Sex Ed for Adults: Let’s Talk Orgasms
Cassandra Corrado teaches lessons you didn't learn in school
In this month’s edition of Sex Ed for Adults, we’re talking all about how to have more pleasurable sexual experiences with your partners.
These three questions are some of the ones that I receive most frequently. We’ve got a lot to cover, so while I’d rarely recommend skipping the warm-up before sex, let’s just jump right in.
Q: “I can orgasm quickly by myself, why can’t I with my partner?”
When students ask me this question, the first thing I ask them is “Have you talked to them about it?” Often, the answer is “no.”
We don’t learn how to talk to our partners about sex — we assume that if they’re right for us, they’ll just know what we like or what will make us feel good. That assumption is wrong.
If you can orgasm quickly on your own, but not with your partner, it’s because you know exactly what you like…and you’re not sharing the knowledge. If the roles were reversed, you’d probably want your partner to tell you what they enjoy in bed, right?
So talk to them about the types of stimulation. Or, better yet, show them. Mutual masturbation is a great way to show each other what you like, plus, it can be sexy as heck.
When you’re having sex, feel free to move their hand, ask to change positions, or ask to bring a toy into the situation. Most importantly, talk about what you want and don’t expect your partner to be a sexual psychic. You’re holding them to an unrealistic standard, and it isn’t fair to either of you.
Often, people worry that talking about their sexual desires will be awkward or will come off as critical. The reality is that while yes, sometimes talking about desire can be uncomfortable (at least until you get more practice), it can be super hot for your partners to learn about what makes you feel good.
Q: “How am I supposed to keep my sex toys clean?”
This is a great question! The short answer is that the cleaning method depends on the toy material and how it’s built.
There are many products on the market to help you keep your toys clean, but you don’t need to invest in expensive sprays, wipes, or cases to keep your toys fresh. Sure, they can be handy if you’re going to keep a travel toy in your car and want to freshen it up before you put it back in its case, but toy cleaning products tend to be overpriced.
If your toy doesn’t have electrical components (like a charging port or a battery container) and is made of 100% silicone, stainless steel, or heavy-duty glass (like borosilicate glass), then you can actually pop it into the dishwasher on the sanitize setting. I wouldn’t recommend putting it in with your actual dishes (#boundaries, but also, you don’t want your toy swimming in food particle-filled water). Skip the dish detergent and just let the hot water do its job.
Another option for non-electrical toys made of silicone is to pop them in a pot of boiling water for three minutes. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then carefully place your silicone toy in. You’ll want to let it continue to boil for three full minutes. Then, use tongs to remove your toy.
The last option is simple, quick, and works for all types of toys. Use a gentle, unscented soap (like Dial Gold or Dr. Bronner’s) to just wash your toy with hot, soapy water. This method is safe for toys made of silicone, stainless steel, glass, and ABS plastic. If your toy has electrical components, make sure not to submerge them, because you might end up harming your toy.
In between uses, store your toys in a closed box or in the case or bag that they came in. Silicone toys are especially prone to attracting lint and animal hair, and keeping them out of the open air (not just in your bedside table) will keep them dust-free. Still, you should always rinse or clean off your toy before you use it. If you share your toy with a partner, consider using a barrier method — like a condom or a dental dam — to protect your toy from each other’s bodily fluids.
Q: “How do I tell my partner that they are bad at some form of a sex act without offending them?”
Being good at something takes practice, active communication, and a willingness to accept feedback. That’s even truer when it comes to sex.
One person may prefer soft and slow stimulation, others might prefer fast and hard. “Good” is subjective, which means that every time we partner up with a new person, we need to have a conversation about what feels good to them and us.
Before you start this conversation, think about how your partner copes with feedback in the non-sexual areas of their life. Do they get defensive? Are they enthusiastic? Do they need some processing time? Their way of receiving non-sexual feedback will likely parallel how they receive sexual feedback, and you may want to adjust your conversation method depending on that.
Second, remember the rule of reciprocity: When you’re talking about sexual pleasure, you shouldn’t just focus on what your partner should or could do differently, but also on what you could improve. You can start this whole process by having a sex conversation date at your favorite park, over a cup of coffee, or while you eat a home-cooked meal. If you’re nervous and want some prompting, suggest that each of you write down the questions that you want to ask each other on slips of paper. Then, throughout your meal, pull a piece of paper and ask the question. You both can answer it and it can help take some of the pressure off the conversation.
You can use some of the tips that I shared in response to the first question, but you can also take the opportunity for some fun (age-appropriate) teacher/student roleplay. It can add an element of fun to the mix while also letting you tell your partner exactly what you want, step by step. Practice makes better (not perfect, just better!) so keep in mind that it will probably take more than one conversation or session in the bedroom for things to be quite where you want them.
It’s important to remember that even if you approach this conversation from a place of wanting to have more pleasurable experiences together, your partner may still feel hurt or self-conscious. But, if after some reflection and processing, they still aren’t willing to implement your feedback, they may not be the sexual partner for you.
About the Author
Cassandra Corrado is an independent sex educator who teaches at colleges and universities across the United States. Formerly a victim advocate, she mostly teaches on topics related to un/healthy relationships, violence prevention, LGBTQ+ health, and sexual pleasure.
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