Authors: Ian Kerner
Tags: #Health & Fitness, #Sexuality, #Men's Health
The Thinking Woman’s Guide
to Pleasuring a Man
my she in
She Comes First
Warning: This book is not recommended
for any woman with a fear of heights.
If you ever happen to find yourself crossing the Capilano River in North Vancouver, Canada, you’ll have two bridges to choose from. The first is definitely not for the faint of heart: A mere five feet wide and 450 feet long, the Capilano Canyon Suspension Bridge is constructed solely of plank and cable and sways perilously in the wind some 250 feet above the turbulent rocky tides—right out of a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s
. Your other choice? A solidly built anchored bridge that sits a mere ten feet above sea level.
In 1974, two well-known psychologists, Arthur Aron and Donald Dutton, used these bridges as the focus of an ingenious experiment—one that sought to explore the mysterious nature of sexual attraction. It’s informally dubbed the Shaky Bridge Study, but I like to refer to it as the If He So Desired Test.
The two-part experiment went something like this. On day one, whenever an unaccompanied man ventured across the shaky bridge, he would find himself stopped midway by a beautiful young woman. She would introduce herself as a psychology researcher and then proceed to ask if he would mind participating in a brief survey.
On day two, the identical routine would be conducted by the same woman on the sturdy bridge.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But there was a little twist: When each of the men completed the survey, the young woman would hand him her phone number and tell him that he was free to call her later that evening for the results…
if he so desired
Unbeknownst to the subjects, the real study was not the answers the men gave on the survey, but what happened afterward. Aron and Dutton set out to examine which of the men gave the pretty psychologist a call and, more importantly,
In other words, they were interested in studying not just what happened
the bridge, but how that affected what happened later. They wanted to examine the rudiments of sexual desire, not merely the in-the-moment cause-and-reaction of talking to a pretty girl, but also how that first interaction evolved into a long-term desire for extended contact. Would the excitement and exhilaration of being on the shaky bridge, versus the more mundane experience of being on the solid bridge, promote romantic attraction?
In technical terms, Aron and Dutton were testing a concept called “misattribution,” also known as excitation transfer theory: Lingering excitement from one situation—say walking across a shaky bridge versus a stable one—could intensify a subsequent emotional state (in this instance, recollection of the encounter with the beautiful “psychologist”). Or, to put it simply: Does adrenaline make the heart grow fonder?
The answer? Indeed, it does.
Not only did Aron and Dutton find that the men on the shaky bridge were more likely than their stable-bridge counterparts to call the woman later for results of the survey, but they were also
far more likely to ask her for a date
We’ll come back to this experiment a little later when we talk about the roles excitement and novelty play in stimulating our brain’s natural “sex wiring,” and I’ll outline my “shaky bridge” approach to great sex. (Don’t worry: It doesn’t involve getting it on while bungee jumping—though that probably wouldn’t hurt, accidents notwithstanding.)
Based on my experience working with couples, it’s my wholehearted conviction that beneath the layers of decorative linens that cover our conjugal beds, there lies a shaky bridge, ready and waiting for high-stakes action. Yet most of us spend our sex lives on the stable, sturdy one—often without realizing it. As your friendly neighborhood sex therapist, I’m here to help you take a monumental leap across the crashing tides to reach that soaring pendulous viaduct of desire.
But before we shake things up, allow me to wax poetic for a moment on The Woman on the Shaky Bridge:
She is Dante’s Beatrice and Gatsby’s Daisy; she is Guinevere, Juliet, Helen, and Eurydice, to name a few. Or, to put it in more contemporary terms, the woman on the shaky bridge is Billy Bob’s Angelina; she’s Tom’s Nicole and Katie all rolled into one; she’s Nick’s Jessica (before the alleged anorexia and cheating), Brad’s Jen, I mean Angelina—okay on second thought I’d better stick with the classics.
You get the point. The woman on the shaky bridge is the stuff that dreams are made of, the gold from which love at first sight is wrought. She’s sexy and exciting—the embodiment of desirability, the essence of allurement.
But believe it or not, the greatest asset of the Woman on the Shaky Bridge is not her beauty or her body; it’s her brain. It’s her knowledge of sexual psychology and her ability to apply it—
it’s knowing which bridge to walk on in the first place.
My goal in these pages is far more ambitious than to provide you with a collection of hot sex tips and techniques. I want to give you more than just a way of a way of
; I want to give you a vision: a way of
Regardless of your looks, body, or age; whether you’re single or married; whether you’re approaching date number three or 3,000, I want nothing less than to make
the woman on the shaky bridge.
He Comes Next
came to me on the road, while I was out spreading the word about
She Comes First
. At every stop on my national book tour, women approached me with questions and comments.
Many were all charged up about the whole
She Comes First
philosophy, but they wanted pointers on how to get their guys to read it without hurting their feelings or pissing them off—a theme I’ll return to later: How to deal with the sexual know-it-all who really doesn’t know a whole lot. Others thanked me for their many fabulous orgasms and wanted to know when they could expect a guide on how to return the favor.
Truth be told, I was a bit surprised by the demand. Certainly, there’s no shortage of how-to’s on the subject. If anything, the overblown focus, pardon the pun, on pleasing men was the reason I decided to write
She Comes First
in the first place, as a means to level the sexual-playing field. But apparently, something was still out of whack. When I asked women what they wanted from a sex book on pleasuring men, in one way or another, all of them said the same thing: “a thinking woman’s guide—a book that doesn’t treat us or our male partners like dummies.”
Over and over again, I was told that sex manuals often “dumbed-down” male sexuality. They reduced the art of male seduction to tricks, smoke and mirrors. Thigh-high stockings, mechanical devices, a signature blow-job technique, or a “spicy” new position was, apparently, all that it took to keep a man slobbering and sexually content. But the truth is that men, just like women, are deeply complex, hard-to-read, and often unfathomable. In reality, our sex lives are anything but easy; they’re rife with subtext, miscommunication, and ambiguity, as well as unspoken wants and guilty desires.
One woman in her early thirties summed it up perfectly: “The cliché that guys think with their dicks or that they have two heads couldn’t be farther from the truth. In the end there’s only
head, and if you really want to understand his penis, you have to get inside his mind first.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Fortunately, guys love to talk [to me] about sex. And I don’t just mean in my office; I mean
. I can’t walk down the street without getting stopped: the UPS man, my super, my upstairs neighbor—hell, I know more about what turns on the guy behind the deli counter at my local grocery store than his own wife does (clearly, this is part of the problem).
One guy in particular, named Charlie, always makes me smile. He’s a salesman for a pharmaceutical company, and we share an office suite, so I occasionally run into him at the coffee machine. With George Clooney looks, Charlie has a sex life that most men would envy. Every time I see him, he leans in close and whispers in hushed, enthusiastic tones: “Doc, last night I had the most
sex of my life. She was
. Can I just tell you—?”
That’s when I have to cut him off and excuse myself. After all, I have a life to live! I have patients, deadlines, and a wife and son—if I indulged every guy who wanted to stop and talk to me about sex, I’d never get anything done.
But once I made the decision to write
He Comes Next
, that’s exactly what I did: I stopped and listened to every guy who wanted to talk to me about sex. In fact, I sought them out: With each city on my national book tour, I met men of all stripes. And every time I sat down with a guy for the first time, I always began with the same lead-in: “Tell me about
the best sex
you ever had.”
And boy did I get an earful. Not only did I hear about the best sex they ever had, but also, more importantly, I heard about the best sex they
had—experiences they always desired and fantasized about but were afraid to share with their partners for fear of offending or seeming weird. I heard the question “am I normal?” so many times that I’m now convinced that when it comes to sex, the
thing normal is that everyone’s different.
To really get to know a guy, you practically have to wake up inside his skin, get inside his head, and know what it feels like to have a penis, with all the fantasies, desires, fears, and anxieties that go along with it. So think of Part I of
He Comes Next
as your own personal
—the closest you’ll ever want to come to waking up in a guy’s skin and knowing what truly makes him tick.
Great sex isn’t about techniques or knowing what works; it’s about knowing how and why it works. From the latest findings on the brain-chemistry of desire to the physiology of snuggling to a review of the three different types of erections all men experience, I’ll take you on a guided tour of his body, brain, and mind that will leave no nook or cranny unexplored.
As for Part II, remember when I warned you that this book wasn’t for women with a fear of heights? As I’m sure you know, I wasn’t talking about literal heights. I’m talking about flying in the Erica Jong sense: Reaching new heights in pleasure, intimacy, and erotic creativity. So, get ready to take a walk out on that shaky bridge and stir things up because in this section we talk about tactics, techniques, and tips.
But let me be clear:
He Comes Next
is not an encyclopedia of sexual positions or a catalog of techniques and tips. I’m not out to give you an all-in-one, blow-by-blow (sorry, I couldn’t resist) reference guide, but rather a clear, concise,
vision of sexual pleasure, one in which each technique forwards the action, and where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (And yes, for all you women who begged me, that vision does, indeed, include a point-by-point description of the perfect blow job.)
But mastering the art of fellatio is just one stop along the path to providing satisfaction. Sexual pleasure goes beyond techniques and tactics. Our sexual identities—and the expression, gratification, and growth of these identities—is fundamental to our overall health and the success of our intimate relationships. If most of us live in a world where the best sex we ever had is the best sex we
had, then it is of little wonder that sexual dissatisfaction is one of the leading causes of divorce.
He Comes Next
is a natural extension of the feminist philosophy of
She Comes First
, one in which I encouraged men to liberate themselves from the “Intercourse-Discourse” and make love with more than just their penises, but with their entire selves.
While a man’s genitals are clearly at the epicenter of his experience of sexual pleasure, they can also serve as an impediment to a more fully embodied sexual experience. The penis is often the focal point of a man’s sexual anxiety, stemming from issues such as size, stamina, and performance: “Am I big enough, am I
big, will I be able to get it up, will I be able to keep it up, what if I get off too soon, what if it takes too long?” And so forth, and so on.
Sex therapists call this condition “spectatoring”—a process in which a person watches his or her own engagement in the sexual event, rather than being fully immersed in the moment itself. Those most afflicted with this tendency will judge and evaluate their performance, even while it’s happening. Some therapists believe that spectatoring is the primary cause of most sexual dysfunction in men. As anthropologist Lionel Tiger wrote in
The Decline of Males,
“Intimacy becomes a performance art.”
Now, I’m not saying that your typical guy “spectates” to the point of dysfunction, but it’s been my observation that most men suffer from it to a varying extent. In the same way a woman may lose an orgasm by fretting over how she looks during sex—whether she’s wet enough, thin enough, too slow to climax, too loud, not loud enough—men’s ability to experience sexual pleasure is similarly impaired by a self-conscious feeling of being watched, especially when the spectator turns out to be their harshest critic: themselves.
Truth be told, male sexual anxiety is on the rise. This has much to do with the proliferation of porn, especially given its easy access through the Internet and its emergence into mainstream pop culture. With sex books on the market, like the Vivid Girls’
How to Have a XXX Sex Life
Porn Star Secrets of Sex
, one of the greatest things you can do for a guy is reassure him that he
have to make love like a porn star to satisfy you. Now, more than ever, women need to take an active role in this mission to liberate men from their own oppressively high, unrealistic standards. That’s because, in addition to porn, the pharmaceutical industry is targeting younger and younger men with erectile stimulants, such as Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis, and bombarding them with marketing messages that reinforce a penis-focused, intercourse-based vision of sex that preys on performance anxieties and breeds spectatoring.
As a recent article in the
New York Times
noted, “Many men take Viagra to offset the pressure they feel to perform perfectly in a hypersexualized age.” Soon it won’t just be a condom in a hopeful teenager’s wallet; it’ll be a condom and little blue pill. (Whenever I lecture at a university, I’m always amazed and disheartened by the show of hands when I ask how many guys in the audience pop Viagra on a regular basis recreationally. It’s not because they need it, they boast proudly, but because it gives them a better hard-on. And isn’t that what women want?!)
But as any woman will attest, just because a guy has a hard-on doesn’t mean he knows what to do with it. And with the “rise” of Viagra, it looks like “hard times” ahead for the female orgasm—unless you set him straight and show him how to put the focus on his erection to bed.
Even though this is a book about pleasuring men, your pleasure remains a fundamental right and an essential part of sex. He may come next, but don’t forget that you should come first and you should come again (and again and again!). Destiny gave you a clitoris for a reason—make that multiple reasons! As best-selling author and zoologist Desmond Morris has written in his homage to the female body,
The Naked Woman
, “Every woman has a beautiful body—beautiful because it is the brilliant end-point of millions of years of evolution. It is loaded with amazing adjustments and subtle refinements that make it the most remarkable organism on the planet.” Faking it is simply not an option. That behavior leads to a vicious cycle of resentment, recrimination, and anger—not the makings of great sex. Your pleasure is vital to his pleasure. It’s not about what you do
him; it’s about what you do
The sex you give is only as good as the sex you get. In that sense,
He Comes Next
is as much about your enjoyment of sex as it is about his. Always remember that the sexiest thing that a woman can do for a man (and herself) is to enjoy honestly and fully.
Feminists of the 1960s and 1970s fought hard to reclaim a woman’s right to sexual pleasure and make feminism synonymous with sexual freedom and equality. Fortunately, many of today’s women were born into the spirit of sexual entitlement and have never known it any other way. Their struggle is not for the right to be sexual, but rather how to use it. Today’s woman has choices, but what she does with them is another matter.
Meanwhile, today’s man is waiting for answers. Faced with independent, sexually liberated women, masculinity is in a state of flux and up for grabs, as it were, which is why the double-punch of porn and Viagra is so persuasive—and dangerous. Says Dr. Derek C. Polonsky, a clinical psychiatrist and sex therapist at Harvard Medical School, “The script that many men follow is one that is tailor-made for increasing anxiety and isolation…. it is often based on the unrealistic portrayal of sexuality in movies, where there is a seamless progression through intensifying states of sexual arousal and breathless nonverbal passion, usually with the male directing the pace and at all times knowing exactly what will please his partner.” But the good news is that now, more than ever, sex-scripts (the ways in which we make love) are ripe for revision, and that’s why women must seize the opportunity to turn attitude into action. It’s your turn to lead.
In the very first episode of
Sex and the City
, Carrie ruminates on whether, in an age when women often enjoy the same income, power, and success as men, they can also enjoy having sex like a man? While my knee-jerk response is yes, on second thought, I believe that today’s woman can do better. Rather than having sex like a man, she can teach her man how to have sex like a woman: how to make it more sensual, more intimate, more open and connected, and, ultimately, more pleasure focused for both men and women than merely ejaculation focused. One question I often ask my female patients is this: If you don’t orgasm, is the sex still enjoyable? Almost all of them say yes, often citing intimacy and affection as their principal reasons for wanting sex. Now, men can and do enjoy affection as well. But for them, the orgasm and the sex are virtually one and the same. (This has its roots in biology, as they seek to spread their seed.) Men are generally goal-oriented, whereas women enjoy all the various parts of the experience, even if they don’t “get off” per se. It’s time to show men how to separate the sensual experience of sex from the one-shot goal of orgasm. That’s the path to real pleasure: not a single technique, but an approach to sexual contentment that inspires men to reach new levels of excitement, awareness, and intimacy.