Why are beds so poorly designed for sex?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

People do a lot of important things in beds, but one of the most important is have sex.

(Please note, nothing I say in this essay is meant to be a criticism of other locations for sex. If you’re into forest groves, mountain tops, office desks, bar bathrooms, or the kitchen floor, please know that you are valid and I support you.)

First of all, beds are too small for sex, even if you limit yourself to just two people. These are the official sizes of beds in the USA:

I should offer a few obvious qualifiers here. Yes, youth and lust can combine to achieve incredible feats, and so most of us have managed to have sex in a Twin, at some point in our lives, despite the fact that this is only 38″ x 75″. Cleary, the forces that want us to perpetuate the species are very strong.

But this essay is not about the feats that youth and lust can achieve, but rather the opposite. Why do bed makers wish to put so many obstacles in the way of good sex? What about old people, or young people with injuries?

Consider the so-called “King” sized:

76″ x 80″

193cm x 203cm

The King sized is basically the absolute minimum for two people to have adequate sex. Are the bed making companies trying to make some kind of political statement? The name feels like a mockery. If I ever become King of the world, I will order the execution of all the CEOs of the bed making companies, then I will put my own people in charge and order them to design a bed fit for a King, then make it affordable enough for the masses.

I write software. As such, I often analyze problems using math. So let us use a little math to analyze this issue.

Consider cunninglingus. I’m 179cm in height. If I’m with a woman who is 169, and if we engaged in cunninglingus, then my height plus half of her height adds up to:

179 + 169/2 = 263.5cm

The math is a bit rough (is the top of my head precisely at her mid-point?) but you get the idea. Even a King sized bed is too small. It’s as if the bed manufacturers are opposed to cunninglingus. Is it a conspiracy? Are the bed manufacturers in bed with the other agents of the patriarchy? (If yes, what size is that bed?)

What if we turn 45 degrees in bed and try to use the diagonal? The Pythagorean theorem teaches us that the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. In other words:

193 x 193 = 37249

203 x 203 = 41209

37249 + 41209 = 78458

square root of 78458 = 280cm

We’ve already determined that we need 263.5cm. So if we use the diagonal of a king sized bed, it is possible to find room for cunninglingus, though without much extra room for side to side movement, or arms that thrash around.

But there are a great many positions two lovers might want to experiment with. How to achieve them? And how to prop up various body parts while engaged in such experiments?

I’m willing to concede that pillows allow for a lot of creativity. Indeed, we could almost say that, with enough pillows, all other things are possible. But this feels like a bit of a cheat, at least from the point of view of the bed manufacturers. It’s as if they are saying, “Our job is to create beds for monogamous heterosexual couples who respect traditional gender roles and don’t experiment, so if you’re a disgusting pervert who wants to do something dirty in bed, take all of your complaints to the pillow manufacturers.”

If we bought a bed for sex, it is as if they are only giving us half the needed equipment. For $1,000 you get this nice bed, but did you really think that was going to be your only expense? No! Because now you have to go out and spend $500 on pillows before you can really use your sex bed for sex! This is a marketing scam! It’s like those automobile ads that tell you can get a Honda starting at just $15,000, but then you go into the dealership and the salesperson is like “It’s a great basic car, but if you need an engine, or seats, or a brake system, those are all extra.”

Old fashioned four post beds were too small, but in some ways we must admire the uses suggested by those four posts. A thousand scenarios involving silk scarves come to mind. And there are advantages to having such a solid foot board. It does give a man something to push against, and thus thrust forward, assuming a couple that contains at least one man, and assuming those positions where it is advantageous for a man to be able to thrust. These beds have gone out of fashion, but there are elements here that need to be revived, if ever the bed manufacturers are going to create the perfect sex bed.

Most of us have had the experience of attempting to have sex in beds that are too small. That our arms and legs are often over the edge now seems normal, one of those annoyances we just have to adapt to. Indeed, at a very young age, most of discovered the simplest way of expanding bed real estate: get rid of the frame and any supporting box, and simply put the mattress on the floor. Then have plush comforters that make it easy to spill from the bed to floor, with no interruption of the main action.

Despite the flexibility of this system, one surprising group often opposes it, that group being women. I suspect that for most, when they see a mattress on the floor, they think “First boyfriend, terrible sex.” Past trauma keeps them from seeing future benefits.

As grownups most women prefer beds that look elegant. Not that many people visit their bedrooms, but apparently on the off chance someone does go into the bedroom, women want their beds to communicate elegance, rather than “We get down often, we get down hot.”

Some might counter with “You are blaming the bed manufacturers but they are blameless! The real villan is simply real estate! Bedrooms are small, therefore beds need to be small!”

There are two problems with this counter-argument. First, some people are wealthy, and wealthy people have large bedrooms, so there should exist something larger than a king sized bed, if only so that wealthy people can have good sex. Second, let’s ask why bedrooms are small. In the USA, houses are larger than in the rest of the world. USA homes tend to have very large living rooms, but medium sized bedrooms. And all issues of resource allocation are ultimately political issues. What if we took 40 centimeters from the living rooms and gave them to the master bedroom? We would be saying, “Couples should spend less time watching television, and more time having sex.” You see? Everything is political. It’s a conspiracy. The bed manufacturers are in bed with the house designers! (It must be a very big bed.)

And in all of this, I have not even touched on the issue of having multiple people in the room. If we ask the bed manufacturers “How do we do a threesome on this tiny bed you’ve given us?” the bed manufacturers basically respond with “Take that shit to the living room, our beds are for decent, god fearing couples.” Oh, but wait, is that why the living rooms are so large? Have I misunderstood the politics of the large living room? But no, “Take that shit to living room” assumes a couple that has no children, so “Take that shit to the living room” is really just a variant of “youth and lust can combine to achieve incredible feats” and I’ve already established that this essay is, in part, about the difficulties faced by older couples. (Some might respond with “Older couples don’t want to participate in orgies” but that is precisely what the bed manufacturers want you to think! Older couples are crazy for orgies, and anyone who says otherwise is a paid agent of the bed manufacturers propganda machine!)

There is of course a simple solution to all of this, available to anyone with a bit of money and a decent sized bedroom: get two mattresses. Indeed, two king beds pushed together would allow several people to play together, in every kind of combination. For some reason, one doesn’t see adult couples go for this option very often. I myself have only seen the “two big mattresses pushed together” used as a solution once, back in the 1990s when I worked at Moosehill Orchards. The men and women who made up the apple picking crew, 36 people in total, slept in one great hall, on the floor, right next together, and there was no privacy, so 4 “private rooms” were established, where people could go to have sex. And on nights when folks were doing drugs and cutting loose, the scenarios in those rooms could be highly creative.

But I’ve never seen anything like that among my adult friends, leading ordinary lives in New York or in the suburbs of Virginia (the two places I spend most of my time). Maybe I don’t hang with the right people, but it does seem to me like a lot of adult couples don’t want their bedrooms to suggest “You won’t believe the filth we indulge in here.” Instead, they go for a vibe that reads as “Everything is fine, none of your business.” And I suppose that is fine, but when I see their bedrooms, I’m left wondering where exactly do they cut loose?

Maybe they rent a hotel room? The advantage there is that you can trash the place and you don’t have to clean up. At worst, you pay a bit extra as a fine. I recall once dripping ice cream everywhere (that’s literal ice cream, not a euphemism for something else) and I think we got charged an extra $50, which certainly seems worth it, given the freedom we had. Furthermore, an anecdote I’ll share, my neighbors, two gay men, made the mistake of having a sex party at their apartment, which went terribly wrong. At 2 AM one of their guests was standing in the hall, very drunk, and screaming about a highly graphic sexual situation that had destroyed whatever friendships the evening had started with. All of us who live on the 6th floor ended up hearing how badly things had gone sideways. And it reminded me why it can be a good idea to go to a hotel, if one is having a sex party.

Conclusions? I have 4 observations, but no conclusions:

1.) beds are too small for good sex

2.) maybe it doesn’t matter, because people can always push multiple mattresses together

3.) most of my adult couple friends don’t seem to care about this issue as much as I do, at least not judging by what I see when I see their bedrooms

4.) maybe they simply go out to hotels?

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