By Dr. Bukky Kolawole | ELIXHER Magazine Fall/Winter 2013
Photos By Kim Roseberry

Dear Dr. Bukky,

My girlfriend isn’t aggressive enough in bed. We’ve talked about it on several occasions, but it’s obvious that she’s not comfortable being the aggressor. Help!

-Dom Hungry

Photo By: Kim Roseberry

Photo By: Kim Roseberry

Dear Dom Hungry,

I am excited about your question because it means you and your partner are doing something too many couples shy away from doing: talking explicitly about sex!  It can feel risky to ask for what we want in bed so it is great that you have the courage to do so. It can also feel frustrating when the change you seek is not happening, despite your repeated discussions.

As I read your letter, I couldn’t help but notice that your request is exclusively focused on your partner. Where are you in this tango? You describe a yearning for her to be more aggressive….What exactly does that mean? Oftentimes, when we want our partners to be more aggressive in bed, it is because we want to feel less in charge or more submissive. Perhaps you want to explore the space of having less responsibility for a moment in time and you see your erotic space as a safe place to do so. That makes sense to me.

The problem lies with the societal and cultural pressures that have made it more difficult (dare I say dangerous) for modern women to talk about our desires to explore the submissive parts of ourselves, lest we lose our feminist badges.

I also recognize that it is easier to focus the conversation on your partner and your need for her to be more aggressive in bed than to focus on you and your desire to be more submissive. However, there is nothing wrong with wanting to experience yourself in a more submissive position. The problem lies with the societal and cultural pressures that have made it more difficult (dare I say dangerous) for modern women to talk about our desires to explore the submissive parts of ourselves, lest we lose our feminist badges. Unfortunately, the consequence is that your narrative, as it exists, puts the burden of change completely on your partner, which may be creating pressure for her. Even worse, it may be triggering insecurity in her (e.g., feelings of not being good enough), as you act as judge of her performance. At the same time, it also places you in a passive, waiting position, which could be triggering your own feelings of helplessness or fear (e.g., fear of not being important enough to motivate her change).

So what should you do? Let’s start by putting you back in your rightful place in your sexual dance with your partner—next to her—by owning and sharing your vulnerabilities. I’d encourage you to revisit this conversation but, this time, focus on showing your vulnerabilities by telling her about your experience of yourself. Help her understand what has been happening for you in your current sexual dance that is motivating your request. For example, have you been feeling burdened with all of the responsibilities you carry in many aspects of your life, and do you want to explore what it is like for you to not have a plan and just go with the flow? Are you wanting to discover what it is like to not be in charge and to be led or told what to do? Help her understand what is driving your curiosity to know the more submissive parts of yourself within a sexual context.

Because this is about the two of you and not just you or just her, I’d also invite you to get curious about her experience in your sexual dance. What has it been like for her? What has she noticed about herself and you, vis-a-vis being more or less in control? How does she feel about the idea of taking on more control or being the one in charge? Does it scare her? By reframing the dialogue in this way, you are exposing your vulnerabilities and inviting her to do the same, both of which will positively impact the emotional spaces of your erotic dance.

Then, I want you to do the unthinkable…

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Dr. Bukky Kolawole is a NY-based licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in helping lesbian and gay couples cultivate the healthy and fulfilling relationships they deserve. She has offices in SoHo (Manhattan) and Park Slope (Brooklyn) and offers late evening hours to accommodate the needs of professionals. For more info about Dr. Bukky, visit her website at

Disclaimer: This column does not constitute a consultation or the establishment of a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Bukky Kolawole and should therefore not be construed as such. The rights and privileges associated with such a relationship can only be conferred through a scheduled, in-person session.

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