Ever seen the movie Fame?
There’s a scene when a student argues to a teacher that he doesn’t need an orchestra or even any one else to make music. That using a synthesizer, he could make music without anyone else, by himself.
“That’s not music, Martelli,” the teacher says. “That’s masturbation.”
Which is fine and often more efficient (we’ll get to that), but it’s usually more fun with someone else, isn’t it?
Last week I wrote my first piece about sexuality and manhood in the context of our current societal conversation following #MeToo. It was about talking about sex. Here I continue that conversation, delving a little deeper into what men today should be considering, in the sexual realm, of what it means to be a better man.
Jokes from the scene from Fame aside, there is a lot for men to think about on the differences between solo sex and sex with a partner.
Too often, I’m afraid, men (and yes, I’ve been guilty of this myself) view the goals and purpose of those two kinds of sex as the same, and that can lead to all sort of problems and issues.
The goal of masturbation is physical and sexual pleasure for yourself. You do what you need to do to make yourself feel good; you provide yourself with an orgasmic release then go on with your day (or fall asleep for the night).
But when you apply that same self-centered approach to partnered sex, you lose out, and so does your partner. The mistake so many men make is they get so excited to have sex, and also so anxious about their sexual performance (getting and staying hard, lasting as long as possible) that they forgot the purpose of what they are there for: to have enjoyable partnered sex.
With the key word being partner.
And that’s taking the positive spin approach to it. Let’s be honest: some men’s cluelessness towards their partners is intentional, dismissive and abusive. I’m referring to men who are actively oblivious to their partner’s needs, and conscious of using them for their bodies. They know what they are doing. That’s not what I’m talking about here, as bad as that is. I have no patience for men who behave this way.
Instead, I’m talking about men who are less conscious of their selfish approach, either through not being taught about being a good partner or simply through inexperience, never thinking about sex this way, or too caught up in the moment to get out of their heads and into the moment that should be shared between two people.
The greatest advice men need to hear about sex, the one thing that will make them better at it, that also has the benefit of making them a better man overall, is never forgetting the true meaning of the word partner.
When you’ve having sex with someone else, it’s a joint endeavor. It may seem obvious, but so much of women’s sexual frustration with men is due to men not being fully aware of their partner. Don’t believe me?
Studies have shown that lesbians give women more orgasms. In short, as a woman, “if you have sex with a straight man, you’ve chosen the demographic least likely to make you come.”
When you have a cooking partner, you prepare, cook and enjoy the meal…together. Both of you take part in and responsibility for the meal, both of you then enjoy it and both of you leave the table satisfied.
When you go to the gym with a partner, both of you work out, you both sweat, you push and inspire each other, spot them, help each other through your routine…together. You both walk away sated, fulfilled and reaping the benefits of exercise.
When you have sex with a partner, you both help each other fulfill each other’s physical and emotional needs (I’m refraining from mentioning orgasm, since while that is often the result of good partnered sex, it is not the inherent goal in itself).
You both get touched in ways that you couldn’t do yourself, you both experience the sensation of sex with another person, you both got what you came for (pun intended). Right?
Not always. Right?
And that’s a shame.
Actually, it’s worse than a shame. It’s selfish, toxic and unfair.
You would never cook for your girlfriend and then not let her eat the meal. You would never go to the gym together and just have her watch you work out.
So why would you engage in sex with a partner and not have her (or him, this idea applies to any kind of partnered sex) get what they need and want?
Sex is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. The urges, the heat of the moment, the thrill, the hunger and need for release…there’s a lot of pent up energy in male sexual desire. All normal. And fun.
But sometimes we can get a little too far ahead of ourselves, and rush, and then, before you know it, we’re done…and we’ve left our partner in a lurch, frustrated and unsatisfied.
While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional quickie, it’s in that moment when your actions as a man will dictate what kind of partner you are.
Are you going to roll over and fall asleep…or are you going to remain in the moment and help your partner achieve the satisfaction you just had?
I recently read the book “She Comes First.” It’s essentially a treatise, and technical guidebook, on performing oral sex on a woman. I’ll leave the mechanics and your technique of choice to you, but the principle point of the book is essentially the one I’m making here: that in order to be a good lover, a good partner, you need to make sure your partner has the fullest range of physical pleasure as you can.
The writer of the book believes oral sex is the way. The idea is to make sure you are not being selfish in your sexual encounters. It’s fine to spend time focusing on your own needs, wants and desires, of course, and sometimes that’s necessary. Your partner, hopefully, will want to provide and deliver to you the pleasure you want.
It just needs to be reciprocated.
Last week I wrote about the need for men to get better at talking about sex.
Starting from a young age, boys (and even young men, and sometimes adult men too), as part of their sex education, need to learn how to talk to other men — and their partners — about sex.
There is a through line here, when picturing the steps or phases of sex education, form learning how to communicate about it, to being taught the important, critical elements of clear, continuous consent, and then to the importance of being an attentive, caring sexual partner.
It’s a way of looking at sex beyond just an act that you are doing….to something that is shared and enjoyable. That in addition to safe sex, that in addition to contraception, that in addition to consent, we also consider pleasure, for ourselves and absolutely, each and every time, for our partner.
There was an offshoot of #MeToo that focused on bad sex. The story “Cat Person” helped launch that conversation. Just like they had in recounting episodes of and experiences with sexual harassment, women began writing and speaking out about their all too common uncomfortable, awkward, frustrating and unsatisfactory experiences with bad sex.
A lot of women talked about not knowing any better, that they assumed they had to put up with not being satisfied, either to not hurt their partner’s feelings or not knowing they could expect, ask and demand something better. That they, as women, as people, as sexual human beings, deserve better.
A lot of selfish, boorish behavior was attributed to men, a lot of it deserved. But in thinking about it, I realized I had never been taught anything about sexual pleasure.
Not how to define it for myself, nor the importance of providing it to my partner. All I got was from the movies, where couples simultaneously orgasm during intercourse.
This is a cultural issue. While I learned a lot from my sexual partners, it should not be up to women to teach men the values of sexual equality. That if I orgasm, so should they.
Couples can and should work together to learn each other’s bodies, turn-ons and turn-offs, fantasies and desires. That’s the fun part. So too is the experimentation.
But the awareness of being a good, nurturing, fair-minded partner is not an unreasonable expectation for women to have of their sexual partners. You don’t need to keep a balance sheet or scorecard of who is getting what and when, but over time, your sex life as a couple should leave both partners satisfied and fulfilled.
Most men would tell you a sexual encounter without an orgasm is, if not a failure then at least a major disappointment. Well, men need to apply that same philosophy to the perspective of their partner. Otherwise, they might as well just take care of themselves, which, when not attentive to their partner’s needs, is essentially what they are doing anyway.
Lastly, I want to touch on one word in that last sentence: needs. Wants and desires, fantasies and wishes.
Those are all important words and concepts, but they fall short of needs.
Our society has clichés for this: “I have certain needs.” “I have to get my needs met.” In all clichés lie kernels of truth.
Our sexual desires and urges are in fact needs. They are things we feel instinctually, physically and psychologically, that we must have. They are non-negotiable.
But the physical and sexual needs are just as, if not more, important than other needs. The sexual and physical bond we have with our romantic partner is what sustains the relationship. It is what separates that relationship from all your other relationships and friendships.
When romantic relationships end, a friendship can remain, but the sex doesn’t. It’s the removal of sexual intimacy that marks the end of a romantic relationship. In that sense, the presence of sex is what defines a romantic relationship.
Being a good partner means being conscious of your partner’s needs (emotional, psychological, physical and sexual) and helping ensure those needs are met. You have the right, of course, to expect that in return.
That’s what romantic relationships are, a symphony of two, hopefully in harmony, together enjoying each other’s personalities, bodies and ways of being in the world.
If you aren’t a good sexual partner and only cater to your own needs, ultimately, those will be the only needs you’ll have the pleasure of meeting.
Have any feedback? I can be reached at scottmgilman @ gmail.com.
Previously published on psiloveyou
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