The fine art of usurping your partner’s pleasure

Making their happiness about you

“I want you to want to”

Sometimes my partner does this thing where he wants me to climax more. Or feels like I’m “distant” during sex. (Or maybe I am distant during sex. Whatever; linguistics.) But I still orgasm, though, and I’m pretty sure I enjoy it. So I don’t see the problem.

But he brings it up and sometimes “calls me” on it. And like, tenderly tho.

But what is that?

I am sincerely at a loss as to whether it’s because a.) he cares about me and my sexual pleasure (more than I do tho?), b.) he cares about himself and is feeling insecure about his sexual ability, or (most likely) c) both: he cares about my pleasure as a testament to himself.

It’s a question neither of us can answer with certainty, so I lie there as he’s telling me this, say nothing and just agree — which is obviously deeply meta and ironic.

What if I *am* pleased?

He won’t let me “just go through the motions,” and I guess, good on him, but my big hang up is: I didn’t realize I was. I thought I was having fun.

And what if this is how I have sex? What if it fucking is? I mean, how would I know?

Sure, maybe in a parallel universe I respond to some lover’s hands like the earth is consuming me whole, and that version of me would look at this version of me and be like, “girrrl.” But shit, I don’t know what I don’t know. This is what I got, and frankly it all feels pretty good to me.

I really fucking like drinking beer, too, but you don’t see me going into ecstasies over it, now do you? No. I just want to drink my fucking beer. And in fact, my strong preference is for a “background beer” — something light; accessible; “boring.” I don’t want it to rock my world. I don’t want to be fucked with. I just wanna drink my fucking beer.

I want it every day — obviously — and, yeah, I will readily talk about how much I like having it every day, and that’s fucking genuine. I never meant for it to mean I want or need to go to pieces over it. I want it simple and ready and straightforward. I just want to come at, get what I want, and move the fuck on.

And the same goes for sex.

But somehow that’s not the point. Or good enough.

What if he’s just feeling uncertain

I know. I know we all want to think its as well-intended and sweet as this.

Is he doing well? Am I happy? Am I thisclose to bolting and leaving him for a better McLovin bro? Or am I deadened with post-coital bliss?

When I show enthusiasm, I reassure him. I know this. The problem is that I already do. And if he doesn’t sit calmly and reassure himself, this will quickly become a black hole where no matter how blissed out I am, he will always feel it could be better.

I know this because he already feels this way even though I’m sexually satisfied.

What if I could be more pleased? You sure this is me and not you?

Men do this thing where anything that goes wrong in the bedroom is either 100% their fault or 100% yours, and it’s almost always 100% yours.

He didn’t enjoy it? Something you did. He thinks you didn’t enjoy it? Also you.

When it comes to you being blissed out of your face, even if they want it and you don’t, it’s somehow still on you and not on them. Like, the answer couldn’t possibly be for them to do something differently — or ask. The answer is somehow always back on it being you.

They disconnect their own actions from the asynchronous effects they have. Like how “playfully” critiquing your body outside the bedroom might be at all related to the fact that you “hang back” or “act guarded” or “aren’t enthusiastic enough” once in it. Or how anything they might be doing in the bedroom might play a part.

And I’m not saying for sure that’s actually happening. I’ve only considered it — saying it out loud without taking responsibility just makes me as bad as them.

Plus, I’d better be sure as fuck that’s what it is before laying into them with it (more than I can say for them, with their Rolodex of excuses and accusations for their ED.) So I hunker down, consider this, and in the meantime put out a bit more energy.

For them.

What if it’s not about my pleasure, but his

And what my pleasure means for and about him.

Him bringing this up is him sharing his feelings. Which is good. But they’re also his feelings regarding my pleasure. Which seems… less good.

It looks and sounds like him “inviting” me to express more. Which is good. But it also feels a lot like him cajoling me to. Which is less good.

He wants me to be more enthusiastic — but, he’s careful to clarify — not fake it.

He’s just another version of every guy I’ve ever dated, but this time it’s the bedroom.

I once had a boyfriend who’s Big Thing was always wanting me to be Happy. But — he often stressed — he didn’t want me to pretend to be happy . He wanted me to just BE happy.

“And whats wrong with that?” You might ask. Well, what’s wrong is that it’s superficial and insecure; it’s about me curating a perfect snow globe and really it’s about me doing this so that he could have all the room — mine and his — to be imperfect and human.

Put differently: it’s the way a parent cares for a very small child.

In other words: yes, he did want me to pretend to be happy; he just didn’t want to be able to tell. And his mother and the girlfriend in his head and, sure, the way he remembered other girls he dated, were more willing to wear that hat and play that game. And I wouldn’t.

It’s like the words of Jennifer Aniston’s Brooke character from The Breakup:

“I don’t want you to do this dishes. I want you to want to do the dishes.”

Or, in my case with these dudez:

“I don’t want you to act more pleased. I want you to want to act more pleased. (And not because it pleases you, but ultimately because it pleases me.)”

I want. From you. “For you.” But really for me.

What I’m thinking when you go soft or don’t get off

It depends a lot on how you react.

99.9% of the time / my immediate, default thought is:

“My darling, you are human. And it’s fine.”

This is simply the same courtesy I expect from you when things go awry for me — when I get tired or don’t get off; if I sneeze or need to pee; if I fart or queef or start to bleed; when I misspeak and say something like “your pussy” or “my cock” or some jumbled mix-up that makes no sense at all, because I’m a talker and I will.

No, these things aren’t sexy (definitely not!), but what’s even unsexier than unsexy side effects of sex is a partner who can’t accept his or her own humanness, or mine.

These sorts of things are going to happen because we’re both human people — we have human bodies, and sex is one of our most intimate (and vulnerable) human-body acts. Human things are going to happen. And it’s okay.

My second default thought:

“Is there anything I can do differently, more, or less?”

Because any good partner should ask. Sure, you can ask me for what you want, too, but communication is a two-way street. If there’s something you’d like to do differently, I’m happy to start that dialogue up.

But my reactions change based on how often it happens and how you react:

In order from best (green) to worst (red), here’s how my thoughts vary:


Note / hold up: what’s “infrequent” vs “frequent?” It probably varies by couple. I don’t really tally shit up or anything, but:

  • “Infrequent” is like a few times a month, or once every ten-ish times, or two, even three, times in a row if it’s still not all the time. It could even be more often than that if some of our sex is after coming home late-ish from drinking, or if we attempt a lot of quickies, or you’re trying your best to put out for me daily (or more) — whatever, we’re still (very) good.
  • “Frequent” is or feels like “every time,” “most” of the time, more than half the time, for several months in a row or a year straight, etc.

If you’re not bothered…

When it’s infrequent — awesome. Perfect. We’re both on the same page and good to go. You’re cool with your own humanness; so am I.

When it’s frequent (especially longterm) — ah nah, son. If you routinely go soft (and have been for a while) and you don’t care, this is a big problem and, to be totally frank, your continual lack of concern is very real grounds for a breakup. Physical intimacy and sexual satisfaction is an important part of a relationship, and if you expect me to come home for dinner each night, you better care about serving the occasional meal. If something’s going wrong most of the time for months on end, we’d better be making an effort to fix it. Not caring about sex is not caring about me and my needs, and baby I just ain’t down with that.

If you care in a healthy way…

i.e., problem solving without getting insecure or blaming me.

When it’s infrequent — aiight, boo.

When it’s frequent — thank you for caring enough to address this. We’re a team; what can I do to help?

If you get insecure…

When it’s infrequent —this is probably the most common situation (at least that I’ve seen.) So see my #1 default thought, 99.9% of the time:

❤ My darling, you are human. And it’s fine. ❤

I adore you far beyond your sexual prowess — I actually like you as a person, and accept that you’re a human being. I appreciate that you care so deeply about my sexual satisfaction — and monitor your own performance accordingly — and would happily take this over it being a continuous problem and you not caring, so thank you for caring so much. Please accept and internalize my care in return; we’re all good.

When it’s frequent — darling, I can only take you so far. I can compliment you until the cows come home, demonstrate patience and openness and start dialogues until we’re blue, but if none of that is helping over the long-run, then, my dear, this is less me and more you.

Note: either way, if you get cold and shut down despite my reassurance, I’m going to let you. Because ain’t nobody need positive reinforcement for that.

If you blame me

This has a shelf life.

When it’s infrequent — If there’s something you’d like me to do differently, cool; no problem. I like that you articulated what you’re into — can do.

When it’s frequent — Watch yourself, son. I am down to try most anything, care enough to change it up, and invested and humble enough to act on feedback. But if you make up a new excuse or blame me for something different each time, especially as I’m incorporating everything along the way, I am going to notice and know what you’re doing.

Which is: not taking responsibility when it’s you.

As long as we keep on keeping on

Baby, we cool. I like you, humanness and all. And I hope you do, too.

My orgasm is not your conquest.

I like sex. And I like it in and of itself — an important distinction, I think, when so many of us use sex as just another avenue for self-loathing or self-esteem; showmanship or subjugation.

I like my body, I like myself, and I care about my partners’ pleasure, all of which I think is like 99% of enjoying sex. It is a basic human need (albeit perhaps not a “right,” sorry Marie De Salle) — and I am chill enough that I like it consistently and in all kinds of ways. Every human being out to share and give and receive pleasure — easy as that.

That is, until I fucked up and thought about the question of “agency” a little too long and let it get to me.

After the last time I orgasmed with my partner, we were laying in bed, him on his back ruminating at the ceiling in the dark, when he said:

“I want to make you orgasm multiple times.”

“Why?” I asked. Because I don’t feel compelled to orgasm more than once. And he knows this.

“For the conquest.” He said.

i.e., “for me. Not you.”


There are probably a lot of contexts when I would have gone along with his “conquest” statement — taken it lightly, at face value; embraced it as a compliment like so many of us are apt to do when partners say things that look a lot like “generosity” and “care,” contentedly scooping them up like some kind of passed hors d’oeuvres.

There are women out there rallying for orgasm equality — any orgasm, presumably, since they don’t say, and I’m not sure they carved out an explicit clause that states “but it’s still hers, and not yours.” So when I’ve got an orgasm being pushed on me, I feel equally pressured to accept his “generosity” as “gender equality.” (Because at least he’s trying, am I right?)

And he’s not alone. Overall, dudes are more concerned about their role in women’s pleasure than they are about women’s pleasure itself. So if anything, this scene should be old hat by now.

But I just can’t with this script anymore.

Because look, “conquest” is 100% the wrong answer, 100% of the time. The wrong mindset. The wrong prioritization. The wrong everything.

He can want me to orgasm, he can work for my orgasm, and he can enjoy my orgasm. He can get off on me getting off, and he can get off on getting me off. (Please do!) But: my orgasm is first about my pleasure, not his.

What he gets out of my orgasm — conquest included — always comes second to what I get out of it. So when it comes time to answer “why?”, the first answer had better be: “you.”

I’m into him enjoying sex, too — there are plenty of moments that are 99.9% him and only ancillary me. I can play the part of plaything from time to time, but I am not his literal plaything through and through.

I am not a passive entity with whom he has sex, or to whom he gives orgasms — because even the idea of “giving” me an orgasm raises questions about who’s active and who’s passive in this place. (Though, pressed to choose, “give” is certainly better than “take.” Which is what’s happening when you usurp my orgasm and prioritize it foremost as “conquest” for you.)


I didn’t realize this was such a blocking issue until we had sex again and I didn’t orgasm. I thought maybe I was just buzzed, or tired, or really had to pee — anything, really; no big deal — but then I didn’t orgasm again the next time we fucked, either. Or the next. Or ever since. Which has become a new track record that’s 0% typical for me.

I still want to orgasm, and still orgasm just fine on my own. But I just can’t get there anymore with him. It’s still good, but I can feel myself hanging off the back of the wagon, watching the dirt road pass underneath us in a blur. I can see my own pleasure alive but tumbling and bumping against the gravel, still tethered but strained against the rope.

Because she don’t want it this way.

And I know it seems obvious enough to “say something” to him, but we all know it’s not that simple. People are sensitive fucks when it comes to things like sex and our partners’ pleasure, and I don’t want to make it forever worse with a tactless effort at “making it better.”

Because I guess something sounds “hurtful” or “harsh” about “my orgasm is for me, and not you.” Or “you still get partial credit, because you’re halfway there.” Or maybe the simplicity of simply: baby, my body and I ain’t your conquest.

Because damn, boo, you can offer — should offer — but you can’t force. And you sure as fuck can’t take what’s innately mine and make it yours.