Yes Yes Yes And: Fail More, Fail Harder

Yes Yes Yes And is my ongoing feature on the parallels between improv and sex. Yes, I am a nerd. Enjoy.


When I’m in the mood to get reeeeal esoteric about comedy, I listen to the Backline podcast. And Rob Norman and Adam Cawley, ever men after my own heart, always serve up exactly the joke-laced philosophizin’ I’m craving.

One truth-bomb I’ve heard Rob drop in multiple episodes is that failure is good for your improv. The harder you fail, the more you get out of your comfort zone. The more you fail, the more you learn. Rob says, when he gets into a place of stasis with his improv, where he feels like he’s playing the same characters and relying on the same schtick all the time, the cure is failure. Doing something badly – whether on purpose or by accident – can be the shake-up you need to see your blind spots, fix your issues, and do better.

Well, guess what? That applies to sex too.

There’s this shitty cultural idea that sex should be seamless and wonderful from the get-go. You’re supposed to be able to read your partner’s mind and give them exactly what they want, because sex is “dirty” and talking about it is “unromantic” or “kills the moment.”

Fuck that, dude: communication is key. And sexual failure is also key. Because you could sit around all day talking about likes and dislikes, turn-ons and turn-offs, but there are some things you’ll just never learn until you get messy and try ’em.

My sexual “failures” are some of my funniest and most treasured sex memories. The times I choked on cock and had a mid-blowjob coughing fit… The time I tried to get bossy in bed and discovered I can’t even convincingly pretend to be a domme… The time I faked an orgasm when someone fingered me for the first time because I was too scared to give directions… It’s all taught me so much.

And even the less-than-funny failures were beneficial to my sex life in the long run. For every consent-disrespecting douchebag I’ve made out with, my resolve and self-respect have grown stronger. For every boundary I’ve loosened to impress someone cute, I’ve either expanded my limits or hardened them where I needed to. For every kink I’ve explored, I’ve deepened my knowledge of my own sexuality in one way or another.

You might recall that I recently had my first threesome, and while it was far from a failure, I learned soooo much from it about how I operate as a sexual person and what my patterns are. (More on that in another post, I promise.) I would’ve never stumbled on those realizations if I hadn’t tried something scarily new to me and kinda (arguably) fucked it up. At least, parts of it.

So, don’t be afraid to fail at sex sometimes. When you do something badly, you learn how to do it better. Or – at the very least – you have a good long laugh with your partner. Either way, you win.

Yes Yes Yes And: Fear is Your Friend

Sometimes I feel like this blog is ultimately just a slow reveal of all my nerdy quirks. Like a striptease, except instead of my naked body, you get to see more and more dorky facts about me. Like how I love Sherlock fanfiction, keep statistics on my sleep cycles, and think speculums are cool.

One of my more impassioned nerdy interests is improv. I studied it for years in high school, played on a competitive team, and even coached a troupe for a year. I don’t do much ‘prov these days, though I do still go to shows and fangirl in the improvisors’ general direction.

Lately I’ve been listening to the Backline podcast and it has reignited my improv obsession in full force. And as I listen, I’m increasingly aware that my improv training has actually helped me out sexually, in more ways than one. So I’m launching a little blog series called Yes Yes Yes And, to dissect the parallels between improv and sex. (If you’re wondering why the hell this feature is titled that: it’s a dumb improv joke that makes me smile. “Yes, and” is the guiding principle of improv, and “Yes yes yes!” is, uh, you could say, a guiding principle of good sex.)

Sexprov lesson #1: fear is your friend.

If you improvise, you will be scared. There’s no way around it. My coach used to tell me, “Jump into the fear.” Rob Norman says, “The fear never goes away; you just start to like it.”

Not only do you start to like it; you also learn how to improvise through your fear, instead of panicking or freezing up. You get better at being in the moment and staying present, so that even if adrenaline is flooding your system, you can still string sentences together, follow a narrative, listen to your scene partner, and generate new ideas as you go along.

Fear helps you grow. It pushes you. It keeps you on your toes. It shines a spotlight on your struggles so you know what areas to try to improve upon. It’s not inherently a bad thing; it’s just a signal, a tool. Frank Sinatra once said he probably wouldn’t want to keep performing if he no longer experienced stage fright, because what would be the point?

When it comes to sex, obviously, there are situations where fear is bad. You should never have sex that genuinely scares you, because that wouldn’t be consensual. Sex should feel positive and exciting.

But sometimes, fear is just excitement with the brakes on. You can feel the difference between “good fear” and “bad fear.” If it’s bad, your whole body and your deepest intuition all scream “NO” – but if it’s good, some part of you feels exhilarated and intrigued. Your apprehensive adrenaline rush is accompanied by breathless what-ifs and desperate wishes. The needle on your internal meter trembles a little closer to “Fuck yeah!” than it does to “Hell no!”

I know from firsthand experience that getting over sexual fear is worth doing. There was a time when even the thought of touching a penis made me want to vomit from anxiety. But when I actually started to do it, I realized it was lots of fun. And from there, I came to recognize that if I could get over that fear – a terror that had, at various times, made me cry, panic, and consider a life of celibacy – then I could truly do anything.

Doing scary shit gives you a “fear reference” for tackling bigger and bigger challenges. Any time you encounter a scary new situation, in or out of the bedroom, you can remind yourself, “Hey, I did [that terrifying thing], and it turned out great. I can do this, too!”

You will often be surprised at how delicious it feels to do shit that makes you nervous. Once you buck up and do it, you feel like a goddamn superhero. And you’ll probably have a hell of a lot of fun in the process.

Have you ever overcome a sexual fear? Have you embraced fear as a positive motivator in your life, sexually or otherwise?