Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of columns discussing healthy relationships and sex lives from The Daily in partnership with the Gender + Equality Center, Goddard Health Center and Norman’s Adam & Eve. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Sex can be awkward.
Talking about it, asking questions, the intimate act itself. This awkwardness, though, sometimes prevents us from knowing what we need to before it happens.
The Daily spoke with Lennox Ryerson-Gonzalez, co-owner of Norman’s Adam & Eve, about what people should think about or need to know before having sex and how to spice it up in the bedroom.
The workers at Adam & Eve are certified sexual health associates, Ryerson-Gonzalez said.
Valentine’s Day is coming up and people can get pretty nervous about what it means and celebration. How would you recommend people approach the conversation about maybe having that night as the night to have sex, if they haven’t before?
That’s a complex question ... It’s as blunt as it gets. I use a lot of analogies: if you were going to buy a car, you would ask 10,000 questions. "Is this the right car for me?" And people, it’s the same thing: "Is this the right partner for me?" ... You really have to first do a lot of introspective questioning, for lack of a better word, and find out what’s important to you as a person, what kind of partner you’re looking for ... You can go to a car lot and see this beautiful-looking car. (It could have) the right color, it’s got the right height, tires, all the bells and whistles. Then you get in, and the radio doesn’t work, the speed dial is broken, the seats have holes in them. It’s the same thing with a partner.
This is for a person who’s looking for a life partner. Once ... everybody clicks, you can start talking about the sex part. But don’t just go all out and do everything. Now that we’ve established that we’re compatible, how are we compatible sexually?
That is the biggest conundrum right there because let’s say the person that you’re with isn’t the most experienced. What do they know? They’re not going to tell you that they don’t know a lot because who wants to say that? "Oh, I don’t know anything. I’m not selling myself now I’ve got you hooked on my appearance ... and now you’re talking to me about sex, I’m going to sound like an idiot. Now I’m going to start looking unattractive, no matter how cute I look."
Once you get there, and you’re starting to see compatibility ... you can start introducing toys or intimate play without actual penetration, or anything like that. Hopefully you’re not going to regret that by the end of that experience, but now there’s a risk of one person getting attached to the other because we put so much importance to sex. And sex is important, it really is, and a lot of people ... once somebody lets you do that, you’re like, "They love me because they let me do that," and that may not be the case, and complications begin.
For somebody who’s wanting to ... try sex (on Valentine's Day), don’t go to third base right away. Talk to that person, feel them out — not physically — to see what their thoughts are on sex, what it is they would like to do, and see if that’s even compatible with your world. Then start exploring safely with each other before you let your bodies become one.
Get toys — there’s games out there that let you be intimate with actual penetration. If you want to take it to the penetration side of things, then get a dildo or something like that where there’s no risk of somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing ... If somebody wants to do a blowjob, get a stroker, masturbater and just do it that way. Don’t go 100 all of a sudden. Take it slow because that’s where you’re going to find out "this is not OK, this is OK, I like this, I didn’t." And talk about it. Not pillow-talk talk about it, but next time you see each other just, "Hey, what did you think about that?" Just communication. Communication is key in any relationship.
If a couple, or two people, have talked about and been safe and communicated with each other, and they’re ready for penetration, what should they expect?
Mishaps is the best way I could put it. If you haven’t had sex ed or parents that taught you things, most of us learn about sex through porn ... Don’t expect too much, that’s the best way to put it. You’re going to be like a kid in the candy store: you’re going to want to try everything and anything that you might’ve seen in movies or online or read or whatever, and that’s totally fine. But don’t try to do it all at once because that’s going to make for a potential bad experience, and you’re going to be turned off.
Just imagine just being on the receiving end of that. You’re like, "OK, we’ve gone through all the dating stuff and whatever, and now I’m ready for this," and all of a sudden it’s like a bucket of water. It’s just so much coming your way, and you can’t even get your head above that water ... If you’ve talked about it and everything like that, I would just go slow. The masturbation thing, mutual masturbation. You still are able to penetrate that person’s body.
If you’re into anal play, then do it that way, but don’t expect too much, just take it slow. Let your body tell you where it wants to go, and if it doesn’t want to go there, you need to be OK with not going there. Remember, you’re in control of your body. Do not let somebody talk you into something ... because you don’t want to seem like the asshole and you want to be the nice person.
Good giving and game is great when you have an established relationship. You’re good with things to go, you’re giving because you are able to give selflessly to your partner and you’re game for anything. But it’s OK to say, "I’m not. I didn’t like that type of thing." Just take it slow, and I’m not talking about penetration taking it slow — it’s just subject. Whatever your mind tells you ... there (are) many things you can use in your body that you can use to penetrate somebody else that doesn’t include using your penis. Expect failure; perfection comes after practice. Perfection with a little asterisk — there’s no such thing as perfect sex.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all. A blanket statement, no, but I can say evaluate the situation before you go running into something that could potentially be negative for the both of you. Even if you’re not looking for that life partner, and you’re just two people, which is fine ... the dynamics are still kind of the same because that person has emotions and so do you. Just be responsible and be realistic. Rome was not built in one day.
We got a question about same-gender sex and how to be safe with that. Is it the same recommendation of taking it slow and are there other factors that should be considered?
I would definitely encourage them to come into our store, first of all. All of us are certified for sexual health. It would be based on an individual basis. If I was just to say, "This is what you need to do," it’d be pretty much the same thing ... If you’re planning on having sex with somebody, there’s nothing wrong with saying, "Here’s my (STD/STI testing results from the health department)." If you’re going to be sharing yourself like that with somebody, I think it’d be great and responsible for both parties to have those papers.
To my same-sex brethren, it’s difficult because you’re dealing with somebody else who has possibly dealt with the same adversities. It’s not going to be as easy or trustful. If you’ve gone through some difficult relationships, that makes you very apprehensive of getting with the next person.
For the couples who’ve been together for a long time and they’re looking for something to spice things up, what would you recommend?
It is simpler than people think it is to spice things up. Think of your normal day. We all wake up, we have our routine in the morning. The critical moment right before you’re about to leave for work, school, whatever, something changes in that routine, just a tiny little bit ... You go out the door, you get in your car, you’re gone (and forget your phone). Your whole day is now destroyed because of that one little change.
It’s a ripple effect. One little thing throws your whole day off. If we apply that same mentality to the bedroom, it’s the same thing. Change one, tiny, little thing, and I can guarantee you it’s ... a routine. You’re breaking the routine. It’s as simple as putting a blindfold on your partner.
For spicing things up and not knowing what to try, Ryerson-Gonzalez recommends the website Mojo Upgrade. The free site allows users to choose the gender and rate intimate acts on a scale of "not interested," "if my partner is interested" and "absolutely interested." The person’s partner also answers the questions and the website gives you the common interests. Users must be 18 or older to use the site.
Adam & Eve is located at 218 E Main St. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.