Women don’t expect a pat on the back after sex, whereas men, like peacocks, demand that their prowess be noticed and appreciated, says Suzi Godson.
Q. My boyfriend seems hurt if I don’t compliment him after sex. I find it quite old-fashioned and macho that he needs reassurance.
Surely two people know when they have had a good time without having to congratulate each other every time.
A. Some men do demonstrate a thirst for affirmation when it comes to sex.
Obviously, some of them are simply trying to work out whether they are doing the right thing to please their partners — after all, most people want to be good lovers — but that your man needs to be complimented makes it sound much more self-indulgent.
The cliched postcoital question used to be “how was it for you?” but your boyfriend wants to know how he was.
It is difficult to decide whether that comes from a place of insecurity or self-interest, but either way, I can see how it would soon become irritating.
Gender roles are definitely part of the problem. Sexual behaviour is arguably more heavily influenced by gender roles than any other activity.
Although it is meant to be a mutual and reciprocal experience, mountains of research shows that sex is a form of “gender display”, so men still feel obliged to “initiate” and to “perform”, whereas women are not expected to do anything much at all.
As a result, women don’t expect a pat on the back afterwards, whereas men, like peacocks, demand that their prowess be noticed and appreciated.
No one minds providing a few well-deserved words of appreciation, but this need for a round of applause after sex needs to be nipped in the bud. He may feel that he needs reassurance every time, but there is a limit to how much praise is helpful for anyone.
Encouragement is an important factor in helping to build confidence and self-esteem, but at a certain point it becomes counterproductive.
Praise only motivates when the person being congratulated is actually learning and improving.
When people are congratulated for doing things that they already know how to do, or should be doing anyway, it either diminishes genuine motivation or cultivates dependency.
You don’t say how long you have been together, but if the relationship is relatively new, this problem might resolve as your boyfriend’s confidence grows.
In the early stages of any new relationship, it is very important for people to know that their feelings are beings reciprocated.
Although most couples are able to communicate this information perfectly well using eye contact and smiles, those lacking confidence need more specific verbal iteration. However, as they become more comfortable and their insecurity decreases, their need for constant validation abates.
Even so, you ought to talk (sensitively) to your boyfriend about how his constant requests for positive feedback make you feel.
If his issue is just common insecurity, giving him the emotional reassurance and support that he needs outside the bedroom will likely help him to become more confident in it.
If, however, it turns out to be macho nonsense, the best way to deal with it is to make fun of it.
Gently, but persistently, match every one of his demands for postcoital appreciation with one of your own. He will soon get the hint.
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