5 Key Concepts for Great Physical Intimacy
By Aaron Boe
Most people want to have great experiences when it comes to the physical aspect of their relationships and social life. For some reason, however, many of us fail to even seek the information necessary to advance our knowledge in this area of life.
I still remember being on campus toward the end of my college years when it occurred to me that I could actually look for a book and use my ability to read to increase my knowledge in this area. It was a profound revelation. I’m glad the thought finally came to me. I wish I’d done it much earlier.
sav·vy adjective : having or showing perception, comprehension, or shrewdness especially in practical matters
Synonyms: astute, canny, knowing, sharp, smart, expertise, know-how, skills
For some reason, our culture does not do relationship education. And our culture does an awful job providing sex education. As an adult, it is up to you to accept the reality that if the current formal education system is not providing you all of the answers you want for important areas of your life, then you must go out and find them for yourself.
Two quick comments:
The principles of healthy and great physical intimacy are based on how humans work. Therefore, they are the same regardless of gender or sexuality. This article is about the essentials for great physical intimacy, regardless of gender or sexuality.
And the principles discussed here apply to the whole spectrum of the physical aspect of human interaction, whether it’s a massage, kissing or any sexual act. So, whether you’re waiting until you get married to have sex or just waiting until you’re done reading this article, the same concepts apply.
So, let’s look at some of the simple, yet profound concepts that an educated, savvy lover understands and lives by.
A savvy lover knows…
1. It’s an Open Book Test
You can find the answers ahead of time. This is like a take-home exam in which you can use all of the resources at your disposal to find the best answers and optimize your knowledge on this subject.
Trial and error is a bad way to learn.
Too many people learn about relationships and sex through trial and error. This is, in itself, an error. Mark Twain once said, “Those who do not read have no advantage over those who cannot.” I think of this quote when I think of people feeling insecure about their knowledge regarding the sexual aspect of their personal lives, yet do not even take a minute to look up answers online.
If you haven’t looked up answers to your questions online, and if you haven’t made the habit of doing so, then I am happy to suggest that as a habit that can improve the quality of your life.
When I speak on campuses, I sometimes joke that I got my sex education from my buddy who lived down the road, and I knew that he knew what he was talking about because I was only 13 and he was 14, and had an older brother who was 16. I often wonder how many people are in college and have not updated their thinking from the education and influences they received when they were in middle school and high school.
Our culture does an awful job educating young people on sex and relationships, so the educated lover is self-educated. Not by trial and error, but by applying the ability to read what is written by experts.
2. Porn is Not Sex Education
Aside from the debate about the morality of porn, which is something worth discussing but is beyond the scope of this article, there are some minimum things that every person should understand.
One of the problems with porn comes from the messages one might take from it. If a person chooses to view porn and takes the wrong messages from it, it can negatively affect his sexual experiences and those of any partner he might be with.
Porn is not about “how to.”
If you see porn as an educational resource for learning what you are supposed to do, what you’re supposed to be able to do, or what your partner is supposed to like, that could be a costly error. It could unnecessarily create stress and anxiety about trying to “perform” like something you’ve seen in a video, rather than focusing on the other person’s enjoyment and the real human connection with that person.
Your partner is not the person in the video.
If a person concludes that his partner should like or go along with something he saw in porn, but that partner does not feel comfortable doing so, then results could range from a person making a fool of himself and annoying his partner to committing an actual assault.
Unless your partner is actually the exact person who was in the video you saw, and you confirmed that she or he would like to do that with you at this time, don’t think of porn as a script of how things are supposed to be with that person. It will help you avoid some errors and focus on things that actually help physical intimacy.
Your fantasies might not be your partner’s.
If you choose to watch porn it does not mean that a partner is obligated to let you play out any fantasies or turn-ons that you derived from it. Likewise, you are not obligated to engage in any fantasies your partner has that don’t sound fun to you. Suggestions are fine, and even respectful requests can be expressed in open communication, but pressure is not part of healthy physical intimacy. Each person is always free to decline to engage in any act at any time, and that feeling of freedom is part of what creates an environment for healthy and great physical intimacy.
Porn addiction is a real thing with bad consequences.
People overuse the word “addicted.” They say things like, “I’m addicted to these cupcakes.” They’re not addicted to those cupcakes. It is true, however, that some people become addicted to pornography and it creates serious problems of them.
The idea of being addicted to porn seems like a topic that would be easy to joke about, but the consequences can be real. So, if you choose to watch porn it would be a wise move to also check out the effects it can have on brain chemistry and to read about addiction and other negative effects it can have on a person’s sex life.
3. You’re Not Supposed to Know What Your Partner Wants
Too many people make the error of thinking they’re supposed to know “what women want” or “what guys like.” There’s no such thing as what women want, because individuals are different. And people generalize about what men want, and some things might be a pretty safe bet, but each man is a unique individual too.
The Wanted Zone is what matters.
The savvy lover knows that the task at hand is to find The Wanted Zone. If you picture a Venn diagram, where two circles overlap in some parts but not in others, you got it. The Wanted Zone is that area of overlapping wants where both people are 100% comfortable with that exact physical act at that time. Maybe it’s kissing. Maybe it’s something that your mom would be less comfortable hearing about, but it’s 100% freely and mutually wanted, free of pressure or conflict of any kind.
The Wanted Zone can change of course. It can constantly be changing, and maybe sometimes nothing physical is wanted by one or both people. That can be normal too. But the good stuff and the great stuff happens within that zone of mutual 100% wants, where both partners are 100% comfortable with and happy about that act at that time.
“Supposed to” doesn’t exist.
Some people think that they are “supposed to” want to do something sexually just because they are a certain age. Some think they are supposed to engage in a certain sexual act, even if they don’t want to. Some think their partner is supposed to go along with a certain sexual act just because they are a certain age, at a certain point in a relationship, at a special event such as a formal, out of town, hooking up and it’s after 2:00 am, or whatever else people tell themselves from the messages they’ve pieced together from the world around them.
“Supposed to” is not a real thing. It doesn’t exist. It’s an imagined thing because we like to fit into the social world around us, but it’s not real and it doesn’t even make sense. This is your life. And the other person’s life is that person’s life, with all of the basic independent human rights that entails. There is what you feel 100% comfortable doing at that time, what the other person is 100% comfortable doing at the time, and the common wants that exist between you that are 100% mutually wanted.
4. 100% is the Standard
A savvy lover is not interested in doing anything that is not 100% wanted at that time by the other person.
Have some self-respect. Get over “get to let.”
Stop thinking that it would be some great accomplishment if you could “get” the other person to “let” you do something sexually, just because you really want to do it. Have some pride. Have some self-respect that says, “I only want to do what the other person also really wants to do.” Trying to get the other person to let you do something with her or his body is a middle school mentality, and an unhealthy and immature one, even for that age.
The Dancing Analogy
Do you want to dance with someone who doesn’t want to dance with you? Hopefully not. Don’t do that. Have some self-respect and respect for the other person, and have the standard that you only want to do something with another person that is also wanted by that other person.
No sympathy dances. No sympathy kisses. And be above trying to get the other person to give in to some sexual act just because you want to do it. How weird would it be to say, “Will you just let me dance with you for a little bit?” It’s not attractive. That would be weird. Rise above it.
The question is, “Do you want to dance with me?” Personally, I don’t want to dance with someone who isn’t totally excited about the idea of dancing with me. Have self-respect and respect for the other person, and only engage in an act with another person physically that you both want at that time.
“I only want to do what you are also 100% comfortable with. I don’t ever want to do anything physically or sexually that you’re not 100% into also, okay?” Say that to your partner if you haven’t already. Sadly, the other person might be surprised to hear it because not everyone has both the decency and the confidence to express that. Being above pressuring your partner in any way, and expecting anyone who wants to be with you to be above it as well is a basic standard and is essential for good physical intimacy.
What does it even mean to need to apply any pressure whatsoever to try to make something happen? It means that the other person is not 100% comfortable with that act at that time. A savvy lover doesn’t even want to do something that is not 100% wanted at the time because he knows that 100% wanted is what makes things at least good, if not great and wonderful.
Confirming is key.
A savvy lover confirms that the other person wants and likes that act at that time. Guessing is a natural practice. And assuming we know what the other person likes or wants is also a natural tendency. But a savvy lover confirms because that is what ensures it will be a positive, great experience.
Guessing means we don’t know for sure. That’s not good when it comes to something as important as the physical and sexual aspect of your personal life, which includes another person’s body and feelings about what is happening.
The smart practice of confirming doesn’t mean robotically asking every two seconds if the other person is happy, but the mentality and the personal standard of being a confirmer is essential. It’s a critical concept and practice of great physical intimacy. It will improve the quality of even an already great physically intimate relationship. (You’re welcome).
5. There’s a Person There
A savvy lover focuses on the other person. It is helpful for both partners to think of the fact that this is another person they are with. This is a human being here with you.
A clear conscience yields confidence and self-respect.
Treating hooking up like a game should only be done if you see yourself as being on the same team as the other person. Pretending to be more interested than you are just so you can get the other person to be with you physically is playing a game in a win-lose way, and eventually you’ll feel like a loser for doing it.
You could focus mostly on yourself. You could focus mostly on the story you could tell your buddies, or the excitement your own experience, or other things that involve you. But if you’re trying to both experience something great and have the other person experience something great, get the focus beyond yourself. It improves the experience not only for the other person, but also for you.
Whether it’s kissing or any act that is more sexual than kissing, if you’re focusing on the other person, and not just focusing on the other person’s body but also the fact that this is a whole person here with feelings and thoughts, it can heighten your own experience and the loving, caring connection you have with this other person that is a central aspect of healthy and great physical intimacy.
So, a savvy lover knows –
- You must take ownership for increasing your level of knowledge in this area of life.
- Porn is not a good resource (and could be the worst resource) for educating yourself.
- You’re not supposed to know what the other person wants; it’s about figuring out what is 100% mutually wanted between you and this unique other person at this moment in time.
- Pressure has no place in good physical intimacy. Whining isn’t cool. Guilt trips are turn offs and manipulative. And trying again and again to do something the other person is not 100% into means the other person is not 100% into it, or you wouldn’t need to be trying again and again, so get over it and find what is 100% mutually enjoyable.
- Guessing and assuming you know what the other person will like is an error that inhibits your success. Confirming is a key practice of a savvy lover.
- The mentality of wanting to make sure of the other person’s comfort and desire to engage in that act at that time is more important than the exact words you use to achieve it.
- You feel better about yourself and both you and the other person have better experiences when you are above being selfish and you focus not just on the physical body, but also the whole person you are with.
Aaron Boe is the founder of Prevention Culture. He speaks throughout the country, and provides organizations and institutions with innovative curriculum and training to equip individuals for healthy personal relationships and prevent sexual misconduct and abuse in relationships.