The Secret of Good Sex

Nothing is more individual than sexual predilections and pleasures.

Posted Aug 24, 2010

How many magazine covers have you seen that promise "Five Ways to Drive Him Wild in Bed" or "Ten Ways to Make Her Scream for More"? Do you even bother to flip through the pages while you're waiting in the grocery checkout line?

Most of these purported secrets of good sex are by-the-rule-book laws that presume all women are the same, and all men have one turn-on switch. There really are men who like lots and lots of warming up, and women who want straight-to-the-point quickies, and people of both sexes who hate having their "erogenous zones" fiddled with. You'd never know it from the popular press, however.

Human beings are unique creatures, and nothing is more individual than sexual predilections and pleasures. Unfortunately, those kinds of universal sex rule books aside, people do not come with instruction manuals. Very often, we wouldn't even know how to write our very own, because some of us can't guess what we like or what might feel good until someone else leads us through the experience of discovery. Asking might not work: "You want to do what to me? Uhuh, I don't think so... Oh! That does feel good!"

So, no instruction manuals and often very few, if any, direct suggestions. How, then, to be a good lover? One can certainly follow a well-trodden path if it has worked OK for you in the past. Five minutes of this, followed by another five minutes of that. If no one has ever made any outright complaints about your formula, it's probably serviceable and might even be-knock-your-socks-off fantastic every once in a while. Do you want to increase your odds?

OK, here it is, the secret of good sex—man or woman, opposite or same-sex couplings. Are you ready? Pay attention. That's it.

Women are so often caught up in worrisome body image stuff, and men with performance pressures. (Not that each sex is confined to just those. There are universal, everyone-has-them catalogs of concerns that get in the way of a great connection, like "What if I pass gas?" or "Am I making too much noise or not enough?")

If you are paying full attention to your partner's responses, you won't be derailed by those non-productive intrusions, plus you will learn a great deal about what is "working." Is there a sharp intake of breath when you do something? Does the flesh you're touching press against whatever you are touching it with, or does it move away? Does your partner turn some part of his or her body toward you, your mouth, your hands? That's a pretty good invitation. If little sounds or sighs of pleasure escape, that does not mean do whatever you are doing harder or faster; it usually means keep on exactly like that.

Of course, you can ask: "More? A bit harder?" And you might even get a helpful response. But you also might not.

Some people are not talkers during sex, and many just don't know the answer to what you are asking. If you are paying attention to body language, you will probably have your answer. If ever actions speak louder than words, it's the body language of a partner during sexual arousal.

Have I made a good enough case for paying close attention to your partner's nonverbal cues being the most important aspect of having good sex? If I have (or even if I haven't), I want to add a subclause. Isn't there always the fine print?

Having a sense of humor about the whole proceedings—the courtship, the preamble, the main event(s)—is a very good indicator that whatever happens next will be mutually enjoyable. Laughing together about lovemaking is even better than the vaunted simultaneous orgasm.

So, again, the secret of good sex is: (1) pay attention, and (1a) lighten up. There. Don't you feel better already?