Selfish Lovers Don’t Just Disappoint. They Can Also Distort Your View of Sexuality.

an abstract image one might see looking through a kaleidoscope
Image by Jason Eppink / CC BY

I remember the first time I slept with someone who actually cared about my pleasure. The way they moved their hands over my body, the way they monitored my face to see if I liked what they were doing. The way they actually even asked what I liked.

It felt good, so good. And a little dangerous.

Because even though I’d been doing similar to other people for years, I was used to such consideration being entirely one-sided. I hadn’t ever experienced what it felt like to be on the receiving end of it. And compared to my other sexual experiences, it was incredibly intense. Enough that it threw me off-guard. Made me a little leery of their motives.

Was this some kind of ploy? Were they going to get me addicted to their body and then start controlling every aspect of my life? Or get me to the point where I begged for them and then abandon me?

Why else would they be exerting this kind of effort?

The Best Sex Advice I Ever Got

I had of course forgotten that other people might have first learned about sexual techniques the way that I did.

I had a pretty sheltered upbringing in many ways. Raised by very strict and religious parents in a house in the woods. With no access to cable TV, let alone Internet (which wasn’t really that easy to access in Maine until I was in college, although I did manage some forays onto BBSes).

So for the most part, I had to learn from my friends, who were also growing up in Maine, but often had surmised things from watching cable. Stumbling upon their dad’s old Playboys. Or ever so occasionally being able to interview an older person (a sibling or occasionally a dubious child groomer) for missing details or context. These friends became resident sexperts.

When I decided I wanted to give a blow job for the first time, I was a little overwhelmed by the prospect. I’d been mostly with women and had found sex with them fairly straightforward. But dicks intimidated me. I considered them a little mysterious and strange. But I really liked this particular guy and wanted to make sure I did a good job, so I turned to one of my sexpert friends.

I’d chosen this particular sexpert for blow job advice since he was gay (actually became a pretty successful local drag queen) and had been on both sides of the act, as giver and receiver. As expected, he gave me excellent and thorough advice — about certain techniques that a lot of people enjoyed. But he really gave his best advice at the very end when he added, “But every dick is different. People like different things. So it’s usually best to ask them how they like to be touched. Maybe ask them to show you how they masturbate. Go from there. And don’t forget to check in as you’re trying stuff and see how they like it.”

It occurred to me when he said that last part that I’d essentially been doing that for a while whenever I had sex with women. Part of that was because as limited as sex advice was for straight sex, lesbian sex advice basically didn’t exist when I was coming of age. Not anywhere I could find it anyway. We frequently had to improvise.

When I had sex with women, I was already coloring outside societal lines, so wrong and right flew out the window. I was used to building everything from scratch when I was with other women. Because there was nothing I could really do that would make my relationships with women “right,” there was simultaneously not any pressure to perform a certain way. It was all about what she and I wanted to do.

Meanwhile, straight sex was always treated as more legitimate. And magazines were filled with tips and writing about the right way to do things. Ten Tricks to Drive Your Man Crazy.

After talking to my friend, I realized that I could custom build experiences with men, too. That I could learn to look for what drove them crazy and respond to it, intensify it. To savor their pleasure as I’d so naturally done with women.

I Came to Expect Sexual Pleasure to Always Be One-Sided

My whole enjoyment of sex sprung up that way. It had never been a function of what people could do to me, how much sexual service I could receive. Instead, it had always been about causing other people to feel pleasure.

My first lovers were quite selfish. A parade of pretty pillow queens who would close their eyes and lay back as you worked your magic on them, sprinkled with the occasional coarse buffoon who would interrupt me midsentence during what felt to me like a vulnerable conversation to say, “You know, you could blow me if you wanted to.”

These days I find myself disappointed in the face of such behavior, but back then, I didn’t know any differently. I didn’t know then about the thrill of simultaneous pleasure or a dynamic where the energy could move from one to the other.  So I didn’t feel disappointed at all. I instead internalized that this was the way that sex was. The only way it could be. It was about me giving pleasure to someone else and enjoying that before moving on.

I’ve found that despite what any particular person might boast on their dating profile, in practice it’s a very rare person who genuinely enjoys giving sexual pleasure to others. Even ones who are very focused on getting you to orgasm will often treat you like a high score machine, like gamers hoping to break their previous record and having something to boast about later.

And far more often, people who give pleasure to others do it not because they enjoy it but out of a sense of fairness. Because they want you to go down on them, they’re willing to go down on you. But very few actually enjoy it, in spite of the braggadocious fantasy world that’s painted by the myriad folks who proudly announce giving head as their fetish. A world that contrasts sharply with how people actually behave once you get them in private real-world sexual situations.

I’ve found that once they discover that you’ll do it whether or not they do it in return that they’ll stop doing it altogether. And if they do oblige, it’ll be perfunctory, brief, and soulless. An effort so distracting in its insincerity that they might as well not do it at all.

It Was Actually Distressing the First Time Someone Wanted to Give Me Pleasure

So until I met this particular lover, I found that I had learned to live with a picture of sex that was informed by enjoying giving without ever getting similar consideration in return. I fetishized the lopsidedness. Got off on being used.

And so when I first slept with this giving lover, my immediate reaction wasn’t joy but confusion. Distress. Mixed in with the unexpected pleasure.

But gradually with time, I worked through that shock.

Distortion Can Be a Kaleidoscope or Static

Don’t get me wrong. I still have a sweet spot for selfishness in the proper context. I have some fantasies that revolve around it that I indulge. Domination in which pleasure is distinctively one-sided and degrading. Partly a vestige from before, but also injected with a new sense that something like this could be taboo or dysfunctional (and therefore a certain kind of dirty hot) and not just, you know, how all sex operates.

Is my current picture of sexuality still distorted? I suppose that would depend on whom you ask. Some would say, yes, indeed — since I’m bisexual, kinky, consensually nonmonogamous. None of this is sex for procreation in the missionary position.

But if it’s distorted these days, it’s the best kind of distorted. A kaleidoscope of passion, exploration, discovery.

Where in the past I only knew lovers who were selfish in the least creative, laziest ways. Still a distortion but a more boring and monochrome one. A bit like trying to watch a cable TV channel that you don’t really have access to. Where the sound is messed up and the best you can do is peer through the static.

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks for writing this.

    It explains many things about why some of my relationships and partners have been phenomenal and most have not.

    My first poly relationship (as a teen) was an incredible experience, i learnt that my pleasure comes from theirs. I nearly always ask my partner if there is anything i can do for/to them. I have upheld that since that relationship. It is very rare (for me) to encounter someone who reciprocates that idea. I guess the partners who reciprocate that idea have been my favourite encounters.

  2. This actually makes a lot of sense of a couple of my ex-es. One wanted to give me pleasure, but it wasn’t about *me* because he didn’t bother to learn what I wanted, it was, like you say, as if it was a score board. Up-up-down-down-left-right-trigger orgasm and pat himself on the back. And if the formula didn’t work, there must be something wrong with me.

    The other was just selfish and only in it for what he could get.

    Thanks for helping me make sense of their behavior.

  3. This is a great article…it is well written and very poignant. It will stand as a great help for a few of my partners. Thank you very much…as one of the oddities who enjoys a well rounded, mutually pleasurable sexual experience, I appreciate the shock that some people go through. Thank you for bringing this phenomenon to light.

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