Myth: ALL men, and any truly sexual woman loves intercourse more than anything, is always ready to go, and wants to get right down to it as soon, and often, as possible. This belief infests the fantasy life of erotic culture–read any issue of Penthouse Letters or the vast majority of erotic fiction and you’ll see evidence of this, often in the form of “…she was dripping wet instantly…” and other such lies. The truth is that it takes time for a woman’s body to become fully aroused and there’s no shortcut around simple biology. Stroke fiction tends to de-emphasize the arousal phase of sex both to appeal to a primarily male audience (the same reason you see so much attention to physical descriptions, right down to a list of measurements, for the females in such stories) and to meet the conventions of the genre. Tales which are likely to be read as fantasy fodder for private masturbation tend to cut right to the chase because they’re all about the orgasm–not the characters’, the reader’s. Their primary purpose, when you think about it, is to help you cum faster when you’re alone, not better and more often when you’re with a partner.

The stereotype of the submissive cock-hungry bisexual nympho living in those stories is a tissue-thin (if you’ll pardon the double entendre) fantasy, meant to arouse your mind as a shortcut to orgasm. Mind you, I’m not criticizing the stories, I’m a fan of them. When it’s done well, female readers get to fantasize about a world of sexual promiscuity and adventure without social consequences and men get to immerse themselves in a world where every woman, no matter how off-limits in the real world, is an eagerly available sex partner. But what’s hot on the page, the detailed depiction of fantasy sex that really get your mental gears turning and the blood flowing, isn’t necessarily what would make the best sexual encounter in real life. After all, if real sex were like the stories, men would also be expected to get it up five times in an hour. Since that’s also a biological impossibility, perhaps we should try to keep the difference between fantasy and reality in mind when thinking about our partners.

Reality: for most women, including those who love sex, foreplay is often, if not usually, the most important part of sex; and most men don’t get nearly the pleasure they’re capable of experiencing, either. The perpetually turned-on and ready-to-go woman doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, and any woman who claims to be one is either psycho-biologically aberrant (clinical nymphomania, for instance) or lying in order to be seen as more sexually attractive. Sure, it’s a shopworn truism that women care about foreplay more than men do; we’ve all heard it before, and probably made a sexist joke or two about “getting to the good part” and complained to our friends or muttered under our breath after experiencing the “Wham-Bam-Thank You, Ma’am” style of sexual encounter. That doesn’t mean that men are bad in bed, don’t care about pleasuring women, or even that men are easier to please sexually than are women. In fact, most men aren’t getting one tenth of the pleasure from sex that they could, but few know it.

Because we treat the penis-centered experience of male ejaculation as the ultimate in physical pleasure and the only indicator of successfully completed sexual union, not only is female orgasm relegated to a position of minimized importance, but men aren’t encouraged to explore their bodily responses and experience the expanded possibilities for pleasure opened up by extended arousal. Very rarely do we discuss why women want and need more foreplay, much less why men might want it too–and almost never do we give men good incentive for, or good advice about, spending more of their time and erotic energies on foreplay. Nor do we, as a culture, teach men how to spend more time on arousal without getting physically overstimulated and thus risking the ego-shattering experience of turning into the one-minute man when intercourse actually happens.

Foreplay & gender: a few additional thoughts to consider: Men–when your partner is fully aroused, she’s more likely to be open to new things, more eager to bring you pleasure, and to leave with a positive impression of the sexual encounter–regardless of what happens during actual intercourse. Also, a highly stimulated and aroused woman feels better during sex–beyond the obvious question of vaginal lubrication, extended arousal phase causes all the tissues of the vaginal wall to swell, making her both softer in texture and tighter around you. Now, what’s not to like about that?

And, while oral sex is great fun for all concerned, it’s not only not the end-all and be-all of foreplay, the “I do you, now you do me, then we fuck” approach can lead to some seriously unfulfilling lovemaking. Foreplay can be fun and stimulating for both parties, without resulting in premature ejaculation and a disappointingly short romp in the sack, a sore jaw, or a mounting sense of futility–you know, that “what’s the point of this” feeling.

Women–if you don’t really know, or can’t bring yourself to tell your partner, what gets you really hot for him, it’s not fair to put all the blame on him if the sex isn’t great. Learning to be a good lover takes time, patience, and practice–and even if your partner is interested in improving his skills, there are limits to what can be generalized. Every woman’s body and mind is unique unto her, and if you expect your partner to learn what you like by trial-and-error then know that it’s likely to take a long time, or cause him to give up out of frustration. And if you want to steer his efforts, do it gently and positively, okay? Nobody likes to be criticized, particularly while they’re naked. Be sensitive to his feelings in this because whether he admits it or not, a fair amount of his self-esteem is wrapped up in his desirability and performance as a lover.

Also, foreplay isn’t a one-way street. While there are some obvious visual triggers and “hot spots” that can get a man ready for sex quickly, paying attention to a man’s whole body will still feel very good for him, and will slow down the arousal process a bit and help prevent that hair-trigger phenomenon that everybody hates. And if you would like to get extended and more diverse attention paid to your body, giving it to him first is a good non-verbal way of trying to express your desires and teach him to fulfill them. Plus, contrary to conventional wisdom, slowing down the male arousal phase actually leads to longer and more intense ejaculations and even the all-too-rare phenomenon of the multiply orgasmic man.

September 2018
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