Dating has never been without its complications. Dating post-divorce and in my mid-30s is certainly an interesting subject, and it might be a little more complicated than dating without kids and divorce baggage. On the other hand, I know that I’m a more confident, healthier, happier me now than when I was footloose and fancy-free in my 20s. So I came into dating in my 30s with a great amount of optimism. I can look back on that now and smile sardonically at my own foolishness. I thought that a happier, more secure me at this age meant that potential partners might be on the same level.
But perhaps the biggest shock to me has been that many men at this age haven’t really learned much when it comes to sex. At least, not if my own experiences and the stories I’ve been told are representative of even a cross-section of the single men out there dating. If we get to be this age and are bad at sex, we probably haven’t been paying attention. Oh, we might have paid attention to our own needs, but at this age, we really should know what we’re doing when it comes to the bedroom (or any other handy available surface).
There seems to be this idea that women don’t have as high of a sex drive as men and that men tend to be more experienced and skilled in bed. I’d like to dispute both of these claims as being entirely false. Like liar-liar-pants-on-fire false. Because most of the women I have the privilege to know also take full ownership of healthy, active sex drives that are often higher than the men in the dating pool.
Additionally, many women are reporting that they simply aren’t having their needs met in sexual encounters. The complaint continues to be that men either don’t care about our pleasure, or haven’t developed the skills and knowledge to achieve it.
Sex is a partnership. It’s a dance, not a solo act. If only one partner is achieving orgasm, we’re talking about masturbation because we’re sure as hell not talking about a mutually satisfying sexual experience. And what’s the point of engaging in a sexual relationship with someone if we’re not at all interested in whether or not our partner benefits from it?
If women are saying they’re unsatisfied—and believe me, they are—then what might men be able to do to change that and make sexual interactions more mutually satisfying?
1. Foreplay is still a thing.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but foreplay isn’t actually optional. It’s a part of the entire sexual experience, and it’s often a necessary one to prepare the body for a positive sexual experience. Instead of looking at this as some sort of mandatory introduction or onerous task, we need to view it as an opportunity to explore each other’s bodies. This should be fun, not like some kind of task you’re just trying to check off your list before you’re allowed to get off.
2. Women are capable of having multiple orgasms.
If one’s partner is a woman, it’s important that she have more orgasms than just the one. I came across an interesting phenomenon when reading comments on social media about this subject. Many men seem to believe that women will often experience orgasm at the moment that they do. While that is a possibility, if that’s the only time women ever achieve orgasm in your experience, I guarantee you that some—if not most—of them, are faking it. We can have more than one, so having only one every time right at the end is not a standard to which we should aspire.
3. If we have to ask if our partner had an orgasm, they didn’t.
It’s not ambiguous. While checking that the other person is satisfied is important, it’s important to pay attention to that during the process and not just in the afterglow. Save the afterglow for building intimacy, not conducting a performance review of your work.
4. Don’t be selfish.
We shouldn’t expect our partners to be the ones doing all the giving in our encounters. If oral sex is a thing that you hope to enjoy, you should fully expect to give and receive. Sex should be about balance. It’s not actually all about one person. We should be generous with our attention during sex and make sure that the other person is as fully, enthusiastically engaged as we are.
5. Enthusiastic consent should always be a part of a sexual relationship.
If our partners indicate that they do not wish to do something, are uncomfortable, or ask that something stops, that should be immediately and unequivocally respected. Not everyone enjoys the same thing, and we need to make sure that we are on the same page as our partners in terms of what is enjoyable. It’s why BDSM relationships involve contracts. Even in a garden-variety sexual experience, we should be comfortable sharing what we do and don’t enjoy.
6. Vanilla is a great flavor, but it’s not the most exciting description of a sexual experience.
We should be talking to our partners about what we like and what fantasies we have. A little role play or light BDSM might spice up one’s sex life. It’s all about communicating openly and figuring out what both partners are interested in trying. Be open and adventurous. We need to be careful not to fall into too much of a routine. Sex is supposed to be fun!
7. Like foreplay, protection is also non-optional.
It is a concern that many men don’t seem to keep condoms on hand, even when they know that sex is on the table. Many women are on oral contraceptives, but these certainly don’t prevent STIs. Also, when women are already paying for oral contraception, they shouldn’t also have to be the one to cover the cost of condoms. Like the rest of sex, this should be a balance. Sex should be fun, but we also need to keep it safe.
Of course, it’s not all on men to make the sexual experience a positive one. Women need to speak out about likes and dislikes in the bedroom and above all else: stop faking orgasms. It’s not doing anyone any favors to pretend that the sex was great when it wasn’t. Communicating openly and feeling comfortable in our own skin helps us have the positive sexual experience we want.
I don’t believe that all men are bad at sex—or that all women are good at it. But we could all do a little better at connecting with our partners and making sure that our sexual encounters are mutually satisfying and safe. Dating has enough pitfalls. With a little effort, bad sex doesn’t need to be one of them.
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