5 Things People Say In Bed That Aren't Cool
Sex in the media appears to be a largely silent activity, except for some gratuitous moans, which is unrealistic and damaging for several reasons. One, it's a really good idea to enthusiastically communicate things during sex for consent, and also to maximize pleasure. Two, it's not true; I once had sex while trying to make as many silly puns as possible without getting distracted. Three, it fails to target some of the common and problematic things that slip out of the mouths of partners on the semi-regular. If we don't have a discussion about what not to say during sex, aside from the obvious ("urgh, your [body part] is awful" is pretty high on the list of bad ideas), then we're just encouraging poor behavior and communication errors about orgasms, pleasure, and sexual judgement.
Nobody actively sets out to say awkward, insulting, or potentially anxiety-inducing things in bed. (And if they do, do not sleep with them.) But there are certain rhetorical aspects of sex talk that aren't challenged enough. It's not always a great idea to question whether a partner's come, or to spring a new and exciting thing on them without information (that's more a case of what you don't say). Your target always has to be both respecting and pleasuring your partner; if you're not getting pleasure, deal with it respectfully. Plain and simple.
Here are five things that we should all stop saying (or moaning) in bed. They might seem like a good idea at the time, but they'll equal trouble in the future.
1. "You're Giving Me Blue Balls"
While blue balls is a distinctly masculine term, both men and women in all relationship arrangements can be guilty of this one: getting annoyed or upset when a partner doesn't "put out" in an expected manner. (Yes, "blue balls" can come from genuine aching from extended sexual arousal in men, but that's not the common usage; if that's the case for you or a partner, you may want to read up on the details and see if you might want to go to a doctor). I've written before about how saying it to a woman isn't feminist, but saying it to anybody is deeply uncool. Here's why.
The ultimate decision as to whether to have sex always rests with both partners. If one's up for it and the other isn't, you don't have sex. If somebody changes their mind, that's OK; if somebody gets to a certain point and doesn't want to go further, even if they said they did before, that's OK too. If you feel that a situation involving denying you sexual attention is somehow manipulative, you need to have a mature conversation, with the very clear understanding that nobody "deserves" or "is owed" sex.
2. "It's A Surprise"
OK, look, novelty is fantastic. It's particularly great for women: Medical Daily explained in 2016 that examinations of the brains of women in long-term relationships found that their levels of desire dropped with a lack of novelty, and needed new levels of spice to maintain a healthy interest in a partner. But there's a large difference between breaking out new things together and embarking on adventures as a couple, and bringing in new toys, ideas, and maneuvers without the informed, active consent of the other person.
A lot of rhetoric around experimentation in the bedroom involves "surprising" people, and when things are relatively benign and unlikely to cause problems, this is OK: riffs on previous actions, new lingerie, stuff like that. But I'm extremely wary of any sexual surprise that can cause potential pain, alter the power dynamics of the situation, or involve one person's extreme vulnerability. If you really want to preserve a certain sense of anticipation and surprise, it's extremely important to keep seeking consent: "is this OK? You like that? I'm going to do something new now, are you excited?" Affirmative, vocal consent is seriously necessary in new sexual situations, and helps everybody participate effectively and determine when the experimentation stops being fun.
3. "Did You Come Yet?"
"It's the journey, not the destination" should be everybody's focus when it comes to sex. Intimacy isn't just about racking up another orgasm; making that the constant focus sets up the possibility of guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy if, for whatever reason, one partner doesn't hit the Big O. Anorgasmia is a thing, and it happens to both men and women; the International Society for Sexual Medicine highlights its occurrence in males, often as a result of medications, drug use, or issues of trauma or sexual anxiety. Centering sexual satisfaction around the achievement of orgasm is frankly not very welcoming for people who don't come easily or at all.
It also diminishes the experience. If it's not obvious that a partner came or is distinctly "finished," but they seem satisfied and pleasured, that's sufficient; you don't need to interrogate their O-status to see if you get to tick the box. Make it clear that you always want them to communicate if they want anything more, but never pressure them about taking "too long" or not orgasming.
4. "[Fake Orgasm Noises]"
A Cosmo survey in 2015 found that 67 percent of women in its readership had faked an orgasm at least once in their lives, a statistic Mic attributed at least in part to the fact that "our culture gives more value to behaviors that result in orgasm for men". Faking is both a deeply ingrained sexual behavior and a poor one: we want to protect the feelings of our partners (since "normal" sexual pleasure is seen as orgasm-dependent, see point #3), shorten an unnecessarily long sexual encounter, give praise, make them come, or whatever else. The upshot, though, is that the needless orgasm focus is repeated, our pleasure is underserved, and the partner thinks what they're doing is working. You're rewarding bad behavior for no distinct gains.
If you would like to come and haven't, it's a better idea to put your energy towards directing your partner towards getting you off. If you don't particularly mind and are worried about your partner's feelings, have a talk about how much pleasure they give you without necessarily getting you off every time like clockwork.
5. "You Slut" (Without Consent)
There is an exception to this: if somebody has asked deliberately to be called derogatory names in bed as part of dirty talk, names like slut and whore are allowed (and as an essay on The Frisky explains, it can be seriously hot). If it appears out of context, though, either while you're having sex or in discussions about it, then it's not cool in the slightest. Obviously both sides of the spectrum, from frigidity and sluttishness, are targeted towards regulating female sexuality in particular, but men can experience this shaming too. (Side note: dirty talk can be a fantastic way to communicate enthusiastic consent, as the Consensual Project points out, but never assume that anything derogatory or potentially insulting is automatically OK.)
If somebody is experiencing sexual dysfunction, chalking it up to being "a cold fish" or "frigid" is diminishing and ridiculous. Similarly, denigrating the choice to enjoy sex and have a lot of fun with it through words like "slut" is shaming natural sexual behavior. Uncool. Keep judgement out of the sexual arena, even if you think you're phrasing things as a compliment and aren't attempting to be offensive.
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