On Monday we talked about the paradoxes inherent in male sexuality and the culture that encourages men to have sex with women while simultaneously degrading them for being willing to do so, and my belief that it’s possible to get the sex you want while also not being an asshole. After all, speaking strictly from a position of enlightened self-interest, a culture where women aren’t treated simultaneously as sex objects and then slut-shamed by the men that desire them for being sex objects is a culture where women are going to be more willing to express themselves sexually. Thus, I encourage men to be sex-positive but also to look for the sex they want in a way that doesn’t make women uncomfortable or cast them in an antagonistic role. Or as I like to call it: “Fuck Like A Gentleman”.
But the sex-positive, collaborative view of sex goes beyond just the act of trying to pick someone up; it continues well into the bedroom as well. After all, taking someone home isn’t the end of the game, and it’s all to easy to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by acting like an asshat. So let’s take a look at what it takes to truly fuck like a gentleman.
Only Sleep With People You Could Be Friends With
This has been a rule of thumb that I adopted late in my development as I was beginning to exit the PUA scene: I would only sleep with people I could see myself being friends with. One of the things that helped reshape my thinking about casual sex was the number of times I ended up going home with someone I was interested in having sex with… but couldn’t stand to talk to as soon as I was done. And let me tell you, there is little more awkward that being in bed with someone and wondering just how you can extract yourself from the situation as quickly and painlessly as possible. And I’m not the only person who’s had this issue; most of my friends in the scene have had elaborate ways of trying to get out (or shuffle their partner out the door) as soon as they got their rocks off.
Sex is a relationship – even if it’s only a relationship for that evening – and treating someone like a sex toy just because you’re not planning on seeing them again is incredibly dehumanizing. Being able to have a conversation with someone and enjoying their company even if sex was off the table is a core component to fucking like a gentleman; not only does it mean you are going to treat her with respect, but it makes the aftermath much less awkward. When you’re compatible with someone, even someone who you’re just planning on a one night stand with, you don’t feel like you’re making the “walk of shame” afterwards or wondering just what the hell you were thinking1 doing going home with that person.
Plus: that potential for friendship and compatibility makes the sex much more enjoyable. After all, it’s far easier to have conversations about kinks, positions, condoms, etc. with someone you’re into intellectually as well as sexually than with someone you’re hoping just to bang and forget.
It’s easy to think that, because you’re only planning on a one-night stand, you’ll never see them again. Except… if the sex is good, why wouldn’t you want to see them again? Plus, many an amazing relationship began as a one night stand that just didn’t end. It’s easier to pivot from a ONS to something more frequent if you’re at least friendly before hand than if you’re just two strangers planning on using each other and disappearing into the night.
Enthusiastic Consent Is The Default Standard
I can’t emphasize this enough: no matter the circumstances, if you’re going to be having sex with someone, then you should be looking for an enthusiastic yes, not just trying to avoid a “no”. Just because she came home with you – or you went to her place – doesn’t mean that it’s all over but the squishy noises. Even if you think that your intentions were perfectly clear, each participant’s expectations can vary drastically. She may be down for banging… or she may be willing to fool around some but isn’t sure she wants to actually have sex. She may have been heavily into you at the party but now that you’re at the front door, she’s not entirely sure… but doesn’t necessarily want to upset you by asking you to take her home right then and there. Never assume that “everyone knows what X means”; misunderstandings happen and people can have wildly different ideas about what they’ve just signed up for.
Thus: you want to make sure there are no misunderstandings or wrong ideas. After all, you want someone who is eager to fuck you, not somebody who is going along to get along because she feels obligated and doesn’t believe she has the right to back out now.
And that enthusiasm is important. Enthusiastic consent means someone who is a willing and excited participant and taking a “no”, even a soft or indirect “no”, as an answer. On occasion, you’ll hear from guys who insist that women will play “How bad do you really want it” by saying “no” when they really mean “try harder”. Beyond my initial reaction of “so could you sound a little more rapey?” my answer is “so what?” If she’s playing head games2 then the best thing to do is not play. The last thing you want is to be with someone who thinks “hard to get” is a valid dating strategy. Bid her a fond good night, and find someone else who isn’t going to send conflicting messages rather than buying into the idea that “no” is really a bargaining point instead of a refusal.
Also: remember that consent is granular; someone may consent to, say, oral, but not for full intercourse; this is why it’s important to check in with your partner rather than just assuming “well, she’s been cool with everything else…” or deciding that it’s all fait accompli. And of course, consent can be withdrawn without question. If for whatever reason she’s decided she doesn’t want to do something any more, the only response a gentleman has is to say “I understand” and to stop without complaint.
Respect Her Boundaries (And Enforce Your Own)
Tying into enthusiastic consent, you want to respect your partner’s boundaries.
People are complicated, often contradictory beasts. We all have limits and things that we just cannot or will not do… and they aren’t always logical or may not even make sense to an outside party. But just because we don’t necessarily understand the reason or motivation for somebody’s boundaries doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t respect them… especially when sex is involved.
Everyone has things that are a hard “no” to them while others may be a “not yet” while still others could well be negotiated under the right circumstances. Each person has the right to determine where his or her limits are and how firm they are, no matter whether they seem entirely logical and reasonable or completely absurd. It’s not up to you to decide which things are ok to push against which other things aren’t. This means not trying to manipulate her, guilt her or otherwise apply social pressure like “freeze outs” and other anti-Last Minute Resistance techniques. This is coercion, not consent.
But respecting boundaries doesn’t just mean hers; it means yours as well… and you should be willing to enforce them as needed. Just as she is free to draw the line and not be pushed past it, so too are you. Many guys I know live in fear of the Paradise By the Dashboard Light moment, being brought up short in what seems like the worst possible minute and making sex conditional on agreeing to a relationship, marriage or some other unwanted transaction. Still others worry about being led on by someone who wants to manipulate them through their junk, perpetually leading them on by keeping the promise of sex just tantalizingly out of reach. And these are all areas where you have to be willing to say “no” and hold firm. You don’t make a fuss or accuse them of trying to pull anything. Just refuse to play; don’t let yourself be guilted, taunted or teased into giving in.
Does it mean you’re giving up the possibility of sex with this person? Well… yes. Sometimes the price of enforcing your boundaries means not screwing manipulative people. Trust me, this is a feature, not a bug and you’ll be much happier for it.
One of the most important concepts that the official NerdLove Patronus Dan Savage came up with is the concept of being “GGG” – that is, being good, giving and game. In many ways, this represents the core of the “fucking” part of “fuck like a gentleman”3 Here’s how you apply it:
Be Good (In Bed)
What this means is that you should aspire to be a skilled, talented lover. Don’t necessarily have the experience to build up those skill points? Then you practice. The keys to learning how to be a good lover are very simple: you show an eagerness to listen, an ability to take direction and criticism without taking it personally or letting your ego get in the way. Even if you’re a complete virgin who’s never even seen a woman naked in person, having an open mind and a can-do attitude will make you far more appealing than someone who’s had dozens of partners but doesn’t pay attention to his lovers’ pleasure. Attitude and a willingness to learn count for a lot.
Be Giving (Of Time and Pleasure)
You want to be considerate of your partner’s pleasure. This means foreplay. Lots of it. Far too many people – even ones who consider themselves to be amazing lovers – spend a minimal amount of time playing with her breasts, perfunctory oral sex and then straight to the bangin’. Sex is about more than just getting the peen in, and treating sex as a hollistic exercise that incorporates your entire bodies is key. There are more erogenous zones than just her nipples, her clitoris and her g-spot after all, and tagging all three like you’re running the bases and headed for home tends to signal that you’re an inconsiderate lover. Take time to make out more – having her straddle your thigh while you make out provides pressure to the pubic mound that can be amazing, for example – and find just all of those areas that make you both gasp, bite your lip and moan.
Keep in mind that different people have different arousal patterns. Want to know hers? Ask. Take turns exploring revealing something you want the other to do, letting it drive you both towards the edge until you’re almost ready to explode.
Be Game For Anything (Within Reason)
We all have our turn ons and kinks. Sometimes kismet happens and you’ll turn out to have complimentary interests, but more often than not, both you and your partner will have kinks that you don’t share. One of the keys of being a great lover is being willing to try new things, even if they’re not necessarily the actions that turn your crank. Being willing to do something different – even if it’s not something you’re into or even are a little unsure of – for the sake of your partner’s pleasure is part of what makes you a more giving and attentive paramour… and it makes your relationship better, according to science. Studies have shown that being flexible with what you’re willing to try in bed has been proven to dramatically increase a partner’s sense of satisfaction with the relationship.
But this isn’t about grudgingly trying something new; half-heartedly participating in something your partner enjoys is, in many ways, worse than not doing it at all. It signals that you’re only doing this to placate her and you’re less concerned about her pleasure than you are about getting her to just shut up about it. So you need to be bringing your best effort, even with the understanding that it may not be your favorite thing in the world.
An obvious disclaimer: the “within reason” part is important. Hopefully it goes without saying that you don’t want to try something that would leave you curled up on the floor or crying in the shower. But being willing to take a step outside of your comfort zone and pushing the envelope of your sexual repertoire for the sake of your partner’s sexual satisfaction is important. And after all… you’d want her to be willing to do the same for you.
Great Sex Does Not (Necessarily) Equal Orgasms
It’s important to keep in mind: sex, even great sex doesn’t necessarily equal orgasms. Because it’s generally very easy for men to get off – too easy at times, to be honest – guys tend to be very orgasm-focused, seeing it as the end goal of sex. However, women’s ability to reach orgasm (and what they need to get there) can vary greatly from person to person. Some women need a great deal of direct clitoral stimulation – sometimes more than the human body can provide – in order to come. Others are easier to get off than a pair of shoes. Most women can’t orgasm strictly through penetrative sex without clitoral stimulation; some can, but they’re decidedly in the minority. Some women can be unable to orgasm at all for a variety of reasons. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that not having an orgasm means that the sex wasn’t great; women can still enjoy the intimacy, the sensation and the act, even if they don’t come. Treating sex as orgasm-centric can put a lot of pressure on women to perform – occasionally literally – and paradoxically make it harder to get off.
BUT! This doesn’t mean that you can view her orgasm as a secondary concern. Instead of treating orgasms as the end goal, treat them as part of the process – a part of the pleasure from sex as a whole rather than an attitude of “well, you got yours, now it’s my turn.”
And speaking of orgasms… most men tend to treat their orgasm as the signal that sex is now over, even if it happened earlier than one might hope. And in fairness, when men come, their bodies produce the hormone prolactin which causes us to lose our interest in sex, for our erections to deflate and makes us get sleepy immediately afterwards. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that sex is done – especially if your partner is still revved up and ready to go. Yes, you may have lost your hard on, but your hands and tongue don’t go limp; power through the drowsiness and ensure your partner’s satisfaction. You can both collapse into an exhausted, happy and gloriously sweaty heap afterwards.
And speaking of…
Don’t Blow The Afterglow
Regardless of whether it’s a one-night stand or a relationship of long-standing, you have an obligation to manage things after sex as well. At the very least, a gentleman provides a warm washcloth for immediate clean-up, water and a shower afterwards. What you don’t do is immediately try to make your escape or shuffle them out the door. Yeah, you’re worried about whether letting her stay would mean that she’s going to get overly attached. Don’t worry: odds are she’s thinking the exact same thing… especially if you’re a one night stand. She’s about as likely to not want to stay over as you are – after all, nobody likes the awkward morning after with a relative stranger.
If you don’t want her staying over – or you want to get back to your place, after – then you need to establish this early. This means before sex starts. You don’t have to make an elaborate production of it, just mention “I really want to do this, but just so you know I have an early meeting/ have to be up stupid early/ have to walk and feed my dog.” Not only will she understand – both the actual need and the underlying message – but odds are she’ll be relieved; it takes the pressure off you both from having the awkward “…sooooo” moment once the possibility of just one more go-round has faded.
Regardless of whether you stay or go, the next day you owe her a text at the very least. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; just a very simple “Hey, I just wanted you to know, I had a great time with you last night.” That’s it; a simple acknowledgement that you enjoyed yourself and you appreciate her involvement. If you’re not planning on seeing her again, then just leave it there; don’t make any empty promises of “let’s do it again some time” that you don’t actually mean. The post-sex text is a small thing, but it goes a very long way to saying that you see her as a person, someone who was your partner in this, not just a sex toy to be used and discarded.
It’s just the gentlemanly thing to do.