Being a sex educator comes with a certain set of expectations. People often assume that I will have a lot of knowledge about sex, that I can and will talk about sex, and that I am open and curious. These are perfectly reasonable to me, and they are all true. But people also assume that it’s ok to ask me very personal questions about my own sexlife. One of the questions that often confounds me is the question -I bet you’re great in bed? Because what does it even mean to be great in bed? 

Being able to communicate clearly about sexuality is one of the most important factors in being good in bed. You need to know about consent; The importance of having consent, how to ask for it, how to give it, and be aware that it can always be withdrawn. You need to know your own boundaries, be able to communicate them to your partner(s), and respect others. It usually makes things easier to have a decent vocabulary when it comes to sexual anatomy and different activities so that you can discuss without having to guess what the other person is talking about. I’ve always been a fan of using the correct words like for example vulva instead of “down there”. 

Communication is both verbal and non-verbal. It’s important to be able to read your partner’s body language as well as talking about sex. If someone turns away from a kiss or freezes, that usually means that they have withdrawn consent, and that you should ask how they are doing. Lingering eye contact, taking a condom from their nightstand or putting your hands on their body and other non-verbal communication, can mean that they want to have sex. It’s still a good idea to get active, verbal consent just to make sure.

Some people have a lot of technical and theoretical knowledge of sexuality. That can certainly be helpful, but it doesn’t mean that they know how to put what they know into practical use. Many people get inspiration from porn. Watching porn is absolutely fine, but it’s crucial to know that what you see there is not a good representation of what most people do. It’s not a good idea to compare yourself to porn, and even if lots of porn actors are doing a certain activity, it’s not mandatory to try it. Some of the messages we get from porn are that you have to stay hard for a really long time, women who have sex with other women have long nails, anal without lube is great. These beliefs are not true, and can even be harmful.

Being great in bed includes being sex positive. Sex positivity includes accepting other peoples identities and preferences and being respectful of them even though they might be different from yours. It’s about knowing that everyone is equal no matter if they have had many partners or none, if they love sex or are asexual, and so on. Being great in bed means no shaming (unless that turns you on, of course).

Compatibility also makes a huge difference. If two people who have vastly different interests decide to have sex, good communication can make up for a lot, but not everything. You can be the best lover someone ever had, but also the worst depending on how well your preferences match. That’s why it’s very useful to discuss what you want to do before having sex, sometimes you may even decide that you are not compatible and shouldn’t have sex. It might seem awkward to talk about what you like at first because sex is such a taboo subject, but I promise you that it gets easier with practice.

Safer sex is key to being great in bed for many reasons. Being open about when you were last tested, for what, and being honest about your results show that you are trustworthy and care about your partner(s). It’s not that important whether you have or have had a sexually transmitted disease or not, but it’s important to be open so that your partner(s) can make an informed choice about how they want to proceed. Sex positive people will know that STI’s are treatable or managable, and are no better or worse than other infectious diseases. They are just more stigmatized because they are associated with sex. Having condoms, lube and other useful things available shows that you are responsible.

Being present in the moment, showing that you appreciate your partner(s) and that you are enjoying yourself is a big plus. Listening to your partner(s) needs and making sure that everyone leaves satisfied is amazing. Reading signals and being able to adjust as well. Especially a lot of women report that feeling safe and developing trust is important for a positive sexual experience.

The last thing I want to mention is the importance of knowing yourself. The chances of being satisfied are much greater if you know what turns you on, and how to ask for it. People like to know and feel that they have pleased their partner(s)! Masturbation is a fantastic way to learn what works for your body so that you can help your partner(s) give you pleasure. There are no mind readers who will just intuitively know how to satisfy you.

Can you not cross off on all of these? That doesn’t mean that you are bad in bed. As long as you can cross off some of the points and are willing to learn, that’s a great start. Feel free to comment on what is most important to you to make someone great in bed.