Every Monday I like to take a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Here’s one that I think we don’t talk about very much: what do you do if there’s one part of your body that you absolutely HATE being touched during sex? One woman writes:
My husband is obsessed with my breasts and I loathe having them touched 49 times out of 50. If, and it’s a big if, I am super super in the mood I can tolerate them being kissed if it’s brief and there are no hands involved. As soon as they get grabbed/brushed/rubbed/
whatever, I at the minimum am set way back on the “in the mood” scale and at worst go absolutely cold and want him to get away from me immediately. For 6 years I’ve been telling him to leave my breasts alone and for 6 years almost daily he has been making grabs at them and more recently telling me I’m withholding.
He’s a wonderful husband, but why can’t I have one thing that I am allowed to say “I’m not comfortable with that”? No reasoning or excuse has made any difference to him in what he feels is his God-given right. Most women ARE turned on by it…but I’m not one of them. On the contrary, it’s a huge turn off. He’s not rough or mean or anything. He’s a wonderful man. I just hate being touched there. (Side note: nursing children felt like a huge amount of self sacrifice for the same reason so it’s not an issue with my husband). He wants me to just get over it. How?! Just tolerate something that I despise just to make him happy? Then what? How can I get in the mood when I want to bolt from the room? I have no issues with being touched elsewhere and he’s always considerate in virtually every other area of our marriage. This one “small” issue has become a big hang up for us and I just don’t know what to do anymore.
The wife who flunks at foreplay
You’re Not Alone! Many Women Don’t Like Being Touched in Certain Places
First I want to say, loudly and clearly: You’re not alone. Many women find parts of their bodies are just off-limits sexually. For some it may be breasts; for others it may be just the nipple; for some it may be him inserting his fingers inside the vagina. (True story: every Girl Talk I give I have a Q&A part where I answer anonymous questions. I once had a woman ask, “I know guys like sticking their fingers “up there”, but it creeps me out. Why does my husband have to make it seem like he’s digging for gold or something?” At the time the question was funny, but I certainly felt for her).
I can’t tell this particular woman what to do because I don’t know enough of the story, but I’d like to give 4 big picture questions to think about, and then some tips for where to go from here.
Check Your Past
Sometimes certain body parts (or certain acts, like oral sex, for instance) are really creepy for us because of past abuse, or past things we’ve seen on TV or in movies when we are at certain ages that scarred us. We may also feel deep shame about certain parts of our bodies. When it comes to breasts, for instance, many women with larger breasts were mortified when they were 11 or 12 when the breasts started to grow, and no one else in their class at school had them. So they became a source of ridicule.
And then, as you got older, perhaps guys would fixate on them–even older men. It made you feel dirty. It made you think men were disgusting. It made you feel repulsed.
Today, when your husband that you love touches you there, it throws you back to that time when you were totally repulsed and creeped out.
This is NOT the case for everyone who hates their breasts being touched or who hates another body part being touched, but it can be quite common.
Basically you’ve developed what’s almost a phobia of it. And you CAN get over phobias. More on that in a minute.
Check the Control Issue
Is it that you hate having your breasts touched or that you hate someone else touching your breasts? I’ve had letters from women with both scenarios. One woman, for instance, couldn’t stand it if someone else touched her breasts, but could handle it if she did. Another woman freaked when her husband tried to insert his fingers into her vagina–but she couldn’t do it either.
Check the Timing
Often things that we REALLY don’t like suddenly become pleasurable right before orgasm. So you may think you don’t like your breasts touched (and you legitimately don’t), but when you’re really aroused suddenly you do. Similarly, many women find their nipples too sensitive to touch, but just before orgasm they actually want them sucked or pinched. But they may not know that about themselves until they check! So you may want to just check that out–is it a timing thing? Or is it truly all the time?
Check Your Sensitivity
There’s a difference between being completely grossed out and simply not being turned on. Is it that being touched makes you want to run for cover and scream (like this woman here), or is that when he touches your breasts, for instance, it does nothing for you and you start to make a shopping list in your head instead? Is it that it repulses you, or is it that it’s just not sexual for you?
What To Do When You Hate Your Breasts Being Touched (or something else being touched)
Now let’s move on to some solutions and ideas which may help. Not all of these may apply to you; choose the ones you think you can handle.
Have “His” Nights and “Her” Nights
Have one Saturday (or whenever) that’s his a month, and one that’s yours, and then every other time you make love it’s for both of you. And on “his” nights he can do what he wants to his heart’s content, but on the other nights he doesn’t. If you can get in the mood of saying, “this is for him and it’s a gift I’m giving him just tonight” that can help.
Even if you’re really repulsed, knowing that it’s only one or two nights a month and not all the time can help you mentally deal with it. Also, when you know it’s “his” nights there’s not the same effort to get in the mood yourself. You can totally throw yourself into it for him. And then the repulsion may not be as great (if that’s what you feel) because it’s not supposed to be turning you on. When it is supposed to be sexual, it actually makes the repulsion worse.
Read more about how to make “his” nights and “hers” nights work!
Take Control and Put on a Show
If you can’t stand other people touching you there (wherever it may be), then one possible route may be to do it yourself while he watches. Lather up some cream on your hands and rub it on your breasts slowly for foreplay.
If you need to be in control, then take that control. Even hold his hands while he touches you, so you guide his hands so you’re still in control. And the more you do this, the more the phobia may go away–or the more you may realize that that part of your body can be pleasurable, because when you’re in control you’re able to focus on it at your leisure. There’s not the pressure of wondering, “what in the world is he going to do next?”
Talk to a Psychologist About a Phobia
If it really is to the level that you can’t stand being touched at all, then I’d suggest talking to a psychologist about it–a psychologist who has treated people for phobias (like phobias of spiders, phobias of dirt, etc.) Don’t just talk to one who wants to analyze you; talk to someone who will take you through exercises to get actually deal with this phobia.
Many people don’t find certain body parts pleasurable that most people find pleasurable–some women find nipples a turn off because they’re too sensitive, or can’t stand being manually stimulated on the clitoris for the same reason. But that’s very different from freaking any time someone touches a breast. So if it’s to the point where it’s really impeding your relationships and your sexuality, don’t settle for that! Deal with it. Christ came to set us free, and something is holding you back from what you were designed for. It doesn’t always have to be like that.
Talk to Your Husband
Finally, talk to your husband really openly about this. In this woman’s case it sounds like her husband is completely disregarding her feelings, and I think that some compromise (like the his nights and her nights) is definitely warranted. Say something like,
“I want our sex life to be great, but this is something which is a real stumbling block for me. When you touch me there, it makes me really panicky. So here’s what I’d like to do: I’d like to look at ways that we can slowly help me to feel more comfortable. I’m going to try to figure out the root and try to deal with the phobia. I’m going to give you certain days when you can certainly touch them, and other days when I’ll do a bit of a show. But I also need you to give me space and love. I’m not cutting you off entirely, but I need space to feel comfortable and figure this out. If you can’t give me that space, then I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with this and it will be a constant struggle in our marriage.
Sex is for both of us, and by touching me there all the time you are robbing me of my sexuality. Like I said, I want to give you some times to enjoy my breasts, but for now, as I seek healing, it has to be on my terms. I’d ask you to do this out of love for me and out of respect for our relationship, for the health of it and for the future of our sexual life together.”
Keep those lines of communication open, and talk to him honestly about what you feel now, what you hope to feel in the future, and your plans to get there. If he knows that you’re trying and that you want this too, then hopefully you can work towards feeling more comfortable together!
If you’re having trouble communicating about sex and what you want and what makes you feel comfortable, my book 31 Days to Great Sex can help! It’s a 31-day challenge that you do with your husband. And don’t worry: you do not have to have sex for 31 days straight! Many of the challenges just help you to talk about it, sometimes for the first time. It’s easy, it’s low key, and you’ll learn how to talk together, dream together, address libido differences, be more affectionate, figure out how to make it feel good for HER, spice things up, and keep the momentum going. The big benefit that many women have said to me is that “we finally were able to talk!” So this will help women in this situation, too!
Have you ever been through this in your marriage? Is something a huge turn-off for you that most people like? Let me know in the comments how you dealt with it! (and you can be anonymous, of course).
UPDATE: After all the hubbub in the comments on this post, I wrote a follow-up: When Christians Make it Sound like Sex is Only for Him. Seriously, people, let’s get this right. If Christians start making the same comments about sex that the porn industry does or that rap artists do, we have a major problem.