We asked the professionals for their raw, unedited advice. Get ready to take notes.
Chances are you probably do not have a sex therapist on speed dial (although if you do, rock on). But if you are engaged or completely alone, you can learn a lot from these professionals incredibly knowledgeable. Not only have they seen and heard it all, but are also very passionate about the transmission of this information to others. After all, good sex is something that everyone should experience.
Here, the nine things that sex experts are dying to tell you:
The Number One Sex Tip: Be Open
When men see a sex therapist, they’re usually not complaining about your body or your reluctance to have a threesome. “They’ll complain about no openness,” says Engler. Interestingly, she often hears men wondering why their partners don’t want them touching their breasts or going down on them. While they probably wouldn’t turn down that threesome, what they’re really after is an open attitude—not porn-tastic moves. “It’s just the basic stuff and doing it enthusiastically,” says Engler.
You Can Make Your Own Passion
If you haven’t figured it out by now, real sex lives aren’t usually filled with the same have-to-have-you-right-this-second spice that you see in rom-coms. We love those plotlines too, but so many women think that kind of intense passion is something they’ll just stumble upon, says sex therapist Brandy Engler, Ph.D., author of The Men On My Couch. They wish for spontaneous desire, but they don’t realize they can cultivate it on their own, says Engler. “No one is just walking around having passion all the time.” That said, you can boost the passion in your relationship by tuning into your emotions and bringing them out in your sex life. “Passion is an emotionally expressive person in bed,” says Engler. So whether you’re feeling excited, happy, or angry, let yourself feel those emotions during sex to keep it alive and present.
You Don’t Need to Be Experienced To Have Great Sex
You can be an amazing lover whether you’ve had two partners or twelve. “There is no such thing as being advanced at sex,” says Levkoff. “It doesn’t make a difference how much experience you’ve had in the past.” What matters is how you’re approaching the present experience—right now. Don’t get caught up in wondering if you’re prepared or skilled enough—it’s sex, not Top Chef.
Never Be Afraid to Take Charge
If you’re dying to try something new in bed, Engler says go for it. “What I often see is women being embarrassed. ‘What if he doesn’t think it’s sexy? What if it doesn’t work?’ The fear inhibits them to the point where they’re muted,” says Engler. It’s a totally understandable concern, but it may be holding you back from the best sex of your life. Engler suggests starting with affirmations to help you separate the act from your partner’s reaction to it. “Like, ‘I have a right to be seen’ and ‘I am sexual,'” says Engler. Then remind yourself that this is about expressing yourself and enjoying yourself. Finally, just go for it—suggest a new position, take the reins in bed, or tell him about your fantasy. Chances are your partner will love this enthusiasm and it’ll be game on.
Think About Your Sex Life Even When You’re Single
Sex isn’t just something you should think about when you’re having a lot of it, says Levkoff. In fact, the best way to boost your sex life is to give it a little more thought. “We often don’t think about who we are as sexual beings,” says Levkoff. But pinpointing what you desire and what turns you on will help make sure you get the sex life you want when you’re ready for it. “Give yourself the freedom to really think about it and be honest—like ‘What would make that part of my life good and exciting?’—regardless of whether or not you’re in a relationship,” says Levkoff.
You Look Great Below the Belt
The next time you’re self conscious about your nether regions, remember this: “All women’s vulvas are a little bit different from each other and are considered beautiful and desirable by their partners,” says Herbenick. “In our research, we’ve asked men and women who partner with women what they like about their partner’s genitals. They talk about big labia, little labia, various shades of colors, the way they smell and taste, how unique their partner’s is.” In short, there’s no normal vagina or vulva, but they’re all pretty damn great.
Painful Sex is Common—But it Doesn’t Have to Be
Staying mum about pain or discomfort during sex won’t do you any good. “Using lubricant, starting out gently, and engaging in sex that feels exciting and arousing—rather than like a chore—can help make sex feel better,” says Herbenick. “If sex regularly feels uncomfortable or painful, ask your gynecologist or even your dermatologist to have a look. All kinds of things from pain conditions to allergies to skin disorders to low estrogen can cause painful sex.”
Sex Isn’t (and Shouldn’t) Be Perfect
“We have a tendency to believe that good partners magically get it right,” says sex educator Logan Levkoff, Ph.D. “That good sex isn’t at all awkward and people magically know what to do with your body.” Well, that’s false. Not only should sex be fun and playful, but it also shouldn’t be censored and structured into this glamorous ideal. Plus, those really real moments are the ones that bring you closer. “You may not remember the strongest orgasm you’ve ever had, but you’ll remember the time you fell off the bed because you were so into it that you didn’t realize you were on the edge,” says Levkoff.
Most Women Masturbate
“It doesn’t have to be as taboo as some women were raised to believe,” says sex expert Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., research scientist at Indiana University and author of Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered for Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex. The fact is it can help you learn what feels good and how to orgasm more easily. Win-win, right? And don’t shy away from props: “More than half of women and nearly half of men have used a vibrator at some point in their lives,”