Many times, I hear women say that they prefer to have sex in a particular way or that they have a preference for one position over the other.
Sometimes, it really is just a preference, where you like it one way more than another way. Other times, though, the word “preference” is code for “I don’t want to even try it.”
When you say you have a preference for sex in a certain way, what does that really mean? Have you worked to learn to tolerate it? Have you given it a real chance to become something you enjoy?
What does it even mean to have a preference for one sexual activity over another?
We can all understand preferences when it comes to food.
When I was a young child, I ate a strawberry when I had an upset stomach. I vomited, and from then on, the very idea of a strawberry made my stomach feel queasy.
Years later, someone gave me a bowl of pink ice cream. I ate it and liked it. When I found out it was strawberry ice cream, I was in disbelief. “No, it can’t be strawberry. I don’t like strawberry, but I liked this.” I couldn’t comprehend that what I had believed about my dislike of strawberries might not be true.
I still think of myself as not really liking strawberries. I will occasionally put strawberries on my plate without really thinking, only to look at them quizzically later, wondering why I’d put them there. And then I’ll take a bite, thinking how delicious it is and wondering why I don’t eat strawberries more often. It isn’t a food I think about. While I enjoy it when I’m eating it, it almost never occurs to me to choose strawberries when there are other fruits and berries available.
I hated fish when I was a child. My mom did her best to prepare it in a way I could tolerate, but it was my least favorite dinner. I would always ask for the smallest piece, douse it with some kind of sauce (I discovered that I could tolerate fish if I had 1000 Island dressing poured all over it), and pinch my nose while swallowing. Oh, how I hated fish, even in the form of fish sticks.
When I was at my friend’s house when I was in college, her mom had prepared fish for dinner, and out of politeness, I ate it. I was stunned. Not only did I not hate it, I actually kind of liked it. I began to order fish sometimes when I was at restaurants. I didn’t learn how to cook fish on my own, but it became a special treat I when I went out to eat.
Several years ago, I was out to eat with my parents. As I often do at restaurants, I ordered fish. My mom’s jaw dropped. As the primary witness to all my childhood drama about fish, she wasn’t even sure she’d heard me right. After a childhood of hating fish, I now liked it enough to choose it among many other choices.
I have an aversion to olives. Black or green, I can’t stand to be near them. I don’t like the way they look or smell. In fact, if they are part of a relish tray, I sometimes won’t even risk any of the other foods on the tray in case they’d come into touch with olives. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but I really can’t stand them.
Still, I force myself to try every so often. A couple times a year, I’ll see if I can stand to smell an olive without turning up my nose. After years of effort, I can now tolerate a few small pieces of black olive on a pizza. I am making almost no progress with green olives. Yesterday, my husband dropped one on the floor. I forced myself to pick it up with my bare hands. I held it about a foot from my nose to see if I could tolerate the smell. Nope. I threw it out and washed my hands with scented soap.
With a great deal of effort and time, I have learned to be somewhat more tolerant of black olives. Green olives are still a work in progress. I would be perfectly happy to never see an olive again.
A Change of Taste
When I was young, I would have said that I had an aversion to all three of these foods. Strawberries, fish, and olives simply did not belong in my presence.
However, I don’t have that same set of aversions as I once did. I now enjoy strawberries when I accidentally eat them. When I am at a restaurant, I have a preference for fish. I still dislike olives (a lot), but I can tolerate being in their presence even though I’d prefer not to be.
Our tastes can change over time. With frequent exposure, we can learn to tolerate something or even enjoy it. We may never come to prefer it over other things, but we can learn to dislike it less.
The same thing can happen with our preferences for sexual activity. Our tastes can change. We can learn to tolerate something that we at first don’t like. We may even come to really enjoy it.
Healthy and joyful sexual intimacy should not be limited to just what one spouse wants. Fortunately, we can learn to love things that at first we don’t like at all.
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In other posts, I’ve encouraged women to step outside their comfort zones (see the comfort zone series linked on this page), try to honor their husbands’ requests for new sexual activities, and understand the sense of adventure that many men have. (See this, this, and this at The XY Code.)
There are some things we can do to expand our preferences.
- Try to grow. There may be some things we strongly dislike even as an idea. Our dislike is an opportunity for growth. (This post gives you some strategies for understanding and addressing various sexual activities.) Actively work on losing your dislike. Understand your feelings about it, learn about the act, and give it a try sometimes.
- Don’t judge an activity by one experience. The first time you try something, it might be rather awkward. You might be more focused on the mechanics of the activity than on the sensations. Give yourself a chance to get comfortable enough with the activity that you have a chance to really know whether or not you like it.
- Try it different ways. While I wouldn’t recommend adding 1000 Island salad dressing to your marriage bed like I did to my fish, it might be that you need attempt several different approaches to figure out what works well. Adjust the position or the pressure. Try it with an artificial lube, or with a different one than you normally use. Try different kinds of touch. Find out how different approaches make it feel different. Use it as foreplay rather than the main event.
- Try again later. If there is an act you dislike, revisit it every year or so. Your body changes over time, and you may have a very different experience now than you did when you first tried something ten years ago. I doubt that I will ever like olives, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try them every now and then.
- Decide to live with tolerance. If you don’t like a particular sexual activity that your husband loves but you can tolerate it, then in a spirit of generosity and act of love, offer it to your husband sometimes. There is one particular activity that Big Guy loves and I don’t particularly care for. However, I can tolerate it. So sometimes I suggest it—and the next time we’re together, I might ask for something I have a strong preference for that he doesn’t enjoy as much.
The Bible says . . .
The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:4
Sometimes a woman will point out that her husband has just as much responsibility to accommodate her preferences for fairly limited sexual activity as she has in meeting her husband’s. This is true–but focusing on what we are entitled to isn’t the best approach. (I’ve written about this in regard to 1 Corinthians 13 here.)
A husband should accommodate his wife’s preferences—and she should accommodate his. Both spouses should approach their sexual relationship with an attitude of generosity rather than selfishness. Your preferences matter—and so do your husband’s.
A varied sexual menu allows both spouses to experience their preferences from time to time. It’s a win-win situation.