what is good sex for men?
January 8, 2012 3:40 PM   Subscribe

What is good sex for men? Once, I was married, in an abusive relationship. I've suddenly realized it is 15 years ago, and that I still haven't moved on. I've been in relationships since, each in their way failed, and each more or less failed because of my inability to get over the trauma of the abuse. Now, I've met someone new, after an almost total abstinence of 10 years. And I need to move on. The main issue for me, right now, is lack of confidence regarding sex. My ex-husband repeatedly told me I was no good in bed. And now I feel I have no idea what is good in bed.

I enjoy sex. I feel happy about my body, and I like men. But my ex's complaint was that I wasn't aggressive and proactive enough.
So now I worry, I would really like to please my new partner, but I'd also like to remain true to my own feelings. I am curious about different views on this. Naturally, I'll be discussing this with my partner, but I really need to not do this from the point of view of former abuse. I want to be free of all that now.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Answering the asked question,
Sex that is good for men, generally, is consensual sex with someone of a gender they are attracted to. Really it is kind of that simple. Great sex is sex that is mutually enthusiastic, where each partner's desires are communicated accurately, and buttons that are specific to each dude are hit; more or less exactly how it is with women.

It really sucks how fucked up ex-es can warp our perceptions so strongly.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:56 PM on January 8, 2012 [15 favorites]

What is good sex for men?

It isn't terribly helpful, but you've asked an unanswerable question -- there is only good sex for you and your current partner, and that's arrived at via communication. Enjoying sex and yourself is a great first step. Put the abuser's words aside, and focus on the new guy.

Other people's views aren't really going to help much here, aside from demonstrating the variation in sexual preferences that exist out there; there is no ideal of sex against which all sex is commonly measured. What's perfect for one guy might be to be tied up, mocked, and toyed with; another guy might want to tie you up and tease you. A third might find the whole bondage thing annoying.
posted by ellF at 3:57 PM on January 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

But my ex's complaint was that I wasn't aggressive and proactive enough.

That should not have been a complaint, it should have been a suggestion or a request that sometimes you be more proactive, or do this or that, (and it should have come soon enough for you to have a chance to work with it, not be a parting criticism).

In a sense, you don't meet great lovers, you create them. That's an exaggeration, but because everyone has their own ideals for sex, it generally gets better with time and play and communication, rather than there being a playbook that works perfectly off the bat.

But if that playbook existed, I would think it would contain; having fun yourself, being open to doing things that turn on your partner, being communicative (especially in ways your partner is comfortable with), show your partner that they're wanted (ie don't rely on them to always initiate, you make an extra effort from time to time, etc), and if they give you suggestions, try not to ignore or forget them. That sort of thing.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:59 PM on January 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

Your new partner may not like aggressive and proactive - that's one person's idea of 'good sex', not everyone's. To me, good sex isn't a set of moves or positions or techniques, it's the connection that happens when both people are in tune with each other. Talk to your partner about what he likes, experiment with things that you like, and be honest with him about what turns YOU on - good sex requires a partner that enjoys it too, not just someone focused on getting you off.

In terms of being aggressive and proactive, if that's what your new partner enjoys, it can be thinks like initiating sex when he's not expecting it (just push him onto the bed/floor/table), or taking charge of what's happening while you're having sex (roll him over so you're on top, or tell him what you want him to do).

Definitely talk it over with him first, and definitely go into it with the idea that you're meant to be enjoying this too - it's not a test, or some exam you need to pass to prove you're a good lover. Treating it like such is a guaranteed way to be in the wrong mindset.
posted by twirlypen at 4:00 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

And now I feel I have no idea what is good in bed.

Liking it. That's about all.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:04 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think people are overly critical of these vague, open-ended questions, but hopefully you'll get some answers that serve as general guideposts.

One thing, maybe, is to figure out ways to be passionate/enthusiastic that aren't outside of your comfort zone. Even if you aren't comfortable being more aggressive, you can be clear and expressive when you are enjoying yourself.
posted by mercredi at 4:17 PM on January 8, 2012

My ex-husband repeatedly told me I was no good in bed.

But I don't think that's why he was saying that to you. If the only thing that's going on is that you aren't that into what your SO is doing in bed, then you make loving or encouraging or positive suggestions and try to work on it.

There is no reason to say those things in a nasty way and make someone feel like shit about themselves,. The only point in tacking on all the nastiness is that you want to hurt the person.

I think you should remember that he said those things in order to hurt you. I would be very surprised in fact, if he actually did really want you to change anything you were doing. Because then he wouldn't have his "justification" to keep unleashing his nastiness on you.

Also I think no matter WHAT you would have done he would have come up with something to criticize about it and it never would have been enough. Because what he was after was an excuse to hurt you. So he would have found one no matter what you had done in bed.

what is good sex for men?

Every man is different but the commonality for many of them seems to be genuine enjoyment.

You may find with this new guy, your preferences and his preferences just happen to match up, and he will have no desire for you to be more "aggressive" or whatever it was that your ex said he wanted.

Or, your preferences may not happen to match up, and both of you will talk about it and look for a way to meet in the middle. And maybe you will find that middle spot where you are both happy, or maybe you will find there is no way for you both to be really satisfied, and that is okay too. You both can decide to respect each other and accept you are not compatible.

So, just talk to him. If he really loves you and cares about making it work with you, and he's not a warped abuser who is getting pleasure from hurting you, then he will be willing to work with you to make it good for both of you.
posted by cairdeas at 4:21 PM on January 8, 2012 [17 favorites]

Yeah, enthusiasm and enjoyment are the only necessities. Everything else is details.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:26 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'll nth genuine enthusiasm. If you and he are enthusiastic about it then I have the feeling that you'll enjoy working on making the good sex be great.
posted by mmascolino at 4:38 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Enthusiastic, happy, no more baggage than will fit in the overhead compartment, and take the time to learn what I like, rather than just applying the same techniques that "all guys like."
posted by Forktine at 4:45 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: This is a really weird place to start having a debate about circumcision generalizations, please do not do that here. Helpful answers please, the rest can go to MetaTalk. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:13 PM on January 8, 2012

Some previous threads which may help.

I'm not ashamed, though vaguely embarrassed, to admit I found obiwanwasabi's comment useful.
posted by endless_forms at 5:17 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

For me, it's a lot about fun, absurdity, humility, and playfulness. As far as I'm concerned, my partner should please check the porn star theatrics at the door; I'd rather laugh and make silly noises during sex.
posted by threeants at 5:32 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'll tell you what bad sex is, for me, anyway.

It's sex with a very passive, unenthusiastic woman who expects me to do all the work, not only in foreplay, but in actual intercourse.

Good sex is sex with a woman who is obviously enthusiastic, open to new things and positions, and skills all the positions like a pornstar.

"Urgent" sex is also good sex, e.g. in a public place, or "quickies", so to speak.
posted by brighteyes7 at 6:04 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

"We had some of the hottest sex I have ever had. Its so much better when your partner is really into it."

That is a friend told me about having good sex.

I think maybe your ex didn't feel desired. Or he was a jerk. (or both). Once you are comfortable with a guy, it is okay to tell him you want to fuck him. If something suddenly feels good, let him know. Generally, people like to know that they make you feel good.
posted by Monday at 6:36 PM on January 8, 2012

The question really is "what is good sex for this man?" It sounds like you've got a good beginning to the answer in the fact that you like sex and you want to have it with him. What remains is to talk and listen and to become intimate with him, to discover the dance that is all your own, whatever you enjoy and find together, with truth and trust. You are the only two that get to decide what is good sex for you.

My experience is that as long as you are communicating and you stay open, caring and trusting in your relationship with each other and you remain attracted to each other, the sex will be good. Good sex can cover the entire range of human emotion, fiery or frantic or just for fun and sometimes as gentle as a lullaby. It's what you make of it, just the two of you. You have to put in the time to communicate and know one another, I think. Ask and receive, listen and give.

Every time a relationship of mine failed, it was because we were no longer intimate in our communicating as a couple, we got too busy and we didn't take notice and make corrections when there began to be small withdrawals, so these became betrayals, dishonesty, unkindnesses and indifference that cooled the sexual attraction and killed the love between us.
posted by Anitanola at 6:37 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think you should remember that he said those things in order to hurt you. I would be very surprised in fact, if he actually did really want you to change anything you were doing. Because then he wouldn't have his "justification" to keep unleashing his nastiness on you.
Also I think no matter WHAT you would have done he would have come up with something to criticize about it and it never would have been enough. Because what he was after was an excuse to hurt you. So he would have found one no matter what you had done in bed.

I second this. He WANTED to hurt you. If you were a porn star he would have told you that you sucked in bed, because it made him feel happy and superior.

From what I've heard from the fellows, "don't just lie there" is what a guy considers to be bad in bed. To quote a line from the book Welcome to Temptation, "Hell, Georgia, even Jell-O moves when you eat it." So as long as you're not lying there and am generally enjoying the process, all should be well if you are dating someone who's not an asshole.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:06 PM on January 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

your ex sounds like an ass, and i agree with the other answers suggesting his criticism actually had nothing to do with your skills in bed - i get the overwhelming impression from what you wrote that he was just being a jerk and trying to make you feel bad.

also i agree with the many posters who say that just being enthusiastic will be a great start to being good in bed, as would communicating your desires, and getting him to communicate his. however, i'd like to make one concrete suggestion of an actual activity you can initiate to provide pleasure for just about any guy: a nice blowjob, as foreplay, ungrudgingly given, without him having to come right out and ask for one, is always enjoyable (and, for me anyway, the favor always returned afterwards if not beforehand) you don't need to throw your neck out or give yourself lockjaw doing this, 5-10 minutes as a prelude to intercourse is plenty. i suspect approximately 999 guys out 1000 would appreciate this.

now that i'm thinking about it, i believe good blowjob skills (<-previous askmefi thread) are almost always seen as a huge factor in a woman being "good in bed". aren't they? ymmv i guess but i feel like this is nearly universal.
posted by messiahwannabe at 9:31 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It doesn't have to be about the abuse... a decade of near abstinence alone is enough to leave someone a little unsure of themselves, if you want to focus on the lack of recent experience in discussing with the new guy what he likes and the need for verbal/vocal feedback when you do become intimate, there's nothing wrong with that.

Keep in mind with your ex, it may be that he wanted you to be more controlling... the sexually dominant partner in the bedroom, and that was why he said you were too passive. Even if he was literally trying to make you believe you were a cold fish, that was just part of the abuse. The man is irrelevant, his opinion is worthless, what matters is what your new guy thinks.

Just make it clear that you need a lot of communication in the bedroom while you get some "practice time" in and earn your confidence. Hopefully he'll be the type of guy who enjoys giving feedback and that'll make things even more exciting ;)
posted by myShanon at 9:34 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I enjoy sex. I feel happy about my body, and I like men.

Seriously, possessing those three qualities means you are like 95% of the way to "good sex for men," and way ahead of the game with respect to many other women.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:52 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Everybody's wired differently. You mention your willingness to communicate, and that's probably the most important thing.

My only suggestion would be to not set your sights too high for the first few times it happens -- it might be great, it might be awkward and/or not so great. If you communicate it will get better though.
posted by bardic at 10:27 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

My friend's ex refused to let her have a pair of red shoes; he said only whores wear red shoes. He wouldn't take her to dinner because he said her table manners were disgusting. He told her she looked like a frumpy librarian with her glasses on but wouldn't pay for contacts, so she went around unable to see ten feet in front of her face for years. There was a whole lot more, as you can imagine, but when the divorce was final at last, she bought three pair of red shoes, went out to dinner alone and with friends many, many times in the first few weeks, and wore her glasses every single day - in fact, she bought two new pairs just for the thrill of having a choice.

Your ex's nasty remarks about your abilities in bed are the same thing - just nasty and controlling and disparaging for the pure hell of it, not because there's any substance behind it. And you should approach a sexual relationship with a new partner the same way my friend dealt with her new life - just go out there and enjoy it like you've never enjoyed it before.

Do not perform. Please. Men and women need to stop the performance thing unless they're selling tickets. Nothing can fizzle sex any faster than one person or the other thinking they're supposed to do this or that this way or that way. Good sex is, plain and simply, sex that's fun. That's really all. Does he turn you on? Do you want to explore his body? Do you want him exploring yours? If not - move on. If you do want those things, let him know, with gusto. Then relax and enjoy it, without baggage, without fear or any of that noise - just go get him and have fun.
posted by aryma at 10:34 PM on January 8, 2012 [14 favorites]

Some previous threads which may help.

There are some good answers in those threads, pieces of which might apply to this question.

For me, good sex is something that develops in a good relationship. It comes out of communication and reciprocity and being forgiving of mistakes. Sex in a new relationship is always exciting, simply from the newness, but really good sex happens when you know someone so intimately that you know their body and their desires and their reactions better than they do, and vice versa.

And you don't get there in a day or a week. It's like learning a new language or a new kind of dancing -- there's no shortcut around all the fumbling.

Most of all, though, good sex happens when things outside of the bedroom are good. I mean, out of 24 hours in a regular day, you might spend maybe half an hour getting it on, right? Longer on a rainy weekend morning, sure, but I'm talking workday evening here. How good that half hour is will depend a lot on how good the hours leading up to it were. Were there soft touches and kind words before dinner? A footrub on the couch? Help solving a troublesome problem?

I'm not dismissing learning the pornalicious techniques that can rock his world, but I'd argue that it is the overall context that will give those techniques their power.
posted by Forktine at 10:59 PM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your ex is a pratt.

What Blasdelb said.
posted by wrm at 1:07 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I enjoy sex. I feel happy about my body, and I like men. But my ex's complaint was that I wasn't aggressive and proactive enough. . . So now I worry, I would really like to please my new partner, but I'd also like to remain true to my own feelings."

Yes, your ex was an ass, but you still have to figure out what kind of sexual relationship works best with you and this particular man.

Generally speaking, I would say that honesty and directness will serve you best, in this regard. You need to be able to communicate your feelings fully to your partner. My best, most basic advice for this communicating with them in whatever situation allows for you and your partner to relax the most. (My wife and I prefer doing so when cuddling in bed.) You should cuddle, and make it clear you want to talk softly for awhile about something important to you... and let him know what happened, how it made you feel bad and uncertain about yourself, how that's effecting you now, and how you're feeling.

Also, as far as sexual compatibility with someone, it's not just a matter of whether you enjoy sex, but also a matter of how much, how often, and how, in general, you prefer sex... and also how your previously abusive relationship has effected that. Nothing guarantees sexual compatibility with another person, but communication can usually find those areas where you best overlap.

"I'll be discussing this with my partner, but I really need to not do this from the point of view of former abuse. I want to be free of all that now."

Yes, but... there's a difference between wanting to be free of all that, and being free of all that. Perhaps you are... or perhaps there are some things he might inadvertently do that could be triggery, or things he could do/communicate which would be reassuring. If so, then you need to discuss those things with him.

There are lots of women who would like an active sex life, but who simply can't execute upon that, due to the after-effects of abuse. You likely need to be able to relax in order to properly enjoy sex, so if you find yourself unable to do so, then some degree of therapy might be helpful.
posted by markkraft at 6:53 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

As far as personally, the best sex is when the other person is passionately, intensely pursuing their pleasure... even if their pleasure is in giving me pleasure. It's when they get past their fears and inhibitions, and can really explore themselves and their desires.

Having had relationships evolve from shyness, fear, and inhibition to uninhibited passion and pleasure, all I can say is that everything gets more intense, the timing and flow between partners starts to sync up in amazing, unexpected ways... and even the orgasms can get louder. Poor neighbors!

Great sex takes passion, desire, exploration, and practice... and real attention to your partner's sexual responses. You can't expect it to happen all at once. It means breaking through -- and learning from -- any inhibitions you and your partner might have regarding sex and intimacy together.

Probably the most universally revelatory moments I have had, sexually, with any of my prior partners is in encouraging them to lie down and masturbate in front of me, in whatever manner worked best for them to achieve orgasm, while I cuddled against them, kissed them, gently explored their bodies, closely observed how they preferred to stimulate themselves and their reactions to what I was doing, and whispered to them to determine if there was anything they would like me to do that would help to please them. *LOTS* of people have huge hangups about this very private, intimate thing, but from my experience, it is *the* best way to learn how to give your partner great sex... while building a huge amount of intimacy and trust in the process.
posted by markkraft at 7:34 AM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

My ex-husband repeatedly told me I was no good in bed.

Translation: "I am an ass, and will try and make sure you don't have an affair by convincing you no-one wants to sleep with you anyway."

Seriously, I bet you're dynamite with someone you dig. If you have the chance, push your ex in a well in honour of all men and women who have been yanked about by their insecurities.
posted by Jilder at 12:05 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also -- if he avoided sex with you, don't forget he could have been saying nasty things to cover up something he was ashamed of about himself. He could have had ED, been questioning his sexuality, up to something shady, etc. It would help him avoid any questions to just blame it all on your performance.
posted by cairdeas at 2:36 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

If it helps, Zoey Dechanel's show New Girl just had an episode about this. Every specific thing she tried turned out weird and awkward, but when she actually talked to the BF is when the sex was best.
posted by CathyG at 3:06 PM on January 9, 2012

I'm a man. Good sex for me has nothing to do with what a woman does in bed. In fact, some of the best sex I've ever had was with a woman who didn't really do much at all when we had sex. What the heck made THAT awesome?!?!

She was enjoying herself, and she was enjoying me. YAY!
I was enjoying myself and I was enjoying her. YAY!
The only thing she did while we had sex was with her hands. Her hands wandered all over my body, and it was so nice. But she wasn't doing that to please me at all. She was doing it for her. She was just enjoying herself.

Great sex isn't about what you do. It isn't acrobatics or some sort of skill set. In fact, the people who think they have "skills" are usually the worst in bed.

Great sex is about pleasure. It's about enjoying yourself and enjoying the person you're with. Don't worry about giving him pleasure. He's already got what he wants if he's having sex with you. He's enjoying himself and he's enjoying you :)

...enjoy him.
...enjoy yourself.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:44 PM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Your ex was a tool, he said that to hurt you, and you are almost certainly in the middle of the bell curve when it comes to sexual skill, just like the rest of us, meaning "just fine, no reason to worry, find someone you get along with and have fun". That's the nature of population distributions. Please try to get past his words. They were part of the abuse, they were not about you.

I'm going to be slightly contrary, answering the question-asked as well as the matter of your own pain, and say I think there is such a thing as sexual "skill", so to speak. It has to do with how fast you can read someone's turn ons and adapt to them, and how well you can read their arousal to direct it to the highest point it can sustain without crossing into pain / overstimulation / discomfort / boredom / etc. It's very personal, not latent in a particular acrobatic move. I'm not saying this to brag, I'm only so-so at it, but I've been with people who are better and worse at this and it can make a difference.

That said, the difference such skill makes is overshadowed by:
  • having compatible turn-ons in the first place
  • playfulness, open-mindedness of both partners
  • comfort, relaxation, disinhibition
Of those, one is random and outside your control, and the other two are actively diminished by worrying about "skill". So do yourself and your partner a favour: cultivate sexy by letting go of the self-evaluation. You'll be making things much better for both of you by learning to let go of that anxiety. Think of going out to karaoke: it's significantly better for everyone once you just get into the singing and stop worrying what you sound like.
posted by ead at 8:56 PM on January 9, 2012

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