Jenny Block explains: Why tit-for-tat in the bedroom can be disastrous


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In our household, one girl cooks and the other cleans. One girl preps the appetizers for happy hour and the other one plays bartender to our guests. One girl mows the yard and the other tackles the laundry. In other words, we do our best to keep things equal. But that doesn’t mean they’re the same.
This seems to be the way things go in all of the best relationships I know: A division of responsibilities based on ability and interest. Where that isn’t the case, it’s one of the greatest areas of contention and the greatest causes of resentment.
Which brings me to my point — when it comes to sex, there’s no room for tit-for-tat.
I can only really speak to the girl-on-girl experience here, but the notion certainly applies regardless of gender… or orientation, for that matter. When it comes to what makes a person come, we are all completely different and all exactly the same. In terms of mechanics, orgasm is orgasm no matter who you are. But when it comes to the acts that set those mechanics in motion, we are all wholly unique, which is why it’s all but impossible to have the happiest, healthiest, most satisfying sex life possible if we simply do to our partner exactly what they do to us.
The best sex is the result of having the most frequent and open communication you can muster. Not to get too far afield here, but it warrants mentioning that if you find it challenging to talk to your partner about sex, look into why that is, and work toward resolving the issues at play. Hey, if you’re OK with baring your body to someone, you certainly should be open to talking about the very things you’re doing with that bare body.
What does that look like? It means talking about what you like in bed, about what works for you and what doesn’t, what turns you on and what turns your stomach. I’m not talking about playing air traffic controller or unilateral dictator in bed. I’m talking about playful pillow talk when you slip into bed, both relaxed, both happy, both feeling stress-free and safe. I’m talking about the delicious debrief where you whisper about what you loved and what you might like to dabble with in the future.
And that is precisely how you avoid the predominantly ineffective tit-for-tat approach to sex. She does act A to you, you do act A to her. Then on to act B for you and then for her and so on and so forth. The problem? She might not dig that particular act right at that moment — or at all. And you’d have no way of knowing if you don’t talk about it. You may be doing the totally wrong thing for the totally right reason. Your partner may be too protective of your feelings to say anything about it. Naturally, you repeat the behavior because you didn’t get any complaints.
This can land you in one of two places. Either you’ll have a partner who is not enjoying a particularly satisfying sex life and is fine muddling through what there is, or you have a partner who loses interest in sex — maybe not right away and maybe not completely, but eventually. A recent study was just released about bed death. It was a survey of straight couples and the phenom was rampant. (I have my suspicions as to why.)
That’s the problem with just playing the tit-for-tat game in the bedroom: You lose sight of what really does it for your partner and that’s a very sad state of affairs. If you love someone — hell, if you simply want to have sex with someone — their pleasure should be as important to you as your own. Otherwise, you should go home and masturbate. If you’re in a relationship, this is so, so important to take stock of. If your partner’s pleasure and desires are not important enough to explore and talk about, you shouldn’t be with them. It’s the one difference between best friends and sexual/romantic partners. So, if you don’t have that, what’s the point?
The tit-for-tat debacle also doesn’t take into account that there may be times when all your partner wants is to pleasure you, when pleasuring you is what gives them pleasure. Maybe they want to kiss or be held or have you give them a massage or maybe they aren’t wanting to be touched at all. The only thing that’s important is respecting their desires.
Don’t ever make assumptions when it comes to sex. Talk about it. That can be half the fun any way. You just might be surprised at how much communication and forgetting tit-for-tat will improve the quality (and quantity) of sex you’re having. Mutual pleasure — let that be your guide and you’ll be golden!
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2016.