First up, I have been reading and genuinely enjoying your column for the better part of my adult life, and I want to thank you for it. You provide a real service.

So, after years of enjoying your column and my own kink, which is fairly varied, I (a bi woman) have settled down with a man who confuses me. He withholds sex for weeks on end and then will abruptly and without any generosities ask me to go down on him. We've been together for over two years, and from the start I've found him to be oddly uncomfortable about sex. He will not talk about it. But when he does indulge me, an animal-like intensity emerges. Recently, that's developed into a striking dominance that I find incredibly hot. (I am a happy sub.) I'd like to encourage further exploration, but I feel like if I were to do so, I would have to do so surreptitiously.

So my questions are these: is my wish to "encourage" him ethical? If so, how should I do it? And finally, do you know why a man who obviously enjoys sex is so afraid of it?

Thanks so much for all you do. Especially "santorum."

Tender Bottom

My response after the jump...

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I'm torn about how to respond to your letter. On the one hand, TB, I want you to be sexually fulfilled—I want all my readers to be sexually fulfilled*—and I could probably come up with a few ideas about how you might go about surreptitiously encouraging your boyfriend to become more dominant in the sack.

On the other hand...

BDSM—whether you're talking simple, playful, mildly-D/s-flavored sex or hardcore S&M scenes with all the props and costumes—requires good communication. It requires good communication between games/scenes, good communication during games/scenes, and good communication after games/scenes. Good communication is so important to bondage, discipline, dominance, and submission that I think a C ought to be slapped on the end of the abbreviation: BDSMC. So I don't think the issue is one of ethics; people subtly nudge their partners in the direction of what they enjoy all the time. The paramount issue is emotional and physical safety, TB, and nudging in the direction of BDSM with someone who can't communicate about their interests and desires strikes me as risky and unsafe.

My advice: If you want to explore D/s with your partner, TB, you've gotta get him talking about his desires, interests, kinks, and the sex life you already share. The place to start the conversation seems obvious: Talk with him about why he can't talk about sex—and do it via text or e-mail. I don't know what your boyfriend's hangups or issues are (only he knows), TB, but I do know that some people find it easier to communicate about sex in writing. You can't communicate in writing during sex, of course, but getting him talking to you about sex via text or e-mail would be a start.

* Except my asexual readers, of course. I want you guys to be sexually unfulfilled. Or asexually fulfilled. Whatever you guys want or don't want is exactly what I want or don't want for you.