Is This A Huge Relationship Deal Breaker?

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
In a new mini-series, we're exploring relationship myths perpetuated by rom-coms and fairytales, with help from therapist and relationship coach Esther Perel. Yesterday, we discussed whether or not honesty is the best policy. Today: How bad is bad sex?

Q: Should bad sex be a deal breaker?

A: Let’s first clarify that there’s a difference between bad sex and sexual incompatibility. “If you have a fundamental lack of attraction to the person, you don’t like the way the person smells, that can be a problem,” Perel says. But if you don’t like the way they kiss or the way they touch you, that’s fixable. “You just have to tell people what you like and don’t like,” Perel says. “If you cook something, and I don’t like it, I say, ‘Put more salt, less milk.'”

Turns out, quite a few people, especially women, aren’t always having the best sex. According to the most recent National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, only 64% of women reported having an orgasm in their most recent sexual event, even though 85% of men claimed their partner did. Another study analyzing data from Singles in America found that women reported climaxing 62.9% of the time, while men reached orgasm 85.1% of the time. (Of course, great sex doesn't require orgasm from either party, but orgasm is a pretty good indicator of sexual satisfaction.)

“The vast majority of people don’t have good sex because they are sexually ignorant. They know very very little about sex,” Perel says. “Women go for years without orgasms, or it hurts, or it’s dry, and they don’t know their own anatomy or they don’t touch themselves. And men have watched way too much porn and don’t know how to touch their partner. All the bright people will read about everything else to educate themselves about anything else, but they never read about educating themselves sexually.”

So if you’re having bad sex with an otherwise hot catch, maybe it’s not just them — it’s also you. “Good sex is more self-knowledge than anything else,” Perel says. “People don’t know their own body and what they like. They know what they don’t like, but they can’t tell you what they like, what they want.”

Once you figure that out, talk about it. “Sexual communication is one of the most difficult things to do,” Perel says. “It’s about giving, taking, asking, refusing, sharing, and receiving, and that’s real communication.”
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