Red Flags in Sex
There’s something exciting about a new person, whether that be a FRWB or a new relationship. It’s tempting to romanticize this new person. But those rose-colored glasses can make it harder to see red flags.
All new relationships are bound to experience their fair share of road bumps. Sometimes the difference between a regular rough patch and a red flag is hard to differentiate. And sometimes relationship red flags stand out. But red flags aren’t exclusive to new relationships. In some cases, the issue doesn’t arise until months or years later.
No matter when you notice the red flag, it’s important to address it when it arises. Whether that means working together to compromise or deciding that maybe it's best to see other people, that’s up to you.
Our readers have sent us in their own stories of their relationship red flags which will hopefully help you learn to see and address the red flags in your life or that might come up later.
While some red flags are harder to see, violating consent is hard not to notice and should be taken as a sign to reevaluate your relationship.
As always, we recommend establishing boundaries with your partner, even if you’re just hooking up. In every scenario, every person has their own rules of engagement that deserve to be respected. If your partner isn’t going to respect your boundaries, what else might they disrespect?
Violating consent can include lying and manipulation. Using a bait-and-switch tactic to get you in bed is not acceptable. When you agree to have sex, you agree on certain terms. And when those terms are ignored, you’ve entered a scenario that one party didn’t agree to.
One reader wrote,
“In the middle of consensual vaginal sex, dude turned the experience into surprise anal sex. We did not talk about it prior, I did not ask for it, and I did not like it. And that's the story of the last time he got my goodies. Bye Felicia ???? .”
Consent to one act doesn’t necessarily mean consent to another act. Both partners need to sign off on the specifics of sex. Everyone’s got to be on the same page about what kind of sex you’re going to have.
Another reader shared this story:
“In the middle of a blow job, I asked if he had a condom (he'd said prior to this that he did). He told me he did not, ‘but we could still do it.’ I got dressed and left. Safety first. [Because] if he'll lie about that, what else did he lie about?”
We’d agree that this reader did the right thing. Lying, especially lying to manipulate you, should never be ignored.
Ignoring Their Partner’s Pleasure:
Sex is a collaboration. Almost the entire point of partnered sex is sharing the experience with your partner. We’re all for self-pleasure, but if you’re having sex with another person it’s best if you cater to their pleasure as well.
Several of our readers said their red flags were a partner’s inattentiveness to their pleasure. One wrote that their partner said,
“You don’t need lube or foreplay. Let’s just get to it."
Another reported that their partner told them,
“‘I don't want to give you foreplay every time we have sex’ after never giving me foreplay during sex.”
Human sexuality isn’t a switch that can be flipped on and off. Most people need to build up to the act if they’re going to enjoy it. This is especially true for vulva owners, as they’re not guaranteed to produce enough personal lubrication.
It’s a mistake to view sex as just the act of penetration. Think of sex as the whole thing: initiating the encounter, foreplay, the actual act, and anything that happens after. There is an array of pleasure to be experienced. Indulge your partner. Let yourself indulge. Learn to enjoy the ride instead of rushing to the finish line. Your partner will have more fun, and we’re willing to bet you’ll have a better time too.
Lube is the unsung hero of good sex. It’s the easiest way to ensure you and your partner both achieve orgasm. This is true for everyone: single, in a relationship, married, and every single person who has sex. It’s not a kink. Lube is a facilitator. Women and anyone with a vulva produce natural lubrication, but they might not always produce enough to make things easy.
Heterosexual couples, especially ones in long-standing relationships, tend to be among the most resistant to lube. This is a combination of a lot of things: people are too embarrassed to ask, partners taking it as an insult, or people think it’s not for them—that lube belongs to really daring sexual activities. This is not the case. Lube is for everyone. It minimizes pain and maximizes pleasure. With lube, your activities can last longer and be more fulfilling.
If a little slickness is good, a lot is even better. Just try lube. We promise you’ll like it, even if you don’t want to admit it.
Constructive criticism is good. We had readers tell us that their partner’s unwillingness to take constructive criticism and collaborate turned out to be a red flag. Fortunately, this is the kind of red flag that can be overcome. Good relationships and good sex all require effective communication, and for people to utilize the information they’ve been given.
Listen to your partner—they’re trying to tell you something.
Shaming Their Partner:
If your partner is shaming you in any way, shape, or form they might not be the right person for you. A good partner will build you up and encourage you to live your best life. They will want you to do what’s right for you and be open to learning ways they can help improve your relationship.
Body-shaming in any form, whether that be about your body hair or your weight, is a big red flag. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
Body shaming is essentially bullying, and it’s not too far from metastasizing into verbal abuse. No one deserves to experience that. You deserve someone who can appreciate you as you are and won’t try to emotionally manipulate you.
A partner being a bully is typically not something you can talk through, but you can possibly talk through your partner’s apprehension about sex toys.
Psst: Editor's note: If your partner is bullying you, abusing you, or manipulating you in any way, please contact the
National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE or texting "START" to 88788.
For more information on identifying abuse: visit www.thehotline.org.
Like we mentioned earlier, some people reported their partner getting squeamish about introducing lube or toys to your activities. Some partners might take offense at the suggestion to use lube or a sex toy during your activities, as they’re worried you might find them to be inadequate partners. But this is simply not the case. For people with a vulva, it’s difficult to experience an orgasm without external—especially clitoral—stimulation.
A vibrator is an assistant, not a replacement. Make this clear to your partner and let them know what you need to feel satisfied.
Good communication might be just the thing you need to clear things up. It’s not an excuse, but your partner’s hurt feelings might manifest as snide comments and being passive-aggressive toward you. Setting things straight and hearing them could pave the way to work things out (after they apologize, of course). At the very least, if you want to make things work it’s worth it to have a talk about what you need, what’s working well, and what’s not working at all.
If you’ve tried talking and they’re still taking issue with your needs, then this might be a red flag you can’t unravel.
Aside from our readers telling us their partners have shamed them for wanting to introduce sex toys into their shared activities, some have also said they were shamed by their partner for wanting to masturbate.
Just because you’re in a relationship does not mean you or your partner won’t want alone time anymore. We all need a little “me time” and self-love every now and again. Establishing an identity separate from your partner is only going to make your relationship better. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you need some space, and shaming your partner for wanting room to breathe is not acceptable.