Remember back in the day, when you could tell everything you needed to know about a man’s sexual prowess by how nimbly he could unhook your bra? What happened to that? Being ‘good in bed’ wasn’t an issue. The criteria for assessment were singular: can he release your breasts in two seconds or less? It was so easy. We didn’t even care about orgasms back then. It was all about the bra, and, later, how quickly he could find your knickers afterwards. (Although, to be fair, we were having orgasms, left right and centre, because our boyfriends knew what they were doing – even though they were 19 and carnally inexperienced. It’s just nature, babe. And nature knows there is no point in sex if you don’t orgasm.) Impressing us was not rocket science – it was basic coordination coupled with minimal dexterity. Not that that stopped the boys from trying.
For most of my adult life (and, if I’m honest, for quite some years before I was an adult) men have been telling me that they are ‘good in bed’. More often than not this is because they want me to agree to sleep with them – but not always. There are some men for whom being ‘good in bed’ is such a foundational part of their identity that they will drop it idly into platonic conversation – like you might drop a pebble into water and turn away before you see the ripples fan out and fade to nothing. His lovers go wild with ecstasy, this breed of man will tell you; they shriek and scream and ejaculate shoots all over the ceiling. They wake up the neighbours two doors down. He can’t help it. It’s probably to do with his massive penis. And the fact that he is so unusually attentive.
And you nod and smile and imagine him naked; allowing your brain to click back through his monologue, replacing the conceptual women he has endlessly pleasured with a version of yourself, sans cellulite. And then you think ‘nah’. You think, ‘I don’t care what he was doing to me; if he’s that full of himself I would definitely find it repulsive’.
The truth, of course, is that ‘good in bed’ doesn’t really exist. You can’t be good in bed any more than you can be ‘good’ at eating, breathing or digestion. Sex is a healthy bodily function that you do by instinct. You might be bad at sex – just like you might be bad at eating (see: anorexia, bulimia, obesity), breathing (respiratory infections) or digestion (IBS, gallstones, Crohn’s disease) – but usually this means you have a medical or psychological impairment. You need treatment, and to stop over-thinking.
That doesn’t change the fact that pretty much every sexually active person will, at some point, come to think of themselves as ‘good in bed’. How could they not – what with the kissing and the nudity; the touching and the moving the other person to climax, six times out of ten. We’re all total stud muffins – when we’re not melting out of our own skin over some sexual faux pas or another.
The problem is that there’s a disjuncture between what ‘good in bed’ means when we’re talking about our own abilities under the covers – and what it means when we’re describing someone else’s.
When we describe ourselves as ‘good in bed’, we are normally referring to all manner of esoteric sensory subtleties that we imagine we employ, for our partners’ delight and pleasure: the exotic positions and tender caresses, the gentle bites and the slow, sexy, hair pulling – often, moves we have borrowed from novels, or porn films. We imagine that our lovers are uniquely aroused by the magic in our loins or fingertips, because, mostly, our lovers have a fucking great time when they sex with us.
When we describe someone else as good in bed, however, we are invariably referring to his or her willingness to give oral sex, expertly or otherwise.
I say this as a person to whom others (friends, colleagues, cab drivers, repair men, postal workers, relatives, waiting staff and, once, a homeless alcoholic) seem unnaturally inclined to share details of their sex lives. (Perhaps it is because they presume I am getting so little.) Oral sex is pretty much the final word when it comes to sexual satisfaction. This is why homosexuals are generally so very happy.
That’s not to say that you can’t have a fulfilling sex-life without oral. I am never going to patronise you by suggesting that ‘good sex’ has a formula; that climactic epiphanies are only to be found in a loving relationship (in my experience hatred adds a compelling dynamic to the proceedings), or by complex karma-sutric positioning. Missionary will do. There is nothing to learn. Sex is in our nature. The only person you need to love, my darling, is yourself.
All I’m telling you is that if you wish to be regarded as good in bed; if you dream that rumours of your sexual prowess will transmit and, like a virus, replicate and grow stronger, spreading to produce more sex, preferably for you: give head. It’s all anyone wants. Trust me. I’ve been single for a lot of years, and I’ve been listening.
*Image is Couple Enjoying Foreplay Together” by imagery majestic at freedigitalphotos.net