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The Big O: How do I know if I’m having bad sex?

Where do I get birth control and which one should I get? What does an orgasm feel like? How the hell do you do butt stuff? We answer all these questions in our sex column. Say hello to The Big O.


Q: How do I know if I’m having bad sex?

A: Sex is like pizza – even when it’s bad, it’s good. Except when it’s really bad, in which case, please make it stop. You could be watching Netflix or sleeping instead.


Defining bad sex is challenging because what makes sex good is different from person to person. A lot of what people think is bad sex could be chalked up to inexperience, selfishness, or just plain sexual incompatibility. It also has nothing to nn with the size or tightness of your genitals.

But if you do find yourself whispering “same” to any of the following, you might be having the sexual equivalent of late, cold, cheese-less pizza with pineapples on it.

The idea of having sex with this person doesn’t excite you.

It’s easy to get hot and bothered thinking about a really good fuck, so it’s concerning if the sexy times with your current partner don’t elicit the same reaction.

You are giving more than you are receiving.

Controlling for the subset of the population that genuinely enjoys complete submission and servitude (shoutout to my fellow subs!), most people want sex to be a two-way street. Having a selfish partner means that only one person can be satisfied – like if s/he demands oral but refuses to reciprocate, or if they roll over right after they cum without finishing you off too.

In the moment, you are thinking of literally anything else.

Whether it’s imagining you’re having sex with another person or even just thinking about what groceries you need to buy, focusing on something other than the sex you are currently having with the person you are currently with usually means you’re not having a good time.

You’re faking it – all the time.

Even if everything is going just the way you want it, an orgasm can still elude you. You also might be one of those people that just don’t cum at all. You might also (correctly!) believe that great sex = orgasm. But if you find yourself pretending more often than not, it’s a sign that you’re a) not having the kind of sex that makes you feel good, and b) uncomfortable letting your partner know that the sex may have been less than stellar.

You don’t feel comfortable communicating what you want.

Maybe you have a foot fetish you don’t want him knowing about. Maybe you’re scared she’ll take it personally if you tell her that her blowjob skills could use some work. It’s normal to be terrified to talk about it. But if you feel like you can’t be honest with this person about who you are and what you need, it could be time to find a new partner you can be yourself with.

So you’re having bad sex. Take a moment to mourn and apologize to your body for the suffering you’ve put it through. Done? Okay.

Assuming that you’re not already browsing Tinder for a new fuck buddy, and that you actually want to work it out with your current sexual partner, bad sex is completely 100% fixable with a few simple steps:

Know what you want.

You can’t have better sex if you don’t know what that means for you. So explore! Make three lists: things you definitely want to try, things you would be open to trying, and things that are a hard limit. Watch porn and take note of the things that arouse you. Masturbate a lot. Get to know your body better than anyone else; only then can you show someone else how to get you off.

Talk to your partner.

Most of the time, your partner doesn’t even know they’re doing something wrong. Never tell anyone straight up that they are bad in bed; instead, gently encourage them by saying, “I like it when you [insert sex thing here].” Ask them what their fantasies are, then share yours. It might not sound sexy to tell them what to do – a lot of us have that fantasy of a partner that just knows all your desires – but, done right, it can even be great foreplay.

Show them what you like.

Hands-on instruction is always the most effective. Touch them how you want to be touched. Guide their hand (or their head). Tell them to move slightly to the left or move their tongue in a circle. Be specific. And don’t forget to return the favor in kind when you’re finally having the mindblowing sex you deserve.

Illustrations by Alyana Garong


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