I put energy into making sure my boyfriend is satisfied. And I can say the same thing about my boyfriend, who gives me lots of love. We are both generous partners in bed. And yet there is something missing from our sex life. I’m not sure what it is, but I can tell we are both somewhat disappointed. We are attracted to each other, but there’s not much spark. We do tend to be shy guys. Any thoughts?
Bored in Boston
Dear Bored in Boston,
Here’s the big secret to better sex: Be more selfish.
You don’t hear that a lot. However, good sex requires that you sink into yourself. In sex you need a healthy sense of entitlement. Couples sometimes get into trouble when they abandon their own desire and overfocus on pleasing their partners.
Many gay men have trouble identifying and advocating for their own needs. Some of us had to learn to be very “pleasing” to navigate high school or our families. Often we were extra accommodating to compensate for the “shameful” fact that we were attracted to the “wrong” people.
Being a caretaker, being nice, being invisible: These traits may have helped you survive childhood, but they definitely don’t add up to good sex. Research shows that the number 1 turn-on is confidence. Confidence is not so easy to achieve when you are a minority, and especially when you are a minority within your own family. Caretakers believe they are generous when they mainly focus on their partner’s needs in bed. But caretaking kills sexual energy.*
The truth is that your own arousal and your connection to it are the factors that create sexual energy with your partner.
So How Do You Learn to Be Selfish?
All change begins when you start experimenting with a new focus. Pay more attention to what feels good to you. Practice building faith in the following belief: If I am enjoying myself, it is very likely that my partner is having a good time.
This is also true for your life with your partner outside of the bedroom. When we take better care of ourselves, our relationships blossom.
Notice what shuts you down. Perhaps it is embarrassment that your sexual fantasies are not politically correct? Here’s another secret that therapists know: Sexual fantasies are politically incorrect. Forbidden = Sexy.
Sex takes place with a plot. So find your plot and allow yourself to enjoy it. Just keep it consensual, legal, and safe, and you will be fine. Most importantly, view your own sexual anxieties with compassion. Feeling uncomfortable around sex is not against the law. Most people are insecure when it comes to sex, but you won’t see this in the movies or in porn. I understand that in some gay male spaces it can feel like admitting to lackluster sex is a crime.
Good sex is about connecting with your life force, feeling your aliveness, and being closer to people. These are always difficult states for humans to create and maintain. It takes a lifetime, and the work is never finished. But it’s the pursuit of these states that gives life its greatest meaning.
*Unless you have sexualized caretaking. Then go for it.
ADAM D. BLUM, MFT, is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of the Gay Therapy Center, which specializes in relationship and self-esteem issues for LGBTQ people. The center offers services in its San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles offices, or by Skype and phone worldwide. Visit its website to subscribe to its e-newsletter and free e-class on building a better relationship with yourself. Follow the center on Facebook and read its blog. Email Adam your questions for possible publication. (Questions may be edited.)