The Good Lover
What does it mean to be a good lover? Have you ever thought about your criteria – I mean, really thought about it?
We’re fed a lot of ideas on how to perform sex. You know those magazine covers in the checkout line offering “11 Sex Positions to Spice Up the Most Boring Bedroom” and “14 Sex Secrets You’ll Both Lose Your Mind Over.” While I’m all for playing and experimenting, I’m struck by the underlying message, that you better keep it interesting to hold your beloved’s attention, and in order to be interesting, you better have a lot of sex tricks in your toolbox.
The danger I see lies in this question: what happens if I’m boring? What if I want to be touched the same way 12 times in a row? Will I still be loved? Will my partner stay?
A friend told me recently that a good lover is someone who respects and cares for her, who is engaged and playful, patient, admiring. This lover communicates needs and encourages others to do the same. They show appreciation and aren’t critical. In other words, the criteria isn’t based on performance, but rather the quality of presence.
Nearly all sex that we see portrayed in media is performance. It’s about looking good and acting right, making the right sounds at the right moments, being wild in acceptable ways, knowing what to do next without asking. Through all this performance, how do we know if we’re actually having fun? Also, expecting someone to know how to touch me without guiding them sets me up for a disappointing time. How will I get my needs met if I don’t say what I need?
All bodies are different, and each body changes moment to moment. We like different kinds of touch, play and exploration, and this shifts all the time. What a scary standard to hold ourselves to, that we should know the game plan before we enter the arena, that we should already know how to please and perform, for all bodies in every circumstance.
Who are we performing for anyway? If everyone is performing, then who is the audience? Who is receiving if we are all trying to please the other?
What Is Your Goal in Sex?
I recently attended an intensive training on sexuality in Portland, and I’ve been reflecting on these questions (plus many more). What are your goals when you engage with someone sexually? Is it to engage intimately with a beloved, or do you want to experience lots of varying sensations? Do you want to connect with your body by exploring with another? Are you after status and ego boosts? Maybe you want to learn more about what turns you on and what turns you off, and practice asking for what you want. Maybe you just want to connect and feel close. Perhaps you simply want to play, or all of the above!
By considering our goals, we stand a better chance at finding satisfaction. For example, if intimacy is the priority, then we have endless possibilities for touching and feeling close. How we choose to achieve intimacy may not have anything to do with the usual standards of performance. If intense sensation and pleasure is the goal, then we can choose how to play accordingly.
If you’re panicking right now because you don’t know what you want, I get it. It can be hard to know, especially if you pay a lot of attention to pleasing others. You can start by simply following your pleasure. Notice in the moment what feels good, or what’s fun, and follow that. Let your own joy lead you. Then practice putting this into words. Over time, you strengthen this ability to recognize pleasure and listen to it, and then actually ask for it.