‘Sex is not a performance, the bed is not a stage’
In case you were wondering, Air Sex competitions are a real thing. Much like air guitar, participants simulate sexual activity with invisible partners. Some make it wild, some funny, others arousing. I’ve watched the videos. It is hard to unsee.
Now, Eric Clapton did not participate in Air Guitar tournaments. Good guitar is not air guitar, and good sex isn’t air sex. In fact, good sex isn’t a competitive sport at all.
It sometimes feels to me like performance has become more important than pleasure in the way we judge successful sex.
In our culture, performing well in the bedroom is tied to a man’s sense of masculinity. Men are supposed to have big dicks and a lot of stamina, penetrate hard and deep, do anal and get a blowjob. It is a notion of performance defined by a very reductive, hetero-patriarchal vision of sex, which leaves little place for women’s pleasure at all.
On the woman’s side, too, there is a pressure to perform. Women feel like they need to look perfect — flawless, hairless body, attractive orgasm face, charming orgasm noises… plus, increasingly, women face pressure from male partners to perform certain acts that come with a social prestige — like anal, blowjobs or threesomes. I’ve had guys pressure me for things I didn’t really want to do, insinuating that if I was cool and open and liberated, I would want to do what they wanted me to do. Great liberation. What annoyed me was that I felt they wanted to do those things not out of a true desire, but so that they could tell themselves, and others, that they had done it. Plus, women are expected to orgasm. So very much that many women fake their orgasms so as not to let the guy down.
As though women’s orgasms were nothing more than a way of keeping score in guys big sex competition.
What makes this even more absurd is that there is no “good way” to do sex, no way of creating an objective playbook of the moves to make or the positions to try. Each person likes different things, and so being good at sex requires forgetting about the game and concentrating on the person you are with.
The rules of sex we tend to live by today — that there should be penetration — the deeper, the harder, the better — and then ejaculation, with a woman’s orgasm sometime in between — aren’t actually that enjoyable for many people. Sex is about following non existent rules, it is about creating something with someone, giving and taking and reaching a shared pleasure.
There is an awesome poem I fell upon on Deviant Art, entitled Sex is not a performance, a bed is not a stage:
One should never worry if they’re doing it “correctly.” Sex is not factual. I don’t want your cookie-cutter sex, I don’t want your meticulously crafted, calculated, fool-proof fuck. I don’t want a show. I want you. Let your instincts, urges and whims define that. It’s enough.
What do most girls like? Forget about it. Statistics are meaningless when there’s only one. Hello, here’s me. Here’s you.
“Good in bed,” what.
“You’re good in my bed. I’m pleased you’re there. I feel it suits you.
Shove your technique. Let your memory swallow it. Fuck me like you’d fuck me, fuck me like you feel.
This isn’t a test.”
Sadly, the feeling of competition is very ingrained in our society. Tim Wadsworth, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder, showed in a study that “Having more sex makes us happy — but thinking that we’re having more sex than other people makes us even happier.”