We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off-limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today’s topic: how men can be better sexual partners to women.
Q: This is a rather general question, but I was wondering if you could write about how men can be good sexual partners for women. I have had several relationships end because the guy didn’t seem like he could be a partner in creating a healthy sex life. I know I’m not going to be sexually compatible with every guy I meet, but it seems like so many guys out there are selfish or disrespectful when it comes to sex.
A: Thanks for your question! I love talking about the nitty-gritty, but I welcome the opportunity to talk about larger topics, too. I’m all about creating a more sex-positive world, and it’s important to talk about how we can all contribute to that. Of course, I have to give the caveat that not all men approach sex the same way. That being said, there are some broad patterns I have noticed in my work with men who sleep with women. Here are eight ways for to be truly amazing in the sack.
1. Educate Yourself
Great lovers are made, not born! This is a point that I bring up time and time again. So many people expect sex to be effortless, but it rarely works that way in the real world. Just like any other skill, being good in bed takes time, practice, and education. There are so many topics to learn about, including sexual health, STI and pregnancy prevention, sexual technique, and communication.
Books are an easy way to jump-start your own sex ed. The Big Bang by Nerve is a great entry-level primer to all things sex. She Comes First by Ian Kerner is an incredible book about refining your oral sex technique. Check out some books about sex positions or female orgasm. These are all fun topics to brush up on, so this shouldn’t ever feel like a chore!
2. Respect That Your Partner Is Unique
Learning about sex in a general sense is important, but it’s just as important to realize that different things work for different partners. What one partner likes won’t necessarily be a hit for another. Any time you’re with someone new, get to know their body, just as you would get to know about them as a person. When you’re being intimate, ask what they want and like (even simple questions like “Is this a good stroke?” are helpful). Solicit their feedback during and after your times together. Pay attention to how your partner responds nonverbally, too, and adjust your approach accordingly. Does your partner breathe more heavily when you use one particular stroke? Do they moan when you pick up the pace?
It’s especially important not to compare your partner to your past partners. Your past experiences will create a good foundation of sexual skills, but don’t ever directly compare her to someone you’ve been with in the past. I’ve heard so many men say things like “All of the women I’ve been with have loved that position” or “My ex never had a problem orgasming.” These kinds of comments are insensitive and hurtful. They’re not going to magically change their preferences (“Oh really? Now I love that position, too!”), and they’re going to (rightfully) piss them off.
3. Don’t Expect Your Partner To Work Like You Do
I work with a lot of men who expect their partner's sexuality to work the same way as theirs. For example, they may wonder why it takes their partner so long to get turned on, when they can be ready for sex at the drop of a hat. Our society accepts male sexuality as the “default,” and treats people with vulvas as deficient if they don’t respond the same way.
Another example lies in the fact that we shame folks with vulvas for taking “too long” to orgasm simply because people with penises can do it faster. If you want to be a good partner, you should respect the fact that there are big differences in the ways people feel desire, get aroused, and experience pleasure. Get to know what makes your partner tick.
4. Care About Their Pleasure
This one should go without saying, but there are a surprising number of people out there who don’t care about their partner’s experience. Even if you’re just in a casual sexual relationship with someone who has a vulva, you should still be invested in their pleasure. It should feel good to make another person feel good. Ask them how you can make the evening enjoyable for them. Spend time focusing on just their body. Tell them how much it turns you on to hear their moans. There’s nothing sexier than knowing that your partner is genuinely enjoying bringing you pleasure.
5. ... But Don’t Pressure Them To Orgasm
On the other hand, you don’t want to get so invested in making your partner feel good that you wind up pressuring them to orgasm. It’s great to want to make your partner orgasm, but don’t make them feel like they need to orgasm. Many women and nonbinary folks are sensitive to feeling pressured in the bedroom, but orgasm is impossible when it feels like an expectation. Your partner's pleasure should be important to you simply because you want them to feel good, not because you want to boost your ego.
Don’t make a partner feel guilty if they can't reach orgasm (again, no “But my ex orgasmed every time!” BS). You can get this point across by saying something like, “I can keep doing this until you tell me you’re ready to stop.” Or you can even say directly, “I want to make you feel good, but I don’t want you to feel pressured to orgasm.”
Open, honest communication is one of the pillars of fantastic sex. It’s vital for so many different reasons. You need to be able to tell your partner what your desires are, and to ask what theirs are. It’s important to give feedback about what each of you likes. If you’re in a relationship, there will definitely be times where you have to communicate about problems in your sex life. And it’s really hot to talk dirty during sex itself! Talking about sex is hard for most people, but it gets a lot easier with practice. Check out this straightforward primer on developing your sexual communication skills.
7. Be Sensitive About Body Issues
Women and nonbinary folks are expected to live up to the ridiculous standards perpetuated by the media. We’re bombarded by Photoshopped images of perfect bodies and shamed for not living up these ideals. Every single body part is nitpicked to death. On top of all of that, we’re socialized to believe that our genitals “look weird” and “smell funny.”
All of this pressure we feel around our bodies affects our enjoyment of sex. It’s hard to be in the moment when you’re worried about your stomach or are ashamed of the way your genitals taste. I bring up this issue because being sensitive about this can help folks who didn't have this experience be better partners. You're not responsible for making your partner feel more self-confident, but you can help them feel more comfortable in the moment. Tell your partner the specific things you love about their body. Compliment them during the most vulnerable moments, like when you're taking off their clothes or moving down between their legs. Let them know that the way they taste and smell turns you on.
8. Be An Advocate for Sex-Positivity
So many people bemoan the fact that women and nonbinary folks don’t feel more comfortable with sex, but then they turn around and slut-shame them. This shaming is horrifyingly pervasive, and it has serious consequences. If you want someone to have sex with you, you have to make it safe for them to actually do so. Don’t degrade women and nonbinary individuals by calling them names, objectifying their bodies, or disrespecting their boundaries.
Let women and nonbinary folks make their own decisions, and respect their choices. Keep your judgments to yourself (or better yet, take some time to examine why you’re making any judgments in the first place). The bottom line is this: We can all contribute to a healthier, happier, more sex-positive world by simply respecting each other. That’s not so hard, is it?
This piece was originally published on October 19, 2015. It was updated on June 24, 2019.
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