After over a decade of doing this work, I firmly believe that everybody who is interested in having sex wants to be good at it. Or, at the very least, they want to have sex that is good rather than sex that is not. Meaning, we are motivated to experience good sex and … we are likely often confused about how, exactly, to get there.
Dirty talking, tossing a partner against a wall in a passionate fervor, taking control, delivering orgasms, writhing around in (overblown and sometimes downright-faked) ecstasy, pretzeling yourself into a million different shapes and calling them “creative positions that’ll blow her mind” — these are common pieces of seemingly pleasure-forward “good at sex” advice. But this advice won’t get you far if the person you’re having sex with just isn’t into those things.
Advice like this sets us up to view sexual pleasure, our experience of it, and our success as sexual partners as an individual project — a solo skill set to master, applying a one-size-fits-all style to every sexual encounter. But good sex is not that — it is a living, breathing, collaborative project that shifts and changes based on variables like who you’re sleeping with, where, when, how you feel that day, and what you hope to get out of sex that night, as well as your partner’s particular turn-ons and turn-offs, just to name a few. This means good sex is much less about what you’re doing, and much more about who you’re doing it with. And, because your kindergarten teacher was right and each of us is indeed special and unique, this means having good sex requires a more complex, multifaceted approach than the titillating magazine headlines might have us believe.
I don’t know how to teach you to contort your body into a bunch of wild, muscle-pulling positions, but I can tell you how to have good — might I even venture, great— sex:
1. Take stock: Who are you interested in having or currently having sex with?
2. Ask them: What, for you, makes for great sex?
3. Tell them: What, for you, makes for great sex.
4. Listen to what they have to say before, during, and after sex.
5. Make adjustments.
6. Enjoy your great sex.
Though this is the truth, it’s the stripped-down version of the truth. Of course, in our real lives, nothing about sex and pleasure is that simple. Shame, stigma, unhelpful self-talk about our sexuality and desires, lack of access to inclusive sex education, scarce resources — these are just a few of the many barriers we need to work through as we reach toward our authentic sexual pleasure. The super narrow models we’ve been shown of “good sex” often tell us, “You can’t do this, as you are, with what you have, now.” I say, “Of course you can.”
Good sex isn’t encapsulated by how you give a blow job, your sex toy collection, your sexual resume, or what your body looks like. Good sex is actually highly subjective in the technical and material department. What I did to have mind-blowing sex with one partner may very well translate to so-so sex with the next. The only real way for anyone to know how to have good sex with anyone else is to communicate with that person about sex: to inquire about what makes sex good for them, to share what makes sex good for you, and to set the stage for said communication to happen in a safe, honest, and productive way. All of this is to say that objectively good sex is actually not defined by the technical or material; it’s entirely relational.
Good, partnered sex is first and foremost a relational act. Therefore, the act of having consensual and mutually pleasurable sex — whether for one, one hundred, or one thousand nights — requires us to have good relational (and no, not just sexual) skills. The good news about relational skills is that we all know how to do at least some of them well and we can all learn how to improve the rest (if only just a little). Which means that we are all — yes, ALL — capable of having good, if not totally mind-blowing, sex. Here. In our real lives. No body-pretzeling required.
From the book “Hot and Unbothered,” by Yana Tallon-Hicks. Copyright © 2022 by Yana Tallon-Hicks. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission. Now available wherever you buy books.