I find it comforting that even celebrities have bad sex. And I love that some, like comedian Amy Schumer, are bold enough to proclaim its virtues rather than internalize its indignities. In a 2014 speech that recently went viral again, the funnywoman recalled a grim sexual experience during college with a guy named Matt who seemed unaware that she was counting the seconds until he finished.
“I looked around the room to try and distract myself or, God willing, disassociate. What’s on the wall?” explained Schumer. The sex was as pleasurable as a dental filling sans freezing, but that doesn’t mean it was meaningless. For Schumer, reaching her sexual nadir initiated a powerful revelation: she deserved better. God, did she ever. “I never heard from Matt again,” she said, “but felt only grateful for being introduced to my new self, a girl who got her value from within her.”
Our culture endlessly proclaims the power of great sex but often ignores the value of consensual sex that’s boring, embarrassing or cringe-inducing. That’s a shame, because your sex life is no different from your work life or your family life, says Vancouver-based sex therapist Teesha Morgan. Which is to say it can be good and it can be brutal, but all of it combines to make you who you are (and who you aren’t).
If you were to chart your sexual history on a graph, says Morgan, it would look something like the fluctuations of the stock market: “It’s not this straight-up arrow from the first time you had sex to the time you die.”
Here are three reasons to Schumer your own cringey sexual adventures—and one con to avoid.
1. You figure out what you really like in bed.
Remember when you worked that summer painting houses and you realized you hated it and would never pick up a paintbrush again? Sex with a bum lover is kind of similar. It helps you figure out what you really like and what you really, really don’t, says Morgan. “Maybe what you’ve learned from bad sex is that you like a partner who is more aggressive in bed, or who is more into this type of kink or who’s vocal in bed, and maybe you didn’t realize that before… You can learn a lot about yourself and your self-pleasure and what you need to orgasm or feel connected or feel good.”
2. Bad sex challenges passivity.
If I could speak to my inexperienced sexual self, I would say one thing: Speak up, girl. Speak. Up. This is no doubt true for any woman who’s endured a one-pump chump or, worse, a human jackhammer with no off switch.
There is no universal law that proclaims that you need to be polite in bed, says Morgan. In fact, there’s no better place to be you, i.e., three-dimensional, than between the sheets. If the sex is boring, uncomfortable or ineffectual, you can get proactive. “In the game of life you have to remember that you are the architect, and therefore you always have the power to change the rules in your favour,” says Morgan.
The first thing you can do is call time on the whole shebang. It’s uncomfortable and awkward, but so is asking for a raise at work, another goalpost of maturity. Also consider giving some direction, i.e., “Put this there,” suggests Morgan. Or take the DIY approach.
3. Sex can be a mirror.
Your sex life is often reflective of your life-life. So if you’re enduring rather than enjoying sex (or work, or your relationships), maybe it’s time to address some misery-making patterns and seek healthier alternatives. Getting your self-worth from male attention is an all-too-mortal weakness that sees many goddesses grin and bear crummy sex from guys who consider last night’s beer to be adequate mouthwash. Don’t beat yourself up for it; instead, acknowledge and work through it, says Morgan. Better yet, take a page from Schumer’s book and turn it into a life-affirming anecdote.
And, the No. 1 fallout to avoid: shame.
Sexual experiences that went kaboom, or simply flatlined, can get under a girl’s skin—like a nasty little parasite that feeds on your self-confidence for years. Dig that little critter out in therapy says Morgan, or in conversation with a trusted confidante who knows that life is too short to take bad sex personally.