Navigating love, life, and relationships

Tough Love

For Strong Women Who Want to Get Down in the Bedroom

Couples can get dirty together in many ways

Couple wrapped in blanket standing by the lake (Michela Ravasio / Stocksy United)
Adventure

Couples can get dirty together in many ways

Welcome to Tough Love. Every other week, we’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at toughlove@outsidemag.com.


I grew up a tomboy, loving all things outdoors, and this has carried into my adult life. My fiancé and I have enjoyed some incredible adventures together—mountain biking and camping the entire 100-mile White Rim in Utah, backpacking Havasupai in Arizona, backpacking the green forests of Pennsylvania. I enjoy being an adventurous, dirty, low-maintenance girl, but I’m a woman, after all. I need to feel sexy sometimes, and I need him to really see that side of me, but he’s clueless. He is so respectful and kind when it comes to our love life, but I need to be pursued, ravaged, pinned up against a wall, thrown around in the bedroom. I need him to zone out of “us” once in a while and just be so into the moment that he wants to go Christian Grey on me.

Is this my doing, because my usual idea of a date is having him give me a snowboard lesson or going on a mountain bike ride? I really enjoy putting on lip stain and dressing sexy every once in a while, but we rarely find ourselves with an occasion for this other than attending a wedding or Christmas party. I dress up for work every so often and get the occasional “You look nice today,” but I’m really sometimes hoping for an “I can’t wait to get you home and out of those clothes.” How do I help him to see me as a feminine woman who he wants to pounce on and not just his down-to-earth fiancée? I don’t know how to talk to him about this without making him feel like he’s doing something wrong.

Congrats on your engagement! It sounds like you’ve found a great partner-in-adventure. It also sounds like you’re in a long-term relationship, which naturally involves some ups and downs in your sex life—and, hopefully, plenty of opportunities for your connection to evolve along the way.

I think your tomboy dynamic is a red herring, as it’s based in the old-school perceived conflict between femininity and athleticism (and don’t get me started on the sexual association between traditional femininity and submission). But even false dichotomies feel real when they shape our behavior, and your fiancé might worry that if he treats you as a “feminine woman,” he’ll be undermining your power and athleticism. The good news is he’s not—even if it takes an explicit conversation for him to consciously realize it. Know how to break that dichotomy down further? Embrace all sides of yourself. Go backpacking one week. Dress in heels the next. Carry lip tint in your pocket for stopping by the bar after a climbing session. Make your own opportunities to dress up, whether you’re going out dancing, to a fancy dinner, or anywhere you’ll stay clean enough to justify busting out a red silk dress. Or, hell, just go ahead and get your red dress dirty.

Christian Grey is a creep, and I’m glad to hear that your fiancé isn’t naturally inclined toward Grey’s controlling and stalker-like tendencies, but he’s also a fantasy figure and a useful tool for illustrating your desires. “Hey,” you can say on some unscheduled Saturday afternoon. “Will you watch 50 Shades of Grey with me? I think it’d be hot to watch it together.” If he says yes, here’s a chance to point out different scenes or interactions that turn you on. If he declines, consider it a seed you’ve planted for later, when you’re both in the right mood.

It sounds to me like your fiancé is considerate and respectful—vital qualities in a life partner—but might need some nudging to know that consensual disrespect, so to speak, can be another form of respect, one that prioritizes knowing your partner’s individual tastes over general etiquette. And it can be hard for anyone to hear suggestions for their sex life without taking them as a critique. The trick, in this case, is to frame your desires as an expansion of your repertoire rather than a replacement, and a chance to celebrate the moments when you’ve already nodded toward power play in the bedroom. Can you think of a time when your fiancé was a bit more aggressive in bed, even in a single gesture, a single kiss? Few people have ever been sad to hear their lover whisper in their ear, “I can’t stop thinking about when you…”

Now, go have fun—fun for both of you. As you talk more about what turns you on, your fiancé might even surprise you with some surprising desires of his own. And off you go on another joint adventure.


My husband and I have finally achieved our dream of owning land in the country. Unfortunately, building a house is going to be a way more expensive and involved project then we imagined. While we gather funds and make plans, we have decided to make the best campsite ever. I feel that the first thing we need to do is dig an outhouse. We could build one quickly and cheaply, and I’ve always appreciated a well-maintained outhouse. If you don’t throw paper or trash in them, they seem to compost quickly and don’t smell. They offer a quaint comfort and can contribute atmosphere to the land. Even once we build our home, it would be great for camping guests and our inevitably muddy kids. There’s something healthy about taking your business outdoors.

My husband is dead set against the idea of creating a “craphole” on our land. He thinks the idea is disgusting and wants nothing to do with it. He would rather invest the time it takes to build an outhouse into creating a real bathroom (which may take months to even get close to doing). He is OK with buying a plastic outhouse that can be cleaned out. I think that idea is expensive and disgusting. Who wants to store a plastic closet full of uncomposting feces floating in chemicals until we can afford to empty it? Plastic outhouses just look trashy and depressing. There’s no way around it.

I am amazed at what an issue this has become. Both of us are stuck on insisting our opinions are correct and the end-all decision. Am I being irrational? Is he? How can we compromise? (And please don’t suggest composting toilets. They are expensive and way too easy to mess up. I’ve been traumatized by dealing with composting gone wrong.)

Thanks for your help.

Your fan, Constipated Love

I hate to break it to your husband, but whether or not you build an outhouse, your land is already a craphole for the hundreds of thousands of nonhuman organisms inhabiting it. Why not embrace that while offering guests and family alike a bit of privacy to do their business? A home-built outhouse—I recommended a deep hole and a cup of lime powder every now and then—is a pleasant solution. A commercial Porta-Potty, on the other hand, is an uninviting, unnatural plastic hotbox containing a blue lagoon of chemicals and involving an often-faulty pumping system with a tiny blenderlike contraption that’s meant to whisk the chunkier sewage into soup but is apt to clog at inopportune moments and require you to take it apart, piece by piece, to dislodge whatever chunk has stopped the blade. Trust me: One of my old guiding jobs involved pumping plastic outhouses by hand. You don’t want to go down that road.

Pinterest Icon