In her new book An Intimate Life, sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene (the one portrayed by Helen Hunt in The Sessions) describes her work with a man who has been unable to get an erection with his wife. After much exploration, it is discovered that the source of his problem is a very simple one:
During oral sex, his wife hurts him with her teeth. But he’s been too worried about hurting her feelings to tell her.
The title of the chapter, “Going Oral,” refers to the difficult matter of finding the words to tell your wife what the problem is. Getting naked with a relative stranger turns out to be the easy part. Speaking frankly with one’s life companion is sometimes much harder.
As a sex therapist who spends most of every day talking with people about erotic feelings, I sometimes forget how shocking it can be for people simply to talk about sex.
Breaking the Vow of Silence in Bed
The same goes for talking during lovemaking. There appears to be an unwritten code of silence in bed. Of course there are times when it’s best not to talk — when it might disrupt an especially passionate moment. But there are also plenty of times when speaking in bed can be perfectly natural — once one acquires the knack.
As a sex therapist, when I suggest to a couple that they “go oral” in bed, they often look at me as if I’m from a strange planet. Most couples, having lived their entire erotic lives under the influence of the code of silence, are at first resistant to the idea, thinking it unromantic.
But I usually persist, and the results are very often positive. Sometimes it’s only after “going oral” that people become aware how much lovemaking was wasted doing things they didn’t really enjoy very much.
The College Rules
Legend has it that after a particular date-rape scandal on campus, a leading undergraduate college instituted a novel set of rules: If an undergraduate wanted to put any moves on a fellow student, he was required first to verbalize exactly what he wanted to do. He’d only be allowed to proceed if the other student gave verbal consent.
It was expected that these new rules would pretty much kill romance on campus. But according to legend the results were often positive. Hookups were described as being more fun.
Eros thrives when boundaries are crossed. People appreciate the daring it takes to cross the boundary of speech.
Breaking the erotic code of silence can require courage. But isn’t that true of most things that really matter?