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I'm a guy, so how come I don't enjoy intercourse?

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John asks:

My girlfriend and I care about each other very much. recently we had decided to become sexually active. She has had previous partners though she was my first. She says that I satisfy her, though I have honestly told her she does not satisfy me. I told her it doesnt matter but she is very upset and I am myself bewildered. How can I not enjoy intercourse? Especially considering its a new and exciting experience?

Heather Corinna replies:

We hear a lot -- for sound reasons -- about how intercourse by itself isn't very satisfying for a majority of women.

What we hear less about is that it's also not always satisfying for men. But just because we hear less about it doesn't mean it's not an issue for plenty of men.

No one sexual activity is THE satisfying thing -- or the most satisfying, or always satisfying, or satisfying with every partner -- for all people, of any gender or group. Not a one: not intercourse, not anything. We all vary in our tastes, preferences, and in our sexualities.

Why isn't intercourse always great for men?

There can be a lot of different reasons. For circumcised men, for instance (as well as for uncirc'd men, though it's often less of an issue because of the friction the foreskin provides), or for men with thinner penises, there may not be the kind of pressure or friction a given man prefers when it comes to penile stimulation. You may prefer more intense pressure. Or, you might prefer more direct stimulation to certain areas of your penis or genitals that intercourse doesn't provide, or that intercourse in the positions you're having it in isn't giving. Maybe you like more stimulus to the head -- the most sensitive part -- of your penis, for instance, or maybe you need more pressure around the base.

Too, much as is the case with the vagina and the clitoris for women, often is the case with the penis and the prostate gland -- located within the body, but which can be felt via anal play, or pressure/stimulation of the perineum -- for men. Intercourse doesn't stimulate that area, if you like and want that sort of stimulus, as many men enjoy, and find creates a richer orgasm than they feel with stimulus just to the penis alone.

Maybe there's a certain dymanic in the intercourse you're having that isn't working for you. For instance, if you're always put in the lead (or vice-versa), maybe you're not so keen on that. Or perhaps the intercourse you're having is too rough or too gentle for you, too fast or too slow, too mushy-gushy with the romance or too without it, the works.

But just as is the case for women, there's no need for sex for men to be about nothing but intercourse (heavens forbid!), nor need anyone expect that any one sexual activity needs to do the trick for them, often or always. If intercourse alone isn't satisfying for you, then you can -- and should! - combine it with activities that ARE satisfying. Suffice it to say, no one is obliged to have intercourse at all if it just isn't something they like or have interest in. And for those with that preference -- sometimes or always -- that doesn't mean anything is wrong with them. For the most part, the big to-do with intercourse has a lot more to do with ideas about gender and heteronormativity and procreation than it's ever had to do with sexual satisfaction. A whole lot of people who really aren't that excited about intercourse often have a hard time voicing that because they're so worried that people will assume they're not heterosexual or "real" men or women.

One of the best tools we have when partnered sex is new is the knowledge we've already got from our own masturbation. So, you can also take what you know from pleasing yourself and pass it on to your partner: talk about and show her what feels best for you so that you can both suss out what activities, or what way you do certain activities, is most likely to feel best for you. Ideally, you're both doing this sort of show-and-tell with each other.

I'd also suggest adjusting how you're talking about this with your partner. This isn't about HER not satisfying you, it's about this one sexual activity not doing the trick. It'll be more productive and hurt her feelings less if instead of making this about her, as a whole, not being sexually satisfying, you talk about what activities ARE sexually satisfying for you, and which ones are not. I'd also suggest simply experimenting -- with other activities, and if you want to keep trying with intercourse, with different positions with intercourse. be sure you're communicating what DOES feel good with your partner, and that when you two talk about this, you're both trying to look at this with open minds, and without the assumption that something is intrinsically wrong with either one of you: sounds to me like you both simply aren't satisfied by the same things, which is perfectly normal and very common.

And if and when that's the case for a couple, it's usually just a matter of having each of you be sure you're including both of your favorite things in the sex that you're having. Sounds to me like it's time to just adjust your expectations, accept that we're all very different, and start talking before you do any more you-know-what-ing.

Here are a few links I think will also be hepful for you:

written 26 Sep 2007 . updated 19 Jan 2014

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