Understanding What Pleasure Means for You and How to Communicate That to Your Partner
By Patricia Marie
Each of our bodies experiences pleasure differently and we have unique needs that can evolve throughout our lives. In addition to understanding our bodies better, we must honor these differences by telling our partners what gives us pleasure because communication is critical to how we enjoy sex. It is also important to be open to rejecting some of the ideas we were socialized to have about pleasure so that we can truly discover all the things that make us feel good.
Finding out what works best for you in the bedroom is one step towards living your best sex-positive life. It’s important to remember that sexual self-discovery doesn’t have to come from experiences with other people, it can be achieved through experimentation with sex toys or just good old-fashioned exploration of your body in the mirror. Once you hone in on the things that make you tingle with satisfaction, get comfortable communicating your needs to your partners.
Before having sex with a potential partner, talk about it. Your sexual preferences are just as important as what kind of food you like to eat and what kind of movies you enjoy watching. It’s OK to be nervous about these conversations, but it’s best to have them at the outset of a relationship when you’re in the process of getting to know each other.
If your potential partner is not willing to talk to you about sex, it might not be the right time to get down and dirty with them. It’s important that both of you are on the same page when it comes to both timing and desires, or at least willing to explore what that means together.
If you’re already in a relationship, there’s nothing wrong with revisiting the subject for a check-in, even if there are no apparent issues. Keeping the lines of communication open establishes a level of trust that will be necessary if and when future issues or curiosities arise.
If you haven’t discussed it yet, you can still bring it up. It’s never too late to talk about something as important as sex, especially when communication is one of the biggest keys to pleasure. After all, studies show that people who communicate with their partners about sex are more fulfilled and satisfied.
Of course, knowing the importance of communication doesn’t necessarily alleviate the potential for awkwardness, but there are ways to make it easier. Sometimes pillow talk (not to be confused with talking during or directly after sex) can be the best time to discuss sex with your partner. Your guards are down, you’re feeling relaxed, and some of the pressure is removed. You can simply say to your partner, “You know, I was thinking, I really like it when you… What makes you feel the best when we’re having sex?” Any scenario where you’re relaxing with your partner is a great time to do a sex check-in.
Another important thing to note is that sometimes people assume there doesn’t need to be a discussion about sex at all because of implied norms related to gender or gender presentation. Traditionally, people think that gender determines the way one experiences pleasure, but this simply isn’t true.
For example, women are socialized to be more submissive during sex and men are expected to be more assertive. Even in same-sex couples, there is assumed to be one submissive and one assertive partner. This heteronormative sexual scripting affects what we think we are supposed to find pleasurable – women and femmes are supposed to enjoy being dominated while masculine people are supposed to enjoy dominating.
The truth is your gender or the way you present yourself outside of the bedroom doesn’t control what you find exciting during sex. This is why it is essential to communicate what you like and don’t like sexually as well as open your mind to different possibilities of what might make you or your partner feel good.
These ideas about traditional gender roles can result in miscommunication and thus dissatisfaction between sexual partners. In fact, research has proven that the more traditional gender role beliefs a person has, the less sexual satisfaction they experience. Sexual preference is different for everyone and the only way to know how that plays out for you and for your partners is to do some self-exploration and communication. When it comes to sexual pleasure, one size definitely does not fit all.
Patricia Marie is a writer, an editor, and the founder of culture & lifestyle blog, The Glam Femme. In addition to writing queer, POC-focused contemporary fiction, Patricia enjoys creating erotic short stories that subvert cultural norms and thoughtfully promote diverse experiences and authentic voices.