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Dec 10 2008

Against Simultaneity

Please note: This piece discusses my personal sex life, in a certain amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read about that stuff, please don’t read this one. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

I’ve written before in this blog against one of our culture’s biggest ideals of sex: the ideal of spontaneity, the ideal that sexual desire should strike both (or all) partners at the same time, and that planning or scheduling sex is a boring, unromantic buzz-kill.

Today, I want to write about another romantic ideal of sex… and how it can fuck sex up.

Simultaneous orgasm
I’m talking about the ideal of simultaneity.

In the standard romantic ideal of sex, sexual desire isn’t the only thing that strikes both partners at the same time. Sexual satisfaction does as well. There isn’t quite the same emphasis on precise simultaneous orgasm as there used to be… but there’s still the idea that both partners should be getting both aroused and satisfied on more or less the same timeline.

And while I have nothing against simultaneity as one sexual option among many, I have huge problems with it as an ideal, a superior model of sexual interaction that somehow promotes intimacy and romance better than any other model.

(I’m going to assume heterosexuality for most of this post, btw. Lesbians and gay men mostly don’t seem to have much of a hang-up about simultaneity, so for this post, I’m not going to worry about them.)

New view of a womans body
My first problem: Women and men tend not to have the same patterns and timetables of arousal and satisfaction. Women generally take longer: to get aroused in the first place, as well as to reach orgasm. We have our compensations, of course, in the form of multiple orgasm — but even that means that we take more time.

So if you’re a hetero couple trying to ride the “arousal and climax” train together, one of two things is likely to happen. The man has to try to rein in his pleasure so he doesn’t arrive before his partner. Or the woman never arrives at all.

Or, in the worst case scenario, both.

And while holding off on climax can certainly increase your own pleasure as well as your partner’s, there’s a point at which it stops being a deliciously prolonged tease that works you up into a frenzy… and starts becoming a chore, a mental exercise that detaches you from your body and your partner and the pleasures of the here and now.

Fuck that noise.

So that’s Problem #1. Problem #2:

Fucking
The ideal of simultaneity is yet another way that penis- in- vagina intercourse is given a privileged, prioritized, “this is what really counts as sex” position in the pantheon of sexual options.

The idealization of simultaneous sexual pleasure is, for the most part, an idealization of intercourse. Sure, variations like sixty-nining are part of the picture. But they’re in the picture as, well, variations. Not as the main attraction.

Ultimate guide to cunnilingus
Look at the way things like oral sex and fingering still get referred to as “foreplay.” As opposed to, oh, say, just for example, “sex.” The idea behind “foreplay” is that the man is supposed to arouse the woman enough for them to engage in “real sex”; enough so that, when they have “real sex,” she’ll be ready, and they can come more or less together.

And I always have a problem with the way that penis- in- vagina intercourse gets treated as The One True Sex. Partly because I’m a dyke in a dyke relationship, who hasn’t had a penis anywhere near her vagina in many years… but largely because it sucks for straight women. (And for bi women involved with men.) Most women can’t come from intercourse alone, and when intercourse gets treated as The One True Sex, women get screwed. And not in a good way. When you prioritize intercourse over all other forms of sex, you’re pretty much automatically making women’s sexual pleasure a lower priority than men’s.

So I’d like to propose a different model. Not to be placed above simultaneity, as a better and superior way to have sex that everyone should follow, but as a totally valid option that counts as Real Sex every bit as much as the simultaneity option.

All i really need to know i learned in kindergarten
It’s a model straight out of the “All I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” ouvre:

Taking turns.

Taking turns kicks ass. Taking turns means you don’t have to try to ride the same train at the same time. Taking turns means you each can help other ride your own trains, at the speed that works best for both of you.

And taking turns has other advantages, too. Taking turns means you don’t have to try to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time. When it’s your turn, you can let yourself wallow luxuriously in excitement and sensation and pleasure, without guilt or distraction; when it’s your partner’s turn, you can drink in their pleasure, focusing your full, undistracted attention on what gets them off… and how hot they are when they’re doing it.

Again, I’m not saying that taking turns is an inherently superior form of sex. It does have a few downsides — patience is definitely a virtue in the “taking turns” model — and simultaneity does have some genuine attractions. I’m just saying: If you’re a hetero couple who’s been unsuccessfully trying to ride the simultaneity train — or if you’ve been successfully riding the train and would simply like some more options, purely for variety’s own sweet sake — you really don’t have to treat it as the perfect sexual ideal of romance and passion. Taking turns can be every bit as romantic, every bit as intimate, every bit as passionate… and every bit as hot.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    drdave

    This is especially true as you get older. My wife and I have rarely done it simultaneously. It is really difficult. Taking turns is much easier, and more fun.

  2. 2
    Marley Fitz

    We’ve been doing the “taking turns” orgasm since we met. It works well for us. Of course, we had to DISCUSS it along the way. Who knew one had to actually communicate wants/needs/desires/technique, etc. lol
    Also, we never ask each other anymore “did you come?”. It doesn’t matter. We are each responsible for our own orgasm. If he gets there first (and I REALLY WANT to get there too), I just don’t encourage him to pull out. He knows my signals because we’ve DISCUSSED them. Again, communication.
    Taking turns does not diminish our satisfaction. In fact, in guarantees our satisfaction….no pressure/no rules = great sex.

  3. 3
    The 327th Male

    Then there’s xkcd’s take on it all.
    There is no such thing as simultaneity. Damned special relativity.

  4. 4
    Betsy

    Mmm… I agree completely. I’ve experienced simultaneity several times and while it’s like, “cool, simultaneous orgasms, we did it!” I also generally completely miss my partner’s orgasm – other than being vaguely aware of it – because I am so intent on my own.
    My husband generally takes care of me first and I love that he loves experiencing it with me. My boyfriend also concentrates on me and seeing his face near mine completely concentrated on me as I come is amazingly sensual! Then, I can concentrate on them, which is equally fabulous, and, I think, more intimate than coming together. If I happen to come a few more times while they’re working towards their one and only, it’s just icing on the cake. :)

  5. 5
    C.S. Lewiston

    Like everyone else who came of age in the mid-1970′s, I saw no end of sensationalistic books and mens’ magazine articles holding up simultaneous orgasm as the new Holy Grail. It’s a shame that that particular obsession hasn’t yet gone the way of leisure suits! Getting a partner off before I take my turn is half the fun (toes curling just thinking about it)!
    I’m more or less in agreement with one of the male characters in the movie “Relax, It’s Just Sex!” who concludes an on-screen monologue about which activities constitute “real sex” thusly: ‘If I cum, and I’m not alone in the room, it’s sex!’

  6. 6
    Valhar2000

    If I cum, and I’m not alone in the room, it’s sex!
    Truer words were never spoken.

  7. 7
    Jim Robinson

    Yay, turns! One issue often overlooked is that many find coming last to be the privileged spot. Getting your partner off first may seam gallant, but it leaves them with (perhaps) a reciprocal obligation when maybe they’d just like to be done. Certainly for my (male) response curve sex becomes a whole lot less fun after I come. One of my answers to that is to take the idea of turns up a notch and have them span days rather than minutes.

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