Like most normal people, your boyfriend’s emotional state influences his sexual behaviour. Sometimes he feels like a master of the universe and pins you down and ravishes you. At other times your gentle boyfriend wants gentle sex. There is nothing unusual about this. How a person feels — up or down, comic or stern, sober or tipsy, tired or awake — alters the nature of any sexual interaction.
Sex is a collaborative experience and the emotional push and pull is what keeps it exciting. It’s also true that some men feel bound by gender stereotypes and feel they have to appear macho, making sex a time when they can reveal the softer, gentler side to their personality. That your boyfriend feels comfortable being vulnerable doesn’t mean he is weak, simply that he is in touch with his feelings and not afraid to show them.
Perhaps the real problem is that you are not comfortable taking the lead. When one partner is dominant, less is expected of the submissive partner. When those roles are reversed, the submissive partner is forced to engage in a more proactive way. Several studies have shown when women fantasise, they rarely think about what they might do to a partner. They are more likely to fantasise about something being done to them — occasionally this might even involve control.
There are three main theories about why this is. The first is that taking a more passive role allows women to avoid any blame or guilt that may arise from expressing their sexual desires. The second theory contradicts the first and proposes that women who have these sorts of fantasies are more sexually open and exploratory. And the third theory is these fantasies are narratives about female sexual power because they present women as being so irresistibly attractive that men cannot control themselves or their sexual urges in their presence.
The third theory does make these type of women sound rather egocentric, but some people do feel that being dominated is the same as being desired because it brings out an instinctive side. Although most women crave equality and want to escape traditional sexual scripts, a percentage of women will always prefer to let their partners take the lead in the bedroom. The 20th century author Anais Nin described this phenomenon in her diary when she wrote: “I do not want to be the leader. I refuse to be the leader. I want to live darkly and richly in my femaleness. I want a man lying over me, always over me. His will, his pleasure, his desire, his life, his work, his sexuality the touch-stone, the command, my pivot.”
While that now sounds very old-fashioned to most of us, it may be that the need to be desired is so central to your sexual experience that you can’t reciprocate when he wants you to take a more assertive role. Although it sounds as if your boyfriend expects a more equal sexual relationship, where you take turns initiating and leading during sex, he might be intrigued by your preference for more submissive sex, particularly if this is at odds with an otherwise confident personality. So perhaps start by explaining to him that you really like it when he takes the lead. It does, after all, sound as though he has no idea that you feel this way. Depending on how that goes, you will know what to expect in your future together and can make an informed decision about whether you can learn to accept each other’s likes and dislikes in the bedroom.