The pleasure we get from sex is more complicated than the way we usually think about it. It's not just a sensory experience (though it certainly is that too). As we get older, I think we have a deeper sense of the complexity of what "pleasure" is.
Great marital lovemaking is, . . . well, . . . great. There's really nothing like it. So how much pleasure should we be trying to attain in the act?
I think the answer is simple, but not that helpful: we should aim at "enough."
"Enough" means that there is a natural physical goal in the act (as well as other goals). That goal is 1) climax (for both partners), and 2) more generally, “delight.” So we should aim to engage in an act that is, among other things, pleasurable and physically and psychologically fulfilling. If we achieve that, we've achieved the ordinary physical dimension of the act.
Implicit in this "enough" is: don't worry about how much, at least if you have enough. The problem is that, if you focus on having "more" or "an awful lot" of physical pleasure, you face three problems:
1) it may establish desires that are unachievable, and so create expectations or hopes that will be frustrated, even from a purely physical perspective. Focusing on maximizing the pleasure is likely to lead to some great physical sex sometimes, but it will just as surely lead to a good deal of really disappointing physical sex.
2) The focus on the "more" you want (that you don't have now) may lead you to fail to appreciate what you do have. It is so easy for human beings to take what they have for granted and focus on what they don't have. For example, a husband may be disappointed that his wife is not as intent on having sex frequently as he is, or that she is not as adventurous as you would like her to be, not as interested in variety. But that same wife may be so focused on her love for her husband that she gets caught up into the act very powerfully and finds it very satisfying -- and that is one of the most satisfying pleasures of sex for a man. And she may do this even though her husband is also disappointing to her -- e.g., the quality of his "foretalk" may leave a lot to be desired.
3) it's hard to prevent a dominating desire for “more” physical pleasure from displacing more important parts of the act -- the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual unity, not just the physical. Most importantly, focusing too intently on maximizing the physical will make the sex not only less spiritual, but less human too.
Now, if you or your wife are just plain bored during marital lovemaking, some attention to remedying that makes sense. And especially if your wife is regularly failing to achieve ordinary physical fulfillment in the act – the explosion of pleasure and delight that is orgasm – you definitely ought to do something about it. (And it's usually not that hard to do that.) But if you are both finding sex enjoyable, pleasurable and finally satisfying, then the best thing to do is not to worry overly about the physical side of it.
What is the Most Pleasurable Sex?
What is the “most pleasurable” sex? Actually, it’s a nonsense question. There is no such thing as “perfect” pleasure, since every form of pleasure is partial. It’s like “beauty” in that respect. Who is the “most beautiful” woman in the world? Stupid question. There is no single “most beautiful woman in the world,” because there are so many kinds of beauty: the stunning woman who has an oval face – or a round one; the woman who has a full and voluptuous figure – or a slender, trim figure; the woman who is the gorgeous brunette – or the one who is the exquisite blonde. You might find one woman who is the most beautiful to one particular man at one moment in time – but even then, only for a certain period of time, as he “gets used to” her form of beauty, and other forms of beauty come to have a stronger impact on him, because they are new and different from what he’s used to.
Likewise with pleasure. There are many different ways of achieving sexual pleasure, and what is “best” at one time will not pack the same punch after it is experienced many times. That’s one reason why it is natural to seek variety in our sexual relations, just as we seek variety in other forms of pleasure, like food. The best steak in the world might be our favorite meal, but it won’t be our favorite after we’ve had it every day for a few weeks in a row. However a man and wife make love at a given time – what they find most enticing, delightful, overpowering – it will change, evolve over time.
I don't get it - why is it so difficult to find anyone pointing out this obvious fact about male sexual psychology: the most intense pleasure a man gets in sex is directly related to the amount of pleasure he bestows on his beloved?
Surfing the internet, you'd think that the main thing that determines how pleasurable sex is for a man is what a woman does to him and the intensity of his own orgasm. I just don't think this is true to human experience. Obviously, his own pleasure matters. But I think we get deeper insight when we ask this question: "which is more pleasurable for a husband: having a strong orgasm himself, when his wife is distracted and doesn't feel much -- or having a mild orgasm himself, when his wife "can't take it any more" because her pleasure is so intense? In all honesty, I don't think this is a close call -- the satisfaction of bestowing pleasure on your beloved is just so deep.
Some feminists think that sex -- especially male sex -- is about power. And there's a kernel of truth to that, because the power or capacity to give pleasure is so important to a man. But it doesn't have to mean power as "domination" -- it can also mean power as "service."
There is simply nothing more powerfully pleasurable for a man than to see the woman he loves deeply caught up in, overpowered by, sexual pleasure.
Of course, this fact is double-edged: he can take a selfish satisfaction in his own capacity, or he can be grateful for having been given this power.
But let's at least acknowledge this fact, which gets lost in the maniacal and self-defeating efforts to "maximize pleasure." As is the case with so many aspects of human life: "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." And: "It is better to give than to receive." Sex is no exception. (Though it's even more wonderful that the choice is not usually either/or.)
How Much Pleasure Should We Aim For?
It is not unnatural to be curious about sex, or to want to do it "better." Unfortunately, a lot of men are focused on doing it "better" physically, rather than in more important ways. The "better sex" books aren't going to linger on the shelf too long before getting snapped up these days.
Now, I would not disparage basic knowledge about how to perform the sex act physically. What to do, physically, is obviously part of the marital act. The question is: what is the best way to learn about how to have sex?
I would argue that there is one way of learning about sex that is, far and away, the best way. That is: "trial and error," or "practice," or whatever else you want to call it: it's simply having sex with the wife you love, over a period of decades.
Anecdotal evidence is somewhat limited, but I have to have recourse to my own experience on this question, and, in all honesty, after forty years of making love to my wife -- and having read a very large (much too large) number of books and websites on how to have sex -- I think there is hardly a single thing I do in our lovemaking that I learned in a book. Moreover, I am even more surprised that some of what works for us has never appeared in a single book or article that I have read -- nothing "kinky", but just little details that are a reflection of personal tastes. In fact, if I were asked to describe what we do on paper, I'm not sure I could really do it very well.
The sex advice that is all over the place today seems to assume that there are generic techniques that work with everyone, or almost everyone. There is so little recognition of the uniqueness -- as Karol Wojtyla might say, the "unrepeatability" of -- each marital couple.
One serious danger of relying on "advice" is that the advice comes from men who are talking about different women -- not your wife. The only one who really knows what she likes is you -- that's something you learn over time.
1) Constantly looking for new ways to have sex may lead you to want to do things that she just doesn't want to do, and, in the process, also create an unnecessary dissatisfaction in you.
2) A focus on "techniques" can be a real romance-killer – when she senses you are looking for “it” (pleasure) not “her.”
3) Do you really want to bring other people into your marriage bed as you make love -- the images from books, or videos, or descriptions you have read -- rather than keeping it just between you and her?
I'm not saying that no husband should ever read sexual advice material. Depending on one's spouse, some variety in lovemaking is an ordinary desire, and not wrong, and you can learn things in this aspect of life as well as others. But there is too little recognition of the fact that constant searching for the "latest advice," or the "secret of the best sex," or poring over sex manuals is a) not necessary, and b) can be distorting. There is so much to be said for just doing what comes naturally -- which ordinarily leads to variety and evolution of lovemaking details over time. In the end, being a "self-learner," together with your spouse, is likely to be the best way to go.
Caught Up in One's Own Pleasure
Given the intensity of it, it's not surprising that it is easy for someone to be really caught up in the pleasure of the act, e.g., the foreplay in which the partners prepare each other for sexual union. This excitation (the touches, strokes, kisses) can be so delighted in that, in a sense, you even "give yourself up" to it. You let it take you over, dominate your consciousness. (This is not incompatible with continuing to do things that give pleasure to your spouse, even if that is not the most intense focus of that moment for you.)
As you let yourself indulge in the delight of the moment, however, there is always, at the same time, a desire to push forward, to continue and intensify the pleasure from moment to moment. And there are also moments when the pleasure is less intense and one even feels a pang for more, wishing, for example, that your spouse would do what she is doing a little differently, in a way that gives more pleasure.
This is normal. How could any human being always be doing exactly the right thing, the most pleasurable thing, given that our pleasure is so uniquely ours?
Part of sexual maturity is accepting that nothing -- even truly exquisite moments -- is perfect, recognizing and accepting the natural ebb and flow of pleasure in the act).
The Ambivalence of Sexual Pleasure
Sexual pleasure is almost always a mixture of what delights and what disappoints. The disappointment is "built in", precisely because of the delight. That delight can't always be as much and as consistent as we'd like.
For example: take the case of a wife stroking her husband's penis during foreplay. There will be a succession of various moments during the stroking. In some moments, he will be thinking (or even saying) -- and really meaning it -- "ohhh yes, my love, that is perrrrfffffect," "that is SOOOOO wonderful". But at other moments, he will be thinking (and probably not saying -- he certainly doesn't want his wife to think she is being "graded" on her technique) "oh, I wish she would do 'that', touch me a little more 'there', squeeze me instead of stroke me", or whatever. There will be moments when he has the sense that "this is not quite giving me what I want, what I crave", i.e., those really exquisite moments.
And, even if he had only those moments, he would still be a little disappointed by having to "back off" (have her stop for some moments) in order to prevent the ejaculation that would end it all, for now. The very delight he experiences can't "plateau" indefinitely, and he can only "edge" so much (approach closer to orgasm but then back off). The sexual pleasure is urging him forward, toward completion, and yet, in another sense, he dreads the completion (as powerful and delightful as it is), because he wants it to go on and on.
Sex can never be completely satisfying, because you can never have "enough" pleasure. There is always more to be desired. (This has led some people to say that phyical desire always points beyond itself, to another desire, the only desire that can completely satisfy a person -- God. )