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What If You & Your Partner Aren't On The Same Level Sexually?

Should I stay or should I go?

Sex

So, you and your partner aren't on the same level sexually...what do you do? Well, it depends. There's isn't one answer to this, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Ordinarily, when we talk about not being on the same level sexually, it is in reference to sex drives not being in sync. But sexual incompatibility can go beyond sex drives. In fact, two people can be sexually incompatible for a variety of reasons. Things like experience, patience, communication, love language, and even who your partner is to you and how you define that can come into play.

While some people might be able to drop the situation like a bad habit, others might find themselves in more committed partnerships like a long-term relationship or a marriage. If that's your reality, what's the solution? To further shed light on the conversation around being sexually incompatible, I asked four people who have experienced being on different levels sexually than their partners, and it went like this.

Angie, 25

When it came to Angie's experience, she felt like she didn't have enough. She had been dealing with a sexual partner who treated sex like a chore and got straight to it — no foreplay, kissing, or any physical build-up to sex. "He would call me, we would smoke and that was everything that gave me that feeling," she explained. "I wanted foreplay. I wanted everything and I didn't know how to come out and say I need more sexually."

As a solution, she brought the issue to his attention. She explained that she needed more to get her in the mood so that she could fully enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, he never made any improvements or attempts to fulfill her needs and she felt like it was starting to affect her sex drive.

"You just need that energy to feed off of and if us just smoking is the only thing giving me that drive, I can't give you anything else. If he gave me that energy back, it could have been a really good experience. Why would I give you all of this and you're giving me the bare minimum?"
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Donny, 30

With Donny, he experienced this in two different situations. The first time it happened, he was dealing with someone who wasn't on his level sexually. He felt prior to leading up to sex it had been overhyped and when it finally happened he was disappointed because the talk didn't match the action. "Sometimes women talk their sh*t like, 'You're not ready for this' or 'I'm going to put it on you' and when the time comes you don't know what you're doing. She was off her game."

"Maybe we weren't flowing, but the second time around you need to bring your A-game. It didn't happen and I just chalked it up to maybe she didn't have that many sexual partners."

As for a solution, he never found one. It goes back to what I mentioned earlier about the solution depending on who your partner is. For both, this was a casual thing, so he didn't care to tell her or try to resolve it. However, there were cases where he saw things could be better and sent suggestions. He explained, "I'll send some links and gifs that will spice it up. I'll say, 'This looks fire, you think we could try it?' or something like that before I tell you it's wack. We all have the internet and I've learned how to use it to my advantage."

On the other hand, when he was dealing with someone who was older and more experienced, he found it fun and it made him appreciate the experience even more. "It was exciting and exhilarating because shorty went into at least two or three positions that I wasn't really ready for. She kind of wrapped her legs around my waist and did like a handstand but was still throwing it back. I was somewhere in between trying not to nut because it's so lit and figuring out what I can do to challenge this because I didn't really have any moves."

With this, there wasn't a solution either. He couldn't keep up with her and didn't pursue the sexual relationship any further.

"She bodied me. She definitely told me about myself and had every right to. She was like, 'I don't know if I can give this to you again.' This is why I don't do the bragging and I keep it super humble."
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Ron

Ron also experienced not being on the same level as his previous partner. At the time, he was younger and less experienced than his partner. During their sexual relationship, he wasn't quite comfortable with all of the things his partner wanted. She wanted things that he didn't know if he was ready for. "It became an uncomfortable situation because she wanted oral, anal, and all these different things, and I was just on the first step. So it can feel like the person is taking the lead or you're not pleasing them and it becomes more of a chore instead of an experience with one another. It was definitely uncomfortable. I think that that definitely ruined the relationship."

Before things went south, he did make an effort to salvage the relationship while trying to find a solution that would please both of them. When Ron brought up the issue, his partner started to compare him to her other partners. Unfortunately, things continued to get even more uncomfortable and they ended up going their separate ways. Although they didn't find a solution, he learned a lot from the experience. Ron explained:

"If there was more patience, more of a gradual growth towards things, and open-mindedness about the situation in the first place before anything occurred, I think that I could have understood more of where she was and she would have understood where I was instead of having expectations for one another."

He also learned that when it comes to sex and dealing with people, there's so much that correlates with it and people's sex drives. If you really want to make things work, you may have to sacrifice some things, be understanding to your partner, and have a level of patience if finding a solution is important to everyone involved.

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Mone, 33

Last but not least, I was able to speak with Monet and she highlighted the importance of listening to your body. She emphasized that being spiritually aware and attuned with your body and vagina allows you to get a better sense of what your vagina wants. She continued, "I'm a very spiritual person and I do a lot of meditating with my vagina, so me and my vagina are on the same page. I can literally hear when she's not interested in something and so she will literally tell me, 'Yo, this is not where I want to be and this is not what I want to be doing'."

In a time where she was sexually incompatible with her partner, she felt one of the reasons was because she rejected what her vagina was telling her. She explain the experience like this, "We were really cool, we had a great relationship as far as being able to communicate [and have] great energy. It was like a best friend relationship but there was chemistry. So we did decide to try to make it into a sexual relationship, but the energy when we started to get intimate was thrown off. There was no chemistry, it was awkward, and it became a forced situation."

Monet ended up ending the sexual relationship and because she realized this is not what her vagina nor body wanted. She ignored what her body was telling her and learned that she need to be more disciplined with what her body was telling her and try not to force anything.

"We can be spiritual our whole lives, have that intuition, and a voice within us but until you become spiritually aware with that voice, able to really listen to it, and be disciplined enough to listen to that voice, a lot of decisions that put you in situations you don't want to be in can be avoided if we just listen to our intuition and voice."

You may not have to end every relationship, but knowing when to say when is paramount. Additionally, with each interview, communication has proven to be key when overcoming a situation with sexual incompatibility. It's important to communicate what you're feeling (or not feeling) with your partner and determine if sexual incompatibility is something you both are willing to work through.

If sexual incompatibility is something you want to work on with your partner, here are a few things to consider:

Having patience

You'll need to understand that finding a solution won't be easy and it will take some time. You have to have patience and move at a pace that both of you are comfortable with.

Exploring other forms of physical intimacy

If getting in the mood is an issue, there are many ways to feel stimulated aside from penetrative sex. You can explore different types of physical intimacy like kissing, cuddling, massaging, etc. to reinforce sexual activity. Start with this and add more once the time feels right.

Creating a sex menu

You can also explore different sex postions and activities. Whether this be solo or together, there are ways to improve sex and find a happy medium where both partners are satisfied.

Rethinking monogamy

If none of these options seem to work, you may also want to consider rethinking monogamy. There are several options like polyamory, open relationships, or even inviting others to the bedroom (threesomes). Be open-minded when it comes to finding a solution that works best for you and your partner.

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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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