so you think you might be sleeping with a sexlete

Sex is not a competitive sport

Sex is not a competitive sport.

A friend of mine, whom I’ll call Lily, recently started sleeping with the real live God of Sex. Yes, he goes to Brown, and yes, he does do housecalls. This girl is positively glowing from the number of orgasms she has had in the last week. He has the most beautiful body of any man she’s ever laid eyes on, he’s generous and inventive in bed, and has a recharge rate she didn’t know was possible. “He understands my body better than I do,” she told me, and admitted that she finally knows what Lil Jon meant when he said: “to the window, the wall, ‘til the sweat drops down my balls. All these bitches crawl. Crawl.”

But yesterday, out of the blue, Lily told me she wished she were sexier. While I recoiled in shock (this lady is so hot she melts the clothes off her own body, even in this crazy weather) she admitted that she feels inferior in bed to the G of S. Comparatively inexperienced, she finds herself obsessively asking him about his previous partners, trying to gauge her own standing in the long list of women the God of Sex has graced with his majestic cock. She feels like she lacks the skills and the innovation to become one of his bedtime-story women, a catch whose tale he will tell to future lovers with awe and nostalgia. She catches herself thinking about the woman he will marry, if he does. Who is the lucky woman who gets to be fucked like this for the rest of her life? And will Lily ever have sex this good again?

I was first clued in to the source of her anxiety by her superlatives. “It was the best sex of my life” sounds hyperbolic but self-aware, but “I wish I were better in bed” was alarming. Up until now, this new friends-with-benefits sitch had seemed nothing but empowering, but now Lily was actually getting down on herself about her sexual abilities. Since when was she worried about pleasing a man she didn’t even like enough to date? And since when was her sex life about being “better” or “worse”? It turns out that if you’re in bed with the Quarterback of Sex, orgasms might be touchdowns, and pleasure advancing along the field. The more the G of S performed, actively being The Best Sex She’s Ever Had In Her Life and pleasuring her beyond her wildest desires, the more Lily felt like she was losing the game.

We’re all capable of treating our experiences in bed like a competition, and we experience performance anxiety about being “good” in bed.[1] It’s sort of easy to see why we might feel that way: so much of our lives are competitive, from being accepted into college, earning good grades, getting internships or jobs, and yes, even meeting sexual partners. Much of the vocabulary of sex overlaps with competitive vocabulary: we can talk about “getting some” like a prize, about good and bad sex, we quantify orgasms, partners, hours spent together. We can treat sexual conquests like just that: conquests.

When you’re the real live God of Sex and giving women orgasms is your raison d’être, it might be easy to fall into the habit of tallying up women’s orgasms like checks on your eternal bedpost. Frankly, that doesn’t sound all that interesting, although we would have to ask the G of S why he reminisces about brilliant former lovers in bed with the woman to whom he can give pleasure but not comfort. For the rest of us, though, treating sexual pleasure like a competition you can win or lose deprives the experience of some of the nuance and diversity of sex. While it’s certainly true that sex can be more and less pleasurable, it can also be more and less awkward, more and less hilarious, more and less casual, more and less loving. It can be an amazing way to better get to know yourself or a partner. It can be a procrastination technique, an energy booster, or a demonstration of love. It might be an attempt to bring new life into the world. But it does not have to be a competitive sport.

Just as an experiment, examine the way you think about your own sex life—and the vocabulary you are using to describe your experiences. There are no right or wrong answers here, only what is true for you and your relationship to your sexuality. A recent study came up with the 20 most frequently cited reasons for having sex, which included enhancement of power and improving social status alongside motivations such as pleasure, demonstrating love, and boosting mood.[2] Why are you having sex? What do you want from your sexual experiences? And the more important, but somehow less obvious question: does the sex you are having make you feel good?

And that’s how the God of Sex lost one of his conquests to self-respect. Because after a night of acrobatic sex, still buzzed with endorphins and flushed with exertion, Lily felt like her empowering, go-get-‘em, friend-with-benefits/secret God-of-Sex relationship was making her feel worse, not better. Lily had decided that a large portion of her sexual pleasure derived from her ability to give as well as receive, and that just wasn’t something the God of Sex could offer her in between sexual pyrotechnics. Armed with fond if unsettling memories and a handful of new tricks, Lily is out there seeking someone who is a better lover—if not a better fuck.