Considering that we live in a post Sex And The City world, where vibrator sales are the new Tupperware parties and women are more empowered than ever to pursue their own sexual pleasure, it’s tempting to think that men and women have finally leveled the playing field when it comes to casual sex. Women are increasingly feeling just as free to go out and find themselves a no-strings attached hook-up (which isn’t as easy as many men like to say it is…) and wondering when leaving her underwear behind is worth trying to just get out the door without waking him up.
Except as it turns out… well, frankly, there’re some questions as to whether or not the sex is actually worth it.
A pair of recently published studies highlight that there is something of a pleasure-gap between men and women when it comes to casual sex. One study from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University (which may be the only scientific study to cite Katy Perry’s “TGIF”) found that while 82% of men surveyed had a positive emotional reaction after a hook-up, only 53% of women did. Concurrently, women, it found, were only half as likely to orgasm during a casual hook-up as they would be in a committed relationship. Meanwhile, a similar study from New York University found that only 40% of women had orgasms during a hook-up as opposed to 82% of men.1
If you’re interested in casual sex or one-night stands, this should be of concern to you. After all, part of what makes a woman more likely to consider a casual hook up is whether the sex will be worth it… there’s nothing quite like a bad hook-up to put anybody off happy naked stranger time for months.
Fortunately, I have the secrets to being the greatest lover that your prospective hook-up has ever known. Seriously.
And the amazing thing is: it’s not what you might think.
You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned
The first thing is to understand that we’ve basically screwed ourselves out of amazing sex because we keep teaching all the wrong lessons about it.
We come from a very sex-negative culture; to quote NerdLove Celebrity Patronus Dan Savage, when Canada got the French and Australia got the criminals, America got the Puritans2. We have a long and celebrated history of viewing sex as something that is dirty and wrong and should only be shared with your wife or husband… and you probably shouldn’t be enjoying it in the first place. And despite the progress we have made over the years, this attitude continues to infect just about everything we do when it comes to sex.
Especially when it comes to education. The fact is, we’re very bad at teaching ourselves about sex. As I’ve said elsewhere, sex ed in this country is – at best – a plumbing manual and maybe some head-nods towards preventing STIs and pregnancy; at worst, it’s about trying to scare people away from having sex. There is absolutely nothing in most sex-ed curricula about sexual pleasure – nothing about the clitoris or even just that sex is supposed to feel good. We’re barely taught about what healthy sexual relationships look like or even how to advocate for our own sexual pleasure.
Moreover, we’re only now starting to realize just how much we’ve misunderstood female sexuality; most of our beliefs about female desire come from preconceived notions about male and female sexuality that we’re only just now starting to shake off. Everything we’re taught about sexual pleasure is almost exclusively male oriented, with women left as an afterthought at best. It wasn’t until recently that we realized just how large the clitoris actually is, for example, or that women experience even more desire than men do.
This is why the key to being a masterful lover comes as much from our understanding as it does from being able to lick your eyebrows and breathe through your ears.
Technique Doesn’t Matter
Great sex isn’t about technique. I mean, yes, I could go into detail about, say the Swirly Go-Round, the Transylvanian Twist or the Rusty Venture, but that falls into one of the classic fallacies about sex: that there is any one-size-fits-all technique guaranteed to bring any woman to orgasm.
Sorry. I realize that this is breaking the dating coach code; I’ve got three marketing emails about “special techniques to make any woman squirt” today alone from various dating gurus. But the fact of the matter is that most of the problems when it comes to lousy sex have far more to do with attitude and knowledge than whether you know how to find the OMGSpot or the difference between “core orgasms” and “deep orgasms” (Which apparently are a thing, going by my spam folder).
The problem is that we almost never have any actual conversations about “how to make sex feel good”. It’s easy enough for guys; penises are external and it doesn’t take much experimentation to figure out just what it takes to get ourselves off. Women on the other hand are not only more complicated, but have been actively discouraged from exploring their own sexuality, never mind talking about it.
Instead we are left to fumble around in the dark – metaphorically and literally – to find out what works and what doesn’t. Our next most readily available model for sex-ed – porn – teaches us all the wrong lessons and reinforces what we think we already know.
Because so much of male sexual response is tied to the penis and to penetrative sex, men tend to assume – reasonably so – that it’s the same for women. We get off the most from penetration, why shouldn’t women get off the same way? And since porn backs that up… well, as a result, we tend to get the idea that being a masterful lover is about endurance and penis-in-vagina fucking.
Except, porn is all about the performance, not the actual pleasure; assuming that porn models what sex is supposed to be like is like basing your assumption about finding apartments in New York on Friends re-runs. In porn, a great lover is one who can pound away for hours like a flesh jackhammer run in a non-union construction job, doling out orgasm after orgasm like an especially fucked up Willy Wonka. In the real world, not only is penetration the least likely way to bring a woman to orgasm (less than a quarter of women can reach vaginal orgasm via penetration alone), slamming away like that for even half that long is going to leave the inside of her vagina feeling like an Formula 1 engine at the end of Le Mans.
Moreover, the foreplay in porn is perfunctory and portrayed as a preliminary exercise to the all-important getting that proton torpedo to go in the exhaust port. Men slam their fingers into the vagina like they’re trying to dig a quarter out of a pay-phone3 and perform oral sex like a lizard on meth. While there are women who love rough sex, this is hardly a sure-fire method for getting them off.
The fact of the matter is, all women have different sexual responses and require different forms of stimulation. Sexual pleasure for women is a holistic issue, incorporating the whole body rather than just the genitals and nipples. It’s about finding the various erogenous zones besides the obvious ones. Some women get supremely aroused by having their necks kissed or sucked on; others enjoy similar attention to the inside crease of their elbow. Many enjoy the sensation of a mouth or teeth on the underside of their breasts more than on their nipples or enjoy steady pressure to the pubic mound, especially when they’re making out with someone. Even oral sex is more complicated than just trying write the alphabet with your tongue. Attacking the clitoris dead on, for example, isn’t a guaranteed recipe for good times. For some women, any clitoral contact is fine; others need a very specific speed and location – they may need gentle pressure to the side of the clitoral shaft, for example, while others will require more intense pressure and vibration than the human body can actually produce.
Moreover, most guys get obsessed with the idea of a “look ma, no hands” orgasm4 – the idea that an orgasm can be achieved strictly from penetration – and see the use of any external help, whether from her hands or a sex toy, as an indication that they are somehow failing to please her. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth; she’s having an orgasm with your direct participation. She wouldn’t be having it without you there, after all; it’s your penis or tongue or fingers she’s playing with. Again: most women cannot achieve orgasm strictly through vaginal penetration and require some sort of clitoral stimulation to push her over the edge. Accepting – even encouraging – her active participation is only going to make the sex better for the both of you – and set you far apart from the usual boors who can’t stand the idea that they don’t have the Magic Penis.
Of course, it’s easy to learn what your partner wants and needs when you’re in a committed relationship… you’ve getting to know each other over time and you’re going to feel more comfortable sharing information as the two of you grow more intimate. How are you supposed to figure all of this out with a relative stranger?
Use Your Tongue (But Not How You Think)
The key to great sex is to care and to communicate.
The problem, though, is that when you’re dealing with a relative stranger, there can be a certain level of disconnect. To give an example: Duvan Giraldo – the only man interviewed in a recent New York Times article on hook-up culture – was quoted as saying:
I’m not going to try as hard as when I’m with someone I really care about; […] you’re practically just strangers at that point.
Therein lies the difference between a masterful lover and just another roll in the hay; one is going to actually strive to please his partner, while the other may make a token effort, but is mostly there to get his rocks off. And while it’s tempting to mentally assign a one night stand or same night lay into a one-and-done scenario, I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that if I’m going to sleep with somebody once, I’d prefer it to be with someone I’d want to see again – even if it’s a casual hook-up. After all, some of the best relationships were hook-ups that simply never ended.
But while it’s easy for men to advocate for their own sexual pleasure – after all, we’re taught over and over again to ask for what we want – women may be far more reticent to do so. After all, the stigma against being seen as a slut is still incredibly present in our culture; women may not feel empowered to actually ask for what they want, especially from a casual encounter. Moreover, because of our sex-negative culture, we are taught that the best lovers are the ones who just magically intuit what we want; for many women, asking for it means taking an active role rather than just letting it happen and is therefore shameful.
So if women don’t feel as enabled to advocate for their own pleasure, then the burden is on us to draw it out. And to do so means being willing to ask and follow directions without letting your ego get in the way. The key is in the technique. You don’t want to interrupt passionate making out for a quick anatomy lesson, so you want to work it in to the foreplay.
As with any aspect of sex, 99% of it is in the presentation. Some women may be receptive to a breathy “tell me what you like” as you’re making out and running your hands through her hair. Others will be less likely to give you direct answers, so instead you may want to say “how’s this?” or “do you like this?” as you slowly start something new. Remember, you’re asking her because you want to please her; you’re not auditioning cheesy porno dialogue, demanding “You like that? Huh? Yeah, you like that?”5
The other key is to pay attention to non-verbal cues. Some women may not feel comfortable with telling you what they like but they will give out any number of signs that you’re doing something right (or wrong) by changes in breathing or moans or even gestures. In these cases, you don’t necessarily want to focus on one particular change; a sudden sharp intake of breath might be “yessss keep doing that!” or a “holy shit what was that STOP.” However, that sudden gasp followed by tilting her pelvis further towards you or pushing your head in tighter is a sign that you should keep doing whatever you just did until further notice. Similarly, some women may physically guide you to what they want, adjusting your head or your hands to where they want them. Let them; this isn’t a critique on your skills as a lover, it’s how she tells you “do this and it’ll be amazing.”
(Side note: when a woman gives you an indication that she’s enjoying something you’re doing, keep doing it. I realize it should go without saying, but I’ve lost track of how many women I’ve known who’ve complained about guys who would immediately shift to something else after being told what to do.)
It’s Not All About The Orgasm
So after all of that, I want you to keep something important in mind: it’s not all about the orgasm.
It’s hard for guys to wrap their heads around this; after all, we have a much easier time getting off… and because blue-balls are, in fact, really goddamn painful. So how could orgasms not be equally important for women?
Women are quite capable of enjoying sex without having orgasms; all of it can be incredibly satisfying on a physical and emotional level. Sometimes the stars will align just so and there will be simply no way she can get off that time. She may be tired, have had too much to drink, be overly stressed or otherwise just can’t because reasons. And frankly, there will be plenty of women who simply can’t get off easily with a stranger. They may require more emotional intimacy and engagement than they can have with somebody they just met. They may simply be unable to have an orgasm with a partner at all and need a vibrator to provide the level of stimulation that they require.
This doesn’t mean that they didn’t enjoy the sex, it just means that their needs for orgasm are slightly different than for others.
However, because many men get obsessed with the idea that all sex must involve cumming – or in being the Provider of Orgasms – there can be a lot of pressure on women to “perform”, which is the opposite of sexy. When it’s not going to happen and she’s feeling that it’s somehow incumbent on her to put on the When Harry Met Sally show in order to salve a dude’s ego… well, she’s probably going to fake it.
Focusing on “did you cum?” is asking the wrong question. The question you want to know is “did you enjoy it?”
Of course, just because women can enjoy sex without orgasm doesn’t mean you have a free pass not to try. The greatest lovers care about their partner’s pleasure, even if it isn’t necessarily roof-rocking screams that wake the neighbors.
It’s Not All About Your Orgasm
The final key to being the greatest lover she’s ever known is to deprogram yourself from the most common narrative in sex: that the man’s orgasm is the finishing line.
Of course, there may be some post-coital cuddling, maybe some absently playing with her boobs or running his hands over her as they bask in the afterglow… but that’s all afterplay. The sex portion of the evening is done.
The idea that sex is over when the man cums6 is deeply rooted in the collective psyche; after all, every porn scene ever ends with the male money shot. As soon as he cums, it’s over, fade to black. The male-ejaculation-as-ending is also the root of many insecurities and complaints around sex. From the fear of premature ejaculation to the ever-popular cliche of blowing one’s load and falling asleep, we are told over and over again that sex ends when the man is finished. Period. Sometimes things can be resumed once the refractory period is over, but until then… well, hope you got yours sister, because he got his.
The reason for this is that for men, orgasm means a momentary loss of libido and energy; we no longer have that immediate drive and start to feel the post-orgasmic lassitude. Our erections soften as the blood returns to the rest of our body and we have to wait until we’ve recharged enough to go again. But of course, this attitude is born out of our phalli-centric, penetrative definition of sex. A flaccid cock means no more fucktimes, yes?
Well, you know what never goes soft? Your tongue. Your fingers. A sex toy. They’re still ready to go and – unlike the penis – don’t have an annoying tendency to go off before you want them to. If you cum quicker than you’d like from penetration, then take off the condom and switch to oral; you’re still having sex, even if you’re not pumping away like a meat piston. Use your hands. Use a dildo. You’re still providing her with sexual pleasure and unlike so many other men, you’re showing you’re far more versatile in how you go about doing it.
Masterful lovers separate their ideas of sex from simple penetration. Sex is about more than penis-in-vagina; it’s about tongues and hands and arms and legs. It’s not about fluid exchanges, it’s about sensations and connections, about emotion and desire. Once you understand how to connect with a woman, how to elicit her deepest desires and how to make sex about more than just your pleasure, you will be the man women brag to their friends about as the greatest sex they’ve ever had.
- Worth noting: these were both very heteronormative studies; neither study said anything about or surveyed any gay or lesbian couples as Slate’s Amanda Hess correctly points out. [↩]
- Yes, I know about bundling and other ways the Puritans liked to get freaky. I’m making a point here. [↩]
- ask your parents, kids. [↩]
- Hat tip once again to Dan Savage [↩]
- Unless, of course, that’s what she prefers. [↩]
- Which, tellingly, gay men don’t have to deal with… [↩]