Good, giving, and game for anything—within reason.
That’s what makes someone a good sex partner. It seems obvious to me. Well, it seems obvious to me now, after reading three decades’ worth of mail from my readers about their sex lives. (Snail mail then, email now.) If you wanna have a good sex life (and not everyone does)—particularly if you wanna have a successful monogamous relationship (and not everyone does)—you need to find a partner who’s good in bed, who takes pleasure in giving pleasure, and who’s game for almost anything. And you’ll have a much easier time attracting someone like that if you’re good, giving, and game yourself.
GOOD. Just as some people can just fucking sing, some people can just fucking fuck. But people with the sexual equivalent of perfect pitch are rare. Most of us have to practice, practice, practice. And getting good at sex often means unlearning a lot of what we’ve been taught. We grow up consuming mainstream movies, television, and porn, and they all make good sex look like something that just happens. We’re led to believe that good sex is effortless and that when two people are right for each other—when two people have chemistry—the sex is naturally going to be good and, coincidentally enough, it’s going to look like the sex we’ve seen in movies, TV, and porn. We’re also told that good sex is spontaneous, not scheduled or premeditated. If you think about it in advance—if you go and, say, get your hands on some birth control or buy duct tape in bulk—you’re going to ruin it.
All of that’s a lie. Unlearning sexual shame and discovering who or what turns you on takes time and conscious effort. You might be attracted to the kinds of people you’re “supposed” to find attractive and into the kinds of sex acts understood to be “normal,” e.g., opposite-sex partners, conventionally beautiful faces/ bodies, intercourse that ends when the person who brought the penis to the party gets off. But odds are better that you won’t fit neatly into that mold. You may be attracted to same-sex partners, you may see beauty where others do not (or have been convinced not to), you may naturally be wired to respond erotically to acts or objects or situations or sounds that other people don’t find arousing.
Even if we accept ourselves and our desires, very few of us arrive at partnered sex with the emotional maturity to communicate about them, particularly if we’re concerned about being judged, shamed, or attacked. And developing the skill set required to pull off more complicated kinks might even require taking a class.
GIVING. Consider the blowjob. They’re called blowjobs, as the old joke goes, because getting someone off with your mouth is work. And while most cocksuckers enjoy sucking dick, a good blowjob involves not just the mouth but both hands—if you don’t want that blowjob to take all night, you gotta work (there’s the w-word again) the balls, shaft, and tits too. Reciprocity is essential and sexual pleasure should be mutual, of course, but a good sex partner sometimes takes pleasure in giving pleasure. And as all good cocksuckers and pussy eaters know, the return doesn’t always have to be immediate. Sometimes you give that blowjob—sometimes you do the work—without getting “yours” at the exact same time or even in the exact same session.
GAME. This is the only “G” that comes with a qualifier. We should be game for anything our partners wanna try—within reason.
If your partner wants to do or try something that isn’t on the list of expected or default sexual activities—kissing, mutual masturbation, oral sex, penetrative sex—you should at least be willing to entertain the idea and, if at all possible, indulge their request.
Being “game for anything … within reason” doesn’t mean you have to do whatever your partner wants, and it doesn’t obligate your partner to do whatever you want. But if a particular sex act or kink is something your partner has been masturbating about for years—and, if it is, it’s central to your partner’s sense of sexual fulfillment, not some trivial thing they can “get out of their system” by doing once—you should be open to considering it.
Once again, considering it ≠ doing it. But you never know: trying something your partner wants to do—trying something your partner needs to do—could awaken a sexual interest you never knew you had. (You meet two kinds of people at big kink events: the people who were always kinky and the people who fell in love with those people and got kinky.)
And going there for a partner—being game—could bring you closer together. And that’s not just my opinion. While I’ve been hammering away at the importance of being GGG forever, the science caught up to me a few years ago. “People who were highly motivated to meet their partner’s sexual needs . . . reported higher levels of daily sexual desire as a result,” writes sex researcher Amy Muise, who has studied couples where one partner stepped outside their sexual comfort zone to meet the other partner’s needs. Research conducted at the University of Arizona and Hanover College found that both halves of couples who made more “sexual transformations,” which Dr. Debby Herbenick of Indiana University described as a “nerdier” way of saying “game for anything,” reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction. (The headline of the piece Herbenick wrote about sexual transformations for Salon? “Science Proves It: Dan Savage Is Right.” I had it stitched on a pillow.)
Since some people tend to get hung up on that last G—since some people incorrectly argue that I advocate doing anything a sex partner asks, even if it’s traumatizing—I’m going to provide a couple of “game” examples. Be warned: I’m gonna get graphic.
If someone you love—or someone you’re merely into—works up the courage to tell you they have a foot fetish, you should be game enough to let that person “worship” your feet, a.k.a. slobber all over your feet the way a “normal” person might slobber all over your tits or cock. If it turns your partner on when you shove your feet in their face, you should be game enough to shove your feet in their face. You may not understand why feet turn your partner on the way tits and cocks and pussies turn other people on, but a thing for feet is easily accommodated. It’s a perfectly reasonable request, a small ask, a need the non-kinkster in the relationship should be game enough to meet. (And be warned: dump the honest foot fetishist and you will marry the dishonest necrophiliac.)
Some kinks, on the other hand, aren’t small asks.
If the person you’re dating opens up to you about their kink and it’s mummification, that is, wrapping their partner from head to foot in cling film and then duct tape, well, that’s a big ask. (The initial layer of cling film is there to prevent the duct tape from ripping every hair on your body out when the duct tape is removed.) While fantasies about bondage are incredibly common—most women (85 percent) and almost as many men (73 percent) have fantasized about being tied up during sex, according to research conducted by Dr. Justin Lehmiller—it would be unreasonable to expect someone who wasn’t into bondage to submit to an intense form of bondage play like mummification—hell, it would be unreasonable to expect someone who was into light bondage to submit to mummification. Some of our kinks can only be indulged by a person who shares them.
Or let’s say you were with someone who wanted to piss on you. If you weren’t into piss, it would be unreasonable of your partner to expect you to do that for them. But I gotta say: there’s a big difference between in you and on you—and there’s a big difference between concentrated morning piss (the piss people think of when the subject of piss play comes up) and well-diluted late evening Bud Light piss (the piss most likely to make an appearance during piss play). After a pitcher or two of beer, piss is just warm water.
In reality, requests for things like mummification or piss play—or flogging or fisting or sounding or ball busting—are far likelier to be made by the person who wants those things done to them than they are by the person who wants to do them. The sub in a mummification or piss play scene is likelier to ask to be wrapped in duct tape or peed on than the Dom—which can tip the scales toward the “within reason” side for some otherwise vanilla folks, even if the thing itself is still a big ask.
If you don’t want to mummify or piss on your partner or let your partner slobber over your feet, instead of telling your partner that being with you—and getting to have all the good things that come with being with you—means never getting to act on these desires, you could allow your partner to get this need met elsewhere. This kind of accommodation instantly makes being with you an even better deal because being with you means they can have their loving, stable, mostly monogamous commitment, and mummification or foot worship or whatever else they’re wired to want too.
©2021 by Dan Savage. Excerpted from Savage Love From A to Z by permission of Sasquatch Books.