I never cease to feel amusement at people's perceived discomfort when talking about sex. Sure, we can talk about numbers and give a quick answer to what's good or bad or discuss the hardship of a particularly long dry spell, but the other details often get lost or neglected in translation.
I've had moments shared over drinks and casual conversation where my male company has murmured, "You're pretty open, eh? You must be a pretty sexual person."
Every time we reach this point, I look back and say, "Why is it unusual to talk about sex? Isn't that a matter of maturity? We are doing it, we enjoy doing it, but it's not considered normal to be open about what we like, don't like or don't particularly understand, unless we are an exceptionally sexual person at the core?"
So, when I was lying beside Pete*, staring up at the ceiling while sharing stories of past relationship conquests and dating theories, I found myself surprised.
This was a guy who has slept with an inconceivable number of women. The pursuit of women, in fact, is a test of character development for him. He has a specific process and methodology he puts in place, and despite my inherent interest in his approach to dating culture, it was kind of horrifying to hear.
I couldn't help but feel like he was the hunter and the women were the prey, and he was admittedly good at this game. Too good. Yet, as we talked about sex and got down to the nitty gritty of it, I noticed that his focus was seemingly entirely singular. He was only concerned about what he liked.
"If you're going down on someone, you should tweak this..." he would explain, unearthing details of male pleasure spots and desires.
But throughout our entire conversation, he never once placed any vested concern on the female within the scenario. He admitted that he never goes down on the women he pursues casually (which is almost all of them), and the positions and techniques he mentioned were focused on his pleasure, not his partners' pleasure.
In fact, every time I offered up some female-focused insight, he didn't seem to really care that much. Not enough to delve into it, at least.
Basically, he was the type of guy who would readily critique your performance in bed with him, but would not care to receive feedback in return from his partner because he assumes he is doing everything right. The girls always come back; they always want more. There's always growth to the roster, so his process works.
What kind of one-sided sexual culture is that? Following our conversation, all I could think was that the many women he sleeps with are likely so concerned with keeping him happy (the elusive, high-performing player) that they probably never really demand much in return.
That's what happens within one-night stand culture, right? We develop a "get in, get out" mentality and call it easy, casual sex, without worrying about exploring the levels of enjoyment that should be associated with a great sexual encounter. Mediocre casual sex is seemingly far more common than great sex within the single dating world.
Why is that?
The real problem here lies within our inability to be open about sex. We are probably having more sex than ever. After all, it's no longer taboo to "just hook up," yet we are probably talking about it in an honest way less than ever before.
Dating or hook-up culture aside, you should never be afraid to discuss what you want in bed. If you are going to have sex, you deserve to enjoy it to its fullest degree. Sure, this requires some trial and error and candid exploration, but you should be able to discuss those elements openly.
I know hook-up culture can inspire you to share less, on account of wanting to seem noncommittal (because no one wants to be the one who cares more within noncommittal dating culture), but this conversation should never be neglected.
Asking for what you want doesn't make you demanding or unreasonable; it means you know who you are and are comfortable enough with your sexuality to explore your partner's pleasure as well as your own. If you ask me, it's the difference between being an OK lover and a great lover.
In fact, cultivating your ability to be open and forthright in your pursuit of sexual gratification with your partner (whether long-term or temporary) can completely change the dynamic of your relationship.
You will learn from each other, you will understand how to gauge your partner's pleasure and comfort and you will learn how to test boundaries and desires in a way which works for both parties, based on open feedback, sharing and give-and-take.
It's a matter of being comfortable with each other, and if that is a problem for you and your partner, well, why are you having sex in the first place?
How can we say we are too nervous to have this conversation, when this is a person we are engaging with in the most intimate way possible? Even when sex exists within casual relationships, it's still sex.
So, take a look at your physical relationships, past or present, long-term or fleeting. Are you comfortable talking about what you want to get from them?
Are you open with your partner when they do something you like, or something you don't like? Do you set your boundaries when they propose something you don't want to do, or do you go along with it for sake of their pleasure at the expense of your own? Are you able to talk through sexual scenarios to find common ground that you both want to explore?
Once you start to have that open, honest conversation with yourself and your partner, you will begin to enjoy and explore sex in a way that simply can't be accomplished when you remain silent and nervous within your encounters.
You deserve the best, so don't be afraid to ask for it.
* Name has been changed.