Who Comes First?
Last month, I wrote about how couples either initiate or stand-off sexual invitations within their intimate interactions. We discussed the classic texts by Dr. Ian Kerner-Passionista and She Comes First, https://www.iankerner.com/, which detail male and female sexual functioning and pleasuring. I must emphasize that these books are must reads for any sexually active man or woman.
This week, I want to talk about how male and female partners handle some of the mechanics of sexual interactions within their intimate relationship. As a couples therapist in Washington DC and Bethesda, I often help couples explore both their emotional and sexual blocks in order to further their connection.
Sex is about expanding who we are, what we want, and what we think we want in the most incredibly intimate way. According to Kerner, we need to be committed to communication and self discovery.
While re-reading Kerner’s books, I found myself wondering—How do we decide who comes first, consciously or unconsciously? Who defaults? Who gives in? Who plans? Who starts? Unless we are good sexual communicators (which most of us aren’t), we often just let these decisions happen. Do these patterns reflect other patterns in our relationship?
Kerner makes a fascinating point that relates to this idea of who comes first? He states, “great sex is about experiencing something together.” He reminds us that sex is about seeing each other, feeling each other, touching each other, and often healing each other. However, we forget that men and women approach sex differently. While fantasy (and newness) is what keeps sex alive in committed relationships, it may be different for women than it is for men–generally, men may rely more on erotic separateness and women may turn more towards sexual seduction.
Kerner advises both men and women to do the following. Learn to get turned on by turning the other person on, which can only come by understanding the other person’s sexual anatomy and sexual functioning properly. He suggests that men realize that foreplay (especially oral sex) for women is coreplay-in other words, it is usually the central part of a sexual experience for women. Women need to sense that their male partner is communicating the following—”I want you, I savor you, I’m turned on by turning you on orally.”
Kerner tells women to help men slow down and to incorporate their male partner’s entire body into their seduction and then fold in and open up other sexual experiences through fantasy.
Yet, what if we struggle with Kerner’s two key elements–communication and discovery? In Getting The Sex You Want, Tammy Nelson offers a dialogue process for couples to use to communicate deeply about their sexual desires and requests. Communication blocks can lead to sexual blocks and vice versa. Doing more of it (both communication and sex) and learning to talk about it better will only help out sexual connections with our partners.
Discovery is about an individual’s pursuit into unknown or unfamiliar territory–it requires an attitude of adventure and excitement about the journey. As long term committed partners, we often think we know everything there is to know about our partners sexually. Kerner would urge you to chart your own path down the road of sexually exploring your partner. His impressive example is how he learned about sexual pleasure and pleasuring through his own experience of sexual dysfunction– premature ejaculation. Through discovery, he opened up doors for connection and understanding of how to be a better lover.
So go ahead, be brave enough to discover your partner more fully. Learn to talk with your partner more about what you want to give and get sexually. Be daring enough to go first, and be willing for your partner to be the one to come first!