My long-distance partner wants cyber sex. I don’t
He knows I’m uncomfortable with the idea. Is he being disrespectful?
Peel his request for cyber-sex back to the underlying issues and uncertainties there: “Is our relationship going to be a sexual one?”
I’m in a long-distance relationship and my partner asks to have cyber sex even though he knows I’m very uncomfortable with it due to trust issues from my past and also his past behaviour. My question is, is he being disrespectful to my feelings by regularly asking or should I appreciate that he wants me in this way? He hopes I’ll change my mind but I’ve told him I won’t! Thank you.
The most basic and straightforward answer is that your partner should never pressure you to do something you don’t want to do.
But life is rarely basic and straight forward. It’s always slightly more complicated than that; even your letter, with its hints of your past experiences and his previous undisclosed “behaviour” proves that. So let’s dive in.
You’re both committing to a long-distance relationship, which by nature demands a lot of sacrifice, a lot of compromise, and the hope that it will all be worth it in the end.
You also hint that he has hurt you, and you’re now trying to re-establish your trust and connection. I’m going to assume you feel your relationship is worth all of these struggles – including telling him point-blank that he needs to stop pressuring you, immediately.
However, I do think it’s possible to assert a clear boundary with your partner while opening up a dialogue about your sex and communication, instead of shutting it down.
I don’t think every relationship has to involve sex, nor do I think it’s emotionally or physically realistic to assume that a sexual relationship won’t go through sex-free periods. But I do think adults need to clearly communicate about the role sex will (or will not) play in their relationship, and it sounds like you and your partner’s pattern of Ask-Refuse-Repeat is side-stepping that opportunity.
So peel his request for cyber-sex back to the underlying issues and uncertainties there: “Is our relationship going to be a sexual one?” and “How do we sustain a fulfilling connection across this physical distance?”
To address the latter question, there are many steps you can take to maintain your emotional and sexual bond. Schedule regular times to have long phone calls or video chats so that you feel emotionally engaged and connected. If you do want to explore different ways of being sexual without sharing photos or video, play with ways to express yourself. Have some sexy conversations over the phone, text each other some fantasies, or even swap links to random videos or erotica that you find sexy, so that you’re actively creating a sense of shared sexuality.
However, none of this will matter unless he can prove that he can address the issues underlying your refusal to have cyber-sex with him, namely: “Will you respect my boundaries, comfort levels and consent?” and “Will you work to regain my trust?”
All of these questions are important and need to be explored together so that your relationship can move forward. But remind him that consent and respect are the basic tenants of all relationships, and if he doesn’t start acting accordingly, that distance between you will become a permanent chasm.
Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright Scholar with an MA in Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University. She’s currently undertaking a PhD in Gendered and Sexual Citizenship at the Open University and Oxford.
If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at irishtimes.com/dearroe