This article originally appeared on VICE UK. We are in the midst of a cultural shift. Men are confused. "How are we supposed to know what’s OK if you don’t tell us?" they wail, tearing their shirts and bellowing at the moon. Here’s a solution: Just ask! Send me your questions about romance, relationships, and sex. I’m a woman, ask me anything.
What’s the problem?
A question sent to me on Curious Cat: What’s the best way to talk a girl into letting you lick her feet? I mean, it's not hurting anybody; it's not like I’m asking for hard penetrating anal sex or whatever.
What am I not getting?
The first thing to note here is that using the phrase "talk a girl into letting you" in a sexual context—is that there’s nothing inherently degrading about anal sex. It rules!
A good sex life is not created by coercing disinterested parties into allowing you to do whatever excites you. This is true whether it is something as fundamental as the act of sex itself, or indulging a foot fetish, or engaging in anal sex. Sex is not, or ought not to be, a battle in which one party is the victor and gets to do what they desire. This doesn’t mean you have to suppress your kink and settle for a life of half-enjoyable vanilla missionary. It simply means that desires have to be introduced in a way that acknowledges the other person's personhood. You have to find a way to discuss your kink while acknowledging and being comfortable with the fact that what turns you on the most might be totally unsexy to your partner.
This is difficult to do, I know! It’s totally embarrassing and profoundly un-arousing to figure out these negotiations at first. I went a little too far in the opposite direction from you when I first started trying to get my kinks satisfied, to have the kind of sex I wanted to be having. Because of the whole being a woman thing, I had grown up seeing my sexual role as purely passive. If nothing hurt and I was able to make the right sorts of noises, I considered it "good sex," so it was difficult to speak up about what turned me on once I started figuring it out. Being both sexually submissive and excessively polite about expressing it makes this interaction completely farcical; you end up with a lot of hideous Hugh Grant–esque dithery mumbling: "Um, could you just, maybe, perhaps, try choking me? But only if you want to, I don’t mind ahaha, whatever is comfortable for you!"
Still, it's better to err on the side of caution, even if it kills the mood once or twice. This is basic stuff, but it still needs saying apparently: DON’T MAKE PEOPLE DO SEX STUFF THEY DON’T REALLY WANT TO DO. Coercion is an aspect of normalized male behavior that just makes no sense to me. The idea of having to talk someone into a sexual act makes me feel all sorts of queasy. It hurts my ego and turns my stomach to think about somebody submitting to sex with me that they don’t want and won’t enjoy.
Some women won’t want you to lick their feet, and that’s their choice, and it’s fine. Having accepted that, bringing it up with a woman you’re sleeping with is as simple as saying, "Hey, I’m into foot stuff, and it would really turn me on to do X with you… do you think you would be into trying it out?"
If you get turned down, you don’t get to feel aggrieved. You are not entitled to practice your kink with every single person you happen to find attractive. And while you can get huffy about how unfair it is that not everyone shares your fetish, it comes down to more or less the same as me getting huffy that Jon Hamm is never going to have sex with me. It hurts, and it’s not fair, but that’s life! There are plenty of others who will.
And now, to the anal sex. Yes, here I am, defending anal sex like the terrible sex-positive third wave feminist your mother warned you about. It creeps me out that you position the act of anal penetration as being inherently worse than talking a woman into a sex act they don’t want. Anal sex is not degrading if everyone involved wants it to be taking place. It is a perfectly reasonable position for a woman to want anal sex but not to have her feet licked ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Why am I not getting it?
Because men are socialized in an environment that assumes that "good sex" is sex in which men are allowed to do whatever they want, regardless of their partner's experience.
What do I really need to know?
Sex is a conversation, not a monologue. The women you are trying to enact your desires with are people in their own right with their own desires, kinks, hang-ups, and fears. If you get your head around this and treat them accordingly, instead of as obstacles to you getting off in your preferred manner, I promise you your sex life will be infinitely richer than it is now.