The Problem With ‘Getting’ Sex


We had met just moments ago. I had been leaning against the wall but now stood up straight and looked her in the eye as we talked. We had a few things in common.

And the first thought that ran through my head was, “I could get her.”

Not “this woman is really interesting and I’d like to get to know her more.” Not “she’s kind of cute and I’d like to maybe take her out.” Not “this is kind of nice and fresh and exciting.”

No, my mind went straight to the possessive perspective and language of sex as attainment, achievement, and conquest.

I’m being honest. I’m not proud of it but at least I recognize it, can identify it, and admit it is wrong.

With all due respect to Darwin, I realize the survival of the species depends on urges and drives like the one I had. And when it comes to dating and wooing and courtship, there is always a pursuit. Even in healthy, long-term relationships, there is still, or should be, active, healthy pursuit of the other person. It’s through everyday acts we show our partners that we’re still interested, that we want them, that their needs are important.

But I can’t stop thinking about that moment. I’ve spent the last several weeks thinking and writing about what it means to be a man, today, in light and in response to #MeToo.

I’ve broadened my comfort level with my writing, posting pieces with honest thoughts and reflections on sex, on talking about it, and on being a better, attentive partner.

Yet there I was, with coarse thoughts racing through my mind mere moments after meeting a woman. It was if I was instantly transported from my thoughtful, intellectual state of being and personhood, back to a base, crude, sex-focused immature younger version of myself.

In that moment, I was someone I did not recognize, nor like or respect.

I don’t want to be too hard on myself. I also want to be able to course correct when it’s warranted. In this piece, I specifically called men out for looking at women as sex objects, for literally gazing upon a woman and not seeing a complex person with thoughts, emotions and a full life story, but as someone with whom to have sex, as a vehicle or channel to fulfill sexual desires.

This attitude of conquest is toxic. It belittles women, degrading them from a human being to an object to attain, and men, stripping us of our ability to share, to connect, to love.

Treating women with the respect they deserve means not looking to conquer them or possess them.

Setting aside role playing scenarios, where we can allow ourselves the freedom to explore different modes of behavior, we must not contort healthy desire and urges into sexual greed that diminishes or ignores the humanity of our sexual partner.

Another confession: I woke up on a recent weekend morning, horny, in the mood. I’m single and not yet dating, still healing after a break-up. “I need to get laid,” I said out loud to an empty bedroom.

I thought about it for a few days. It’s a statement, or sentiment, that I’ve thought to myself I’d guess somewhere north of 5,000 times.

I’m a healthy hot-blooded male. Like all breathing humans, I have needs. These are not needs I can negotiate or wish away — and I don’t want to.

They are intrinsic to my core being as a person, as much as my physicality as my cardiovascular system. There is no separating sexual need and desire from our physical and even psychological existence. It lives within us. To be human means to have sexual needs.

But like cooking and taking myself to the doctor, there are some needs I can handle on my own.

I don’t need another person to fulfill the most basic of those needs. But I do need another person in order to experience a more fuller range of sexual joy and pleasure. I do need another person in order to enjoy the best of what sex has to offer.

But the beauty and magic and power of sex is not something to get. And it’s not something I deserve.

It’s something to long for and hopefully welcome back to my life. It’s something I will earn if I am lucky enough to meet the right person and we agree to engage in a sexual relationship. I’m not talking about the difference between short-term and long-term relationships, or choosing between hook-ups and marriages. In either scenario, I’d need a willing, consenting adult.

What I wish for from men, and really, when I say that, I mean myself, because I’m the only one I can control, is to distance myself from my immature way of thinking about sex, and instead evolve into truly perceiving it as something beautiful and treasured to share with another.

I am not arguing against feeling animalistic, to push down raw cravings for sex. Just the opposite. I’m arguing to embrace those urges and to channel them in a way that fully embraces sex as a mutually beneficial act between two (or more, if that’s your thing) people.

While much of this is dancing around semantics, I think the way we talk about and think about sex — including and especially to ourselves — is hugely impactful to the way we act and behave with others. Words matter.

I want to have sex. I want to get laid.

Sure, they may be figures of speech, but the presence of the possessive in each of those clichés is telling. It frames the act of sex in the mode of attainment.

To say “I could get her” implies I could attain or possess a woman. On a scale, it puts my needs at 100% and her needs at 0%. No good.

To say “I need to get laid” is to again look at sex as something to acquire, like a commodity, and also emphasizes the physical act itself over anything related to what I might gain from sex emotionally and psychologically. And it also ignores the existence of a partner and her physical and emotional needs and desires. Also no good.

Again, I’m not trying to argue away or sugar coat our natural urges. We’ve got them — and we need to act on them.

In the context of a relationship, sometimes sending the explicit text, or engaging in raw, salacious, dirty talk can be super hot and scintillating. That’s because we are, at heart and body, animals, and to act like it, to talk like it, makes a connection between our physical and psychological selves that thrives off that kind of energy.

But I am asking if there is a different way to think and talk about these urges. I want to move away from a self-centered perspective of sex (my needs, my desires, my body) into one, that from the beginning, values, appreciates and elevates — to the point of equality — all that my partner has, wants and stands to gain.

This touches on principles I spoke about in this piece about being a better sexual partner.

By not seeing sex solely as a way to satisfy my own sexual needs, I’m more likely to treat my partner with respect and honesty while tending to her needs as well.

And by incorporating my partner’s needs as a priority during sex, I won’t see my climax as the end of sex. Climax is something for both partners to experience. Of course there are variations here, and each sexual encounter is its own. Perhaps mutual satisfaction is a better, broader phrase for sexual aspiration, as it allows for each individual to define for his or herself what they want that day or in that moment. Orgasm is not the goal, though it can be part of it. Mutual sexual satisfaction is the goal.

I also don’t want to see sex as an accomplishment or a milestone. I want to be able to enjoy it fully with my partner, present in the moment, while being able to relax, to please and to be pleased. Currently, still recovering from a break-up, I don’t think I’m mentally ready to do that kind of sharing, as much as I am anxious to become sexually active again.

There is an irony here, in comparing thinking about sex as a single person without a partner versus thinking about it within the context of a long-term relationship.

When single and dating, having sex can be a milestone. That first time, well, it can be magical, and beautiful, or clumsy and awkward, or all of those things. And then you want it more. It’s a bridge, a demarcation point, between the two of you.

Then, in a long-term relationship, after the honeymoon period is over, sex becomes more of a challenge. Frequency drops. It becomes more routine. Satisfaction withers.

At the time your relationship most needs the continued support of physical and sexual bonding, it becomes more and more difficult to rely on sex to fill that role. Sex never loses its importance, but for some reason, our perceptions and attitudes towards it change.

For men, I fear that some of this is rooted in the lack of conquest in a long-term relationship. It’s a long tail consequence of viewing sex as something to be gained rather than experienced and shared, something that grows and evolves and matures with your partner.

Men (and women) can’t be good sexual partners if we aren’t able to eventually see sex this way. For this we need models of how to view sexuality as we and our relationships grow. Do we have role models for this? How do we learn to sustain a healthy sexual relationship in long-term partnerships? I must admit, this has been a real challenge for me.

But I do know, as I’ve gotten older, and learned (the hard way) and read and done therapy and all that jazz, that my younger, earlier perspectives were childish and naïve — and that I held onto them for far too long.

Now, with #MeToo and conversations about bad sex becoming more common place, the bar for men as friends, colleagues, boyfriends, husbands, partners and lovers has been raised.

I don’t like using language of ‘deserve.’ I don’t know what each person deserves or not. I’d like to think that is reserved for items like access to health care and affordable housing and food.

But if we are going to treat each other with the respect and dignity we do deserve (here, I know, that word is warranted) then perhaps we must change our perspective on sex so that we can meet our partners on equal footing.

Some things are not negotiable. In a relationship, for most of us, that includes good, rewarding, bonding, satisfying, regularly occurring sex (or if not sex, than physical intimacy) for both partners.

That is something worth attaining — and holding onto.

Have any feedback? I can be reached at scottmgilman @ gmail.com.

Previously published on psiloveyou

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