Casanova, the Italian adventurer was so famous as a womanizer that his name remains synonymous with the art of seduction.
What were the secrets of the world’s greatest lover? Can we make use of them today?
While he lived in a time of open sexual attitudes, he was “never predatory”. He also believed that verbal communication is essential—and that “words of love must be implied, not boldly proclaimed.”
So, men! How do you think you rate as a lover? How did you learn to be a lover? What or who prepared you for this masculine role? Unfortunately, research shows us that men, no matter what else you are, some are generally not skilful lovers!
Although many people think of sex as something that is natural or instinctive, our sexual behaviour is basically a learned phenomenon. It is likely that your approach to sex has been shaped by bits and pieces of learning, and the numerous myths portrayed by the media and society about what men are supposed to be like.
Some men will have been fortunate enough to have challenged the Fantasy Model of sex. You will have discarded the fantasy penis that is always totally full and firm and ready to go (or to stay!). You will also have rejected the notion that women will have multiple orgasms through intercourse - which is not a good preparation for the real world!
Both men and women are taught sexual scripts that can be harmful, making it difficult for either to be honest and enjoy sex. Men have been trained to believe that if they don’t know what a woman wants in bed, it’s a negative statement about their masculinity. However, it doesn’t matter how many women you’ve had sex with or how many books you’ve read, the only way to really know how to please your partner is to hear about her particular needs from her.
Bernie Zilbergeld in his wise and wonderful book called “The New Male Sexuality” provides a range of advice for men to understand their sexuality and to improve their sexual relationship. Underpinning much of what he says is the need for good communication - and this involves both talking and listening to each other.
Women consistently bring two consistent complaints to therapy - that their partners do not listen, and that they do not take enough time over sex. “I just wish he’d kiss me more – it’s the most important connection for me.”
Both men and women need to feel close and connected before sex. However, touch in our culture has been so sexualized that all but the most superficial types of touch are thought to be sexual invitations. As a result, when a man experiences touch that is warm or close or loving, his mind is often on what he hopes will come next, and not on what he is doing now.
Kissing, cuddling, hugging, holding or caressing are thought of by many men as a prelude to sex or intercourse. But a methodical progression through the erogenous zones, more commonly known as ‘foreplay’, does not always meet a woman’s needs.
If you’ve done your learning about sex by viewing erotic or pornographic images, you will notice that this kind of physical affection is either absent, or it’s portrayed as the first step toward sex. It’s seldom seen as anything valuable in its own right. Penetration will be the goal to be achieved as quickly as possible - and ‘foreplay’ is the way to get her ‘ready’ for it.
The secret to pleasurable touching and good sex is to be fully present; to be focused on her, rather than having sex with her. “To know that I am his whole universe when he kisses me is just….bliss!”
It’s also true to say that many women feel confused about giving sexual feedback to their partner, and most worry about hurting their partner’s feelings. “Even when I tell him is the most gentle of ways, he feels criticized. It seems he doesn’t want to learn. What am I supposed to do?”
It helps to remember that sexual styles and preferences rarely match - in fact in most cases mutual learning is necessary. So when your partner tells you that she likes you to touch her like this or that, she’s telling you what she needs for a good sexual experience with you.
Casanova’s style still stands, it seems! Women say that the main requirement of a good lover is that you’re a good listener, and that being good in bed means much more than being competent with touch and sexual exploration.
Being a good lover will mean that you’ll have given up a sense of performance. You will have learned to shift desire away from horniness, to a desire for your partner.
With this connection, you will then be able to offer a “yes” with both your words and your body. It is this “sharing” that separates the men from the boys.
Helen Mounsey, Director of Sex Therapy NZ Christchurch therapist