What It Means If Someone Calls You A 'Pillow Princess' Or 'Starfish'

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The first time I had sex, I was terrified the whole time. I wasn't worried about the pain. I wasn't worried about how I looked. 

What I was worried about was whether or not I was "doing enough" on my end of the whole interaction. But once I was actually having it, sex seemed a bit more one-sided than I'd expected. I couldn't help but feel as though I somehow wasn't doing my part.

So, I did what any woman would do: I turned to Google.

I searched up what men think women should be doing over the course of their sexual encounters, and I found the phrases "being a pillow princess" and "being a starfish."

Essentially, when a man calls a woman a starfish, pillow princess, pillow queen, mattress queen, or some variation of the sort, he means that she's more than happy to lay there and let things be done to her during sex, but that she in no way participates actively, and, in some cases, has no interest in ensuring a pleasurable experience for either herself or her partner.

Each phrase and slang term does have its own unique flavor, which is discussed below (because it's important to be knowledgeable).

What is a pillow princess?

According to Urban Dictionary, there are two definitions that mean the same exact thing, but are only distinguishable in respect to sexual orientation.

Definition one: "A girl in a lesbian relationship who likes the receiving but doesn't like to do the giving. This is the same as a pillow queen AKA the 'bottom' in the relationship."

Definition two: "A woman who enjoys sex, but prefers not to reciprocate as much as he gives. She feels both parties' pleasure should be reached by pleasuring her."

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This term predates the term mattress queen and was coined in the LGBTQ+ community. If you're calling a woman a pillow princess, you're saying she will let another woman go down on her, but she will never go down on another woman.

This is usually something said about a woman who isn't out as a lesbian, or who is bicurious and in the process of experimenting with her sexuality.

But what does pillow queen mean? Pillow queen came out somewhere along the line when straight men decided to modify "pillow princess" to refer to women who are "lazy" in bed. This is because many "pillow princesses" have a favorite position that involve laying down where they don't have to do anything.

Pillow queen evolved as the straight version of pillow princess, referring to a woman who always receives but hardly ever gives. In other words, they are the kind of people who don't return the favor.

Sex to a pillow queen is all about her. At least guys gave their ladies a nicer title, upgrading them from pillow princesses to pillow queens. You've got to love that royal life.

What is a mattress queen?

Again, the definitions vary, albeit only slightly, as a woman who is called a mattress queen can be called this by straight people.

Definition one: "[A term] used to describe an individual that receives money or other tangible assets in exchange for sexual favors."

Definition two: "A woman who is known to sleep around a lot, that she is always on her back on the bed."

When men refer to women this way, they mean that the woman who is their sexual partner prefers to be on the receiving end of sexual pleasure, but does not like to reciprocate. They don't return the favor, so to speak, and would rather only receive sexual pleasure instead of giving it.

This phrase is also used by some women to refer to another woman they believe (or want others to believe) makes her money by having sex with wealthy partners.

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What is a starfish?

This term has two meanings in the lexicon of sex terms.

Definition one: "The small cross shape made by the sphincter muscle."

Definition two: "Female sexual partner who remains 'unmoved' during lovemaking, physically non-responsive," like a... starfish.

A woman who is said to be guilty of starfishing during sex is usually being spoken about this way by straight men.

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It's hetero guys' coded way of telling their friends that a woman they had sex with just laid in bed and allowed sex to happen without being involved or participating in any way, shape or form. The first definition relates more to a woman's starfish, or her anus. 

3 Signs You Might Be A 'Pillow Princess'

1. You're an expert at dirty talk.

Since you don't like doing sexual things to your partner, you make up for it by talking dirty. You use your words to get your partner aroused while they do things to you. Pillow princesses are known to be masters of the dirty talking world. 

2. Your favorite sex positions involve laying down.

When it comes to sex, you enjoy positions that require the least amount of effort, like missionary. These positions allow you to just stay put, lay down, and enjoy what your partner is doing to you. This is most likely where the connotation of "lazy" comes into play.

3. You receive oral sex more than you give it.

You'd rather have someone to go down on you and then start intercourse, rather than reciprocating and doing the same in return. This isn't always a bad thing, as sometimes, giving oral sex can be uncomfortable. It's not for everyone, but it can be a sign that you're not doing enough in bed.

If you're a woman who is worried that you're acting like a pillow princess or a mattress queen in bed, please don't panic.

There's no reason to think anyone expects you to engage in crazy bedroom acrobatics. It simply means that even if you both prefer to have vanilla, missionary sex every time, your partner most likely wants you to engage with him.

Stroke your partner's back. Wrap your legs around their hips. Move underneath them. Enjoy the feelings of pleasure and be present in the experience.

If you really want to banish such a reputation or prevent yourself from ever acquiring one, all you need to do is be ready and eager to reciprocate sexually. Take some initiative and ask the person you're with if they'd like you to pleasure them in any particular sort of way.

Of course, there are some people who actually seek out passive partners because they themselves don't enjoy being on the receiving end, and would rather be the one who is the one giving than the one who is getting.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer and the Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.