If you have a penis and are used to involving it in your erotic life, you might feel like it’s absolutely impossible for you to have sex any other way. Thinking like this can mean that you put extra pressure on yourself to get and maintain a strong erection or to have an orgasm exactly when you want one and not before — pressure that, ironically, can make it harder to do either.
It’s also making you bad in bed.
You may or may not have heard this before, but your penis isn’t the only way, or even the main way, your partner experiences pleasure. If you make sex all about your penis, you’re missing an opportunity to have sex that lasts longer and is more pleasurable for both you and your partner(s).
Heterosexual intercourse, meaning p-in-v penetration, lasts a median of between 5.4 and 7.5 minutes, according to recent research. According to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, women take 14 minutes to orgasm during partnered sex. There is extremely limited data around sex between men who sleep with men, in part due to heterosexist bias.
For female same-sex partners (to use researchers’ language around gender), sex lasts much, much longer, often 30 to 60 minutes or more. There are also more orgasms: 86% of lesbian women report orgasming during sex, while just 65% of heterosexual women do.
What can you take from that? It is possible to have incredible sex, for hours, without an erect penis stealing the show. Learning to have sex without an erection is the secret you need for a better sex life — and it can even cure your erectile dysfunction.
Focusing your attention on all the ways to give and receive pleasure, instead of on one, means that you don’t have to depend on just that one body part. It can make you better and stronger in bed. It can keep you and your partner(s) from getting bored. It can also reduce the impact that anxiety has on your sexual pleasure. Here’s how to do it.
How to Have Sex Without an Erection
Many cis men think that sex consists of a few activities — foreplay, or if you’re lucky, coreplay — that lead to penetration, a few minutes of penis-in-vagina or penis-in-anus penetration, an orgasm, and little else.
This couldn’t be more wrong.
Sex is not prix fixe, it’s a la carte. You can have any part of it in any order as long as you and your partner share enough enthusiasm, time, and lube.
To start, try shifting your thinking around sexual activities like making out, using your hands, using your mouths, and using sex toys. These acts are often considered foreplay, but they’re really a core part of sexual pleasure that you can incorporate in any order, all the way along.
Then, go slow. Desire can be responsive, so building sexual stimulus can help to build arousal.
What is it like to spend 15 minutes making out with your partner, without immediately trying to move on to penetration or even oral? Pay attention to the way their tongue tastes against yours, to how your bodies feel pressed together, to the sound of their breathing changing. Do they respond more to slow, firm kisses, or faster and deeper ones? If your partner starts to usher you to move on, say something like, "Nah ah, I’m not done with you yet” or, “What if we take our time?”
When you’re both ready, there are lots of places you can go.
If you try oral, start slow and build. Imagine that you’re going to spend the next hour going down on your partner. Don’t dive in with a super hard and fast pace that you’d never be able to maintain. Instead, start by teasing their inner thighs and work your way inwards. Pay close attention to how your partner reacts. What motions do they like with what pressure where? There’s so much you can do with your tongue and lips, from soft and flat licks, to harder faster licks and flicks, to soft and firm sucking.
If you’re having a hard time judging feedback, put their hands on your head to guide you, or directly ask them to tell you what’s working for them. Just remember: if they ever say “just like that” or “don’t stop,” keep doing exactly what you’re doing at the same speed and pressure until they tell you otherwise.
You can also ask your partner to masturbate in front of you. This is great for a few reasons: it’s hot, you have a better chance of your partner having an orgasm around you (go you), it’s hot, you get an up-close tour of what kinds of touch they find pleasurable, and it’s hot. If they use or like sex toys, tell them explicitly that you’d love to see them use one of their favorites.
Ask if you can watch up close or if they’d rather be side by side, and if they’d like you to touch other parts of their body or simply watch. Stay focused on them and what they’re doing, regardless of how your penis reacts. Let your partner tell you when they’re ready to stop or to do something else, and make sure to tell them how much you liked watching and how hot they are not only in the moment but later that day.
Finally, use your hands. If you’re not used to using your hands during sex, take some time to prep by trimming them short with no hangnails, rounding and smoothing the edges, and scrubbing under your nails. Using lotion regularly can help your partner crave your touch, but avoid it within half an hour of sex so they don’t have a reaction to your products.
Like with your tongue, don’t dive right into the deep end. Tease your partner to encourage blood flow to their genitals. Drag your fingers or nails up their thigh, stroke them agonizingly close for longer than you think you need to, and then dive in. For using your fingers for penetration, rub an organic scent-free lube over one or two fingers. Stroke their opening, and gently ease in with the pads of your fingers facing towards their stomach. Begin with come-hither motions and go slower than you think you need to. When it feels right, ask if they want another finger and listen to the answer. Just like with oral, if at any point they tell you to not stop, keep doing exactly what you’re doing exactly as you’re doing it until they say otherwise.
Then, try a few different parts of the menu together. Use your mouth and hands at the same time, or use your hands for penetration while they also touch themselves, or use your mouth while they use a sex toy for penetration. There are endless combinations, and endless ways to have sex that take the pressure off your penis and give you and your partner a ton of pleasure.
Chat with a sexuality expert in the Lover app to learn what approach might work for your specific situation.