“The thing that makes you a good lover,” she said, “is that you listen to me when I tell you what I want, and you believe what I say.”
The second-sexiest organ of the human body. (Photo: Taisiia Shestopal)
We’d just finished a quite lengthy and vigorous round of fun, involving a crop, a gold-toned Sharpie marker, and several hours of vigorous and sweaty activity, during which I did at least two things I’d never tried before. (As a side note, I love the incredible, almost incomprehensible vastness of the human sexual experience. Even after decades of highly exploratory, experimental sex, there are still vistas unvisited, experiences untapped. I remember, ages ago, seeing a social media post by some naive dudebro who complained that sex was boring to him because “I’m eighteen years old and I’ve done it all.” No, my dude, you haven’t. If you lived to be eight hundred years old, and you did something different in bed every night for that entire time, never repeating the same thing twice, you’d still not have time to do it all. But I digress.)
I was surprised, at first, when she said it. “Listening to what I want and believing what I say” doesn’t seem like it should be that high a bar to reach. I mean, this is basic, preliminary stuff, right? It’s a bit like saying “the thing that makes you a wonderful cook is you turn on the stove,” right?
But the more I unpacked it, the more sense it made. It turns out this one weird trick is both more effective and more difficult than really it ought to be.
Okay, so if just listening to someone talk about what they want and believing them is key to being a good lover, why don’t more people do it?
For starters, most of us are indoctrinated from an early age to surround sex with walls of shame and fear. Especially women. Women who know and advocate for their sexual desires are “tramps,” “hos” (or among the less literate, “hoes”), “sluts,” whatever. I’ve seen people—sexually insecure guys, to a one—ask questions over on Quora like “my girlfriend said she wants to do [$Thing], does that make her a slut?” Not once or twice, but over and over. This is, apparently, something that a lot of guys have a great deal of anxiety about. Dude, chill, don’t you want a lover who, you know, likes sex?
And of course the flip side of that, the people who are frightened that they’ll be judged if they ask for what they want, that what they want makes them “weird” and therefore unacceptable.
“I want to try 69 in bed, but I’m afraid my boyfriend will think I’m weird.” ”Is it weird that I want to tittyfuck my girlfriend?” “I have fantasies about having sex while I’m tied up, does that make me weird?” “Is it weird I like feet?” “Is it weird I like having my nipples sucked?” The Internet is filled to overflowing with questions like this, and it breaks my heart.
A good general rule of thumb: If you’re worried about being “weird,” you will never be good at sex. Just imagine if we applied this level of fear to anything else: “I want to try sushi, is that weird?” “If I want to take my girlfriend to a Thai restaurant, will she think I’m weird?”
Now, these aren’t new observations. But still, the level of fear and shame around sex is a tragedy. People agonize over whether or not their tastes are too far outside the pale for any lover to accept them, and at the same time agonize that their penis isn’t big enough for them to be good in bed. My dude, no, you aren’t a good lover because you have a colossal dong, you’re good in bed because you know every lover is different, every person has different tastes, and you communicate openly about sex.
Who knew, right?
So, I mean, it’s one thing to identify the problem, but it’s another to propose a solution. The problem is long-term indoctrination into a cult of secrecy and shame. You don’t overcome a lifetime of those lessons just by waking up and saying “okay, I’m going to be open about sex now.”
So allow me to propose a solution.
Woman with sex toy
My Talespinner and I met, as people often do, online. Early on in our acquaintance, we talked about our sexual fantasies, and spent endless hours exploring fantasy worlds together.
I don’t mean in the sense of “What are you wearing? Ooh, I’d love to bend oyu over right now.” I mean in the sense of constructing fictional characters and settings together, and exploring what happens to those characters, often in graphic detail. In other words, using the first sexiest organ of the human body.
The nice thing about telling interactive stories about fictional characters is it’s a safe, fun way to explore the places where your fantasy worlds overlap. (In fact, we had so much fun doing this, we ended up creating a shared-world fantasy about characters in a dystopian society that my co-author Eunice started participating in. Shared-world anthologies are fun!)
If you’re uncertain about your creative or wirting skills, reading erotica to each other, or even just putting snippets of erotica that really works for you, is another way to do the same thing. You create a space apart from the real world where it’s possible for you and your partner(s) to share your fantasies and explore the interesting bit of the Venn diagram, the place where they overlap.
And who knows? You might just find that while you were busy feeding your anxiety that your partner would think you’re “weird,” they were just as weird as you.
Which, of course, brings us back around to the “listen and believe what I say” thing.
It’s important to choose partners who don’t hear something out of whatever they imagine “ordinary” to be and say “eww, isn’t that weird?” But it’s just as important to be that person.
If you want to be a good lover, you will never get there by hearing something that surprises you and saying “eww, that’s weird.” You can’t expect your partner to share if oyu don’t make it safe to share. (Yes, I know, hashtag #ShouldBeObvious, but here we are.)
And finally, while we’re on the subject of #ShouldBeObvious, here’s a radical thought: Your lover knows more about their turnons and kinks than you do. If they say something gets them off, or they really want to try something, that might just mean—work with me here, a lot of folks seem to find this hard to believe, but it might just maybe perhaps mean that thing gets them off, and they really want to try it.
I know, right?
Everyone says communication is important to a good relationship. Part of that is, well, believing what your partner says. After all, that person is the world’s leading expert on being that person.