by Marc Colbourne
Sarah and Jennifer have always enjoyed incorporating kink into their sex life. Jennifer, in particular, loves playing the role of the submissive and Sarah has no problem at all indulging these fantasies. Bondage, light pain play, and verbal commands comprise much of their play time. They have been considering bringing in another Dom to take Jennifer’s fantasies even further.
Steve and Robbie have been together monogamously for nine years. Robbie has been known to call their relationship “old fashioned” especially since their elaborate wedding. They adopted twins ten months ago and because of the changes this has meant to their life and energy levels, their sex life is generally limited to their once-a-week date night when Steve’s parents mind the kids.
Tom and Peter have been together 2 years. Tom identifies as a “top” which works well seeing as Peter has no desire to be anything other than a self-identified “power bottom”. Every couple of months they head to the local bathhouse for a night of fun. Tom goes out to hunt for tops to bring back to the room where Peter is waiting. Tom likes to watch and direct the top.
What do these scenarios all have in common? Well… they can all be examples of healthy sex. That is, of course, if we assume there is a little more going on behind the scenes; more specifically, if the concepts of consent and negotiation are being used.
Defining “healthy sex” is complex; it means different things to different people. People are unique in their sexual needs, fantasies, willingness to explore, and what physical and emotional aspects of their sexual encounters bring them pleasure. What is important is that we are confident and comfortable in a definition of healthy sex that works for us. If our concept of sex hurts ourselves or other people (either emotionally or physically), is not consensual, or negatively impacts our work or family and intimate relationships, then the idea of it being healthy is compromised.
Aside from consent which is crucial in any definition of “healthy sex”, there is another related factor that must be present for sex to be considered as such. That is negotiation. Partners need be effective communicators – and have the ability to recognize and appreciate how our communication styles may differ. It is seldom as easy as just talking. Negotiation should start right at the beginning of a sexual relationship (even a one-night stand) so that both (or all) partners know what is acceptable.
As people and relationships change, so do our limits. Sometimes they widen, sometimes they contract. Re-negotiation is integral to ensuring we are respecting the boundaries of our partner(s) and ourselves. It is important to remember then, that negotiation doesn’t just happen at the start of a relationship, it is a component of any healthy relationship that we need to nurture over time.
Negotiation doesn’t have to feel like you are in a legal boardroom. In fact, it can be quite hot. Some “negotiation sessions” can feel more like foreplay than conversations about boundaries! Talk through your fantasies, tell the other person how the conversation is making you feel, throw out wild and crazy ideas (that you might never act on). If your partner suggests something that turns you on, take it a step further and add your own twist. Laugh, blush, touch yourself or each other during the conversation. Most importantly, have fun negotiating. Believe me it will make your sex even hotter when the time comes to use your mouth for more than talking!
Marc Colbourne, BA, BSW, MSW, RSW, is a sex-positive therapist in Edmonton. He works with clients with varied needs, cultures, and experiences, including those who feel their sexual relationships or needs are impacting their work, family or intimate relationships.
To get in touch with Marc, email mcolbourneRSW@gmail.com