This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.
This phrase, “good in bed,” has been stuck in my head lately. It’s a phrase I’ve thought about a lot over the years.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like it.
But once you have that stuff under your belt?
In my experience, once you have these basics, good sex isn’t about learning a lot of fancy tricks or positions. It’s about communicating: being able to say what you want without pessimism or fear; being able to listen to what your partner wants without getting threatened or hurt. It’s about being familiar with your own body and your own desires and responses, so you can communicate them in the first place. It’s about being perceptive: paying attention to non-verbal signals as well as verbal ones. It’s about giving a shit about your partner’s pleasure in the first place, and being able to get aroused by their excitement as well as your own. (Which, as Ingrid points out, may not be a skill that can be learned…)
I think the phrase “good in bed” is problematic for a lot of reasons. There’s the reasons mentioned above: people tend to use “good in bed,” not to mean “perceptive and good at communicating,” but to mean “possessing the physical skills required to get their partner off.” This puts the emphasis on physical parlor tricks, positions and gestures and whatnot, instead of perception and communication. And it de-emphasizes the sexual differences between people: the fact that your particular skillset might have worked great with Mary or Mark, but it’s not doing bupkis with Jean or John. Even that “basic knowledge of anatomy and response” stuff won’t always help: knowing that women generally prefer a lighter, more indirect touch on their clits will do you no good at all with women whose clits like it rough. (If you’re doing more complex or sophisticated forms of sex, like BDSM, then physical skills do become more important… but I think the basic principle is still the same.)
Which brings me to my final issue:
I think the phrase “good in bed” implies that sex is something one person does to another… instead of something two people do together. (Or more than two. I’m not particular.) It implies that being good in bed is a quality that one person has, instead of a quality that two (or more) people have together. It implies that sex is about the power one person has over another, instead of the power two (or more) people can create for themselves and each other. (Not that I have anything against one person having power over another, in a consensually kinky way… but you know what I mean.)
I don’t think one person is good in bed.
I think two people are good in bed together.
Or more than two. I’m not particular.