Can You Really be “Good” at Sex?


“He’s such an amazing lover.” Really?

As complicated as life is already, we had to go and evolve into sensual creatures with libidos and orgasmic potential beyond just reproductive function. It’s an immensely huge part of who we are—whether we’re sexually active or not. It has inspired some of the world’s great art and music, and now propels a booming industry. Countless books have been written about why we do it—and how to do it well to ensure both lovers have satisfying experiences. But we often reduce this down to whether or not someone is a “good” lover. Is that really accurate?

For many humans, sex is treated like a sport, a recreation. Flip through any monthly women’s or men’s magazine and you’ll likely bump into a list or two claiming it can help you improve your game to become the world’s greatest lover. Men learn how to make sure all the bases are covered… Fair enough. But, a woman in particular, is typically coaxed into fitting into our culturally accepted definition of sexy: wear the right, clothes, makeup and hairdo. She’ll know how to properly tease and arouse her partner before more often than not, acting out her best impersonation of a porn star. Most men expect this. Lots of women do too. It’s why here in Los Angeles, after a weekly women’s circle gathering meant to empower and elevate the female attendees, the women can also receive a bikini wax session before they leave.

Beyond the fact that we’re perpetuating a cycle of unnecessary sexual pressure on both genders, it also indicates that we’re creating a cycle of sexual expectations: unless someone does these certain things, the experience will ultimately be unsatisfying. And sometimes, a person does all those things and it’s still an unsatisfying experience.

What science knows about sexual attraction is that there are many invisible forces at work, mainly pheromones—hormones that make us attracted to certain people instead of others. When there’s a mutually strong chemistry between two people, chances are the sex will be quite satisfying. It’s not a matter of whether you’ve both studied the Kama Sutra; two people feeling the same vibe will be more likely to find the experience satisfying—as in, “I just had great sex.” Someone else might find a sexual experience with either of those people unsatisfying even if the same techniques were used that sent those two to the moon. If the attraction or openness to the experience isn’t there, the enthusiasm won’t be either. Never mind all the alcohol we use to lubricate many of our sexual encounters leaving us often feeling uncomfortable and even remorseful. A recent study even found that can inform our sexual experiences for years–even decades–after.

When we parse each other out as either “good” or “bad” lovers, we collectively dismiss our sexual energy as being right or wrong. The backlash of that, we’ve already seen ad nauseum, is repressed and confused sexual expressions, even aggressive and inappropriate acts. That’s not to say that people can’t be downright selfish or reckless lovers. But it seems more likely that’s merely a symptom of a sexually dysfunctional society than it is anything else. It’s the sexual expression of misinformation and expectation, and it’s typically awkward.

A quarterback is obviously good or bad, particularly after a few seasons. You’d sound foolish to say Rafael Nadal is a bad tennis player, even despite his 2012 Wimbledon loss. Sex is not a sport (even though it can often be a great workout). It’s a core expression of who we are as humans. It’s not something that even needs to be fully understood as much as it needs to be allowed its full expression. Are we good or bad at it isn’t the right question. How we honor and handle our sexual experiences are far more vital considerations.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: kainr

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.