Sexplain It: My Partner Won’t Dominate Me, and It’s Killing Our Relationship

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I’m Zachary Zane, a sex writer, author, and ethical Boyslut (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I’m very, very open about it). Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I’m here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn’t just “communicate with your partner” because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It.

To submit a question for a future column, fill out this form.

Dear Sexplain It,

How do I get my partner to dominate me? For context: I am a transman (who likes it in the butt), and they are non-binary. We have had many discussions about how it is my biggest turn-on, but they can’t seem to get in the right mindset. They make jokes during sex, and it takes me out of it.

I know that this is something new for them—they’ve never topped anyone before me—but we’ve been together for over a year now, and things aren’t improving as fast as I’d like them to, and I’ve tried to be as patient as possible, giving them resources and articles and having an open dialogue.

I am not looking to open up our relationship yet, though it is something we have discussed for the future because we are both very queer. But I really need to get dicked down without feeling anxious that they’re not into it.

I’m always the one to initiate sex, and it’s starting to make me feel bad, unwanted, and not sexy. It also contributes to the dysphoria I feel in my trans body. I feel like I’ve had this conversation a million times, but not much has changed. How do I get them to feel more comfortable and tap into that dom side? How do I get them to initiate sexy time? How do I get them to take it more seriously? Help!

— Dominate Me Please

sexplain it graphic


Dear Dominate Me Please,

I’m going to be real with you: I’m concerned your partner doesn’t want to dominate or top you. However, they know how important this is to you and your identity, so they are (unintentionally) lying to both themselves and you. Because if they admit topping isn’t something they are capable of doing, and you two aren’t looking to open your relationship, then shit, you two may have to break up. People end otherwise perfect relationships because of sexual incompatibilities all the time.

This also explains why they’re not initiating sex. They know you want to be topped, but they have no desire to top you, and that makes them really anxious. If you know you’re not going to be able to satisfy your partner sexually—or you’re going to feel pressured to behave sexually in a way you do not want—then you will definitely not initiate sex. The fact that they’re joking during sex supports all of this. They’re uncomfortable and in their head, so they’re using humor to deflect.

So you’re going to have to have a tough conversation where you give them space to admit that topping/domming isn’t something they want to (or even can) do. You can say, “Hey, I know we’ve had several conversations about this, but this time, I want to focus on your desires instead of mine. Based on the jokes you make during sex, I get the feeling that you don’t want to dominate me, and likely never will.”

You both need to address the elephant in the room. From there, you can decide how to proceed. Perhaps you can reach a sexual middle ground—find smaller ways they can top/dom you. Maybe they’re not using a strap-on to peg you, but they’re inserting a dildo with their hands? Or they can finger your asshole while calling you a submissive name? What is a dominant-leaning act they’d feel comfortable doing right now if you two were to have sex? (If you need more ideas, read this article I wrote on how to be more dominant in the bedroom.)

Now I know you said you’re not looking to open up your relationship yet, but you may have to reconsider that option if you can’t find a middle ground. Otherwise, your options are breaking up or ending up in a monogamous romantic relationship where your sexual needs—needs that impact your trans identity—are not being met. If I were in your position, I’d choose the former.

Headshot of Zachary Zane

Contributing Editor

Zachary Zane is the author of Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto and editor-in-chief of the BOYSLUT Zine, which publishes nonfiction erotica from kinksters across the globe. He writes “Sexplain It,” the sex and relationship advice column at Men’s Health, and is the co-author of Men’s Health Best. Sex. Ever. His work has been featured in New York Times, Rolling Stone, Washington Post, Playboy, and more.  

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