Exploring 'Good Sex'
I’ve been planning some toy reviews to post here for the last few weeks, I have some cool gear that I want to tell you about and some fun adventures to share, but I have come across an issue that I am struggling to mitigate for in my review process…
Everything makes me cum. Literally.
25 seconds of nipple play? Orgasm.
Bite my neck in the right way? Orgasm.
Impact Play? Orgasm.
Sit on the wrong seat on the bus? Orgasm.
It’s a little bit ridiculous.
I have to start new sexual encounters with a disclaimer. I blacked out the first time I had a Hitachi used on me. One of my close kink-scene friends makes a game out of how many times she can make me cum while we wait for the bathroom at parties. The worst hook up of my life still made me cum three times - and I left half way through!
Don’t get me wrong, it really doesn’t suck. So many vulva-owners struggle to (or just do not) orgasm - due to physiological and mental barriers, or simply bad technique or shitty partners. There have been some really interesting articles lately about female orgasm and how the various cultural constructs surrounding it manages to limit female pleasure. I particularly love CaraSutra’s recent piece about the 7 Dangers of Buying Into The Orgasm Gap, it covers a lot of important points and you should read it.
The discussion around these pieces and my anxiety around starting to review toys came together when a friend asked me the other week: “If you cum every time, can you even have bad sex?”
The answer is obviously yes. I have had bad sex. And I’ve used sex toys I haven’t liked. But I have never really given much thought to what stopped me enjoying those experiences.
As a sex educator, my key advice when people of all genders ask for help ‘achieving’ orgasm is to shift the focus. Making orgasm the ‘goal’ creates expectations and pressures that are totally counter productive to pleasure. Removing the “shoulds” we have about sex is liberating and allows us to explore more freely; if orgasms happen in that process it is wonderful, but even if they don’t, the emphasis is on equally or more important things.
I have realised over the past weeks, that I apply the same philosophy to my own sex life. When I have sex, alone or with a partner or partners, my orgasm is essentially a given, and while they feel great and dope my body and brain up on happy chemicals, it is not why I like having sex.
When we take away orgasms as the indicator of ‘good sex’ or the measure of a great sex toy, how do we decide what makes a sexual experience satisfying?
I have a lot of feelings about sex toys but the following essay is going to focus on the sex I have with other people. ‘Sex’ in this context is a holistic term and encompasses so much more than PIV intercourse.
For me, great sex starts before we even touch, it starts with good chemistry and intention.
Does our conversation make me want to touch you? It doesn’t have to be sexual or even sexually charged - in fact I often prefer when it isn’t - but I need us to be feeling the same vibe. Whether its passionate debates about Pokemon Eeveelutions and sharing podcast suggestions, slam poetry and how fucking amazing The Smiths are, mutual swooning over the hotness our other partners, spontaneous displays of genuinely shared vulnerability, the sheer infectious joy of watching someone cute nerd out over their passions, discussions about politics or philosophy or feminism that are more than fuckboy buzzwords or even just pure outright flirtation; the exchange starts there and this is where the majority of the dates I go on flunk. Either that connection just isn’t there, or it is until they say or do something that gives me ‘the ick’. We don’t need to talk for any particular length of time, but the right intellectual/social connection draws me in and starts my mind racing with ways to close the distance between us…
Making me laugh also goes a really long fucking way.
Does your touch feel like more than a touch? Physical chemistry is my baseline requirement for good sex. I can usually tell if I want to sleep with someone from my initial physical interaction with them and that first “accidental” brush of their hand is the make-or-break factor on most first date for me. When it comes to casual or pick up sex, good chemistry will forgive a myriad of minor sins,
Kissing is another pressure point in this category, if the kissing isn’t working for us then I’m not even going to bother going further. Not only is this because of innate chemistry, but how you respond, adjust and ‘listen’ when we kiss is a very good gauge of how responsive you are going to be to my needs.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer but honestly, I have proceeded without this chemistry before for a wide range of reasons (some less healthy than others) and it’s never worked out well for me. The only times I’ve truly regretted a consensual sexual experience have been when I have not trusted my gut and my pheromones.
Good sex is a complete sensory experience and good chemistry makes every touch, taste, smell, sound and sight magical.
Who are we and what do we want to feel? What dynamic is forming between us? Does my body melt and my breath quicken when you first take my face in your hands? Are we stealing playful hurried kisses in side streets as you walk me to my bus stop? How much longer can we ride this tension with nothing but butterfly kisses on arms, noses, shoulders, stomachs, necks and finger tips? Will we even make it the three blocks from the bar to your apartment…?!
Allowing these organic dynamics to take hold and not forcing them to be anything but what they are is one of my key indicators that we’re heading in the right direction. Letting them breathe and grow and evolve (and pairing them with effective communication) has been the most transformative step I have taken in my sex life in recent years and it has lead to some of the most wonderful connections of my life.
It doesn’t matter if it exists for a year or for an hour, non-judgmental acceptance and surrender to your own unique connection is a (usually) unspoken statement of and commitment to intention. This intent is a key element of my good sex equation and creates space for genuine release, deeper intimacy, vital healing or even just a great fuck!
Are our intentions clear and honest? Enthusiastic consent is obviously vital, but beyond that, we need to be engaging because we really want to. The word ‘should’ has no place in good sex and I need to know that we’re doing things for the right reasons. I find this especially important in kinky play because of the physical and emotional intensity, but vanilla sex without healthy motivation can be equally dangerous.
As both a communication nerd and as very anxious human, I need to know where I stand with people. If I’m just looking for a contact fix then I’m always upfront about it and am cool with people doing the same. If I’m seeing or playing with someone more often then this is even more important - if you’ve seen my twitter feed you will know I have so many feelings - and while I mange them pretty well most of the time because of clear boundaries, uncertain expectations and ambiguity are super triggering for me… which is a major boner-killer, trust me!
This doesn’t have to involve complex and tedious consultation. I find good initial communication and effective follow up is usually enough. Having an ongoing open dialogue with longer term partners also helps and is my preferred negotiation model (as opposed to what I refer to as the “we need to talk” method). I find this approach means things are dealt with in their early stages and anxiety on the part of all parties is reduced. This is just me though and I am all for you doing you - feel free to share your favourite communication style with me either her or via social media, I’d love to know!
Intention, Chemistry and Communication are all super important for me in sex, but that’s probably not why you’re reading this piece. Lets get into some nitty, gritty practical stuff…
Are you paying attention? The common factor in all my favourite sexcapades is my partner or partners listening to me and my body before, during and after we play. They notice what kinds of touch, language, kissing, power dynamic and sensation I respond best to and use it to both of our advantages!
Paying attention means being aware of not only what you’re doing, by why and how you’re doing it. A partner slowing down when they find something I really like because they want to tease me or build anticipation is a great example of this, and one that allows for a degree of escalation that you just don’t find in less mindful sexual encounters. Spontaneously, this could mean taking note when kissing a specific patch of skin makes me melt, realising how I tremble when you bite my bottom lip or not daring to stop when you hit a spot that turns my brain to mush. Making sure we’re present together is so important to great sex and I feel really uncomfortable when someone phones it in.
On a more serious note, paying attention means you are also aware when the person you’re playing with is not okay. You are able to see changes in mood, enthusiasm or demeanor (often long before they are able to communicate it themselves) and can check in accordingly. This is obviously vital in a kink or BDSM scene, but also important in more vanilla play too - no one needs to be getting spanked to get hurt.
Want extra bonus awesome-sex-friend points? Remembering something I mention in passing, in a tweet or during sexting and then bringing it into our play will probably blow my fucking mind…
Do we trust each other enough to explore? There is something so thrilling about taking someone through a new experience and this is so amplified when it comes to sex and kink because it requires a degree of trust and vulnerability that we don’t have to embrace very often. Opening up to someone about our desires can be tough, but there is something incredibly intimate and bonding about sharing that exploration together. A sense of sexual adventure is really hot and I love nothing more than helping people push their (or pushing my own) boundaries. Some of my most exciting and memorable sexcapades have been the result of someone being honest about their fantasies with me and I am forever grateful for those joyful moments of trust.
And of course, we’re all just really here for some hands-on physical details, right?
How are you using your body to enhance our connection? I’m a contact junkie: I want to feel your hands, I want to see your eyes, I want to touch your skin… as much as is physically possible. Whether we’re just making out, I’m going down on you or someone is getting fucked from behind, I need us to maintain these things. Something as simple as being mindful of where hands are or making the effort to make eye contact can take a fun romp to a whole new level. This is extra important when a power dynamic is involved because there are so many ways to use physicality to convey and enhance that (but that’s a whole other blog post…). Regardless, being deliberate (but not forced) with our use of touch, pressure, positioning, dynamics, pacing, sensation and anticipation makes a huge difference.
Are you good at whatever we’re doing? This seems like a no brainer, but as a pretty hardcore sex nerd, I get really excited when someone is particularly great at something! Whether they’re a great kisser, utilize their excellent understanding of physiology, have a natural gift, good technique or hard earned skill, are attentive and responsive or are just really in the moment with me… it’s fucking hot.
Does this make us feel better in our physical selves? Even the most hardcore, degrading intense kinky play should have a net positive impact on you. Good sex for me feels like mutual body worship and makes everyone involved feel desired and (healthily) validated. I am a firm believer in the Stride of Pride and I feel invincible in the days following really great sex. Even beyond aesthetics, I love taking time to appreciate the human body’s capacity for pleasure and sensation and transcendence, and being grateful for that.
What happens after? Nothing can bring me crashing down harder after a great session than someone who disconnects as soon as we’re done. ‘Cuddles After Sex’ is often held up as a cliche and women in particular are often belittled for it, but I find it so important to hold space with my lovers after we play. What this looks like varies a lot from partner to partner and from situation to situation, not all dynamics suit highly affectionate snuggles and more intense interactions can require proper aftercare even if they don’t look like a traditional kink scene.
But even if we just had a nice time, I need you to stay with me long enough to acknowledge and honour the connection and intimacy we shared. I want to be still with you and share the high and the glow. Once I’ve come back to earth, I want to gush about the really good bits, laugh over the humanity of awkward or funny moments and check in that we both feel okay. I am a very tactile person and unless I specify, I really appreciate maintaining some kind of physical contact - even if its just a hand on my thigh or gentle head pats.
Honourable mentions also go to showering together, good food in bed, watching non-challenging YouTube videos, making each other laugh, sharing moments of beautiful emotional vulnerability, reading classic novels or poetry aloud, sweet low-pressure make outs, cuddly naps and meaningful conversations about intersectional feminism.
Also, your phone can fucking wait a minute*.
*Before my lovers chime in, I know I’m totally guilty of this
And most importantly…
Did we have fun? I take sex pretty seriously. I think about it a lot and care about it even more, but that doesn’t mean my end game isn’t to enjoy the fuck out of it! I don’t have sex for the orgasms: I have sex to feel things. I have sex to feel connected, to feel pleasure and intimacy in all its forms; I have sex to feel touch and sensation, to explore power and different head spaces and most importantly to feel joy. We can have the most textbook ‘perfect’ sex but if we don’t walk away feeling better than when we started, why did we bother?
This piece was inspired by the question “If you cum every time, can you even have bad sex?” and the answer is “Yes, Absolutely”. When the elements I’ve discussed are missing or ‘off’, sex feels forced and inauthentic and leaves me feeling unfulfilled (at best); but when they are there and I can genuinely connect with someone on all of these levels, it feels truly special. Interestingly, by writing this piece I have learned how to answer future queries: “Sex may always make me cum but it takes great sex to make me want to”. Sex is so much more than a set of mechanical responses and the sooner we embrace that, the happier we’ll be.