Preface: this is mainly aimed at males who seek the intimate company of females; those males seeking the company of other males will probably find the information here useful to some degree, as will females seeking the company of males or females. This writeup doesn't address sex as a commercial transaction, which is a topic best left for another node entirely. It also offers no magic cure for loneliness; even if your needs are simple, finding companionship that satisfies all those needs can be very hard.
Every potential lover is different; some are really different. What many people will find unromantic or unpleasant in some degree (pain, filthy conditions, loud noises, etc.) others will not mind or even enjoy.
Having said that, if you've been frustrated by your lack of companionship (or frustrated by your lack of nookie once you've found companionship), read on.
Making a Connection
Maybe you're looking for your One True Love whom you'll woo and then have sex with only after the wedding bells have rung. Maybe you just want a quickie in the restroom at the bar. Maybe you're just looking for a very friendly friend.
In any case, your first step is to get your potential lover's interest.
Confidence is Sexy
This, I think, is where the myth that "women like jerks, and nice guys finish last" got started. Humans are naturally drawn to other humans who are strong, assured, and competent. How is all that most often conveyed? Through an air of self-confidence: those who are confident smile, make eye contact, and chat easily.
Unfortunately, a lot of men (and women) confuse arrogant boorishness with confidence. And too many young women are inexperienced enough to fall for false bluster and bravado. The shy-but-decent men nearby, who lacked the confidence to approach the woman who is now going home with the loud blusterer, think "Another jerk scores! Nobody wants a nice guy."
The truth is, a whole lot of people like nice guys/gals, and are hugely turned off by loud, obnoxious people (unless the loud, obnoxious people have other qualities that make them an attractive candidate for a one-nighter or brief fling).
(Having said that, there are unfortunately people who were physically, emotionally, or sexually abused during their formative years and consequently have such a rotten self-image that they think they deserve more injury. Deep down, they don't think they deserve a decent person as a lover. They consciously or unconsciously seek out abusive partners. These broken people may be beautiful and interesting on the outside, but inside they're miserable. If you have any concern for them as human beings, the best thing you can do for them is to try to be a friend, not a lover, and get them into counseling.)
A lot of nice guys never make their intentions known, never make a move. Yes, if you make the first move, you make yourself vulnerable to the humiliation of being shot down. This happens to women, too (it's happened to me) and it never feels less than awful: not only have you been rejected as a person, you've probably created an awkward social situation.
But, standing around quietly being nice (and possibly looking aloof and uninterested) when others are out there trying to actively make contact with potential lovers makes it much more likely that you won't meet anyone. True, someone might see you, and have a crush on you, and decide to approach you -- but are you approachable? They don't want to get shot down, either.
I've seen too many acquaintances doing the dance of "Does he/she really like me? I dare not make the first move!" that goes on for weeks or even months -- weeks or months that they could have been schtupping like crazed weasels.
The Wounded Loner/Tortured Artist Routine: I see a fair number of people, mostly males, trying to land lovers with this one. This works to get dates or one night stands only if the loner in question is exceptionally good-looking or is actually an accomplished artist or poet etc. It seldom works at all to get a long-term relationship.
The whole "oh, my life is misery, nobody understands me" act works best in high school and college, because in school one runs into people who are naive enough to think that the WL/TA thing is cool or romantic, and more important that they can cheer the loner up and make his or her life all better. But as these naive would-be saviors date WL/TAs and learn that dealing with them is often frustrating and emotionally unrewarding, they wise up and stop.
Accomplishment is Sexy
Think of the hordes of people who'd love to go out with a famous actor, rock star, or professional athlete. All these stars are masters of their field, and while most of us aren't stars, many of us are particularly good at something, be it writing or music or photography or science or whatever.
People who are good at things like sports or dancing get a double bonus; in addition to being good at a performance, they tend to be very fit, increasing their physical attractiveness.
But if you're lousy at ball but excel at chess, fear not: there are people out there who dig a really good chess player.
The key is finding social circles in which the thing you're good at is respected and valued by others. I, for instance, am a bibliophile.
So I was at a science fiction convention a few years ago, lonely and sad over a recent breakup. A local author was there. We chatted, flirted. There was chemistry. The second day, he approached me with a big, thick, heavy hardback.
"This is a collection of my short stories," he whispered. "It's for you."
He put the gigantic book in my hands. "I hope you enjoy it."
I opened it up; he'd written a fairly hot love poem to me on the inside cover. For bibliophilic me, that experience was a far sexier turn-on than ... well, anything I can think of right now, really. And he totally got the girl; he still has me, in fact.
But if said local author had tried this with a girl he'd spied at, say, the local racetrack, would it have worked? A slim chance perhaps, but it's more likely she'd have looked at him like he had a squid in his mouth.
Caring is Sexy
A certain devil-may-care attitude is sexy for many, sure; it goes back to that whole confidence thing.
There are some potential lovers who are stripped from a Lords of Acid song: they don't give a damn about romance or any warm fuzzies. They just want the hot flash of instant attraction and down and dirty sex with no strings attached afterward. But chances are, these people will care deeply about your appearance: they want to see cool clothes, taut bellies, and buff, gym-toned muscles on the people they meet at the dance club. And if you want to get one of these people in bed, you've got to care about your appearance, too.
There are some potential lovers who disdain fashion as a waste of time. They care about ideas or art or politics, and won't mind your rumpled tee shirt but they'll be listening very carefully to what you say. They want to know that you are passionate about the things they are passionate about, so you've got to speak carefully if you want to take them to bed.
There are many other potential lovers who want to be with people who care about their lovers and the other people around them. And many people instinctively know that if a person doesn't care much about themselves, it's hard to care for anyone else. And so if they see someone who speaks poorly of themselves, doesn't care enough to clean themselves up, or engages in self-destructive behavior, they'll pass right by.
Nobody really wants a careless lover; a careless person can't be bothered to see that their partner's needs -- sexual or emotional or material -- are met.
It's not that hard to come across as a caring person (unless of course you're having to fake it in a big way). You just have to take basic measures in ensuring that you're physically presentable to the people you want to attract: hair clean and combed, clothes clean, teeth brushed, etc. If you're cruising the club scene where appearances rule the night, you'll have to do a lot more in the way of preparation, of course.
And if you find clotheshorsing to be shallow and irritating, the bars weren't for you in the first place: try the library or gourmet market or join special interest groups. For instance, SCA is a pretty good place to meet people if you have any interest in medieval history and don't mind dressing up (as many have observed about the SCA's big annual camping/war event: "If you can't get laid at Pennsic, you can't get laid at all.")
When you strike up a conversation, be confident, but don't dominate it; show interest in the other person. Make them feel wanted and attractive and interesting. The best way to be interesting is to be interested.
Attractiveness is Sexy
This seems obvious: attractive people are, well, attractive. But despite what the movies and Maxim and Cosmopolitan tell us, everyone is not solely attracted to buff, trim twentysomethings with bleached smiles and perfect hair.
In "Desire and DNA: Is Promiscuity Innate?" which appeared in the August 2003 edition of the Washington Post, author Shankar Vedantam writes on recent findings on the biological bases behind attractiveness. He reports that the view of many evolutionary psychologists is that:
Heterosexual men seek women who are young and beautiful because these are viewed as signs of fertility, while heterosexual women seek men who are rich because that helps in raising children.
However, later, he writes:
Other research has contradicted the finding that heterosexual men mainly seek young, beautiful women, while heterosexual women are most drawn to rich men. Last month, Stephen T. Emlen, an evolutionary biologist at Cornell University, reported in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that people basically want partners with qualities they attribute to themselves. Contrary to stereotypes about wealthy Mr. Rights and beautiful Ms. Wonderfuls, he said, attractive people tend to value attractiveness, wealthy people value mates with money, and ambitious types and family-oriented souls tend to gravitate to others like themselves.
The desire for similar mates, Emlen found, was five to six times more powerful than the desire for beautiful or wealthy partners.
Plenty of people (like myself) don't really care what shape or size or color you come in, as long as they find the gray matter between your ears attractive.
A shallow or unpleasant personality can completely trump a beautiful body; as a friend of mine put it, "You can't have sex all the time; eventually you're going to have to have a conversation."
Conversely, a person who has an engaging personality can overcome less attractive physical traits.
Just as getting a decent haircut, going to the gym, and wearing flattering clothes can improve your physical attractiveness, there are a few fairly easy things to do to improve how you come across personality-wise.
First of all, smile and make eye contact (it even works at goth clubs!) If you're very shy, or simply not accustomed to making conversation, get some practice talking to strangers -- try taking a drama or speech class or join Toastmasters. If small-talk just plain baffles you, try reading The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense; this book does a good job of breaking human communication down into language us geeks can grok. The important thing is to avoid being dismissed as too shy or dull to keep a potential lovers' interest.
Think of who you'd like to date, and try to express those positive qualities you value in yourself and in others. For instance, would you rather spend time with someone close-minded and hyper-critical, or someone open and positive? Most people would vote for the positive and open, but I see too many people coming off as just the opposite.
Geeks, in particular, tend to think it's cool to bash movies and music they disdain. Picture a party conversation in which a girl expresses a fondness for Pearl Jam. The guy she's talking to starts going on about how Pearl Jam was far inferior to Mother Love Bone and that Eddie Vedder has been a huge sellout. He thinks that he's coming off as discerning and intelligent; she, after listening to him trash music she enjoys, thinks he's a negative buzzkill.
Another scenario happened to a lesbian acquaintance of mine (who I'll call "Jane") who recently went out on a second date. The new woman looked pretty hot, she said, but all during dinner she kept making "helpful" comments: "Oh, honey, you'd look so much better if you'd just color the gray in your hair!" "You shouldn't wear yellow; that's just not your color." By the end of the evening, Jane was hugely turned off and went home alone, despite the woman's suggestion they go back to her place. If her date had only just been pleasantly quiet, Jane very likely would have gone home with her.
In short: don't criticize or lecture people or trash their favorite things and expect them to fall madly in bed with you. By all means, have opinions about things; few people aside from dominatrixes and those with inhumanly inflated egos find a passive, no-mind-of-their-own "yes" person to be especially sexy. But being pedantic, argumentative, overbearing, or just plain rude won't get you to the bedroom door.
Another factor is the tendency of people who are in the same range of physical attractiveness to date each other. While there are certainly cases where physical beauty or the lack thereof is trumped by other factors -- witness toadlike rock stars with beautiful trophy wives -- in general this rule holds true.
Women tend to view their own personal attractiveness more critically than men. I've noticed some men who have a significant double standard when it comes to appearance, and as a consequence they don't get many dates.
I know a fellow who is good-looking and intelligent and, when he's not in Wounded Loner mode, fun to be around. He seldom gets dates. Why? He is extremely critical of women's appearance, and refuses to consider a woman unless she looks like she stepped from the pages of a magazine. The hyper-beautiful women he seeks are likely to judge men on the basis of their looks -- and he comes up short.
By all means, try to get lovers you find physically attractive. But there's reality. If you think nothing of showing up for a date wearing rumpled, worn clothes, but you expect your lover to be dressed to the nines -- it's probably time to rethink your attitudes. If you want a lover to be forgiving of your flaws, you must be prepared to be forgiving of theirs.
Making the Sign of the Beast With Two Backs
Now you've made a connection. Maybe you've made a wedding date, a dinner date, or you've gotten Mr./Ms. Right Now to your car and are headed back to the ranch for a little sheet rustling. You're home free, right?
Wrong. Lots can go awry to kill your partner's sex drive dead.
The importance of understanding fear
A nontrivial number of people -- but especially young women -- are conflicted about sex. They want it ... but they're afraid. If they don't know you well, they may fear that you might harm or rob them. They may be afraid of STDs or pregnancy. They may be afraid of being mocked and/or the subject of cruel rumors if they don't perform well. They may be afraid of being considered promiscuous, or of committing a sin. They may fear that sex will be painful or unpleasant. They may have been the victim of rape or molestation (see How to make love to a victim of sexual assault for advice on this difficult situation).
You, too, should be concerned about sexually-transmitted diseases and (if you're heterosexual) pregnancy, especially if you're with someone new. Talking about contraception/condoms always seems a bit awkward, but it's necessary, and it will help to allay fears all around. The subject will go much more smoothly if you're prepared and have condoms/spermicides ready at hand (consider keeping polyurethane condoms around since increasing numbers of people have latex allergies).
Some potential lovers will drown their fears in alcohol or drugs. Having a drunk/high date is advantageous in that their inhibitions are lowered and they will care much less about the environment you take them to for sex. However, intoxicated people can throw up in your car, be destructively clumsy, or have potentially-violent mood swings. They don't make terribly adept sex partners. Significantly intoxicated people are legally unable to give consent to sex -- which can result in charges of sexual assault. Really significantly intoxicated people might need a trip to the ER; overdose isn't sexy.
Sober lovers are better, yes? Isn't it sexier to know that they're attracted to you, rather than to some hormone-fueled alcoholic imagination that you roughly conform to?
So, you will have to account for the fact that your intended lover might be nervous and conflicted about sex. The first thing is to reassure them if they voice concerns. Be friendly and supportive, not judgmental and impatient. If a potential lover becomes fearful, experiences pain, or otherwise changes his/or her mind about having sex while you're in the middle of fooling around, stop and talk to them.
Let me repeat that bit: if your partner asks you to stop, stop. If you're so carried away by your sex drive you feel you must continue or you're going to explode, excuse yourself as best you can, and go finish yourself off. The weak excuse of "I just couldn't stop myself" won't hold up in a court of law if you get charged with sexual assault; if a meteorite came crashing through the ceiling while you were in the throes of ecstasy, you'd manage to get the hell out of there before the room burned down, right? Right. So don't ever, ever ignore a request to stop or force someone into continuing sex when they don't want to.
Because, at best, if you badger someone into having what is for them an unpleasant sexual experience, that will likely be the last experience you have with him or her.
And while some might prefer sex with no long-term commitment, leaving behind a string of hurt, dissatisfied lovers is very likely to damage your chances of hooking up with new prospects. If you don't have the emotional depth to actually care about other people's welfare, you should care enough about getting laid to try to minimize rumors of your being an unpleasant or sleazy person.
Creating a good environment for sex
Enviroment issues are far more important than many people realize; they can derail sex in a long-term relationship as easily as they can stop a one-nighter in its tracks.
This isn't to say that you have to put on the Barry White and sprinkle rose petals throughout your apartment; after all, what comes off as swooningly romantic to one potential lover might seem ridiculously cheesy to another. And sometimes sex is an unexpected event, so how could you possibly prepare?
Simple: keep your place reasonably clean, at least minimally stocked, and available for sex. The idea is that the place is comfortable for your partner and free of unpleasant distractions. It's not that hard to make sure you've got:
- a clean bed or couch or other comfortable surface
- potentially-alarming personal items like hardcore porn out of view
- privacy from strangers, roommates, children, and inquisitive pets
- condoms and lube in your bedside table
- toilet paper and clean towels in a non-horrifying bathroom
And yet I've seen a lot of people who don't keep their places even minimally fit for company. It's hard for a lover to keep up a good lust-on when you have to stop to clear months of unsorted laundry off the bed. It's hard for them to stay in the mood when they go into the bathroom to pee and get grossed out by a filthy, soapless sink and a toilet seat spattered with dried urine or streaked with brown crusts.
More detailed advice on the topic can be found in Hints for bachelors expecting a visit from an intimate lady friend.
Being good at sex
A comedian I saw at a club a few years back had a joke that went something like this. "I'm really lousy in bed. But by the time a girl figures this out, hey, too late, 'cause I've already come!"
Unless you're some sort of celebrity, it's a lot of work to have to find a new partner every time you want to have sex, so retaining lovers will vastly improve your chances of having a satisfying sex life. And thus it seems pretty obvious that a major factor in retaining any sexual partner is to be able to satisfy his or her sexual needs.
The main key to being a good lover is to be relaxed and to be attentive to cues you get from your partner. Imagination and improvisation don't hurt, either.
One of the most famous lines from "Revenge of the Nerds" happens after nerd hero Lewis successfully seduces pretty sorority girl Betty. After she expresses amazement at how good he was in bed, he replies, "Jocks only think about sports, nerds only think about sex".
There's a germ of truth in that line. Many people who falter in the early social stages of finding a partner do a bang-up job when it comes time to shed clothes and inhibitions and get busy. Why? Pent-up hormones aside, many bookish, reserved kids go beyond the typical teen fascination with porn (which can lead to some serious misconceptions about what real people look like and what they do in bed) and eagerly devour the information in whatever sex manuals they can lay their hands on.
While there's no substitute for learning to make love with the partner of your choice, book knowledge can serve you very well when it comes to sex.
So, here are a few books you might want to check out:
- The Kama Sutra. A classic; the religious aspects and language may be offputting for some, though.
- The Joy of Sex series by Alex Comfort. The writing is a bit stuffy and overly important and very 70s, but these books cover the bases well.
- Sexual Solutions by Michael Castleman. This book is aimed at men, but is worth a read by either gender.
The above books are mainly good for regular "vanilla" sex. Those who seek BDSM partners have a much more complex set of social and sexual skills to learn and all that is rather beyond the scope of this writeup.
There's lot of sexual advice here on E2; those interested should check out the following nodes:
Reference: "Desire and DNA: Is Promiscuity Innate?" by Shankar Vedantam. Washington Post, August 1, 2003. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10691-2003Jul31.html. I am quoting less than 10% of his text, which is factual, so I believe my use here to be fair use.