“It feels like he’s masturbating into me,” Cassie admits. Shooting a look over her shoulder though we know no one is behind us.
I can tell she feels guilty but relieved to finally be talking about her relationship.
“I’ve felt that way,” I admit, “I grew up thinking men were supposed to know what they were doing. So I’d let my ex-boyfriend take the lead. Before I knew it, sex was one-sided.”
The most comprehensive Sex-Ed I had was abstinence-only training. Half-way through the assembly, I raised my hand to ask a question. I was inquiring about condoms. For weeks I’d been looking forward to Sex Education. I believed this seminar would help me gain the knowledge I needed to explore sex responsibly.
The teacher smiled, thanked me for my question, and continued on. My inquiry was never answered.
Years later, when I started becoming sexual, I assumed the other person would know what they were doing. Nervous about my own naivety, I chose to trust my lover rather than admit my shortcomings. The problem is, no one is adequately taught about sex. I was putting my pleasure in the hands of someone just as ill-informed.
The experience Cassie or I had is all too common. Especially among genders who are taught to be polite more often than we are encouraged to speak. It makes sex a complicated imbalance of trust and ignorance.
One thing everyone did know about, however, was orgasms. Abstinence couldn’t combat the media, and it became clear at a very young age that orgasms are the earth-shattering reason we have sex.
Making an orgasmic climax both the standard and the goal. Ouch.
Sex becomes about the results.
We live in a results-oriented world. So it isn’t surprising to see how easily humans fall prey to this myth: if you didn’t orgasm you didn’t have sex. Or, you didn’t have sex that was “worth it”.
If this were true then 37% percent of the time heterosexual women are either not having sex with their boyfriends or not having sex worth having.
According to research released in 2015, “When having sex with a familiar partner, [straight] women said they have an orgasm 63% of the time; men said 85% of the time.”
According to this statistic, 15% of straight men and 37% percent of straight women are not having “real” or “worthwhile” sex because an orgasm didn’t occur. When it comes to queer relationships, orgasms are far more common. Ironically, these relationships hold less clout in mainstream culture.
What if you are having sex and you don’t orgasm but your partner does? Does this mean that you didn’t have sex but your lover did? Or, was it just that you had bad sex while the other person had good sex? Does this mean that you’re bad at sex while your lover is good at it?
No matter what rabbit hole we’re led down, this logic is not sound.
The idea that sex should always produce orgasm is misinformation that does not take into account that humans get stressed, traumatized, and sometimes aren’t the best at communicating their needs. It turns intimacy into outcome production.
If sex is supposed to achieve a specific result, then we can fail at sex.
So let’s remove this stain from sex’s repetiteur. Sex isn’t about crossing the right finish line. In fact, sex isn’t a race at all. It’s a marathon with no end in sight whose twists or turns are discovery and pleasure.
If all we focus on is orgasm, we aren’t acknowledging all the ways we experience pleasure.
When you eat an amazing dish, you’re savoring every bite. However, during sex, we’re taught to prioritize the end. If we wouldn’t enjoy our food that way, why enjoy sex that way?
In a world where “being present” has been trending for decades, we don’t often pause to appreciate each step of sex.
From the build-up. Your crush catches your eye across the room. They come over and your shoulders accidentally brush against each other. A titillating thought runs through your mind as you provide a welcoming smile.
To all the ways we enjoy touching. Kissing always reminds me how wetness comes in a variety of juicy forms.
Until the day finally comes when flirtation leads you right to the bedroom. Nudity is a non-verbal form of vulnerability and intimacy.
What is simple is profound. And often overlooked.
Emotional foreplay, also known as flirtation, is a form of pleasure that gets us excited to touch each other. Touch comes in many delicious forms. Humans experience all sorts of sexual pleasure but we don’t learn to savor all the different flavors of sex or intimacy.
When you recognize a moment of pleasure, take a few seconds (or more) to bask in the glory of that moment. Psychologists and social scientists call this “Savoring”. Yale is currently teaching an online course on the Science of Wellbeing which proves that “savoring” happy or pleasurable moments leads to more fulfilling lives.
So, intentionally savor positive moments of flirtation, touching, or sex.
Not only does this provide you with important knowledge about yourself that you can share with a partner but it leads to a more fulfilling sex-life.
How would you think about sex if you were a well-informed student?
I beleive that we should always remain a student of sex. This mindset, which I go over in more detail here, was one of the most substantial ways I improved my sex life.
You may call me a “sexpert” because of my credentials and degree, but I will always consider myself a student inside and outside of the bedroom.
As a student of my own sex life, I can acknowledge that my partner and I are always evolving. What felt good two months ago will shift as we learn more about ourselves. These changes in sexual appetite are not personal, they are profound.
Knowledge is power and sexual knowledge is empowering.
When it comes to mainstream information about sex, whether it is in a film or accredited book, I always ask myself: how would an informed student digest this information?
Being a well-informed sexual student out in the world means:
- We acknowledge that there is so much we don’t know, which can curb impulses to be arrogant about the knowledge we already have.
- It gives us the flexibility to mess up. It doesn’t matter how much anyone studies or experiences. We all don’t know something that someone else does. This should give us peace because we’re all discovering what makes us sexually happy. So messing up is normal.
- There is a reason I say “well informed” student. Remaining open to learning doesn’t mean that you aren’t also empowered by your own knowledge. When it comes to sex I find that it’s important not to make snap judgments. I also like to take my time. If I’m confronted with something I didn’t know, I run it through my research, intuition, and personal experience. Sometimes I realize there is a gap in my knowledge and other times I realize that the informed being provided has a negative agenda.
It’s easy to hear something that many agree with, and use this to influence our own views of the world.
It’s common to get lost in our echo-chamber. Digesting information that shackles us to our own reality.
It’s normal to hear something that scares us, especially if it’s from an expert, and swiftly change our mind.
When it comes to the idea that sex should always result in orgasm, approach this (and other sexual assumptions) as an informed student.
Ask yourself, what do I already know about orgasming and sex? Take some time to journal about what brings you pleasure. And consider what biases you inherited about sex that may be ill-informed or disempowering.
Stay open-minded and trust your intellect. Pleasure is all around you.
Nadège is a sexuality scholar and spiritual mentor who uses her knowledge to bring warmth to heavy topics. Stay up to date with all her empowering discoveries here.