The Male Expectation of Bad Sex

A lot of men aren’t having good sex. Many of them don’t even know it.

Franklin Veaux
5 min readApr 12, 2024
Image: charlesdeluvio

Last weekend, while I was working with Joreth and Eunice on an upcoming episode of the Skeptical Pervert podcast, the conversation veered off in a direction I’ve been chewing on ever since: male expectations around sex.

Men and women have, by and large, grossly unequal experiences of sex: socially (men who have lots of lovers are “studs,” women with many lovers are “sluts”), physically (women bear a disproportionate amount of physical risk from sex: pregnancy, sexual violence, and so on), and even in their expectation of outcome (men are more likely to report a random encounter as physically satisfying, and often have an easier time reaching orgasm).

A lot of this imbalance is rooted in sexism, and we often talk about how sexism disproportionately harms women, but I think sexist ideas about getting it on hurt men, too. One of the ways that can happen is social pressure around sex: men are supposed to want it, supposed to take advantage of any opportunities to have it, and, I think, supposed to enjoy it even if it’s bad sex. Men are supposed to be opportunistic about sex.

In fact, I’ve often heard men say “there’s no such thing as bad sex.” I have literally never heard a single woman say this, but men? Oh yeah. All the damn time.

There is bad sex. Even for men. (As an old friend of mine was fond of saying, “if you think there’s no such thing as bad sex, you probably are bad sex.”)

The thing that got me to thinking along these lines was an event that happened in my sex life many years ago, back when I still lived in Florida, and had only recently started dating my ex-wife.

I came home from work one night to find all the lights low. Curious, I wandered into the bedroom, to find her in bed in a negligee, snuggled in with a female friend of hers. I was barely through the door before my wife dragged me down into the bed and started pulling off my clothes. Yadda yadda yadda, we had an unexpected threesome, me, my wife, and her friend.

Sounds like a Penthouse Letters, right? (Is Penthouse Letters even still a thing? I legit have no idea.)

But here’s the thing:

Her friend wasn’t someone I would have chosen as a lover. I tend, by and large, to decline offers of casual sex because casual sex doesn’t really work for me. And it was quite clear from the beginning that’s all this was: casual sex, no kissing, nothing beyond the grunt-n-thrust of two more or less emotionally uninvolved bodies.

It wasn’t good sex. I mean, yeah, I had an orgasm, she had an orgasm…but the thing that’s lingered, the overall psychic impression it left in me, was that it just…wasn’t fun.

Expectation, Reality, and Performative Sex

I didn’t feel, back then, like I had any call to say no. And it wasn’t just because this woman I was dating had clearly gone through a lot of effort to set this up. No, it was more than that:

What kind of man turns down sex with a willing partner? What kind of man says no to a threesome?

Answer: Me, now. I’m way more likely to say no than I was when I was 22, and way more likely to decide that sex with someone I don’t feel connected to just isn’t worth it. But back then? It happened fast, I was in for the ride the instant I walked through the door, nobody at any point asked me if I was on board with this or not, and I genuinely didn’t feel I should — or could — say no.

And here’s another thing:

When I tell this story to other men, invariably, in-fucking-variably, the response I get is “What do you mean it wasn’t good sex? Are you mental? Your girlfriend arranged for you to have a threesome with another woman and you’re complaining about it? What’s wrong with you??!” (That is, when they don’t simply accuse me of making it up out of whole cloth — I get that a lot too, even about things I consider fairly mundane.)

Which leads me to think that for a lot of men, “good sex” is somehow…I don’t know if “performative” is the right word exactly, but good sex is in the context, not in how enjoyable it was or how you felt about it after.

Was she hot? Then it was good sex. Was it kinky? Then it was good sex. Did you get off? Then it was good sex. A threesome? Dude, that’s the brass ring, the sine qua non of awesome sex. You had a threesome with your girlfriend and another woman, arranged by her? You can’t get any better sex than that!

Whether it was satisfying, whether it met the needs of the people involved, whether it gave you what you want…irrelevant. Your girlfriend set you up with another woman! How jaded do you have to be not to think that’s good sex? Do you know how many men would kill for that experience?

The social construction of male sex is that men want sex, men should be grateful to have sex, and certain forms of sex — including the Holy Grail, sex with two women at once — is the pinnacle of the male sexual expression. The experience of that sex isn’t particularly important, or indeed even particularly relevant.

And I think that’s unfortunate. It means there are likely a lot of men out there having sex that…really isn’t that great, but that they’ve been told to believe is great, because what makes sex great is the display, the spectacle of it, not the experience of it.

But I rarely hear people talk about that, and that’s a damn shame.

I’m way more selective about sex now, and decline opportunities more often than I accept them (something else that often causes people to roll their eyes and say “yeah, sure, whatever, you’re clearly lying,” or in the case of one bloke I encountered on Quora who declared with absolute conviction, “no man anywhere would ever turn down sex”).

I wonder, sometimes, what the world might look like if we lived in a society that recognized men aren’t all cast from the same mold, and encouraged everyone to learn what works for them, and then have, you know, that kind of sex.