Why is sex always about pleasure?

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At the start of my new novel, We were never there, there is one scene that I struggled to write – it comes too close to a truth that fills me with anxiety and shame. In it, Emily, a young woman in her twenties on vacation in Cambodia, brings a sexy South African backpacker back to her hotel room …

I found he liked to mix pleasure with pain, grabbing my lower lip between his teeth, raking my hair back with a sharp bang. Not my thing, but it was exciting to feel a bit like prey, so desirable that he could barely contain his animal urges. And I had had enough sex education over the years – magazine quizzes and wine chats with girlfriends – to know that how to blow your mind, to be your best ever, it is to show that you are in it and to read its non-verbal cues. So I pulled on her blonde hair. Turned a kiss on the neck into a bite. I ran my fingertips over his bare back and abruptly curled my fingers, ten small scratches, and smiled against his lips as he moaned in pleasure.

But then something changed.

What started out as a hot relationship turns into an attempted assault, which gets even more out of hand when Emily’s friend breaks in and kills the guy with a blunt object … then hatches a plan to abandon the body. and get the hell out of Southeast Asia, because, well, detective story.

But while writing the sex scene, I realized that I had done exactly what my protagonist had done, before the homicide. I definitely thought about the mid-connection, It’s not for me, but if I act in it, the sex will be super hot for him. Here’s the post I’ve internalized in magazine sex advice columns over the years: Look up and give her a sexy smile while you give her a blowjobwhether you like to succumb or not. Men love a vocal woman, so make a lot of noiseinstead, they advise finding what is good enough to make you moan with pleasure. A boyfriend actually filed a post-coital complaint that I had been too quiet, and not, “How can I turn you on more? »But« Your near silence prevents my pleasure. For me, for much of my adult life, it seemed like the whole point of being “good in bed” was getting a high grade from the man at the end (“10 out of 10 I would recommend ”), instead of. ..actually appreciate it myself.

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I know I’m not the only one feeling this. It’s no secret that in heterosexual dating, women have less fun than men in bed. By a survey in Cosmopolitan, 57% of women usually have an orgasm during sex, while 95% said their male partners come every time. (And is it just me, or does 57% seem high?)

Men may not even do it to know how bad it is for straight women, because we’ve been trained to feign enthusiasm. Part of the reason the New Yorker short story Cat Person went super viral was his realistic portrayal of I’m-not-sure-that-I-want-this-but-I’ll-try-to-act-super-hot-sex (“He fingered her a little, very gently, and she bit her lip and put on a show. ”) There’s a reason two-thirds of women still fake orgasms, 26% of which do. Everytime they have sex. The most common reason? They “wanted their partner to feel successful”. In the buzzing thriller A special place for women, which was released in May, a main character laments, “If I didn’t have sex regularly and pretend I liked it, my partner would become … well, he wouldn’t be happy.” Not that he ever forced me.

Not that he ever forced me. Because we’re not talking about consent here – in any case of feigned pleasure highlighting my own sexual history, I was fully consenting, determined to make it fun. And to say the obvious, we want to our partners to implore our enthusiasm; I’m not here to demonize guys who really, really love watching you scream and moan and enjoy the hell of yourself. But the call comes from inside the house. We got the message that apparent like we love sex is more important than reality being in it.

We got the message that apparent like we love sex is more important than reality being in it

Experimentation plays a role here; the third step of being, as Dan Savage calls it, “good, gift and play” (that is, the ideal sexual partner) is to be ready for anything and open to ideas, problems and the needs of your partner (s), and sometimes that means continuing with a toy, role-play, or sexual scenario that may not be your thing. Hey there is fun to see his partner shiver with pleasure, even if the situation that brings him there does not take up a place in your fantasy collection. Within the confines of a relationship of trust, respect, and communication, whether it lasts for years or just one night, exploring new ground can be fun and rewarding. My problem is with romantic relationships that prioritize someone’s satisfaction, usually a man’s, over the comfort of the other.

And just to add one more nuance: Since 85% of women experience non-spontaneous arousal, pretending to be aroused can be a way to get you aroused. Most women just don’t think about sex (or don’t see their partner’s naked body) and, you know, schwing; it takes a bit of cajoling to make your body get the message and feel really aroused. It’s the erotic equivalent of Power Posing: Stand like Wonder Woman and you’ll feel like a superhero; let your breath stop and your eyelashes flutter as the going goes, and soon, you’ll be eager to go.

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I’m not against “pretending” if it works for you and leads to a rewarding experience in bed (and in fact, I’m not against anything in bed between consenting adults). But I’m calling at the end to think you need to look like it for the sake of your partner instead of for your own satisfaction.

In the hopeful news, the sexual content I have scanned from today’s female media now focuses reader satisfaction – not “being her best ever” but “having your the best. “Show as Acute and Unsafe also feature female characters prioritizing their own enjoyment. It’s an uphill battle, with our patriarchal society telling us that our looks are our value and our sex appeal is all we have to offer, but I hope young women don’t internalize the same message. that I received (and experienced!) in my teens and twenties: this ridiculous idea that the most important way to make sex ‘good’ was to convince the guy I loved every second, that he was a god of sex, that his cock was gold, and he couldn’t do anything wrong.

I’m dating a woman now, my first committed relationship with no penises involved. Sex is what we want it to be – not defined by penetrative sex or limited in time by the arc of one’s orgasm. One night, a stew of stress and antidepressants caused me to start worrying about “taking too long”, despite my girlfriend’s best efforts.

“Hey, you don’t have to continue,” I said, touching her cheek.

“Do you want me to stop?”

“I just feel bad it’s taking so long.”

And then she shook her head and said something simple but drastic to my heterogeneous ears: “You know, you’re not wasting my time.” I am here because I love you.

Reader, I told him to continue. And I’m very glad I did.

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