Q. I’m in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, and I don’t always (or often) orgasm from intercourse. It really seems to bother my partner. I don’t fake it, because that seems pointless, and he always gets me off before we get to the “main act,” but I can tell he thinks he’s failing somehow. How do I convince him that I’m still really enjoying myself, even if I don’t orgasm during p-i-v intercourse?
A. We are so very flawed, aren’t we?
I mean, even in this moment of said pleasure and intimacy, where the whole damn point is to let go and let god, we still find reason to blame and judge ourselves and find fault. I mean come on.
Now, I don’t mean “come on” in that oh-so-daft way that implies that we are being silly. But I do mean “come on” in that way that means, hell, how did we get here? How did we get to be so quick to promote our failures? Why is it that we will defend to the death our ability to feel bad about ourselves and our prowess?
I mean, really.
I feign outrage, but really, it’s not a terribly strange notion from out of nowhere. Frankly, I wish we could have a larger, more open and accepted dialogue that would go something along the lines of “Subconscious and Conscious Ways That Modern Culture Tends To Make Us Feel Like Shit” or “Why Is It We Absorb Nonsense About Our Sexual Behavior And End Up Trying To Undo It For Years.” Hopefully sponsored by your local socio-economic anxiety breeders. It’s true though: we live in such a schizophrenic cultural place, where both sex and sexual expression tend to be equal parts the bait and trap of consumerism and normalcy and the whipping girl of society that just cannot decide what it is we want or expect. We want puritanical, WASP-lifestyle sexual behaviors, purity balls, and “good women.” We want codes where men are men and women are women and everyone is always straight and gets married and has one to two and a half children with the picket fence. And yet, we also want to indulge in tits and ass in our beer commercials, slut shame the porn stars who bring us the very material we so privately jerk off too, and slap “sexy” as a label that adorns some and destroys others. We define the marker of manhood by how many bitches you fucked, meanwhile we define the failure of womanhood by how many men you have fucked (to which the answer is always too many). We want sexual pleasure, but secretly, hidden behind closed doors with no conversation of what sexual pleasure looks like or feels like or what that conversation beforehand looks like. We want, we don’t know what we want, we want it all, we want none of it.
We are a little fucked up. Actually, we are a lot fucked up. But, in the vein of this, I say we all deserve a little slack.
However, despite my defense for our confused little heads and our mixed messages, I actually don’t think you should convince him. I don’t think you can. I don’t think it’s not for trying or want or the empathy and compassion you are showing by doing so, but this scenario is a two way road in which you and your partner must both traverse. The crux of the matter is not you having to convince him of anything. The crux of the matter is him having to convince himself.
It’s a lofty goal.
And a difficult one, mind you, but one all the worthwhile pursuing. Because while the comfort of a partner’s words are indeed important and matter more than most things, this is not about one’s words and comfort: this is about the naysaying voice inside him that just happens to rear its ugly head when the lights go out and clothes are shed. The one that says, “You aren’t good. You suck,” because taking your clothes off and bumping uglies happens to be one of the more vulnerable risk-taking opportunities out there. Because being a “man” is defined by being an all-consuming orgasm machine that correlates “successful sex” as a game plan with a point A and a point B, as opposed to something that happens.
You know when you tell a so-so joke to someone you don’t really know and they give it the polite laugh, just so they don’t make the situation more awkward than it is? You can always feel it. The inauthenticity seeps through, the pity not only for you, but for the entire scenario, as both of you just try to eke out a few more pleasant but unnecessary minutes? That’s what your partner is trying to avoid. Which is a mighty intention for a cocktail party, but he seems to forget that this is not a cocktail party, you are not some half-known acquaintance, and in the end, the protecting of feelings would hurt you as much as it would him.
So, what to do? You cannot do. You cannot say anything that might shed the doubt. But you can keep showing up. You can keep listening. Perhaps you can hint towards this as your answer, the one that will calm the voice of unreason inside him, the one that swears up and down that he is not “man enough,” whatever that possibly even means anymore. You can open yourself to his own vulnerability which is just happening to come out as a slightly neurotic habit of making sure you are okay, but is really a plea for him to be okay. When those rearing voices start boiling over in his chest, instead of rushing to say, “It’s okay! It’s okay!,” sit back and let him tell you it’s not okay until it starts to feel maybe okay. It is only then, between the space of you two, that maybe he will begin to actually believe it so.
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