The etiquette for giving and receiving in bed is something that can quite often become a contentious issue between sexual partners. At the start of this holiday season, Label discusses the sexual expectations of ‘returning the favour’.
The holiday season is the time for giving and for receiving - and I don’t just mean the presents under the tree. When it comes to sexual activity outside of plain old intercourse, particularly oral, there can be a real unspoken code that usually goes something like this: if you receive something sexual, you should probably immediately give the same back. This code has especially entered popular culture as a genre of joke that points out the fact that many (sorry) men may be happy to receive a blow job and call it a night there.
However, this light-hearted joking fails to point out several aspects of sex that often go unsaid. Firstly, I have personally experienced an issue that definitely goes unnoticed in the generally gendered complaint of not receiving something back straight away. Often, when I perform oral sex on my partner, this is because I genuinely want to give them sexual pleasure as a gift without return receipt. I accept that the mechanics of a male body means that they probably won’t be able to become hard again for a while, and so that means I won’t experience any penetrative sex that night.
Actually, for someone who may not be feeling particularly lubricated, or could be on their period, this can be a plus to the whole giving experience! Nevertheless, because of the pervasive jokes about the stereotypical male receiving a blow job and being too ‘selfish’ to give back, I know that my partner implicitly sees strings attached every time I give a blow job. Furthermore, if I ever try to explain that I’m just happy to call it a night afterwards (probably quite pleased with my own performance), he often questions his own oral sex abilities and sees it as a personal attack on his technique.
On the other hand, the pressure to give as soon as you have received can be quite ruinous to some fantastic orgasms. As someone who enjoys oral sex more than anything else, I am sure I am not unique in often feeling pressure when I am receiving something I love to immediately perform something just as good. However, this kind of pressure degrades what could become a very healthy part of a sexual relationship. Of course, sex should always be a two way street, and no person’s sexual pleasure matters more than the other’s. Yet this does not take into account that plain nice part of a sexual relationship, that can just be about giving and receiving an orgasm simply because it feels good.
Whatever happened to simply giving just so you could feel the warm rosy glow of Christmas morning, when you know you have made your loved one happy? What happened to receiving a gift with pure pleasure, and not immediately feeling a sense of guilt or obligation to return something equally as expensive? This holiday season, let’s take a step back. Give and receive, but without the strings attached. Unless of course it’s the glittery, curly string holding the wrapping paper together.