Boundless energy, an indomitable erection, the briefest of refractory periods and an ability to convincingly reenact a veritable porn-ucopia of positions and tricks cribbed from the internet. If these were the main ingredients of great sex, then younger guys and their partners would be having all the great sex.
But they’re not. In fact, while many men are at their genital prime in their late teens and early 20s, their powers are often undercut by insecurity, impulsiveness, and inexperience, according to marriage and family therapist Paul Hokemeyer. “It’s counter-intuitive, but for men, sexual prowess improves with age,” he says. “This is because, over time, men become more grounded in their place in the world—and the bedroom.”
So what’s underpinning a more mature man’s sexual prowess? Well, according to Hokemeyer and other experts we spoke with, a lot of it boils down to having the three Cs—competence, confidence, and communication—covered. The good news is that this troika of interrelated qualities can be fostered at any age.
Sex coach Kenneth Play grew up feeling insecure about his capacity to shock and awe in the bedroom. “As far as I could tell, being a great lover meant having a big dick,” he says adding that he always felt his average size would be an impediment. What changed? His realization that he could become a phenomenal partner by making something else considerably bigger—his knowledge base.
Around age 30, Play decided to take a wonkish approach to sex, reading everything he could on the subject, soliciting feedback from partners and drilling down on what he liked. The results, he says, quickly paid dividends.
“It’s important to realize and accept that every partner you’ll ever have is as unique in terms of what they like and how they respond to stimulation as you are,” he says. “That said, a great first step is to familiarize yourself with the terrain broadly. Knowing what a clitoris is, where to find it and how to discern how its owner responds to various types of stimulation certainly helped me stand out in the crowd.” This assertion is backed up by a recent U.K. survey of 2,000 men which found that fully half couldn’t identify a vagina on an anatomical diagram.
The move here is to do as Play did. First, get to grips with your own body and sexual response. Then familiarize yourself with that of your partner’s, figuring out a system for them to tell you what feels good and what doesn’t that doesn’t take either of you out of the moment. Then keep building on that knowledge while tailoring it to each and every new partner.
“For me, becoming competent was a game changer,” he says. “Once I could bring everything I learned to bear, I stopped obsessing about not having a porn star penis. I can’t teach people how to have a larger penis. I can teach them sexual competence which in turn, can help lead to sexual confidence.”
Sari Cooper is the Director of Center for Love and Sex in Manhattan. She’s developed a model of “Sex Esteem,” which she provides to her clients and the general public via webinars. Her model includes the three Cs—and none of them stand for “comparison,” which Cooper explains is the enemy of confidence. “[Comparison] is an externally focused way of contemplating one’s own Sex Esteem, that has men laser-focused on themselves in terms of how they stack up to others,” she says.
Confidence, on the other hand, is linked to a sense of worthiness, a sense of feeling that a man have something to offer a partner, whether it’s generosity, sense of fun, honesty and emotional availability. “When I teach men about confidence, I ask them when they feel most ‘in the flow’ in their body,” she says. “Many men speak about when they’re playing a sport they love, giving a talk, or having a great workout. Confidence is a mind-body experience of flow. It is something that ‘s readable when one walks down the street. One’s movement is integrated, and there’s a lightness about the walk.”
We’ve already discussed how far a little sex ed and introspection goes in shoring up your mojo, but what else can you do? A good first step is to become aware of the thoughts and feelings that are making you feel insecure, making them easier to understand and eventually let go of. It could be that a ding in your confidence is associated with something in your past, or the opinion of a former partner. If that’s the case, booking a session with a sex therapist is a wise move. The most fun way of getting that lightness back in your walk, of course, is to have more sex, approaching each time with your ego in check and intending to learn.
All the competence and confidence in the world isn’t going to count for much if they can’t be tailored to your partners wants, needs, and desires. For that to happen, lines of communication need to be open, says Spokane-based therapist Zita Nickeson.
“If you are not able to hear your partner’s requests, it will certainly not be memorable sex for her—at least in the way you would hope it would be,” she says, adding that expressing your own wants, needs, and desires is of equal importance.
Simply expressing your needs and listening to those of your partner is likely to yield some pretty concrete results. This idea is backed up by a 2017 study published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy which revealed that higher amounts of sexual communication were associated with increased orgasm frequency in women and more significant relationship and sexual satisfaction in both men and women.
“Compassion is also a big part of this characteristic,” continues Nickeson. “You may hear your partner’s requests, but can you connect to those requests? Compassion allows a greater understanding of your partner and her needs.”