The Requirements for Great Sex

how to have good sex

  1. Good Solid Information
  2. Base it on Pleasure
  3. Good Sex can Flourish
  4. Communication is Key
  5. Focus on Your Pleasure
  6. Appreciate the Differences

1. Accurate information about your own sexuality, your partner's, and about sex itself.

This means getting away from the myths and unrealistic expectations, and being able to learn about your own sexuality and that of your partner.

2. Having or developing an orientation based on pleasure (arousal, love, lust, and fun) rather than performance.

In other words, holding to some version of the definition of good sex, and being willing to work and focus on arousal, excitement, and passion -- the keys to good erotic feelings.

3. Having the kind of relationship in which good sex can flourish.

Whether your relationship lasts for an afternoon or forty years, its dynamics have a significant influence on the quality and quantity of sex. Relationship issues are typically seen as something more important to women than to men --and they certainly are very important to women -- but, as we shall see, they are also crucial to men. A major aspect of having a good relationship is being able to deal with differences of opinion and conflicts quickly and effectively. Sex usually suffers when there is tension, hostility, or distance.

4. Being able to communicate verbally and nonverbally about sex.

Perhaps the most important component of a good relationship is the ability to communicate. Regarding sex, you need to be able to express your wants and don't wants, your questions and concerns, and your pleasure, and you need to be able to listen to and understand what your partner is expressing. You also need the capacity to discus conflicts and problems with your partner and work toward mutually satisfying solutions.


One reason you need to be able to communicate is that sex with another person involves physical coordination of a kind that's rare anywhere else. Let's compare masturbation with partner sex to illustrate this point. Our bodies are the most sophisticated feedback systems ever built. When you touch your own body, the process is automatic, self correcting and extremely efficient. Continuous feedback between your penis, your brain, and your hand allows the brain automatically to move your hand to achieve the results you want.

Now let's consider your partner stimulating your penis with her hand. Suddenly, things are much more complex. Your feedback mechanism still works -- you know to what extent you're getting what you want -- but your friend isn't part of it. To include her in the feedback loop, you must bring into awareness and put into words what by yourself was done without words or awareness. "Move your hand up...too far...down a bit more...that's right, and a little harder...a little faster...that's good...oops, harder now...faster...that's great," and so on. You even have to tell your friend when to stop stimulating, because she may stop sooner than you want or not soon enough.

This is complicated business, and the complications increase with other acts. In oral sex, for instance, you may have to inform your partner that her teeth are hurting you, and that she should apply more or less pressure with her mouth and hand (assuming that she is also using her hand), or that you want her to take more of your penis in her mouth. With a partner, you may want-and she most certainly wants -- certain kinds of stimulation that you ordinarily can't or don't do by yourself (hugging, kissing, expressing feelings orally, and so on). With her, you may also want certain feelings to develop aside from sexual arousal, and their development may require the expression of certain attitudes and behaviors. With masturbation, you can do it or not do it, or start and abruptly change your mind, stop, and do something else. With a partner, you have to inform her of what is happening. And since the two of you won't always be in agreement as to what should or should not be done, there has to be a way of expressing and dealing with the discrepant desires. Partner sex also carries baggage that masturbation usually does not. If you decide not to masturbate today or for the next ten weeks, or if you decide to masturbate every single day, it's unlikely that issues of love, desirability, or adequacy come into play. It's no big deal whatever you do. But with a partner, things are a bit different. Being able to talk, listen, understand, and negotiate are absolutely essential.

5. Being assertive about your own desires and able to focus fully on your own pleasure and also being exquisitely sensitive to your partner and able to give her what she wants.

I know, it sounds like a contradiction, but it really isn't.

Being only self-centered or only sensitive does not work. The man who only goes after what he wants and pays little attention to his partner will end up alone or with a very unhappy partner. The man who focuses solely on his partner's desires will not get what he wants and therefore be unhappy. And his partner may also be dissatisfied because she senses that no matter how sensitive he is to her needs, he's not expressing or fulfilling his own.

In days of old, sex was mainly

an act of male assertiveness. Having an orgasm inside a woman was what he wanted, and it was far from clear what she might want or what he might be able to do for her. Many men didn't think women wanted anything in sex but engaged in it only because they wanted something else that sex could bring -- conception, a steady boyfriend, a happy husband -- or because they had been tricked into it. For men who weren't cads, the main aspect of sensitivity was not harming the woman; in other words, treating her gently and using protection against disease.

The view, of women as nonsexual came under attack in the last century and increasingly in the twentieth century until it was finally accepted that women were indeed sexual creatures. Men should strive not only for their own satisfaction but also for their partners'. Since men were still seen as more sexual than women, and since they had more leeway to gain experience, it was their task to introduce women to the joys of sex.

The research of Kinsey and later Masters and Johnson added influence to this view. Women were capable not only of enjoying sex but also of orgasm, maybe more orgasms than men. Men ought to give them their due. This was an important step forward, but one result is that men felt more pressured to perform because somehow the message was that they had to "give" their partners orgasms. Some men became so focused on ensuring their partners' pleasure that they forgot about their own.

Click to BuyIn "The New Male Sexuality," I hope we are constructing, the satisfaction of both partners is paramount. The man has to assert his own wants and preferences, but also be sensitive to his partner's. It is not his job to give her orgasms, but it is in his interests to understand her desires and to fulfill them to the best of his abilities.

Being assertive and self-focused entails knowing your conditions, going after them, and thoroughly involving yourself in your own pleasure. You want sex now, so you try to interest your partner. You like to kiss this way, so that's what you do. You like to touch her breasts that way, so you do it. You like intercourse in such a position, so that's what you go for. And while doing these things, you're immersed in your sensations and experience, fully present and alive to what is happening. A good lover is assertive in these ways. He knows what he wants, or is willing to find out, and he goes after it without apology or guilt.


But a good lover is also sensitive to his partner's needs. You notice if she doesn't seem interested in exactly what you want or suggests something else, and you're flexible enough to try to combine both of your desires to make for a mutually satisfying experience. And you don't use guilt or other types of coercion to get what you want. A good lover is attentive to his partner's breaths, sounds, and movements and notices what works and doesn't work for her. He also listens carefully when she says what she likes. If she doesn't spontaneously voice her likes and dislikes, he asks. Bad lovers don't ask, don't listen, and don't remember.

A good lover takes the time and energy to use his knowledge to make sure his partner enjoys sex as much as he does. He also knows that sex isn't necessarily over when he's satisfied. Maybe she wants something more. A good lover would not be open to the charge a woman made about her new boyfriend: "He's one of these selfish or unconscious men. When he comes, it's all over. I have to go, 'Knock, knock, can I have a turn, too?'" A good lover is also sensitive enough to not pressure his partner to perform to boost his ego.

It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to be both sensitive and self-absorbed at the same time. The trick is to be able to be both, but at different times. If you want her to go down on you, for instance, ask her to. That's being assertive. But if she says no, accept the no with good grace and find out what else you two can do. If she never wants to stimulate you orally and that kind of stimulation is important to you, talk to her about it and see if something can be worked out. If she wants you to go down on her, listen to her request and do as she wants, say you don't feel like it now, or tell her what your objection is and work something out. If you want her to initiate more, you say so, but you also listen sympathetically if she tells you why this is difficult.

There can be times when sex is mainly for her and others when it's mainly for you. If it's for you, then get into your self-absorbed mode and get exactly what you want. If it's for her, then focus entirely on what she wants.

Of course there are other times when it's mainly for both of you. This requires some shifting back and forth. Perhaps you like to kiss her breasts quite hard but she likes that only, after some softer touching and kissing. So you could do it the way she wants until she's ready for you to do it your way. If she likes slow and gentle intercourse and you prefer it fast and furious, you could do it her way for a while, then your way. Or there can be occasions when intercourse is done her way, other times when it's done your way. Perhaps your favorite intercourse position is from the rear or with you on top. Your partner enjoys these positions but they are not her favorites. Nonetheless, she's happy to use them mainly for your pleasure. She adjusts herself to your pace and tries to give you everything you want. You should accept her gifts and make it as pleasurable as possible for yourself. Perhaps her favorite position is her on top. Now you should accommodate yourself to her rhythm and try to give her everything she wants.

We have already started on the self-centered side by determining your conditions. Now let's deal with how to get them met and how to be assertive in your communications. Sometimes I switch back and forth between the two poles of sexual happiness: assertiveness and sensitivity. I realize it's a bit of a balancing act (both for you as reader and me as writer, as well) for all of us in real life. But it is a balancing act that must be mastered if we are to have truly wonderful sex.

6. Understanding, accepting, and appreciating sex differences.

Perhaps the main reason that being sensitive to your partner is difficult is that she is not only a separate and unique human being, and therefore in some respects not like you, but also because the two of you belong to different cultures.

Of course, one of the greatest attractions women have for us is that they are different. They are small where we are large, soft where we are hard, curvy where we are flat, and they have an orifice where we have a protrusion. But they differ from us in other ways as well, and these differences often drive us crazy, and does the same to them. Since the beginning of time, men and women have been exasperated and frustrated in trying to understand and deal with each other.

Men complain: Why are women so emotional and such nags? Why do they want to talk so much? Why are they so weird about sex? What in God's name do they want? Is there any way to satisfy them? From women come a different set of grievances: Why are men so withholding? Why are they so focused on sex and so unromantic? Why can't they remember a birthday or anniversary? From both men and women come the cry: "Why can't they be more like us!" The common phrase "the war of the sexes" indicates the strength of our feelings.

One could easily get the impression that men and women are totally different, as this man's statement implies: "If the first space visitor arrived from Mars, and was male, I'd have more in common with him than with any woman on Earth." In fact, because we are all humans, we are more similar than different. We all breathe air, sleep, eat, eliminate, use language, think, and feel. If it were possible to quantity everything, we would probably conclude that women and men are 90 percent similar. But it's that remaining 10 percent that causes all the trouble.

Click to BuyEven in something as fundamental as the use of language, there are differences between the typical man and the typical woman. Sex therapist Victor Barbieri sums it up this way: "Men and women use the same words but speak different languages." As Deborah Tannen demonstrated in her You Just Don't Understand, the definitions of even simple terms like talk and conversation depend heavily on whether you are a she or a he. And clearly men and women don't necessarily have the same things in mind when they use words such as relationship, love, sex, and intimacy.


Girls and boys specialize in different areas. Boys learn to achieve and perform in the outside world, while girls get more practice dealing with feelings, communicating, and relating. In addition, males and females come to sex from different perspectives -- girls approaching via love and sensuality, boys more from lust and a desire to prove themselves. While men and women both want love and sex, they have separate styles of love and being sexual.

It is these separate styles that justify thinking of men and women as representing different cultures and that result in no end of misunderstandings, confusion, and conflicts. Here is a common example:

HE: "Everything between us was so tense after our spat on Sunday. I thought if we made love, things would get better."

SHE: "How can we make love? We haven't talked in days."

The differences between the sexes affect our perceptions and understandings of ourselves, our partners, and our relationships and can make us feel bad about all three. It helps enormously to understand and accept these differences. The more you understand and accept your male tendencies, the better and less guilty you'll feel. The more you understand that your partner is acting as she is not because she wants to thwart you, not because she's neurotic, and not necessarily because of anything you've done, but simply because this is the way women tend to be, the better you'll feel both about her and about yourself.

I now turn to some of the main differences between men and women that can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. Please keep in mind that I do not believe and am not saying that one way is better than another. The point is to promote understanding, not to pass judgment. There are, of course, exceptions to every single item. But the existence of an exception, or even many of them, does not necessarily invalidate a rule.

From "The New Male Sexuality" by Bernie Zilbergeld, PhD. Copyright © 1992 by Bernie Zilbergeld. Used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

next: The Secret to Good Sex in Marriage

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 3). The Requirements for Great Sex, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Last Updated: May 2, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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