Welcome to the first edition of Ask a Pleasure Professional!
This column is brought to you by O.school, a new shame-free place online for learning about sex and pleasure for folks of diverse identities.
Each month, O.school’s Pleasure Professionals will answer Catalyst readers’ questions about everything from unlearning personal shame to bringing your sex life to the next level.
Here’s this month’s featured question from a Catalyst reader:
"How do I get my sexually 'nice' (polite/respectful/feminist) partner to try new things outside of their comfort zone?"
Mmm, great question! Thanks for asking, and the rest of you can submit your (anonymous!) burning questions by Friday, July 7 to get them answered next month.
Let’s hear what the Pleasure Professionals think about getting outside of the comfort zone.
Mia Li shares her “will – want – won’t list” strategy:
Mia Li is a self-identified queer, first-generation Filipinx from New York and deeply transplanted in California. She has firsthand experience of the stigmatization that surrounds gender and sexuality as well as the liberation that can be found once you embrace those two things.
Wendy Petties teaches us the ABCs:
Wendy Petties is a poly sex educator and founder of “Good Girls Do!.” She is passionate about advocating for and teaching the sex education we all deserved in school but were never provided. In her classroom, virtual and otherwise, Wendy encourages radically questioning what it is that “Good Girls Do” and don’t do.
And finally, Andre Shakti writes in to drop some wisdom…
1. Skip the "cancer talk." It's all about presentation. When getting ready to sit their partner down for that initial conversation, most folks let their anxieties and insecurities get the better of them and find themselves rolling out their interests and desires as though they are life-threatening diagnoses! Starting a kink conversation with, "Uh, I have something to tell you, but I'm really nervous, and I don't know what you're going to think, and this is really hard for me..." etc., what you are doing is priming your partner to receive "bad news", which will absolutely affect how they receive the subsequent information. Instead, adopt a relaxed, positive-neutral appearance and tone of voice. Make eye contact with your partner, and sit close to them so you can initiate reassuring physical contact like a hand on their leg, an arm around their shoulder, etc. Make sure you emphasize how excited you are to share and explore this with them, and reiterate how much you care about them throughout the talk. Treat it like it's "no big deal", because hey, it isn't! That alone can make a world of difference.
2. Ease in with education. I would have a few educational resources on hand that you can provide your partner with depending on what you're suggesting to them, so they can do their own research on your interests to gain comfort and confidence (not to mention feel like they have agency in this new adventure!). These can be books, podcast episodes, porn scenes, online articles, etc. Encourage them to come to you with questions at any time.
3. Practice a little "quid pro quo." Everyone has their "secret fantasies"—even your partner! After you disclose your interests, make sure you're inquiring as to whether there's anything that THEY might want to try or experiment in the bedroom, and be sure to enthusiastically share your willingness to be a part of that!
Andre Shakti is a journalist, educator, performer, activist, and professional slut living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is devoted to normalizing alternative desires, de-stigmatizing sex workers and their clients, and not taking herself too seriously. Andre wrestles mediocre white men into submission and writes about sex work, queerness and non-monogamy for Cosmopolitan, Rewire, Thrillist, MEL, Vice, Autostraddle, and more. You can visit—and submit questions to—her non-monogamy advice column, "I Am Poly & So Can You!" via IAmPoly.net. Visit her on Twitter @andreshakti, on FB as "Andre Shakti," and as a pleasure professional on O.School.
Thanks again for submitting your questions and following along! Submit your questions for July’s bunch of Pleasure Professionals by Friday, July 7, at the anonymous submission form.
And if you’re craving more wisdom from O.school’s amazing pleasure professionals, sign up to get notified about our launch. Have fun out there!