When we grow up within a family, we have a sense of connection to those around us because they have always been there. Children need their parents to feed them, care for them and take an interest in them. When we grow up and love another adult we have to generate that feeling of connection from zero. This is the function of sex in long-term relationships.
A man obtains an emotional reward when a woman accepts his lovemaking. A woman accepts a man as a lover when she is pleased with the man’s efforts elsewhere in the relationship. She feels loving and giving towards him when he demonstrates his love and respect for her by considering her wishes and by admiring her.
A man’s challenge is simply to be with a woman willing to have intercourse. The pleasure she gets from it is very much up to her. Men need to believe that a woman is pleasured through intercourse so that they can continue to offer intercourse and be accepted on a regular basis. They react with huge offense any time that a woman declines the offer so that she feels guilty about not providing for a man’s pleasure regardless of her own.
Men find intercourse tremendously satisfying not only in terms of physical sensation but also in the emotional reassurance it provides. A man feels loved and needed through sex. His performance (erection) and his contribution (ejaculation) is key to the act. He assumes that sex performs the same function for a woman. But also he expects a woman to admire and appreciate his sexual role in intercourse.
He assumes that when a woman is pleased and affectionate with him that she is ‘satisfied’ and that she appreciates his performance. Over time as men have been told that women experience orgasm, men have assumed that this phenomenon must occur during intercourse. They assume this not only because of the pleasure they obtain from intercourse but also because of the significance of intercourse as a reproductive act.
Female orgasm has become synonymous with women’s sexual pleasure with a lover. If a woman seems happy, a man assumes she must have had an orgasm. If she does not orgasm, he assumes that he has failed to please her. He links his need to please her with her responsiveness as if his lovemaking causes her orgasm. This differentiates him from other males.
Any woman who says that she does not have an orgasm from intercourse is assumed to be dysfunctional. Women are supposed to orgasm through intercourse because that is the logical time when they should. It makes no sense to a man that a woman might orgasm at another time other than during intercourse. What would be the point? It’s as if we all have orgasms out of a selfless desire to please a lover. As if orgasm has nothing to do with enjoying our own pleasure.
Intercourse is different because men see themselves as key to the act. They are putting all that effort in and women should appreciate it by enjoying the same pleasure that men do. This belief helps alleviate men from any guilt about feeling selfish about wanting sex when women don’t. It also helps reassure them that they are ‘doing it right’. Men rarely appreciate the effort that a woman puts into sex to make it more arousing for a man by co-operating with intercourse.
A woman is not instantly amenable to intercourse. Her amenability grows over time as she feels more confident of a man’s feelings for her. As she becomes more sure that his feelings may last beyond a one-off opportunity for intercourse, she wants to be even more significant to him. By offering him intercourse she increases her value to him.
This inclination to offer sex is not just generosity on the part of the woman. It is also a selfish behaviour because she knows that by offering sex she will gain more control in the relationship. A woman can be much more sure of a man’s interest in her when a couple has a sexual relationship than when they are just friends. Equally when a woman is in a sexual relationship with a man, she expects much more in return than she would if they had a platonic relationship.
Modern sex myths include the idea that a man can change the way a woman experiences orgasm by using a certain position or thrusting in a certain way. Naturally all these specifics vary from woman to woman so no one can say for sure what they are. Magazines list endless positions for intercourse and presumably couples have fun trying out the ones that appeal. Most couples quickly give up and resume missionary style intercourse. This position involves least work for the woman and gives the man the best position to enjoy thrusting.
Men, remember, feel good as a result of having sex. Women want to feel good before having sex. (Kramer & Dunaway 1994)