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
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).
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
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
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,
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
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.
There are many needs in a relationship; I touched on those
previously in my pieces on emotional labor here and here.
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.