There are unspoken rules about having sex with someone. Whether it’s a one-night stand or the second year of a relationship, they’re pretty much the same: Don’t be selfish in bed. Make your partner feel good. Respect their boundaries. These are all pretty self-explanatory. When it comes to orgasms, however, the etiquette seems to be all over the place.
For example, I once dated a guy who couldn’t make me come, through no fault of his own. This was at a point in my life before I’d had my first orgasm, and I thought I just couldn’t. When our conversations turned to my lack of orgasms (as they often did), he focused on how frustrating it was for him. He’d gotten plenty of girls off before, but I was a tougher cookie to crack. Apparently, I made him feel like less of a man and sexually incompetent. Each time he went down on me or we had sex, my mind could focus on nothing else but trying to come. Rather than relaxing and just enjoying the sensations down below, I would get stressed out and find it even harder to get aroused. Needless to say, his little “pep” talks did more harm than good.
I hope I never run into a guy who does the same thing. Although now I don’t have the same troubles, it’s a common issue for a lot of women. Every one in three women has difficulty reaching orgasm, and three in four can’t come from sex alone. What finally worked for me was experimenting with a vibrator and making sure to try by myself when I didn’t have to worry about another person. Once I got comfortable actually having orgasms, it was much easier to train my body to respond to fingers, a tongue and sex itself.
Before my battery-powered orgasmic breakthrough, however, I never faked it. The thought seems silly to me: Why pretend like you’re coming when you’re not? Doing it to stroke your partner’s ego isn’t a good reason at all. It just leads your partner to think they’re getting you off when they’re not, and they’re not very likely to change what they’re doing. It was definitely uncomfortable replying “no” to the question “Did you come?,” but it helped in the long run. Great sex comes in part from honest and clear communication.
I always find it cool when guys operate with a “ladies first” mentality in mind. With heterosexual sex, men get aroused faster than women do, so there’s an issue with timing. Women on average take 20 minutes to reach climax. A man’s orgasm usually means the sex is over, so if the guy gets off first, chances are she won’t.
One of the most vital pieces of information for me is knowing when my male partner is coming. I was once going down on a guy who gave me a “courtesy tap,” thinking I knew what that was. I didn’t. The unexpected orgasm caused a commotion that involved getting come up my nose. I spent the next few days smelling semen. Super fun.
The best way to avoid that, I think, is for guys to verbally communicate that they’re about to come. It may seem weird announcing it in the middle of a blowjob, but whoever’s going down on you might want to know so they can prepare themselves. It’s just good manners.
What totally fails in terms of sex etiquette is when guys get really aggressive about having their partner swallow and push their partner’s head down. Not cool. Not to mention they might hit their partner’s gag reflex and end up with vomit all over them. I’m pretty sure that’s a situation everyone wants to avoid. The spitting versus swallowing debate is one that should be had when both people are capable of speaking, not midejaculation.
There’s also the matter of condom etiquette. In my opinion, guys should always have a condom on hand if they think they’re going to get laid. Yes, their partner should have condoms, regardless of their gender, but it’s always nice to see a guy come prepared (no pun intended). There’s nothing more disappointing than getting hot and bothered with a guy only to find that neither person has a condom.
Last but certainly not least, there’s the matter of the O-face. Most people look a little dorky when they come, but some people’s reactions are just strange. My favorite is the girl from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” who moans in a low monotone and then declares, “I just came.” Her total lack of reaction to her orgasm is hilarious. But really, laughing at someone’s O-face totally undermines the pleasure roller coaster ride they just took.
It feels sort of silly and outdated to talk about etiquette (or even use that word, at the very least), but I do think being mindful of other people during sex makes sense. If it can help prevent someone’s orgasm-trouble shame or a come-up-the-nose debacle, I can rest easy. This way, we spend less time worrying about what we’re doing in bed and more time just doing it.
A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a scene to the film “Wedding Crashers.” In fact, the scene is from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”