How many times have you felt that you wanted to give but been disappointed that the other doesn’t want what you suggest?   How many times have you really received what you truly wanted? Do you know what you want to experience? Do you? Can you really ask? 

It seems there’s so much confusion about  Giving and Receiving.  Examples include; I really want to Give, can I go down on you? Would you like a hug? Here’s a gift for you (so you can join me in my hobby or dress up in something I like).

I’ve talked to many many men who feel they want to Give but their partner has closed down; illness, children, menopause and work are the main reasons offered. 

I then talk to so many women who’ve switched off because it’s the same old thing time after time and they’re bored or feeling the pressure to perform. And also, they don’t know what there is to want, or how to express it.

This misunderstanding about Giving is both subtle and sad, and leads to a heartbreaking ebbing away of enthusiasm and passion on both sides.

What’s wrong?
Often, we offer what we want to receive.  It’s just natural; And also many people think they “Give too much”.  However what’s going on is that we want others to want what we want and then we’re sad and puzzled when they don’t.  

There are so many reasons for this. We could talk about why the prevailing male model of sexuality isn’t working or the influence of porn, or how we all need to learn more skills in sensual touch, or that women don’t speak up or men always have to initiate; the reasons are myriad.

There’s a long pattern of men getting off on women getting off. Ego satisfied, job done.  If that sounds uncomfortably familiar to you, I’m not surprised; it’s the way we’re conditioned and no-one’s been to sex school to learn any different.  Except sex coaches. We’ve been to sex school, and then sex university, so we do have some understanding of alternatives

At heart the solution can be very simple.  It’s all to do with Direct and Indirect Pleasure, and everybody learning to feel more in their own bodies.

Let me explain. 

Direct Pleasure is really enjoying what you’re feeling in your own body.  You notice touch on your skin, all over your body, the feeling of having your hair pulled or your back scratched  and your bottom stroked or squeezed. Can you take your attention there and really enjoy it and notice it?

By contrast,  Indirect Pleasure is trying to please your partner, wondering if they like what you’re doing, guessing what they want and focusing on them, losing awareness of your own body.  It’s feeling pleased or satisfied when you have a nice effect on someone else. They’ve had an orgasm or are groaning, so you can relax and know you’ve done a great job. Ego satisfied, you’re great in bed! So let me say here, there’s a generosity in this, when it’s explicitly agreed and it’s totally great when it works, often at the beginning of a relationship. But after a while it can stop working.

Why? Because you’re only experiencing half the pleasure.  And the danger of relying on this, is that over time the pressure builds to respond to your partner in the way you think you should be, rather than because you really are experiencing lovely feelings and sensations. Over time this switches us all off rather than turns us on. Then we’re into playing pass the parcel with blame.

There’s a way out of this. And leading sex educator Betty Martin has identified it.  

Betty talks of presence and attention as a gift. So we need to be clear: in this moment, who is this pleasure for?  Second, who is taking the action? Third, we also need to distinguish between Willing and Wanting. Being Willing is being genuinely happy to do it for the other person, Wanting is doing it for yourself.  

Back to the scenario we started with: a great way of Giving looks like this-

Giver: I really want to Give.  What would you like to receive Oh Object of my Desire ?

Receiver:  Why thank you… The washing up done and then a shoulder massage.

Giver: Thank you for being clear. I’m willing to give you my time and presence…Where are the marigolds my love? And let’s warm the oil.  

Not quite so ‘sexy’ is it?

In order to Give, the person who’s Receiving has to express something they want.  Then the Giver has to then see if they’re Willing to offer it. Rather than sulk because they didn’t say in that moment what the Giver wanted, the Giver simply says Yes or No to the request. Being Willing rather than Wanting is key here. To put your own preferences aside with an open heart, yet not offer something you don’t want to do, as that way leads resentment. 

An exercise to share with a partner to rebuild trust

Take time to be together, take genital touch and penetrative sex off the menu. Share with each other what you’d like to receive and then the other person can say Yes if they’re actively willing.  Or Ask me another Question if they’re not in that moment.  Do this until you find something that you want to receive and your partner actively wants to give.  

I suggest you start with small requests and for a few minutes only speak and don’t act. It’s brave and can get quite sweet, revealing, erotic and nurturing. Notice what’s happening in your own body and respond from there. Some things to try

I’d like to have my back scratched

I’d like you to kiss the back of my neck

I’d like you to run your fingers slowly across the line between my bottom and thighs

I’d like you to feed me chocolate dessert

I want to feel your hair down my back

Then in the next stage follow up.   Act on the suggestions that both of you are willing to give and wanting to receive.  So make it really clear in this exercise who’s Receiving the gift, ie who the benefit is for and who’s doing the Giving.  

As the Giver simply pay full attention to what you’re being asked to do, no “helpful suggestions” that are motivated by what you’d like. That’s cheating!  You may be surprised how relaxing Giving is when there’s no guesswork or trying to steer someone to your particular end goal. All you have to do is give what’s asked for. You’re not responsible for the effect on your partner. If it’s not working for your partner, it’s their responsibility to say so: try words like ‘would you please go slower’, or ‘a bit softer’ and then respond to these brave requests with a Thank You rather than feeling rejected.  And it’s important that each of do feel free to say No if you don’t want to do it. Don’t be a martyr.  Instead, simply say ‘Ask me another Question. its very trust building to be so honest and a chance to learn a lot about each other. 

As the Receiver, then enjoy truly Receiving, feeling the feeling that at last you’re feeling seen in what you really really want, however simple, however slow, however sexy. This is your time and it’s such a precious gift to receive with no pressure. It’s so courageous to ask for what you really want and a delight for your partner to see you in relaxed pleasure too. There’s a generosity in being both brave and vulnerable.

Alison Pilling

Next time…the fine art of Taking: Part 2. The delicious way of touching another for your benefit. What?  Yes this is the way, without feeling selfish,  you can be truthful about what you want to do to someone else without pretending it’s Giving!  I hope you can’t wait, experience says it’s the real KEY to relaxed connection and pleasure.