So, last Sunday night I was listening to live jazz in a hipster vegan bar and got talking to a bisexual Swedish woman. (I’m not vegan but Glasgow is full of hipster restaurants and pubs run by guys with immaculate beards and checked shirts). This woman, who is the girlfriend of a friend of a friend (keep up!), immediately sat down next to me and launched full tilt into a range of interesting and deep topics. After the general guff surrounding politics: the crisis in Gaza, the referendum in Scotland, feminist action etc we got into the juicy stuff when my new buzz-cut babe of a friend stated
‘I just can’t bring myself to sleep with straight guys anymore’
Me: ‘So, bisexual guys are in but hetero guys are out…? What a role reversal.’
‘Yes! I just hate the performance that goes on when you’re sleeping with a straight guy’
Me: ‘The performance?’
‘You know what I’m talking about, that whole sort of, body movement arching of the back, making ridiculous sounds, flouncing your hair around…The Performance’
Me: ‘And that’s only with straight guys? Not gay or bisexual girls or bisexual guys? Just the straight men? Are you sure?’
‘Yes!! When you’re with a woman there’s none of that crap, it’s just honest and raw, and when you’ve been with a guy who’s been with a guy, they don’t want any of that porn-star bullshit.’
Me: ‘Huh. So, are you just quieter? Or does it feel like a completely different sexual persona?’
‘I feel different, I feel like I’m not having to put on an act and play all those stupid games.’
What this little exchange brought to my attention is the idea that somehow heterosexual sex is more of a performance than other types of sexual encounter. Now I’ve never had sex with a girl (I have fantasies but not realities) and I’ve similarly never had sex with a bisexual guy, so the idea that all of my boring heteromances have actually in some way been just a performance is an interesting one. I mean, how would I know? Is going down on your first girl enough to shatter the rose-coloured lenses of heterosexual sex? Have I been nothing but a wailing, wiggling actress in all of my naked encounters?
I remember during my first sexual relationship that most of my cues and clues as to how to act in bed were informed from a horrendous mismatch of Cosmo Sex advice columns (they know nothing Jon Snow), softly lit sex scenes in movies (where is the condom?), and the occasional glimpse of pornography (fake tits, fake tan) when I was sure my parents and siblings were out of the house. All in all it was a recipe for flailing hair, bucking hips and a lot of false sounds of ecstasy. Learning about sex in this sort of modern environment can be pretty damaging, girls learn that they have to moan and groan and thrust their hips and asses out in uncomfortable directions in order to put on a good show (note ladies, they only hold their legs in those positions for a better shot of the clunge, it doesn’t actually feel great to have your legs splayed in some sort of 3/4 splits over a couch and be pile-driven into dust). The first few years after having sex you hear the term ‘good in bed’ and wonder what the fuck it means. Scouring the web for what people describe as a ‘good female performance’ I came across this horrendously misogynistic and stupid list from EliteDaily (which I shall now refer to as Excrete Daily due to all the bullshit the site contains). According to ExcreteDaily, to be good in bed, you have to be a Pornstar. However take care, according this article while you may be living up to these chauvinist’s fantasies by being the ultimate Pornstar they will secretly consider you a dirty cheating slut. There’s just no winning if you’re a woman. The article is full of horrendous little moments which you can lament over in your own time, but the idea that to be good in bed, to give a good performance is to channel women who are paid to pretend is laughable. If every sex session you had was based on porn you’d begin with a shitty plot device and a bad outfit coupled with minimal dialogue, then onto a 15 minute Blow job and a perfunctory 2 minutes of Cunnilingus before spreading yourself across precarious pieces of furniture and staring through your legs at your partner’s shaved balls for 45 minutes whilst channeling the dulcet tones of a pregnant cow. Sounds great.
Ladies if you want to be good in bed, figure out what it is that you like and work with your partner towards mutual satisfaction. You don’t have to be fake to get fucked.
Similarly, guys learn the equally damaging thing that they should last for hours upon upon hours upon hours and finish off by cumming in your face. The last one should never happen (unless consented) and the idea of having full on penetrative sex for more than 45 minutes sends a shiver of fear through me at the notion of a raw and dry vagina after hours of ineffectual pumping. Type in ‘Sexual Performance’ into your Google search and you’ll immediately be hit by a furore of how to improve a man’s sexual performance. ‘8 tips to a longer-lasting you’, ‘overcoming erectile anxiety’ (missed out on a pun there) and on and on. The idea of bad sexual performance is most often associated with men. You cannot achieve your ‘Sex God’ badge unless you maintain an erection for as many hours as you have inches (Penis is 6 inches, must be erect for 6 hours etc.) Which is a wholly unrealistic and totally stupid onus to have to put on your sexual partner. Yet it is one that media, movies and magazines seem to endlessly churn out. If you’re a man, you should be able to switch on at the touch of the button and go for more hours than your partner’s rabbit. Fail to do so and you have failed your fellow menz, and must wear a small cone of shame around your flaccid dick.
(I am aware of the irony of choosing this photo from the aptly named ‘Up’ to demonstrate erectile dysfunction).
But let us return for a moment to the idea of female performance. I’m happy to say that these days my sexual etiquette does not involve whirlwind hair and uncomfortable protruding buttocks accompanied by maniacal shrieks. The sounds I do make, and apparently I make a lot of them, are natural and mostly uncontrollable. I’m no longer putting on an act, trying to move and sound and pretend that I’m someone I’m not, I’m simply someone who is very much enjoying having their genitals stroked and licked and bitten. The moment you stop worrying about how you’re ‘performing’ is the minute that sex moves beyond a mere stage piece and becomes that primal, seductive, and intoxicating activity that we all love to enjoy. It’s not the time spent in bed (or on the floor, or in the shower, or against a tree in the woods) but rather what you achieve during that time. Did you both get off on one another? Did you feel good about yourself? Did the world melt away for one minute whilst your partner’s tongue went somewhere hidden? Another thing to remember is that an orgasm isn’t necessarily the end goal of a sweaty session. Men are taught to delay reaching their orgasm (mostly because of the stereotype that they roll over and sleep once they’ve done so and are not a real man unless they can pump away endlessly) and women are indoctrinated with the idea that sex isn’t worth it unless you cum (we’ve all read the articles about how difficult it is for women to achieve vaginal orgasms, maybe if we stopped worrying about it, they may happen more often??). The orgasm isn’t the be all end all of your time together. I can flick myself off in around 2 minutes, but compared to 30 minutes of total bodily stimulation without orgasm, I know which one I’d prefer.
So stop acting, and start doing (each other).