Welcome to Megan Barton-Hanson’s new VICE UK column, covering all things to do with sex, relationships and self-love during one of the strangest eras of the 21st century. Read the previous column here.
The first few years of your sex life are usually pretty shit. I didn’t start to really enjoy sex until I had my first proper boyfriend: when you’re with someone for a long time, you tend to get more brave and have more open conversations about your feelings and desires. But before that relationship, sex was not good.
For me, the issue was that I was in my own head a lot. I didn’t have the confidence to be like, “No, you need to do this,” or, “We need more foreplay,” or, “We need to try a different position.” When I was younger I was always trying to please the guy because of what I'd seen in porn. I was constantly thinking: ‘Am I moaning too loud? Am I not moaning enough? Am I doing it right? Do I look sexy in this position?’ It was exhausting – and it’s exactly the same for men.
Mainstream porn can be very fast and very aggressive. Without comprehensive sex and relationships education to balance it out, straight men – especially teenagers – will watch porn and think, ‘Yep, that’s what I need to do.’ I think lad culture in the UK also plays a part in how young men are afraid to show their sensitivity.
We need to keep empowering women to be confident and ask what they want in the bedroom, but I think we also need to do the same for men. A lot of the time, men default to porn because no one has taught them how to communicate. It’s not even that they’re “crap in bed” necessarily, it’s that they often don't know how to ask for what they want, in the same way women often don’t know how to ask for what we want. Everyone just defaults to porn and has a terrible time – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are no rights or wrongs with sex, but there are a few tips that men who sleep with women can take on board to make sex happier, healthier and more fun for everyone involved.
This is the first and easiest step to vastly improve things. Women can spend hours just doing bits. When I've been with girls there’s so much foreplay, and they're getting off on it as well, whereas with guys it can seem like they’re just going through the motions. Men love to dive straight in, and then wonder why, when they’re halfway through, like, ‘Oh my god you’re so wet now!’ Like, why was I not at the beginning? Because you literally ignored that my nipples existed and just went straight for it! It’s rude! Get involved with the sensitive spots, like the inner thighs and the stomach, and enjoy yourself.
Everyone is different – you can sleep with one girl who’s really into her neck being kissed, but you could be with another girl and the same thing will make her cringe – so you need to pay attention and be present in the moment. But for me, sex is so much nicer when it's slow. It’s a total headspace thing as well. If my mind’s not there, I can’t get into it, so more kissing and touching at the beginning can make all the difference.
If you really want to go for it and show how agile you are, that’s fine, but save it until the end please!
GET USED TO GIVING AND TAKING INSTRUCTIONS
I think guys get embarrassed talking about sex, but it’s much better to be honest, even if that means saying, “Do you know what, I haven't banged in a long time and I’m a little bit nervous.” In fact, that’ll probably relax you. Whenever I'm nervous in any kind of situation, whether it's sexual or not, I’m like, “Oh my god, I'm so nervous!” upfront. It just gets it out the way.
Sex is the closest thing you can do with someone, and at the end of the day your partner will want you to enjoy yourself. You don’t have to map out all your preferences in advance like a homework assignment, but it can be really sexy to get some direction. I get off on pleasing people in sex sometimes, so don’t be afraid to say what really turns you on, or ask your partner what they like.
DON’T PLAY ROUGH WITHOUT CONSENT
Consent is massively, massively important. Men sometimes do things they’ve obviously copied from porn, like choking or grabbing the back of your head when you’re going down on them. But when you’re with a new partner, don’t just assume they’ll be into those things. You don’t need to verbalise every tiny little thing you like and dislike, but anything kinky really needs to be discussed beforehand so you can establish boundaries and safe words.
FIND YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE
Love languages are super important. I don’t know what mine is yet, but for lots of people things outside the bedroom really contribute to the vibe. If you're on that level with someone and they're helping you around the house, or they're really invested in something you're passionate about – that can make sex so much better, because you feel more of a connection with the person.
FOREPLAY CAN HAPPEN ANY TIME, ANYWHERE
You can’t go wrong with a bit of build-up. If you’re texting your partner or whoever you're banging that night, it’s really hot to talk about what you're going to do and how you're going to do it. It just makes things more exciting when you see each other. By the time they walk through the door, you just want to rip each other's clothes off and get into it.
That’s a really good way of spicing it up in long-term relationships as well. When you’ve been with someone for a while, you know each other’s likes, and life starts to get in the way. You get to a point where the sex isn’t as passionate as it used to be in the beginning. By doing things you do in the first month or so of dating, when you send dirty texts and naughty pictures, you can reignite the flame.
BUT DITCH THE DICK PICS
The dick on its own does absolutely nothing. Why do men do this? Hold it in their hand and strain to make their dick look big in comparison.... you’re going to injure yourself, hun!
Personally, I like it when someone takes a photo when they’re just out of the shower and they’ve got the whole body involved. Don’t get me wrong, I love dick, but I don't want to see it on its own. It would be the same if I sent a picture of just my vagina. It's not going to do much. We need the whole body!
LEARN TO LOVE LUBE
No one ever wants to talk about lube. Some men almost feel that they're not doing a good job because you’re not naturally wet, but there’s all different kinds of things that can affect that, whether it’s your time of the month, or your hormones, or you’re on antidepressants. People shouldn't be ashamed to talk about lube. It’s there for a reason. It’s often seen exclusively as a “substitute” for wetness, when it can be a whole other sensation in itself – and it does make sex so much better!
INVEST IN SOME TOYS
For example: if you fancy being pegged but don’t know how to go about it, it doesn’t have to be a big scary conversation. You could buy a strap-on and some lube and approach the subject with your partner by saying something like: “I went and got a few bits today, how would you feel about trying this out?” That way, it feels like you’re exploring it together, because your partner will probably be a bit nervous as well if she’s never done it before. I remember the first time I used a strap-on, I was so nervous, so it can be daunting for everyone involved.
The responsibility of getting sex toys involved shouldn’t just fall to women. If the guy is proactive about it, it can be a really good bonding experience and a way of bringing you closer together.
STOP HAVING POLITE BRITISH SEX
On the opposite end of the spectrum to porno jackrabbit sex are the guys who put in so little effort they might as well be asleep. I’ve heard tales of men just lying there like a piece of driftwood, loosely holding on while their partner is on top doing all the work. There is simply nothing worse. Don’t be afraid to let her take charge, obviously, but put your hips into it when she does!
AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, HAVE FUN!
British people are so serious about sex, but it’s the most fun thing you can do for free with someone that you really fancy. The more you're able to have a laugh – like when someone does a fanny fart or something – the better your sex life will be. Awkward things are bound to happen, but the more you’re able to relax and laugh about it, the more you’ll learn to enjoy yourself.