Once you’ve taken on a sexual role, it can be hard to shake. Photo: Christal Yuen
When you’ve been having sex with the same person for a while, whether in a committed partnership or a strictly sexy relationship, it can be all too easy to slide into a particular sexual role. Living in a patriarchy, dominant societal narratives about masculine and feminine traits undoubtedly follow us into our sex lives. Whether you’re heterosexual or part of the LGBTQ+ community, traditional gendered thinking and action can play a part in the sex you’re having.
Dominant, passive, freaky, demure… these traits are societally bound to particular gender roles that we take on in the bedroom. The trick to maintaining a fun, interesting, and equitable sex life is to not let a particular gender role stick. Here’s how to make sure you don’t get stuck in a particular sexual role.
1. Get comfortable initiating when you want — and saying “no” when you don’t
Sexual gender roles are at play, even before foreplay. If one partner is often put in a subordinate sexual role where their pleasure takes a back seat, that partner may feel that they don’t have the power or sexual status to initiate sex when and how they want to. On the flip side, when one partner’s pleasure takes precedence over the other’s, the person in the subordinate role may feel obligated to engage when the dominant partner starts getting frisky.
Break the passive/aggressive dynamic by being truly honest with yourself and your partner about how and when you want to have sex. If your partner is making moves and you’re not feeling it, avoid making excuses. It should be more than enough to simply say that you’re not in the mood. When you are feeling it, make your desire known rather than waiting for your partner to pick up on subtle vibes. Guaranteed, they’ll appreciate it.
2. Develop your own sexy alter-ego
If you’re tired of the gender role you’ve been playing in bed, come up with a new one. It might feel like a forced exercise at first, but a surefire way to break out of the role you’ve been playing is to create something entirely different. Take the time to sit down and think about the sexual role you want to play. Develop that role into a fully-fleshed character that you can slip into at any time. That way, you’ll have a go-to that gets you out of your own skin quickly and easily.
If roleplay isn’t your thing and you’d rather strive for personal authenticity, take the same time to think long and hard about how you want to act and be treated during sex, and communicate what you discover to your partner.
3. Take turns leading
Especially in a long-term relationship, it can be easy to slide into the role of gendered sexually passive or sexually aggressive partner. We’ve all heard this in various forms from friends during brunch confessions and wine bar whining — “They never initiate,” or “Sex always starts exactly the same way.”
Consciously decide to share the responsibility when it comes to who leads during sex, rather than putting the onus on one partner. For type-A control freaks, taking the backseat can be liberating. For those who are used to the back seat, being behind the wheel can be totally empowering.
4. Get rid of the "ladies first" rule
Nearly every sexual encounter we see in film, on tv, and in porn follows a careful formula: foreplay for him, maybe some for her, they have sex, she comes, he comes. End of encounter. Too often, we play out the same routine in our sex lives, simply because it’s been drummed into our societal consciousness. In LGBTQ+ relationships too, it can be easy to take on that old-school chivalrous thinking.
A simple way to break that routine is by killing the stereotype of who should get off first. Try together towards mutual satisfaction or make a conscious effort to pay homage to the rhythms of your and your partner’s pleasure, rather than forcing yourself back into a predictable pattern.
5. Embrace the new
As far as sexy advice goes, this one’s an oldie but a goodie. Nothing breaks up a routine or role faster than introducing a new locale, positions, game, or toy. When it comes to choosing what to introduce, the more you push your boundaries, the further you’ll get away from the role you’ve been playing. So that vibrating cock ring and wrist restraint set you’ve been eyeing? Bring them home, and try to stick to your old routine. We dare you. P.S. This one is our favorite.
6. Take charge of your pleasure
At the end of the day, it’s on your to make sure you’re having the sex that you want to have. Don’t look to your partner to switch up your routine. If you want change in the bedroom, take the lead. Especially if initiating that conversation feels uncomfortable, you’re on the right track. Routines and roles are about feeling comfortable. Breaking out of your comfort zone and breaking your sexual role? They’re one and the same.
As with all sexual advice, we recommend you sample this list à la carte — a little of this, a little of that, one dish, or none, it’s entirely up to you. What works for you when it comes to breaking out of defined roles in the bedroom is entirely a matter of trial and error. Keep the lines of communication open both with your partner and with yourself while you’re experimenting and you’ll be miles away from your old character in no time.