The Sex Goddess Blues: Concerns About Sexual Prowess

Contrary to a common public opinion, there's no right or wrong way to have sex. Bad sex -- and what that even is varies from person to person -- definitely happens, but usually only when there's little to no communication, and one party isn't attuned to the other's needs. (I am speaking of consensual sex that's just a stinker here, not about sexual assault.) Every person's preferences are unique. An act or gesture that drives one person absolutely wild might fall flat for another. You might think, "Wow, my ex really loved it when I did this one certain thing, but my new partner barely responds to it at all." This is just the nature of sex.

It may help to view sex as more of an exploration or adventure and less as a skill to learn. I'm sure you've seen lots of "sex tips" floating around the internet and in magazines you've picked up. While it's great to try different things and experiment, there's not much to be gained by attempting to acquire all kinds of mysterious knowledge, feeling like you won't be adequate until you do. Sex is always an exploration, always an experiment, even partners who have been together for decades. You're never going to have it all figured out: that's part of what makes it so interesting. There's no point in trying to be "better" in bed than your partner's exes, or trying to meet up with some ambiguous sex goddess standard. That'll only hinder your enjoyment, stress you out, and potentially make you feel like you're not measuring up. If you're preoccupied with "doing it right," you'll often end up missing all of the little things that make sex great. Take a deep breath, and just enjoy being there with your partner; really focus on the moment. By all means, read sex tips as you like, but take them all with a grain of salt. View them more as fun suggestions than as rules or standards.

Some encounters will be better than others, and that's okay. It helps not to view the sex you're having in terms of success versus failure. Even if you and your partner generally have mutually pleasurable sex, not every encounter is going to be absolutely mind-blowing. Sometimes it's just okay or maybe even a little bit dull, and that's fine. It's also important to note that your partner shouldn't put the onus on you to perform perfectly; that is to say, if an encounter isn't particularly fantastic, it's not anybody's fault. Continue exploring without placing any kind of blame on anyone.

Enthusiasm is key. If both parties are excited to be there, they'll probably both be more than happy to explore each other's bodies and rhythms. People generally like feeling desired in an intimate context. If you openly express your enthusiasm, it will likely open your partner up a bit more. Don't wait for them to dole out the compliments; if something feels amazing or your partner looks really sexy in their new underwear, tell them so! When you do this, you'll both start to feel more comfortable, and you will likely communicate more freely. When your partner knows that you think they're super-hot and awesome, they will feel safer and more secure; this only leads to good stuff.

Comparing yourself to others will get you nowhere. Particularly when we're just starting out, we might feel a lot of pressure to be perfect, and to keep our partner happy. We want to do as "good" of a job as possible when it comes to pleasure, especially someone else's. We fear that if we don't perform, not only will our partner eventually want to seek out something "better," but that they'll complain about our performance to their friends or -- even more mortifying -- future partners. We worry, too, that past partners have done a "better" job than us, and that our partners might be comparing us to them and finding we fall short. 

Sex is not a competitive sport. It's not something at which you're objectively "good" or "bad." There's no such thing as the sex Olympics; sex is subjective. As I stated before, what's fantastic for one person might be boring or even painful for another. As long as you're present in the moment and communicating actively, the sex will not be "bad." And even if your partner's past lovers did wonderful things for them, you're bringing your own contribution to the table. You're bringing something to them that no one else can -- you! -- and that's a beautiful thing. By attempting to emulate someone else or out-do your partner's past lovers, you end up selling yourself, and your partners, short. 

What if I'm not wet enough? There is absolutely nothing wrong with you if you're not totally gushing every time you have sex. It doesn't mean you're frigid or otherwise somehow inferior to people with a lot of vaginal lubrication. Sometimes, people can be really wet but not actually aroused at all, and sometimes people can be bone-dry but otherwise totally ready to go. We are not robots or computers -- our bodies don't always work like clockwork. Many of our bodily functions are unpredictable, the lubrication process among them. Too, the lubrication your body provides will never be the same amount all the time because part of that has to do with your reproductive system and what it's doing, which is separate from someone being turned on or not. (Additionally, hormonal birth control often contributes to vaginal dryness -- so, if you're on the pill or another form of HBC, there's a high chance you've struggled with this issue.)

There's no reason to put up with less-than-pleasurable sex because you want to rely on your "natural" lubrication. You can go to pretty much any large chain store and purchase personal lubricant right off the shelf. For your first forays into the wide world of lube, I would suggest checking out this nice little primer

What if I don't have an orgasm, or what if my partner doesn't? What if neither of us do? And what if I don't climax through vaginal intercourse? Orgasm is not necessarily the end game. Sure, getting off is plenty nice, but viewing it as some kind of goal will only put too much pressure on everybody involved. If you fixate on coming, you're probably not going to -- orgasms are tricky that way. It helps to just focus on your breathing and get yourself grounded in each sensation you're experiencing. You have to get out of your head, relinquish the tension, and let yourself really go there. Again, though, orgasms are not required in sex. Sometimes, you might not get there or your partner might not or maybe neither of you will. That is totally okay, and it doesn't mean you did anything wrong. It doesn't even mean the sex was "bad." Every sexual encounter is different, and orgasms are one variable that often changes.

Of course, over 70% of people with vulvas don't orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone, so if your partner has a penis, it doesn't need to be the be-all and end-all of the sex that goes down. Vaginal intercourse doesn't have to be the finale or necessarily the créme de la créme. There are many other kinds of sex you can try; kinds that might feel better for you than vaginal intercourse. There's nothing inherent to vaginal intercourse that makes it the best thing ever, or more valid than other kinds of sex. You're allowed to experiment; try emphasizing other types of sex sometimes, and play around with what you like.

(This is a really fantastic poem on the topic of sexual "performance," aptly named "Sex Is Not a G*ddamn Performance." It is slightly graphic and uses some strong language, so proceed with that in mind. Also, although I tried, I couldn't locate the original source.) 

This is a section of a larger piece, The Sex Goddess Blues: Building Sexual Confidence, Busting Perfectionism. To read the whole piece or another section, click here! Illustrations: copyright 2014, Isabella Rotman.