Selfish in bed... what to do?
July 22, 2006 3:42 PM   Subscribe

How common is it for someone not to get any pleasure from bringing sexual pleasure to their partner? Is there anything that can be done about it?

I have noticed that among the relatively few women I have had physical relationships with, some took actual sexual pleasure themselves in giving me pleasure, whereas others, if they did things for me at all, did it more out of a sense of obligation. They didn't seem to get any inherent pleasure from giving pleasure.

I find this totally bizarre because *nothing* turns me on more than bringing pleasure to my partner.

My questions are (1) For the more experienced readers, how common is this? (2) Is it more common in women than men, or vice versa, or about equal? (3) Is there anything that can be done about lover like this? Does anyone have any success stories?

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

If you're referring to oral (you're anonymous, I don't know why you couldn't be more specific), a lot of people, male and female, just don't enjoy giving it, for various reasons. A lot of people will act more enthusiastic about it than they really feel because they want to please. And a lot of people just genuinely love it, like you. Diff'rent strokes (no pun intended).

As far as what can be "done" about a lover who doesn't demonstrably enjoy [whatever sexual act], I don't think there is really much of anything, at least as far as what you're looking for -- you can't make someone enjoy something they don't enjoy, but you can at least make them aware of how very appreciative you are when they give [whatever]. That'll usually give a real sense of satisfaction, if not actual pleasure. Make sure you're very enthusiastic about how much you appreciate their giving.

You could also try asking her if there's anything you could do that would help her enjoy giving you [whatever], like try flavored condoms or roleplaying, etc., but don't do or say anything to make her feel guilty for not feeling aroused by giving you [whatever]. Presumably you don't want her to start faking it just to make you happy. As long as the rest of your sex life is satisfying for both of you -- i.e., you're both getting pleasure at some point during the proceedings -- I wouldn't worry too much about this.
posted by Gator at 4:25 PM on July 22, 2006

For me, this most frequently occurs when one or more of the following is true: I don't care about the other person; they didn't do a very good job when it was their turn; or I'm not fully in the mood for any kind of sex.

What can be done about this? I can leave or stop, or, best case scenario, the guy could ask what's wrong.

I don't know about other women.
posted by Lucie at 4:27 PM on July 22, 2006

It could depend on the asking. 'It won't suck itself, you know' is not going to get you good head or an enthusiastic participant.

Some women just don't like giving head. Some women just don't like giving head to certain people.
posted by pieoverdone at 4:44 PM on July 22, 2006

Three options I can think of: 1) She's just not that into you. 2) She's sexually repressed/disinterested for reasons that have nothing to do with you. 3) She's selfish.

I don't think its gender based, though, as most of the ladies I have been with enjoyed giving just as much as receiving. Most my guy friends seem to be really into pleasing the woman they're with, but I can think of exceptions for both sexes, so ...

If you are talking about oral sex, I think it's really person- dependent. I thought I was just undesirable for getting head until I met my 3rd girlfriend and I just realized the problem was with the first two women, not myself.
posted by Happydaz at 5:01 PM on July 22, 2006

It seems odd to me that several people are equating "giving pleasure" with "giving head" -- as though oral sex is the only way that a woman can actively give pleasure to her partner.

Anon, I read you as asking not about a specific sexual act, but rather about people who do/don't regard their partner's pleasure as arousing in itself. Call it sexual empathy. The positive feedback loop created by this trait -- the more you're turned on, the more she's turned on, lather rinse repeat -- is in my experience one of the things that distinguishes really fabulous sex.

I do think that, like any other sexual proclivity, it's basically a matter of taste. I also think that women's socialization may make us less likely than men to be wired this way. (I see women being trained to view ourselves as erotic objects rather than erotic agents, which means we don't tend to develop a sense of competency and pride where our partners' pleasure is concerned.)

As to whether sexual empathy can be acquired: I know from personal experience that kinks can be consciously fostered, and also acquired from other people. But only if she is motivated (read: really into you) and willing to focus on and learn to identify with your pleasure.

If a frank talk reveals this to be the case, you might try self-pleasuring together -- taking turns bringing yourselves to the edge, while the other watches and encourages.

You might also look at your own responses to her pleasuring you (moans, movements, admiring comments afterward, etc.). If you tend to be inhibited or stoic in your pleasure, you might try amping up your responses a bit to give her more to go on.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:18 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

First and foremost, I agree with ottereroticist's answer as far as taking a look at your own reactions and working on the 'feedback loop'. But if for whatever reason you're simply stuck with a selfish partner, and don't wish to look for someone less so, it may be time to fight fire with fire.

Why should you give your best effort when your partner is less than enthusiastic about returning the favor? Match your efforts to hers, and make comments about it being harder to get into things because she seems to be so reluctant about it all. Manipulative? Possibly so. But as has been recently widely publicized, the key to changing behaviors is to reward behaviors you do like, and ignore behaviors you don't.
posted by ElfWord at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2006

Unwilling sex is never fun. Sex should be eagerly sought by both; it should never be an obligation or a duty.

If women are sleeping with you because they feel they must do so even though they don't want to, they're not going to be happy in bed and there's nothing you can do to make them happy in bed. The solution is to not make them sleep with you if they don't want to. Sex should not be the price they pay for spending time with you.

Sex is best when people really love each other. That's why "lover" should mean "someone I love", not "someone I screw".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:31 PM on July 22, 2006

This is a long complicated question. In short, my experience has been that it's fairly common, if you're having sex with someone you generally like/love/enjoy, that you will get some level of pleasure and/or satisfaction from giving them pleasure. However, this feeling is not necessarily the same as the sexual feeling you would get by being the direct recipient of some sexual attention, if that makes sense.

Another way of putting this is that while a lot of sex is mental, there is still some part of sex that is focused on physical stimulation and I always assume that for a lot of people there is some continuum there. So for people who are more aroused mentally, the act of pleasuring a parnter would be very arousing even without any direct stimulation of themselves. For others who are more physically aroused generally, the act of pleasing a partner, while still an enjoyable part of having sex, might not be a direct turn on for them. Maybe this is a guy/girl thing, but I've found most men at least seem to enjoy the pleasure-giving part of sexual engagement. If they didn't, they wouldn't do it (and I've known guys who didn't, though not for very long). I think there is definitely, judging from talking to men I know, a set of women who have a "lie there and let it happen to you" attitude towards sex which I think is a damned shame for everyone involved.

There are a ton of reasons for this. However I can think of a few off the top of my head. I'm just thinking of the sort of give and take of orally stimulating a partner.

- your partner may be a quiet sort of pleasuree and as a result you aren't sure they're enjoying it, or you are more stimulated by audible signs of enjoyment (this could also be movement-specific instead)
- she *was* enjoying it, but now it's taking too long (happens to the best of us)
- you were enjoying it but now you have a crick in your neck
- you were using a free hand to pleasure yourself or keep yourself stimulated and now you are in a position that you can't do this
- your partner likes one sort of pleasure giving and you like another, enough so that you request it
- your partner is unsure of their abilities and is focussing on doing a good job and hence not maybe enjoying herself as much as she could be
- you're directing her how to do things too much
- your roomates are making too much noise in the next room
- your paartner is expecting you to be doing things while they are pleasuring you that ytou are not doing

etc etc. While you may be in touch with what you want and what you'd like from a partner, you might like to consider how you're being perceived. I know this is just an inquisitive general question, but a statement like

I find this totally bizarre because *nothing* turns me on more than bringing pleasure to my partner.

does seem to draw a line. If I were your partner I'd like to think we could discuss this situation and our feelings about it without starting from a point where my take on the situation strikes you as that level of weird. Or, if you seriously can't understand that point of view, you may want to choose partners who have a perspective more simlar to your own. I feel that this sort of sexual empathy can definitely be acquired over time, but it's the sort of thing that takes discussion, practice and attention which may not be a combination you'd have in a sometimes-lover.
posted by jessamyn at 10:16 PM on July 22, 2006

The solution is to not make them sleep with you if they don't want to.

Make them sleep with you if they don't want to.

How, precisely, would you go about doing that in a fashion that *didn't* amount to rape?

No, seriously...
posted by baylink at 12:10 PM on July 23, 2006

I'm with Lucie and Jessamyn (how does Jessamyn get things right so much of the time? It's unnerving.) on this one, as far as: I'm not particularly in the mood for this sort of sex right now and/or it was great at first, but I'm not really into it anymore because some part of me (neck, jaw) is now hurting me.

The fact that your partner continues, even if it isn't giving her physical pleasure says, to me, that she gets some sort of mental pleasure or satisfaction from pleasing you.

Baylink: I think he's referring to someone agreeing to sex to please the partner, rather than because they want to sleep with the person due to desire.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 12:38 PM on July 23, 2006

Baylink, there's a difference between being willing to do something, and wanting to do it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:24 PM on July 23, 2006

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