—sex shaming someone is super foul and two, check out "BDE: Please Let The 'It Needs To Be Huge' Myth Go" sometime. A married friend of mine is quick to say that a big d—k ain't always all that it's cracked up to be.

So, let's talk a little bit about sex shaming, shall we? Personally, I think it's something that doesn't get discussed enough which is fascinating because I deal with couples all of the time who do it to their partner on some level—and it's costing them the kind of great sex that both of them truly deserve.

If you're curious to know if you're someone who is a bit of a sex shamer (or if your partner may be slick sex shaming you), here are a few questions that can help you to get down to the bottom of things, so that you can switch up your behavior. Because if there are two words that should absolutely never go together at the end of the day, it's "sex" and "shame".

Are You Making Comparisons?

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I believe I've shared before that there's a couple that I know who were virgins when they got married (yep, both of them). They are going on two decades at this point. Anyway, one time I asked the wife if she's ever wondered if her husband is actually good in bed. She simply responded with, "I mean, he's great to me. I don't have anything else to compare it to." If you're a virgin reading this, that's a great incentive to wait until you meet "your one" because when you've had multiple partners, not—pardon the pun—sizing everyone up is actually pretty difficult to do.

I mean, a part of the reason why I said what I did to ole' boy is because I had already seen quite a few penises that were much larger than his was (check out "14 Lessons I've Learned From 14 Sex Partners" and "Sex Hacks For Different Kinds Of Penises (You Heard Me Right)"). And because, on the onset, I had a bit of a bias, it caused me to assume that just because he wasn't "packin'", he wouldn't be able to provide me with pleasure. That absolutely wasn't the case.

Again, if you've got a sexual past, making comparisons kinda comes with the territory. Still, if you're doing it so much that it hinders you from being open to what your current partner can do to make you happy, low-key, there is some sex shaming happening, for sure.

Do You Nitpick When It Comes to Their Body?

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Listen, I'm a woman and I'll still be the first one to say that oftentimes, we are notorious for hypocritical double standards. Let a man "rate us" (like y'all ain't seen a Kevin Samuels YouTube video before) and it's an unforgivable sin. Oh, but we'll be the first in line to say we don't like short men, men with small(er) penises or we'll clown a man if he's got a gut or something else that's not appealing when it comes to our personal likes and preferences. How is that any different?

Is there something wrong with having a type? No, there isn't. Yet the point here is if you want to avoid being a sex shamer (and hopefully, you absolutely do), it's important that you practice the golden rule. If you don't want to feel judged or that your partner is being overly critical about your looks/body, don't be that way towards them.

And what if there is something about them that is a total turn-off like maybe you didn't realize that they are hairier than you can handle or there's some type of hygiene/personal upkeep issue that's going on? First, definitely don't bring it up during the act and secondly, still deliver your thoughts in a way where they can receive it. Be kind. Be considerate. Don't bark directives; make suggestions or requests. No one wants to feel constantly critiqued by their sex partner. The good news about this point is you have control over if this happens or not, a lot more than you initially might think.

Are Your Expectations Unfair or Unrealistic?

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I like checking out what YouTube calls "the manosphere". Contrary to the assumption of a lot of women (insert eye roll here), women cannot speak for men—only men can do that. Well, something that several of them have brought up as of late is how a lot of thick women don't seem to date men similar to them. It's like guys get ridiculed if they don't desire a woman of a certain size while those same women ignore men who are larger themselves (that's a checkmate, whether we want to accept it or not).

Personally, I'm not trying to cram any preference down anyone's throat. You like what you like and I'm too beautiful to try and convince you to see me that way. All good. At the same time, though, I do think that we should be realistic when it comes to what we expect from someone. On the looks tip, why would you feel entitled to someone being in better shape than you are? And on the sex tip, it's totally unfair to want a guy to look or act like someone else from your past or to mimic someone who you may be currently fantasizing about. It's also ridiculous to think that every sexual experience is going to be like some sex scene you saw in a movie or music visual. Or like what you experienced with someone prior to your current situation.

Real talk, the best sex isn't even just about the mechanics of the act. It's about having a great chemistry, a good connection and a willingness to learn each other's bodies—including what makes each other tick—together. Expecting stuff to work out perfectly or immediately is about as unrealistic as they come. It can also cause you to put unnecessary pressure onto you as well as your partner. And that could cultivate certain feelings of shame; especially on your partner's end.

Do You Embarrass Them When You Discuss Them with Other People?

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Sex is private. It's intimate. And honestly, it's really not anyone else's business. Not the extreme details of it all, anyway. And here's the thing—something that I find to be interesting about both men and women is when they don't really give AF about their partner, they will call up their friends and TELL IT ALL. Oh, but when they truly care about the individual, they seem to have very little to say. Know why? Because they value the person's feelings and the relationship a whole lot more than they do when it comes to some…random.

I talk about sex, pretty much for a living. I know for a fact that some of my past partners couldn't care less if I even mentioned their name (because we've discussed it before). Maybe it's because some of them know that they would receive the highest praise. I dunno. Still, even with as candid as I am about this topic, I'm not out to humiliate anyone.

This is definitely something to think about if you're good for giving play-by-plays with your homies about your sexual encounters. If whatever you're about to say, you know for a fact would embarrass your partner if they were present, maybe rethink bringing that up. Because sometimes shame can boomerang. In this case, I mean you might end up with someone who puts your business out in the streets too. Pretty sure that's not something that you want to ever transpire. Because…see paragraph one of this particular point.

Do You Fake Orgasms?

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I know some of y'all are team "faking it". I absolutely am not. I don't know how in the world that anyone can get better in their performance if they already think that they are killin' it because I am lying the entire time. And while this might seem like an odd thing to mention when it comes to sex shaming, here's where I'm going with it. I work with couples where the wife (usually more than the husband) is sho 'nuf faking it. Some of them have been doing it their entire marriage. Others do it in order to rush their partner (because he is the opposite of a minute man, if you know what I mean) or because they aren't really in the mood. Whatever the motivation is, if you do it too long, it can cause you to become resentful and that is what can lead you to start shaming your partner—saying slick ish, making excuses not to have sex, avoiding afterplay so that you can go somewhere else and "handle yours" (again, if you know what I mean).

Besides, while orgasms are awesome (no doubt), sex can still be really good without having one (or several) every single time you engage. If you make sex more about enjoying your partner (as they enjoy you) rather than reaching a climax all of the time, both of you can feel more at ease and that can make orgasms easier to achieve. Full circle.

Are You Freezing Them Out?

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You know, it's interesting that some of the synonyms for shame include confusion, irritation, degradation, self-disgust, guilt, contempt and humiliation. And honestly, I think this is the best way to end this particular piece. One of the worst ways to sex shame your partner is to say or do things that would cause them to feel any of the words that I just said—and oftentimes, it's freezing them out (making excuses to not have sex, pushing them away, neglecting their needs on a continual basis) that can cause that to happen.

At the end of the day, sex is a top tier form of communication. And great communicators strive to make the people they're interacting with feel heard and felt. No greater goal should happen in the bedroom, don't you think? Be intentional about affirming your partner. Express your desire for them to do the same for you. It's a surefire way to avoid sex shaming—on so many levels, sis.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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