The Most Unexpected Things That Lead To A Better Sex Life, According To Experts
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
Just like our health, our sexuality is about more than just our bodies and what we do with them. Sex is a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social endeavor, and the keys to more satisfying sexual experiences can come at any one of these levels: small psychological shifts in the moment, careful context-setting to create a particular kind of environment, and even confidence-boosting activities outside the bedroom that subconsciously trickle into it.
As you're going into the new year, here are some of the most surprising and intriguing lessons we learned about sex in 2018 from scientific research and from our mbg expert community to help guide you toward a healthier, steamier, and overall better sex life:
1. Forget about orgasms.
Certified sex therapist and Better Sex Podcast host Jessa Zimmerman recommends ditching our obsession with having orgasms as a mandatory part of "successful" sex: "Focus on a goal of orgasm or following a specific sexual script often makes it difficult to be present in the moment, and it can create pressure and anxiety for one or both partners if sex isn't a straight line from initiation to arousal to orgasm. Sex is dramatically enhanced when you stop being destination-oriented and start enjoying each step along the journey. It is great fun to play in the space before or totally outside of orgasm: allowing arousal to build, subside, and build again. New possibilities open when you are not driving directly to climax. And if you or your partner struggle with arousal or orgasm, taking the focus off the outcome and learning to enjoy touch and connection allows you to enjoy what you're doing (and may very well make it easier to reach orgasm later if you want to)."
2. Talk about sex with your friends.
In 2018, researchers found women who discussed sex—including sexual experiences, desires, birth control methods, and STI advice—with their friends were actually more confident in bed and more able to assert themselves in sexual situations to make sure their needs and boundaries were being heard. The more we talk about sex with others, the more we learn about how to navigate sexual situations and the more comfortable we feel during them. Developing more sexual self-esteem and assertiveness are two surefire ways to have better, more satisfying sex, which means all those tell-all gab sessions with your squad are leading to some real benefits in the bedroom.
3. Copy your partner's movements.
Another 2018 study found couples who mimicked each other's physical behavior—whether by accident while walking or purposefully synchronizing during a couple's exercise routine—actually felt heightened feelings of sexual desire and intimacy for each other. Even strangers felt more connected after pedaling bikes in sync. In bed, try matching your breathing to your partner's or mirroring the rhythm of their bodies in other subtle ways to maximize your feelings of connection.
4. Play with danger.
"Even if it makes you nervous, there's always a small thrill that comes from doing something you're not supposed to do, which is why sexologist Jack Morin always talked about the 'violation of prohibition' as one of the four cornerstones of desire. A little bit of rule-breaking goes a long way," Perel says. "Ask yourself this: How can you introduce small transgressions in the midst of the safe and the predictable? You may know the outcome, but there are so many ways to be playful with each other throughout the day or night."
5. Try a cervical orgasm.
There are many different kinds of orgasms for people with vaginas (clitoral being one of the most popular and easiest to reach), so consider exploring some of the more complex ones—like cervical orgasms, which involve stimulating the cervix at the back of the vaginal canal.
"Achieving a cervical orgasm requires a strong dose of mindfulness, so if you want to make one happen for you, consider taking up a regular meditation practice," suggests Dr. Jolene Brighten, a functional medicine naturopathic doctor and the founder of women's medicine clinic Rubus Health. "Cervical orgasms are complicated: They may be more of a combination of stimulation than just the cervix alone. After all, you can access areas around your cervix with deep penetration, and the cervix can aid in stimulating those areas. You've heard about a full-body orgasm. That's how a cervical orgasm feels. And what an experience it is: Cervical orgasms flood your body with healing, feel-good chemicals that lower stress hormones and leave you feeling amazing. Many women say to achieve them, you must be absolutely centered on your pelvis."
(Here's her full guide on how to get there.)
6. Quit the narratives.
Stop assuming sex needs to happen in a certain way or as though actions need to happen in a certain order, says Melissa Ambrosini, self-love guru, mbg Collective member, and best-selling author of Mastering Your Mean Girl and Open Wide.
"Let go of your expectations of how things 'should' look and surrender to the present moment," she recommends. "Often, we have mapped out how our lovemaking session will pan out before it's even happened. You know what I mean: First we'll go into the bedroom, then he'll kiss my neck, then take my clothes off, then go down on me, and then we'll get to business. Not only does future tripping like this take you out of the present moment, it stops you from having a true, real experience of soulful sex."
7. Use meditation to "read your partner's mind."
"Most top athletes know they need to ignore the thinking mind and let their natural talent come through to perform at their best. Some call this 'getting out of their own way,'" says Justyn Comer, M.A., meditation teacher and co-founder of Real World Meditation. "This is about recognizing the conscious mind as being great at many things like rational thought but also that it is severely limited. It is about recognizing our subconscious mind as being far quicker, more aware, and more capable at many other things. Meditation is the training that can help you quiet your thinking and help you get in touch with that awareness that sits behind your conscious brain. It is this part of yourself that can pick up and process hundreds of subtle cues from your partner's breathing, their body, sighs, and reactions that the thinking mind will completely miss. You'll just instinctively know what the right move is without knowing why. You may not actually be psychic, but your partner may well think you are."
8. Try yogic sexuality.
Sex clearly goes hand-in-hand with all things mindfulness. John Wineland, sexuality teacher and men's workshop facilitator, explains how to combine intimacy with yogic principles:
"Through our physical, emotional, and energetic bodies, we can radiate emptiness or fullness, penetration or surrender, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. These various states foster beautiful connection. We can choose to gift our partners at any moment with the exact flavor or nutrient they need to feel most alive and turned on. We can also use these ancient yogic and meditative technologies to unwind years of body-mind trauma, closure, and tension that have inhibited our sex lives. In short, we can learn to conduct massive amounts of love and sexual energy through our nervous systems and bodies. And more often than not, at amounts much greater than we ever thought possible. This is the practice of sexual yoga. And it is one of the best-kept health and wellness secrets on the planet."
9. Do it in the morning.
Morning sex is good for you, Zimmerman tells us: It starts off your day in a better mood by flooding your brain with feel-good, stress-reducing chemicals, it's a pretty good workout, and it makes you look fresh-faced and glowy. But getting intimate right when you wake up might also just make for hotter sex: "You might just have an easier time getting aroused in the morning than you do at night, thanks to your hormones. Men tend to have higher levels of testosterone in the morning. This can increase their libido, their arousal level, and potentially the degree of their erection. Women tend to have higher levels of estrogen, also related to their libido. It makes sense to capitalize on nature's help and use those hormonal increases to enjoy sex together."
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