Rhythms of Marital Lovemaking

   I've looked around the internet a good deal, trying to find an intelligent discussion of what might be called a clear, basic description of "male sexual pleasure." What I mean by this is not attempts to "measure" pleasure or "what men want." What I mean is: how do men "experience" sexual pleasure, from the inside of their minds? And what strikes me about this experience is that it is not merely reducible to "physical" pleasure.

     I need to begin by recalling that there is no one "rhythm" of sex, because we are all so different from each other, and different ourselves at different times and moments.  There are short, passionate, and intense forms of lovemaking, and long, lingering (even "pokey") times of lovemaking, and many other kinds in between. But I do think there are some general patterns, especially in marital lovemaking.

    There is no question that the moment of orgasm is incredibly pleasurable. For those -- what? ten seconds or so -- you just want it to go on and on, because it just feels overwhelmingly wonderful.
   But ten seconds out of half an hour?  There must be a lot more to it than that!
     Ironically, I think that, apart from orgasm, the most physically pleasurable time in sexual intercourse for a husband is the beginning -- both the initial feeling of his wife's body (which ramps up sexual desire very quickly, which is experienced as pleasurable) and the initial leap from excitement to arousal (often centered on the feeling in his penis -- because men are so centered on the feeling of their sexual organ, in a way that women generally aren't). 
     That is why, it seems to me, in a certain sense, after the beginning of the act (the beginning of foreplay), the wife is more or less " in charge" (even if she wouldn't put it this way). She has not entered into the act very deeply yet -- it takes time for most wives to enter into it -- and so she has a greater "distance" or control at that point than men do.
     Once a man is aroused, though, in between the initial rush of sexual desire at the start of conjugal intercourse and the final explosion of pleasure in orgasm, I think men are often not really absorbed in physical pleasure (at least, not as that is commonly understood). During that time -- especially from the moment a wife "gets into it" (a very noticeable, and deeply gratifying, moment) -- he is "in charge" and is psychologically focused on directing their lovemaking, especially giving her pleasure. I'm not saying he's not feeling pleasure during this time -- of course he is -- but that's not the primary way the man is experiencing sex during the middle of the act. What he is primarily experiencing is the elemental satisfaction of leading his wife deeper and deeper into sexual pleasure -- and that is just as much "sexual pleasure" as the more literal kind of physical pleasure.
     People only talk about this occasionally, but I think men naturally envy a woman's capacity for sexual pleasure, which vastly exceeds his own. She can naturally have multiple orgasms (without going through the gyrations of tantric sex or the like), and her pleasure in the extended period after the initial foreplay (before she has gotten into the act deeply) and before orgasm is much lengthier and deeper (she is "out of control" in a mild sense, having voluntarily surrendered herself into her husband's power).  (As one woman sex blogger has said: "When sex is bad, it is better for men than it is for us; when it's average, it's about equal; but when it's good, it's so much better for us that it's ridiculous.")
     When the mythic figure Tiresias (who had been turned into a woman for seven years) said that women had ten parts of sexual pleasure and men only had one, he was on the right path, if you refer simply to the physical side of things. A wife can hit the point where she is taken up into her own pleasure and stay there for quite a long time. A husband, meanwhile, has his own deep pleasure as he "directs" this middle time of lovemaking -- but it is less a “physical” pleasure he experiences during this time than a (non-physical) pleasure of "mastery," the pleasure of overpowering with pleasure the woman he loves.
     (I should point out, for the record: these observations don't mean that a wife "interprets" her sexual experience in a primarily physical way. The natural inclination of a wife is, ironically, to "see" or "experience" it much more in non-physical terms than does her husband -- in terms of unity with her beloved.)
     A husband typically has to back off, in the early stages, when his own pleasure gets intense, if he wants to finish the act where he should -- inside his wife. (I know that most people don't think that anymore, but it is a failure to understand the deep psychology of sex, as well as moral norms governing it, if the man ejaculates anywhere except inside his wife, which is the natural culmination of the act, psychologically as well as physically and morally.)
     And toward the end of the act -- assuming the wife is receptive and the husband has done a good job of leading his wife deeply into the pleasure of the act -- a striking event occurs. At a certain point, a woman may say what a man never says (what he jealously wishes he could say): "no more!" She is simply overcome with pleasure -- and a man has to feel deep satisfaction in that.
     But the point I want to make here, based on these observations, is that it is difficult -- impossible, I suppose -- to draw a line between "physical pleasure" and "psychological satisfaction or pleasure." What is striking is how few people even note the different aspects of male sexual pleasure.

   There is a great deal of common-sense wisdom in this description of marital lovemaking.

MARITAL LOVEMAKING

When To Make Love?
     When should a husband and wife have sex? Sometimes it's obvious: when they both want to and the circumstances are right. But a lot of the time it's not obvious at all: one of them wants it and the other one doesn't.
     It's easy to say that they need to communicate and work it out between them, and that's certainly true. But what should they be saying when they are "communicating" on this topic? How can the one who wants it more communicate this without being overbearing or making his partner feel guilty? And how can the one who wants it less communicate this without being unloving or making her partner feel guilty?
     It's a delicate little dance sometimes. The one who wants sex more has to be preparing his spouse for it in other ways, by creating an atmosphere in which she will be more inclined to engage in it, and to be patient in the meantime. The one who wants sex less has to be preparing herself for engaging in it sooner than she otherwise might, and to be understanding about it.  (My pronouns reflect my belief that it is typically the male who wants and the female who is reluctant, but that if by no means universal, of course.)

  Anyone who thinks there are easy answers to this question is crazy.

Why Make Love?
     Why and when should a husband seek out or pursue having relations with his wife?  "When he feels like it" is a partial answer, but given that some of us would lose our jobs if we followed through on that advice, not to mention driving our wives nuts, more needs to be said.
     It doesn't seem right to say that sexual relations with my wife should be ONLY about responding to a physical need, though physical desire is certainly a fact and responding to it is not bad. It's not "human" to pursue sex only as something physical -- not because what's physical is bad (it's certainly not), but because there's so much more that's good.
     I don't think the answer should be "just for procreation" either. Having sex in order to have children is beautiful -- something many people have lost sight of.  But, as John Paul II pointed out in his book Love and Responsibility, to reduce marital relations to a means to procreation (and nothing else) -- making my wife simply a means to that end -- would be a distortion.  (Note that there's a big difference between saying that "I will make love to my wife without ever deliberately making those relations sterile" and "I will only make love to my wife in order to have children.")
     I think the answer to the question "why make love" must involve the desire to achieve some sort of unity.  Sex is both a means to unity, and a symbol of it -- it “does” it. The unity with my wife should exist at every level of me:  physical, emotional, affective (referring to the will as something that goes beyond emotions -- how we love), and intellectual and spiritual. At its highest level, it is sharing an understanding of and movement toward our ultimate end in life. I know that sounds abstract, and it's certainly not the way most people think of sexual unity, but it flows from common sense reflection on what it means to be a person, a human being.

     One practical implication of this focus on unity is that one very good element of marital lovemaking is speaking.  Speech is one way that we communicate and focus together on the same ideas and goals -- it adds to the sharing that goes on in our lovemaking.
     So, it's good to talk to your wife during sex: about how beautiful she is, about why you love her so much, about what a wonderful mother she is, about how wonderful your children are.  And it's also good to speak out loud your gratitude for the exquisite pleasure you are experiencing in this act -- thanking her, and thanking God for this great gift.
     Needless to say, this doesn't mean that, just as your wife is about to climax, you are running through a list of her virtues. There's a natural rhythm to sex, and the speech is most appropriate at the beginning and the end. But men tend to get into it pretty quickly and often don't want much talking. Women are not that way -- though they, too, will get into it at some point and leave words behind. That doesn't mean that the communication ends -- it's just a shift to touches, and movements, and sounds doing the communicating, as she gets caught up in the unfolding of the act.