Q. My boyfriend doesn’t really kiss during sex. He does during foreplay, but when we start penetrative sex the kissing stops. I love kissing during sex, but he pulls away. I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t want to force him, but I like the connection of kissing.
An extensive body of research has investigated the significance of kissing and virtually all of it concludes that women like kissing more than men do.
Men are happy to participate in tonsil hockey if they think that it will lead to sex, but they rate kissing as “decreasing in importance” over the duration of a relationship.
In a study by Susan Hughes at Albright University and Gordon Gallup at the University of Albany, half of men even admitted that they would have sex with someone without kissing them first.
Kissing is often a precursor to sex, but that is not its primary function. A study of 308 males and 594 females by the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford suggests that women use kissing as a form of mate assessment, selection and retention. It makes sense.
When you think about it, kissing is an important compatibility test. The thought of having to put your tongue in the mouth of someone that you don’t fancy is repulsive, yet the chance of kissing someone to whom you are sexually attracted sends a nipple-tingling, heart-stopping, hair-raising shiver all the way down your spine.
Female participants in the University of Oxford’s study rated kissing as very important — and kissing frequency was also related to longterm relationship satisfaction. Women were also more likely to say that the quality of a first kiss would affect their attraction to a male partner. Hughes arrived at much the same conclusion in her assessment of the kissing behaviours of 1,041 college students.
The women in her study used kissing as a mate assessment device and as a means of initiating, maintaining and monitoring the status of their relationship with a longterm partner. The men? They used it to get sex.
These findings also hold when translated to same-sex couples. At the California School of Professional Psychology, the sexual and affectionate behaviours of 29 heterosexual and 29 lesbian couples who had been together for more than two years were compared.
It was found that heterosexual males wanted sex more often and initiated sex significantly more frequently, whereas lesbians spent more time kissing and expressing affection in non-physical ways.
If women like kissing and men do it as foreplay, your boyfriend’s is easier to explain. However, reading between the lines, I suspect that the real disconnect for you is not the fact that he doesn’t want to lock lips all the way through sex, but the fact that he pulls away during penetration.
It is not the absence of kissing that defines this shift. It is the loss of connection. Once his arousal gets to a certain threshold, he retreats into himself and it is difficult for you not to feel that, at that point, you and your body become a means to an end.
Ultimately, your boyfriend is having sex and you are trying to make love. Although those two terms are used interchangeably, there is a tension between them. One denotes a physical act. The other involves an emotional component.
In longterm relationships, couples instinctively switch between both sexual tempos, depending on each other’s moods, energy levels or need for connection. This is not something that usually requires negotiation because couples who are intimately involved tend to be sensitive to each other’s desires. Your letter suggests that penetration is your boyfriend’s cue to focus on his orgasm and this would imply that you don’t have an easy understanding of each other’s sexual needs.
Young people often find it difficult to discuss sex with their partners, and young women can be particularly reluctant to confront sexual behaviour that feels insensitive because they don’t want to come across as needy or unadventurous. While there is room for every kind of sex in a healthy relationship, the unwritten rule is that it has to be mutually rewarding.
If one person feels, as you seem to, that sex is about facilitating your partner rather then being fully engaged and included in the act yourself, there is something fundamentally wrong with the dynamic. You need to tell your boyfriend how detached you feel from him during penetrative sex.
One conversation may be all it takes to break what is almost certainly a habit that has not been challenged by previous girlfriends. Sex drive may be instinctive, but sexual behaviour is learnt. That means it can also be unlearnt, but only if you are willing teach him how to be a more sensitive lover.
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