Welcome to Very Good Light’s first-ever Sex Week. We’re launching an entire week’s worth of sexual health content during this pandemic because it’s now more important than ever to learn about how to protect yourself. Along with the new sexual health brand, Champ, we’re giving you the best, informative, and useful tips for an empowered sex life. Because sex should be fun. It should be safe. And you should be informed.
Are you just starting out on your journey as a sexual being and are a bit unsure how to be the best sex partner you can be?
You’ve come to the right place. With the help of some of the sexual health industry’s leading experts, we’re going to get down to the bare bones of what you can do to satisfy your partner during sex – and yourself, for that matter.
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Having sex is all about the two (or more, or less, or none) people having a good time, while also being a courteous sex partner. All partners should get sexual pleasure, no matter how casual or committed the relationship may be.
Everyone deserves to have a good experience – this means empowering yourself with protection (i.e.: barrier methods and other forms of birth control), informed consent, and mutual pleasure.
This concept may seem pretty straightforward, but it’s murkier than you think. In a heteronormative sexual culture, sexual gratification is understood on a male/female binary, where a cis man’s sexual pleasure is seen as all-important and his cis female partner’s pleasure is secondary. This is messed up for a lot of reasons.
This idea of what ‘sex’ is doesn’t allow for female sexual agency and doesn’t leave any room for queer people who don’t have sex on a male/female binary.
We’re going to throw this whole concept in the trash and replace it with a new one – one where every kind of sexual act is equal and where who you have (or don’t have) sex with isn’t dictated by gender. “Having positive sexual experiences is a great way to destigmatize the shameful messages young people may receive around sex. Having positive, consensual sexual experiences teach young people how to connect with pleasure, as well as advocate for themselves and others,” says Kamil Lewis, AMFT, a somatic sex therapist, to Very Good Light.
Let’s do it. Here is everything you need to know about how to pleasure a partner in bed—as well as yourself—in 2020. It’s time we re-learn.
1. Let’s get one thing straight: Sex isn’t shameful.
Depending on where you’ve grown up and with what values, you may have received negative messaging around sexuality. To have fully enjoyable sexual experiences, we have to do away with the idea that sex is shameful or bad. Sex is not bad, no matter how you have it.
“Having positive and pleasurable experiences when we’re young can be incredibly valuable because they’re our literal introduction to sex,” says Anne Hodder-Shipp, founder and lead educator at Everyone Deserves Sex Ed. This is a time for experimenting (safely) and learning what you like, not getting bogged down with notions that your sexuality is dirty. You are valid and your sexuality is valid.
When I say ‘sex,’ I don’t just mean ‘P in the V’ intercourse. Sex is everything that gives us sexual pleasure: hand sex, oral sex, intercourse, anal play, masturbation (alone and partnered). Sex is whatever you want it to be and no form of it is better than any other. Got it? OK.
Once you start letting go of sexual shame and opening yourself up to the possibilities of sexual exploration beyond what heteronormative culture has screamed at you, you can start to develop your own sexuality more fully.
2. Take the pressure off.
I totally get that having some of your first sexual experiences can be scary. We’re a culture raised on watching porn stars do all sorts of unrealistic sex things – seriously, who can last in bed for a full 30 minutes? Porn isn’t real life.
What’s really important to remember is that everyone is nervous and no one knows what they’re doing. We all just want everyone to have a good time. We have this bizarre idea that we’re just supposed to magically know how to be amazing in bed, without having any sex or pleasure education. This makes zero sense. Like anything, being good in bed takes practice and patience.
We need to take the damn pressure off and understand that we’re just trying to figure stuff out. It’s OK to tell a partner that you’re nervous. The only way to get comfortable is through communication. I promise your partner(s) are nervous, too. “We can’t read minds, and sometimes when we’re nervous or anxious, we can project what we’re afraid is true onto the situation instead of hearing or receiving what is actually true,” says Anne.
3. Ask your partner what they want…
The best sex partners are ones who actually care enough to ask what brings someone pleasure, rather than just wildly humping into the night and hoping everyone has an orgasm (they will not). “The only way to know for sure if your partner feels satisfied is to ask them and then take their answer seriously,” says Anne.
This might mean getting a little real with your partner. But having the confidence to ask questions is HOT. “Communication is key to satisfaction and to feeling open to experience pleasure to begin with,” says Kenneth Play, a sex-hacker and international sex expert. “Talk about masturbation together. Find out what their most reliable way to have an orgasm is when they are alone, and make sure to do it!”
If you’re nervous about asking (don’t worry, we all are, because sex can be nerve-wracking), Lewis says: “You can be creative in how you ask about satisfaction. [For instance,] Does this feel good? Do you like it when I do ___? You can ask those questions in the moment, and also have a discussion prior to having sex, so you know what your partner likes, and what turns them on.”
4. … and tell them what you want.
This also means being forthright about what you like. The only to find out? Masturbation. You need to spend time alone with yourself before you can fully communicate what you want to a partner. Remember that your partner is not a mind-reader and neither are you. Everyone likes different things. That’s what makes sex so great.
Let your partner know what feels good and what doesn’t. Good sex is not making porn-sounds when something is meh.
Be honest, because that’s the only way you’re going to get off. “Even if they want to please you, they likely don’t know exactly what works for you,” Play says. “Don’t be afraid to learn about yourself and others. Be patient with yourself and others and adopt a growth mindset.” This means understanding that sexuality is a journey that grows and changes through time – it can only get better the more you explore.
5. Stay in the moment.
I think I can say with confidence that our collective attention span is pretty low. We are so distracted by screens and instant gratification—whether it be free porn or Instagram—that it’s easy to lose focus.
Lewis says that staying with your body and focusing on what’s happening during sex is a big step toward really owning your sexuality. “During sex, bring your awareness to your different senses. Notice the smells, tastes, and sounds,” she says. “Being more in the moment and in your body allows you to connect more with pleasure, and feel more satisfied.”
Allowing yourself to feel pleasure is such a liberating experience. Don’t rob yourself of it by getting in your head about whether or not you’re a 5-star sex genius. “It’s ok not to have all the answers. It’s ok not to feel like a professional, like you may see in popular media. Acknowledge that your sexuality is yours so you get to define it and redefine it as many times as you need to,” says Lewis.
Gigi Engle is a certified sex educator, sexologist, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love and Life.
(Featured image illustration by Paul Tuller)