Okay. So you’re naked. Your skin is slick with sweat, your nipples are hard, and that sweet, delicious space between your legs is throbbing. The man kissing your neck is oh so fine. His skin gleams like he bathed in cocoa butter. His abs look like a bar of that really expensive dark chocolate you can only get at the duty-free shop in the airport. You can feel the cords in his thighs as they press yours into the bed. The foreplay has been good and you’re just waiting for him to slide into you. You’ve caught your breath in anticipation. You raise your hips and cup him and he takes the hint and glides in like butter. You gasp as he fills you. It feels so damn good. His dick strokes your insides, slides in, then out. His hips rock and he hits the spot and you lie back to enjoy the ride. He pushes deeper, you grab his neck, he grits his teeth, jerks against you, and then “uuuugggh, uggggh, ugggh, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit….” “Sooooorryyy.” There is cum all over your thighs.
What the hell? Was that even two minutes? What the fuckettizing-fucketty-fucketting-fuck? Who does that? Who is that fine and that funny and that successful and that spiritual and that perfect for you, and then has the audacity to be a premature ejaculator? How????? Why is God so mean? You know what, screw that, this isn’t God’s fault, why are brothers so selfish? Why can’t they get their shit together? How hard is it to just be good in bed? Nah. Nah. Naaaaaaah. You’re going to have to break it off. You’re going to. I mean, this isn’t acceptable. This is a harbinger of bad things to come. This is the acid rain before the storm in which you discover other wack things about this man: bad credit, pregnant baby mama, jailbird, down-low, Bill Cosby supporter. You’re a modern black woman, an orgasm is your human right, goddamnit! That’s not too much to ask.
You break it off. Over text. You go back on the scene. You date some other guys; you have some adventures. But you can’t stop thinking about him. Maybe you can be Lela Rochon in Waiting to Exhale, after all. Maybe you can work with it…
I know too many women who have been in that situation. I think we all do. Some go back and the sex continues to be bad. Some move on and find Mr. GoodStroke and live happily ever after. Some do neither and just sit there and wallow in the what-ifs. There are many options. I used to be certain that I could never date a man who wasn’t good in bed. For me being good in bed said something, not just about your sexual skill, but about your character. A man who was good in bed was thoughtful (he was considerate and aware of the needs of others). A man who was good in bed was kind (he gave; from cunnilingus to orgasms, probably even expensive lingerie and motivational speeches). A man who was good in bed was attentive (he had focused enough on women to learn what worked). A man who was good in bed was smart (learning that complex female anatomy takes brains). A man who was good in bed was self-aware (he had realized his strengths and weaknesses and worked to improve them). A man who was good in bed was progressive (he believed women deserved pleasure, he definitely voted Democrat). A man who was good in bed had been raised right by his mama. For me, not being good in bed was a character flaw. It meant you didn’t prioritize a woman’s pleasure, you were bad at communication, you weren’t in touch with yourself, and you weren’t fully present when you were being intimate with a woman.
I vowed to never be in a situation where my sexual pleasure wasn’t at its peak. I was sure this was non-negotiable. But something interesting happened. My first sexual partner, who was amazing in bed, came back from a summer in Latin America having turned into a trigger-happy-Tim. The first time we reunited he came really quickly. I thought, “Okay, it’s just a consequence of being nookie-less for three months.” But then the second time, it happened again. And it kept happening every time. When he was inside me I could see him straining to keep it together. He’d be hard, it would start to get good for me and then… sputter, sputter, sputter, spuuuuuuuutttterrrrrrrrr, finito. I wondered if he no longer cared about my pleasure and if the sex had stopped being a partnership and he was basically just jacking off into my body. We talked about it but all that happened was that I would say I was frustrated and he would apologize and promise to do better. And then it would happen all over again. I would ask what was causing it, he would say he didn’t know, and then we would both just retreat into our resentful corners.
We didn’t try to talk about it objectively, we didn’t try to find solutions together, we didn’t try to figure out a different system where I came first from foreplay or oral, and then he slid in and it didn’t particularly matter how long it lasted because I had already gotten mine. We did none of that. I just labelled him a one-minute-man and waited for him to figure it out. He did, somehow. One day it just stopped, or, at least, got significantly better. There’d be times where we’d be gittin’ it, hard, and he would say “Stop!” and slide out for a while to get himself together, but overall I was getting satisfied. I wanted more penetration and for longer, but it wasn’t a great enough need to complain about. I was content.
A friend of mine recently said that the only reason I stayed was because we were already in love and the sex had been bomb before. If he had started out as a trigger-happy-Tim, I wouldn’t have stayed long enough for him to improve.
She’s right. But is that really the answer? To write off guys who don’t get sex right? What makes us decide that they are not worth our time? For me, I think it was because I’m a feminist. I believe in a woman’s right to sexual pleasure, and I think with all those values comes the courage to demand amazing sex. I think, snobbish as it may have been, I used to think of women who were having bad sex (when they were not in an abusive relationship, or stuck in a marriage, or dealing with a health condition) as really retro. I thought of them as unassertive and not aware of their own worth. If good sex was a basic human right and they were free to demand that right, and still weren’t doing that, then how empowered could they really be? What I realized when my guy was trigger-happy-Tim was that I didn’t want to tell anyone about it. Out of a need to not embarrass him? Partly. But more out of a need to not devalue myself in other women’s eyes. To not be the sex-positive girl who was allowing a man to deny her her full spectrum of pleasure. I didn’t want to look like those women I pitied, in front of my girls. I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me and gossip behind my back about why I didn’t just leave.
I think that anxiety, that pressure, that desire to be self-actualized, that desire to not look like some fifties housewife being whammed, bammed, and thank-you ma’ammed, is behind why a lot of us don’t give guys many chances when it comes to sex. Whether they are a trigger-happy-Tim, or suck at kissing, or don’t know your clit from your belly button, or have issues with keeping the dick at full-mast, or don’t know how to eat the box right, or have an annoying grunt-thing that they do, we are quick to decide that those things aren’t fixable. We think it is better to cut the cord now so we don’t end up stuck in a cycle of no-account-nookie for the rest of our lives.
But what if most of that stuff is fixable? With some communication and some patience and some time? I’m not talking about the guys who suck in bed because they don’t give a hoot, and just see you as a meat-wallet. Those guys can’t be saved because they have a fundamental lack of respect for women. So with them the only sane move is to make it to the Underground Railroad and run like hell to Canada. But what about the guys who genuinely want to make sure you have a good time but just don’t know how?
What I’ve realized about a lot of those guys is that most of them don’t really know they have problems. Because the women they have dated before us gas them up by pretending that their performance makes the cut. That is my biggest problem with women faking orgasms; we don’t give guys a chance to improve. First woman lies and says “Baby, that was good.” The woman after that doesn’t have the patience to try to convince a guy, that has been told he was competent, of his incompetence. So she just cuts him loose. The cycle just keeps repeating itself. And we are left with a-ring-a-ring-o’-roses of ain’t-shit-in-gittin’-it brothers that we all have to deal with. We need to stop that mess. If a man sucks, let him know, kindly. Have some patience. Communicate with him and teach him how to please you. One cool thing is that you are essentially dealing with a tabula rasa. Every piece of misinformation he has is in your hands to correct. Every new skill he learns can be tailored to your needs. Yes, his ego might get in the way of him admitting there is something he has to change. It might affect him being willing to let you work with him to change it. But what I’ve learnt about that is that the more safe a man feels the less his ego matters. So lots of reassurance that this bedroom… ahem… situation doesn’t make him less of a man, or less desired, or less respected, makes him more willing to work on it.
The second thing I’ve realized is that in order to have patience with these guys we need to re-examine some of the socialization we have about men and about sex. Firstly, I think a lot of us have been conditioned to think sex centers around the dick. So if the dick is done, we feel like the sex is done. If the dick can’t rise, then the sex can’t happen. So any time the guy has an equipment issue or an endurance issue, we feel like we have been deprived of sex. But that shouldn’t be the case. Foreplay, for a lot of us, is the main play. So just because the guy is a trigger-happy Tim doesn’t mean we don’t get to come. Just because little Willie won’t rise doesn’t mean we don’t get to come. And just because the guy is finished doesn’t mean he can’t lend a helping hand so we can finish. Sex is a journey of all kinds of touch. Once we stop making it so dick-centric the possibilities for pleasure really open up. Once we redirect the rhetoric of the dick being the root of all the problems, guys are more willing to listen. We are in a position to be better teachers and they are in the position to be better students.
The third thing I’ve realized is that we need to examine why there is an almost implicit belief in all of us that men should naturally just be competent at sex. I think because, for a lot of us, we know that men don’t get punished for sexual desire and start doing sexual stuff a lot earlier than we women do. So we assume they have had more practice and should be more adept. In the same way we expect, and as such allow, men to take the lead without us fighting against it, we expect them to take the lead in bed and be our Moses leading us to the Promised Land. But getting to heaven without dying should be both our responsibilities, no? Every woman’s body is different so even guys who have skills need to be taught our particular formulas, no? So isn’t it just a larger amount of the same kind of work to teach the guys who suck? Isn’t it worth it in some cases? With good dudes? To at least make an effort?
I’m not saying keep trying till you’re blue in the face. Some people are just not teachable. Sometimes you are too tired of that bullshit dichotomy, where women make concessions for men that men would never make for them, to want to do even one more thing for a guy that he hasn’t already earned. Sometimes your sexual needs are too urgent for you to be Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act II, teaching the kids how to practice “La la la la la la la la laaaaaa” a hundred times over before they qualify for the singing tournament. Sometimes you just see it as too much work for too little reward. Heck, sometimes a sista just has better things to do. And most importantly, sometimes you and someone just aren’t compatible and no amount of patience will change that.
I think it’s important to assess which of those situations you’re in before you decide to work with a brother. Cos being with someone who leaves you frustrated every time they touch you will annoy the living shit out of you if you aren’t committed to the process. After a while, even the way they breathe will piss you off. You’ll be sitting there looking at them like “Look at his nostrils. Look at those stupid, ain’t-shit nostrils on his stupid ain’t-shit face, look at the air going through his lungs, I bet his lungs are as weak as his doodoo-dick. One-minute-stroke-game, stupid nostril-breathing, limp-lung-having, trifling-ass dumbass. Choke on that goddamn air, asshole!” If all physical contact with them sucks it’ll make you so mean, you’ll scar them forever. Or you’ll cheat on them and give them even more of a complex and less of an incentive to improve. Don’t do that to sisterkind if you know you aren’t cut out to work with a brother. Some of us just ain’t equipped. We shouldn’t be vilified for it.
But some of us are. We just don’t know it yet because we haven’t tried it yet. So let’s. Next time a new man disappoints us in bed, let’s be honest with him about it. Let’s see how he receives it and if he’s willing to try to improve. If he is, and he’s a good guy, a guy who is worth it, let’s have some compassion and some patience and a really good vibrator to keep us hanging in there until he gets his orgasm-game right. Let’s let go of our own baggage: about him needing to be in charge, about his performance being a testament to his character, about it being humiliating to have to coach someone, about whether it’s worth it to invest so much in a man who might leave you after you improve him, blah blah blah. Let’s let go of all of it. Let’s just be in the moment and see where our hearts take us. Maybe he’ll be the one. Maybe that cocoa butter skin, and your hard nipples and how well your sweaty bodies fit together means something; something you’ll miss out on if you judge all of his worth by how well he rocks your world.
F.N. is a thirty something Ghanaian free-lance writer who alternates between living in Accra and Washington, DC