…And nope, I'm not referring to oral sex.
CW: Living in a puritanicalish society, this is one of the cool Life Truths I don't get to discuss very often, but screw it (heh), I'm here and I've gotta post something today. This is knowledge I've earned through hard work and deliberate experimentation and long thought, so here it is. And yes, to be explicit (lol), as the title indicates, this post contains information about sex.
If you hate reading about sex, then by all means skip this (there'll be another post tomorrow!)
…But if you hate reading about sex because you feel like it should be "automatic", a thing that just flowers out of a crush or a date and then, y'know, happens, be aware that in this post, I'm declaring that you're BAD AT SEX.
I'll keep the backstory short here so as not to embarrass either of us, but it's relevant to know that I've put two decades of conscious experimentation into sex — at least as much work, writing, and trying things as I've put into sleep. And I had reasons for this — I was really screwed up initially, given SO much bad information and some early non-consentual encounters that messed me up about it badly. And when I determined to "fix it" by figuring it out on my own, I found that I had to change and challenge a lot in order to find what "good sex" even was.
And what I found is what's in the title: You can absolutely gauge whether anyone, yourself included, is good at sex based on how well they use their mouths — or hands, if they use ASL — i.e. how comfortable and willing and experienced they are at communicating about sex with someone they'd like to have (or are having or have had) it with.
I've reached an age where sometimes teenagers ask me about sex — I probably make a good target because there's grey in my hair and I'm not afraid of swear-words, nor has a sex question from a kid ever shocked me. In truth, I'm way more shocked at how many adults can't summon the wherewithal to answer simple questions you'd think they know by now. Questions like "how do I do this right / avoid doing it wrong?" That your standard adult answer sounds something like "don't do it" or "stop thinking about it" strikes me as violently absurd, and also harmful, since avoiding thinking about sex is one of the real fast roads towards being awful at it, and potentially hurting yourself or others.
Sex is not an emotionally safe activity, just like rock-climbing isn't a physically safe activity. That's why we have safety gear, and why smart people require that you have a basic amount of training and awareness of what you're doing in order to participate in it. We don't want children to have sex because they're too young to do it safely, but once their bodies are ready and they've developed an interest in it, you'd think we'd give them the tools to do it right and as much advice as we could. But we suck at this.
Rather than talk about why, though, I want to just go ahead and give the advice — yes, the advice I give to teenagers and adults alike, and which, by the way, kids are perfectly capable of understanding. (The adults are too, but many of them really don't like knowing that they're doing this wrong and need to work harder at it. There's a myth out there that adults magically get their Sex Card sometime in college and from then on out get to claim to be good at it. Yeah well, HA to that.)
THE BASIC SKILL of sex — for you tabletop fans, the stat you roll for it — is COMMUNICATION. It happens and matters first, and during, and also after and in-between. Being good at it gets you laid, makes you better during the act, and makes you a better lover to have, and to have had. Here are some (just some!) of the ways this manifests:
1. You let people know that you're interested in sex, and ready for it. (I tell teenagers, "If you aren't sure if you're ready for sex yet, imagine being naked in a room with this person and talking to them about sex — what you want to do and don't, what your body's needs and desires are — and if you can't stomach the embarrassment and vulnerability of that conversation, you're definitely not ready.")
Also, I'll say this here but it applies to all these points: Doing this is sexy. It turns people on. If you don't have as much sex as you'd like…have you tried fucking communicating about it??
2. You seek and listen to information from the other party(ies) about what they're interested in and ready for, then you confirm for both of you that activities X and Y are things you both have overlapping interest in and readiness for. (Note that this requires being aware of what you're ready for and interested in! Knowing this about yourself is a prerequisite, though it's true that maybe you don't know the details until you're right there contemplating it with someone — our interests definitely change by circumstance. So not only do you need to know your basic yes-and-no's; you also should, especially by the time you're an adult, be able to feel what they are on the fly, at that moment. And if you have the slightest worry about your ability to do this, never, ever have sex drunk/high, because drugs inhibit this part of your brain.)
3. Once you're touching each other, you feed data back and forth, through words, noises, muscle-tension, facial expression, etc. about what is pleasurable and "working" for you, and what isn't. If the more subtle communication methods are confusing (common when someone's new to you, but happens all the time), you back up to using words to make sure. You do this because you know that going slowly and taking communication-breaks is FAR preferable to (and sexier than!) hurting or squicking each other.
4. After Stuff has been Done, you check in — at least once, more if you're awesome — and share thoughts about how it went, how it felt, and what you both might be interested in doing later/again.
It's astonishing to me how many people — sometimes people who've been having, or trying to have, sex for years — think these steps are somehow optional or unimportant. That's like saying your ropes are unimportant in climbing! It IS the cultural narrative, I get it — in the movies (romantic or porn or anything in-between), you rarely see these parts happen. The "ideal sexual encounter" we're fed involves some kind of telepathy or accident that makes everyone magically consent to and express their enjoyment of things; total strangers are assumed to have completely understood each others' needs based on a single glance and a tiny moan. (And I won't harp on this, but so as not to skip acknowledging it: The root of that icultural story is in misogyny; it almost always goes badly for the woman — whose job in that automatic script is to "give in" to what the man wants — and it's one hair away from real rape, though which gender(s) are taken advantage of can change in any particular circumstance. Seriously though? The opposite of rape is consent. And the basic requirement of consent is communication! THIS ISN'T HARD. :P)
The idea that good sex will happen automatically, without clear communication, is just about as smart and realistic as how guns in movies never need reloading, never make anybody standing next to them go deaf, and kill you instantly only if you're a bad guy.
The above four things are SKILLS, yes — you need to do them and pay attention to them, and as you do so more, you'll get better and faster and more artistic about their execution. (And oh man, th higher / artistic levels are FUN, I assure you.)
They do NOT happen automatically, or as a magical result of your pheromones. I don't care how good your phereomones are, or how attractive your face or whatever is. Those things do not produce good sex — good communication, and that alone, does.
And by the way, like anybody new at a skill, I used to get super nervous and kinda hate the experience of doing them — it was scary, especially when it didn't go great. But after a while, I got comfortable with them, and now, I love doing them — I even love doing them first — because they tell me immediately if the person I'm considering bonking with is going to be any good at it. By cultivating those skills, I not only made myself into a universally-lauded Good Lay (what; it's my blog; if I can't brag about that here then where can I), but it also gave me an iron-clad system for knowing when it'd be better to just politely say no and avoid an unpleasant experience with someone:
If they can't overcome their embarrassment to talk with me about sex, they 100% cannot have good sex with me. OMG the amount of bad sex I've avoided just by making "you must be able to talk about it" my rule! \o/
If they keep looking for an "automatic progression" of things instead of checking in with me about what we're both into, ::BUZZER NOISE::
If they're clearly not watching for or interpreting my reactions (and pausing to ask me if they aren't sure what they mean), hell to the nope.
If they refuse to tell me what they want (yup, this happens), there's the door. (I'm not going to sully my excellent pants-reputation with sub-par encounters with people who clearly can't dance. :P)
Sex sometimes happens according to an unspoken social script, sure. You both have some drinks…you lean in…you kiss…you grope…you fondle…you remove clothing…etc etc…but I will stand by my assertion that GOOD sex almost NEVER happens this way — especially not more than once! (If you have enough drinks or don't have much experience with really good sex, you could interpret that automatic BS as "good enough", sure. But you'll get sick af of it, if repeated, precisely because it isn't involving what you actually want at all.)
In closing, it's amazing to me that people of all ages will buy books and read articles and ask eager questions about, like, what specific geometric shape they should make with their tongues at what speed for what duration in order to "please their partner", but when told that the answer is talk to, pay attention to, and check in after with your partner, they screech like vampires given a garlic sandwich. Dude, that IS sex. Asking and noticing and clarifying and responding to another person's body IS SEX.
If that's too difficult or embarrassing for you, for all our sakes, don't have sex. If you do, you'll just be awful at it.
If you're lucky enough to be trying it with me or someone like me, you'll at least know you're awful at it, and probably not get very far before you get told to go home — and that's a huge boon for both parties, believe me. What's really saddening is when "you", whoever you are, try it with someone else who doesn't know about this, and who thinks the way to do it is to let you fumble around and use them to get off on, and then they have to deal with that suuuuuuuper gross feeling the next day of having had really terrible, impersonal, uncommunicative genital-play (I won't even call it sex, frankly) … that makes me upset just to contemplate. So if this rather revealing post does nothing but save one person from that experience, it was worth it!
Happy f****** ! :D