Can Being Good in Bed Ever Be Bad?
The importance of responding to your individual partner.
Posted Feb 11, 2020
Most men would love to hear that they are “good in bed.” But can that ever be a bad thing?
Being good in bed
“My previous lover gathered all available information about me and read many books on how to satisfy women. I felt that he did not see and hear me, just acting mechanically along with his established knowledge about women and me. He was great in bed, but I had to leave him.” —A single woman
In my recent book, The Arc of Love: How Our Romantic Lives Change Over Time, I argue that time is central to the development of profound love. I also claim that activities before and after sex, such as kissing, cuddling, and hugging, improve the quality of the relationship and increase its endurance. The quality of sex is also expressed in the enduring afterglow, which plays a greater role than orgasm in establishing enduring romantic satisfaction. Here, I focus on the sexual encounter itself and examine the apparently paradoxical claim that too good in bed can be bad.
Many factors go into being good in bed. The physical technique — when, where, and for how long to touch — for example, are things that can be learned. Then there is the mental technique — what you say to your partner, and how and when you say it. Additionally, there is the mental attitude — the enduring loving attitude of the partner.
Often, especially in brief casual sexual encounters, the third factor fades in importance. When it comes to enduring romantic love, however, mental attitude wins the prize. The first two factors determine your immediate level of satisfaction from the sexual experience; the third determines whether you would choose to see your partner the morning after.
My concern here is not with physical or mental techniques (although there's lots of information out there about them), but rather with the mental attitude associated with the desire to be together for the long term.
Women’s opinions about what qualifies a man as good in bed
Here are a few answers that women gave to the question, “What qualifies a man as good in bed?”
“Reciprocation. Listening to what I tell them feels the best.”
“It's super hot if he takes you to a very expensive restaurant first.”
“Kissing. If you aren't good at kissing, then just go home. I've never found a better indicator of how good a guy is in bed than by how he kisses.”
“Him making the effort and taking the time to make sure you finish, even after he's finished.”
“Patience and willing to improve.”
“Be enthusiastic. Don’t be a jackhammer, try some new moves. Take your time, you’re supposed to be having fun remember?”
“Please, please, please for the love of the Gods do not assume that just because you came first it means we are done. Don't ever leave your lady high and dry.”
“Good communication is the hottest thing in bed.”
“A guy who isn't trying too hard and putting on an act is much more enjoyable to be with than someone who's trying to be some kind of porn star.”
“Openness/lack of judgment … Willingness to take direction. I like to feel like you only have eyes for me … Don't skip the foreplay … Intimacy. A big part for me is the level of trust and love I have with my partner being expressed through sex ... Reciprocity … Communication … Mix it up a little. Surprise me with a different scenario, fantasy or position … Aftercare! A cuddle and kiss before you drift off into a coma is the best way to make sure I fall asleep beside you with a smile on my face.”
“You've just spent this time being as close with me as a person can possibly be — I mean, you can't get much closer than being physically inside me; that's an extremely strong, intimate connection. So going from 60 to 0 afterward is almost... traumatic, in a way? So I don't think it's unreasonable to want to be held/kissed and reassured afterwards.”
“Foreplay is how you build the excitement and anticipation for sex … Being good in bed means caring about your partner's sexual needs and wants.”
Genuine and mechanistic attitudes in bed
“Listening, reciprocity, being considerate, going the extra mile without being asked. So much of it is communication and reading the other person.” —A woman answering the question of what makes men good in bed
The golden thread running through the answers above is the value of a personal, caring attitude involving time, attention, and effort to make a woman feel good not only in the given sexual interaction but for a longer period. The sincerity of such a loving attitude is absent in the mechanistic attitude of men who are “experts” in satisfying women. For example, genuinely different memories of the same experience differ in small details when the person looks at the experience from different perspectives at different times. By contrast, liars learn their lies by heart, mechanistically repeating them word for word. Similarly, mechanistic lovers learn by heart all the ins and outs of women’s sexuality. Their technique remains the same, regardless of differences in their attitude toward any particular woman or circumstance.
A woman expresses this mechanistic attitude when describing her previous lover:
“Our sex was incredible but far from natural, more like perfectly staged porn and he was the superstar. What was behind this man’s perfect performance? Was I his sexual stimuli or were these his signature moves with every other woman? My curiosity stemmed from our prolonged lovemaking sessions that lasted for hours. I wanted to know how many shades of truth were uniquely ours or copied from previous lovers. I already knew the answer, as most of his performance felt mechanical. I smiled as he shared his methodology, his vast research on women, his checklist, all of which confirmed my intuition ... I was just another episode for him. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I left his enchanted bed to look for something natural but nothing short of earthshaking, because now I knew the difference and I wanted more.”
Who would ever think that one’s performance could be so mechanically good (marathon perfect) that the woman would want to leave because she couldn’t sleep beside you afterward due to the unnatural nature of the physical act?
Mechanical sexual experts, like this man, usually do not have a personal, caring attitude involving time, attention, and effort to make a woman feel good for the long term. They have been in this situation with many different women — this woman is nothing new. These experts, as one woman said, “are made out of marble, perfectly chiseled without heart.” Knowing fully well the impact of heartfelt words, they may mouth them during the sexual experience, but that is as far as those men will go with those words.
These “women experts” often lack the genuine curiosity associated with real imagination. Their behavior, which is devoid of meaningful development, as is often the case in courtship, is typically purposive. In other words, they are not interested in the process, but rather in achieving their goal — their personal orgasm (and often that of their partner). They tell women what they want to hear, but sensitive women do not believe them: everything is too exaggerated and embellished. Basically, these men lack a true interest in any specific woman, but a great interest in their own achievement — how fast they can get her to bed.
Enduring emotional intimacy
“My married lover was cut off emotionally the moment he ejaculated. The speed by which he left me emotionally and physically was incredible. He actually left the bed to drink something and did not return to the bed.” —A divorcee
The enduring emotional intimacy (or availability) is what distinguishes good loving sex from too-good (often mechanical) sex. Indeed, studies indicate that romantic partners view the time after intercourse as important for bonding and intimacy. The value of these behaviors is particularly high after sex, since they confirm that the bond is deeper than a brief, superficial physical act. After-sex affectionate activities prolong the duration of sexuality, thereby enabling it to have a greater impact on the relationship. After-sex affectionate activities are crucial to sexual afterglow, and they play a more important role in sexual and relationship satisfaction than the duration of intercourse (see here).
We have seen that the roots of such enduring emotional intimacy can be detected by sensitive women already in the sexual encounter, where the man’s actions are experienced as mechanistic and insincere. Hence, although the sex can be quite thrilling, it seems to be too good to be true for the long term, since genuineness is absent. Love is not in the air in these experiences.