Non-binary Sex – An Intimacy Crash Course For NB Folks & Their Partners
15 September 2021
For the final installation of our NB 101 series, guest author Elliott Ennis is going to give us a crash course in sexual intimacy. This article touches on the topics of support, communication, feelings, what to do when things go sideways, and what to do so things go right.
No matter who you’re getting it on with, good sex can be transcendent and mind-blowing, but bad sex can be… well, really bad. On today’s edition of ‘Nonbinary 101’ we’re doing a nonbinary sex crash course. We’ll cover all the need-to-know’s of intimacy as a nonbinary person – or the partner to one – to ensure you go in prepared, empowered and ready to have amazingly good sex! If you missed our intro posts breaking down the basics of nonbinary identity, you can check out part 1 here and part two here!
Let go of expectations
Most of us have a pretty good idea of what straight sex looks like, what parts go where and who does what. This “script” is even present for queer sex but what do you follow when gender is taken out of the equation?
You write your own! Letting go of these scripts leaves room to explore pleasure in the moment with your partner and yourself.
As a nonbinary person, it can be difficult to unlearn that certain acts, parts, or sounds are gendered.
The reality is bodies come in all sorts of amazing configurations and your body belongs to you, not the gender you were assigned. You aren’t obligated to perform a role just because of your parts, and you get to define what meaning those roles have. Letting go of expectations around sex can be a journey, but it’s one that’s worth taking.
If you’re the partner of a nonbinary person, realize the trust they are putting in you. Sex can be anxiety-inducing for nonbinary people. The first step in making it a positive experience is to not rely on them to educate you– so great job being here!
Listen to how your partner wants their body interacted with
Don’t assume roles based on presentation, gender, anatomy or what they’ve done in the past (even with you). Every body is different and everyone has a unique relationship with their body, whether cis (meaning: not trans) or not. Presenting a certain way doesn’t mean someone wants certain things in bed. For example, just because someone wears dresses doesn’t mean they want to be penetrated. Let go of how you think things “should” go. You get to explore pleasure with this person in ways that aren’t limited to pre-determined scripts! That’s pretty cool.
Whether a long-term partner or a hookup, never expect a nonbinary person to perform gender during sex. You’re having sex with a person, not their gender. After letting go of assumptions, it’s time to find out what your partner wants, and doesn’t want.
Just like with dirty talk, words can have a big impact if you’re nonbinary. Just because someone has a penis, doesn’t mean they want it to be called a cock. Talk with your partner about what words you want them to use for your body parts and what words they like for theirs. This also goes for what words you both find affirming. Pretty or handsome? No gendered sexual language at all?
Apart from language choices, you also need to talk about what roles and acts are off-limits. Do they like being Dominant or submissive? How do they feel about oral sex? Once these boundaries are established, don’t push them.
Remember that these conversations don’t have to be clinical and serious! Focus the conversation on pleasurable things like what they find exciting, what kinks they’re into, or what fantasies they like. This isn’t an interrogation. It’s discovering how to make sex as fun and pleasurable for both of you as possible.
If you’re the partner of a nonbinary person, realize that the language you use for their body may have to change, and the terms they like might change over time. Look at the pet names you use as well, they might need updating. Don’t ever make them feel like their identity is a burden. Being supportive means giving your partner love, respect and room to grow.
Get used to checking in with them if something seems off
You might slip up or say something that you didn’t think was gendered until it’s already out. If this happens, take responsibility for the impact it has on your partner. Make sure they know you don’t see them in a gendered way. This goes without saying, but always use the pronouns your partner wants, unless they’ve requested different ones.
Dealing with Dysphoria
A lot of nonbinary and trans people deal with dysphoria, which is distress when a person’s body parts don’t align with their gender. These emotional triggers can impact intimacy so note what it feels like when your dysphoria gets triggered. Is it a floaty, dissociated feeling? A more acute discomfort? Remember that your partner can’t be a mind reader; you have to communicate your feelings to them. Even in a hook up, there’s still communication involved. You don’t have to chronicle your entire gender journey to them, but you can let them know you don’t like being a sub.
Create a plan ahead of time for how to handle things if/when you get triggered
Do you want to completely stop what you’re doing? Talk it out? Be left alone? These can change in the moment, but having an action plan can help you both feel more secure.
If you’re the partner of a nonbinary person, know this plan but also ask them how you can be supportive. Try to avoid gendered sexual language unless the terms your using have already been okayed.
Be open to something changing
Often, nonbinary people might not realize something is triggering until it happens. Realize that it’s not about you or your ability as a partner, and don’t put them in a position to prioritize you over their own feelings. Listen to them and let them know it’s okay for them to feel whatever they’re feeling. In your check-ins, remember to frame things positively by saying “does this feel good?” instead of “does this give you dysphoria?”
Make it positive
It’s hard to communicate if you don’t know what you like, right? Masturbation helps you discover what feels truly good for you, so don’t limit yourself. Experiment with sensations in parts that have neglected from partners in the past. Play with speed and pressure, penetration or not. Letting go of any “shoulds” and embrace your pleasure without judgment. Try out different toys and prosthetics and teach your partner how to use them with you. They’re not just for solo sex!
As a partner, your biggest job is to listen
Let this joint pleasure-seeking experience evolve organically and pay attention to what your partner’s enjoying. Encourage them to try out different roles and language and be supportive of whatever they find. Respect them if something feels uncomfortable for them, even if it’s not something you’ve questioned before. Consent isn’t the absence of no, but the presence of an enthusiastic yes.
As a nonbinary person or their partner, you deserve great sex. It is possible and can make you feel closer to your partner and your own body. Now go out there and have great (and safe) sex!