OH at the bar last week:

“…doesn’t that sound like fun? We should try that.”

“No, it doesn’t. I’m not really interested in that.”

“Why do you say ‘no’ to things all the time? You should try saying, ‘Not right now, but maybe later.'”

“I said no because I’m really not interested in it.”

“You never want to do new sexy things. In fifteen years together, you’d think we’d be able to trust each other and try more things.”

“I’m open to new things, but I don’t want to do that. It doesn’t appeal to me, and I don’t want to do it.”

“I just wish you’d try it…”

And that’s when I forced myself to tune back out of their conversation. It was difficult, though. There were so many things I wanted to say. This was a middle-aged, straight-appearing couple, sitting in a bar on the east side of Tosa on a weeknight. It wasn’t crowded, and I was just one bar stool away. The woman, who very much wanted to try new things with her partner, had a voice that carried. The man’s voice stayed calm, and he almost seemed like he was repeating phrases he had said many times before.

I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt them that night, but I haven’t stopped thinking about them. I talk to people about their sex lives all the time, and I’ve learned some really helpful things. This is what I wish I would have said to that couple:

1. When I teach consent workshops to college kids, I always tell them that there are only two answers to requests for sexual contact. There is an enthusiastic “Yes!” which clearly means yes. And everything else means no. “No” obviously means no. “Maybe later,” “I’m not sure,” “Let me think about it,” “Um, I guess so,” “Not right now,”—all of those things mean “No.” College kids seem to get it pretty quickly.

2. Why do you want to engage in sexual acts with someone who isn’t interested? That’s not hot. Even if you manage to wrangle a grudging, “Okay fine let’s do it,” do you really think you’re going to have the time of your life? Probably not. It’s more likely that you’re going to have a rather tepid sexual experience that neither of you is keen to repeat.

3. He said flat out that he’s interested in mixing it up. You missed a great opportunity to ask more questions. What sorts of new things does he want to try? Is there some common ground there? If you truly want him to trust you with some exploration, it would be good to listen to him, too. Otherwise, it just seems like you’re pushing an agenda, and that’s not great for intimacy.

4. You have made it 15 years as a couple, so there must be some really great stuff going on between the two of you. Sometimes the super sexy sex stuff cools off a little. That’s normal. The good news is that you can heat it up again with sensitivity, communication and a shared sense of adventure.

You’ve got time on your side. Keep talking to each other. Stay vulnerable. Create intimacy outside of sex. Respect your partner, and accept the word “no.” Ask questions and give open answers. These things are key to continued sexual growth in a long term relationship.

Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at mkesex@gmail.com and she’ll get back to you with an answer.