It is, surely, a self-fulfilling prophecy that the more confident you are the more you will enjoy sex. This is not about arrogance - the assumption that one is God's gift will be an instant turn-off, particularly to women, if only because they know that with that sort of mental map, a man won't have bothered to learn enough to be even moderately useful. At the other end of the extreme, a partner who starts off lacking in confidence only proves delightful if they ultimately benefit from care and feeding; lasting and insistent insecurity is draining in bed and out of it.
But true sexual confidence - relaxed, knowledgeable about self, willing to learn about other, ready to ask for what's needed, happy to take charge, and unwobbled by either failure or rejection - makes for that ultimate in sexual partners, one who is able to both give and receive with equal pleasure.
This has nothing to do with looks. Nowadays almost all women - and an increasing number of men - are scared of being spurned on that count, but this is because the media manipulates body image; ignore page 3. If you don't love your body, change your mind; if your partner doesn't love it, change your partner. Note to her: men are almost always more focussed on sensation and the feelings of acceptance that sex gives than on your size, shape or lack of firmness. If he has ever hugged you clothed, he already knows your shape; if when you are unclothed he has an erection then he not only accepts but lusts after it. Note to him: women care hardly at all about shape so relax please.
He, however, may have other insecurities. He is asked to demonstrate potency in much more obvious ways than she is and the lads' mag media may have convinced him that unless he can do so, he will be rejected. But in terms of pure erection, there are always other ways - and for most women those ways are just as acceptable, certainly on an occasional basis. If generally nervous, the answer is to end up in bed only with a partner one is relaxed with and then try things out. As with all human activities, the way to mastery is through play.
Whatever one's size, experience, ability - or disability - good sex is one of the most powerful confidence builders because it places each partner right in the centre of the other's attention; after that genuine compliments, demonstrated affection and a total lack of comparison will complete the magic spell. She says "Show me you think I'm beautiful and everything else follows."; his words may be different but the message will be the same.
Susan Quilliam is a relationship psychologist and will be running our workshop on Sex & Intimacy on Saturday 14 April. She is the author of The New Joy of Sex (Mitchell Beazley, 2008), a 'reinvention' of the classic sex book by Alex Comfort, and The Relate Guide to Staying Together (2001), described by The Times as ‘the only relationship book you'll ever need’.