Solid Sex Advice From My Grandmother

My Bubbie (Jewish grandmother) passed away a few years ago. She left me an assortment of things, from scarves to shoes to jewelry, but by far, the most enduring thing she left me was her advice.

I don’t think we ever talked about sex. We didn’t have that kind of relationship and she wasn’t that kind of person. But one piece of advice she gave me is extremely relevant to sex, whether or not she meant it to be.

Here’s what she told me: “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”

I most often heard her use this phrase in reference to beaurocratic processes: getting extra medical tests, nicer accommodations at a hotel, the right meal when the waiter brought you the wrong one, and so on. Her thinking was, it can’t hurt to ask. You might not get what you’re asking for, but you’ll be a lot likelier to get it than if you’d just stayed silent.

I think about this advice a lot, because it’s relevant almost constantly. I’m a shy person, not always skilled at advocating for myself or requesting the help I need. But I find, more often than not, that people are willing to help if you just make your desires known.

This comes up in sex all the damn time. Our cultural narratives tell us sex should be effortless and easy, and that if someone really loved you or was really good in bed, they’d be able to read your mind and give you what you want without you needing to ask.

Well, that’s nonsense. No one is a mind-reader, not even the Casanovas of the world. And while sexual chemistry can appear spontaneously with no effort required, it’s more often a collaborative creation: something you build with your partner through practice and, yes, communication.

If there’s something you want your partner to do, ask them. If they’re a decent person, the worst they can say is “No” – in which case, you’ll still be glad you asked, because at least now you know. And if they’re not a decent person, and they flip out at you or shame you, then you’ll know they aren’t worth one more millisecond of your time, and you can kick them out of your bed and your life with no hesitations.

All the best sexual adventures start with an idea and a little bravery. If you’ve already got your idea, then it’s time to be brave. Remember: you don’t ask, you don’t get!