There are plenty of opinions out there about how to have the best sex. Knowing full well that most people will have different ideas of what the general populous could improve upon in bed, we’ve pooled our resources and asked five experts via email what they thought were the biggest missteps people make when it comes to sex. The question was left completely open-ended and the experts had a lot of helpful and unique advice (including full agreement on one point). Here’s your guide on what not to do.
A bit of scruff or stubble can be sexy to look at but it might be a case of form over function when it comes to actual sex. “While some people may love the look of the 5 o’clock shadow, rubbing stubble against genitals or any sensitive tissues can be uncomfortable, irritating, and sharp-feeling,” says Reece Malone, sexologist and sex therapist. Stubble rubbing can cause facial acne and micro-abrasions on sensitive genital tissues. What’s worse, these abrasions can really smart once lube is applied.
The solution: Ask your partner if your stubble is a problem and Malone advises skipping the aftershave because it can act as an irritant.
Perhaps thanks to popular media and porn, orgasms are seen as the end-all, be-all of sex. While it’s nice to want to give your partner what you think is the ultimate in pleasure, obsessing over orgasm is not a smart move. “This is the bugaboo that most often leads to performance anxiety and even erectile dysfunction, oftentimes in physically healthy young men,” says Christine Milrod, sex researcher, licensed therapist, and co-editor of the Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis. It can also make partners who are being pressed to orgasm self-conscious.
The solution: Milrod suggests what she calls “getting stupid.” Let your brain shut down. Stop judging and reasoning your way through sex. Malone also says people should understand that not everyone orgasms and that plenty of people enjoy sex immensely whether they orgasm or not.
Men and women are generally aroused in different ways. “Many heterosexual men believe that penetration and propulsion (e.g., going deep and fast) will lead women to orgasm,” says Milrod. The truth is many women don’t orgasm vaginally and most women need about 20 minutes of foreplay to reach prime physical arousal. Without this warm up a woman may lack natural lubrication and have decreased skin sensitivity. Arousal also elongates the vagina. Without this elongation, a man’s penis is more likely to painfully bump up against a woman’s cervix during penetration.
The solution: Put in that extra 20 minutes and be creative about it. This can involve massage, oral sex, and heavy petting. It can also come in the form of sexy texts or a romantic date nights, suggests Malone.
Whether it’s during oral sex or manual stimulation, guys often give the clitoris too much attention. The clitoris creates very strong sensations, so it’s probably not the best place to start, said Shanna Katz, board certified sexologist. Also, focusing too much on the clitoris leaves out a lot of other important parts down there.
The solution: Explore beyond the clitoris (but don’t leave it out altogether). “Don’t forget the other parts of the vulva including the clitoral hood, inner and outer lips, and the perineum (the area between the anus and vaginal opening),” says Malone. He also reminds us that some people enjoy oral-anal sex as there are lots of nerve endings there as well.
There is plenty of good that can be said for casual hookups but Linda Banner, health psychologist and sexual medicine expert, says that as men age, a deeper connection can make a significant difference in how they enjoy sex. “After 25 years working in this field, my hypothesis is still that the men’s area of sexual arousal in the brain changes and they may need more ’emotional arousal’ [as they get older],” she says. She says this change seems to occur around age 40.
The solution: Talking authentically and honestly with your partner is an easy way to increase intimacy. If you’re ready for more of a commitment (or want to give an already serious commitment an added boost), set aside time for date nights and other romantic gestures to foster a deeper emotional connection.
It may seem silly to put time into prepping for sex but just a couple minutes of forethought can make a big difference. Not having what you need for sex can complicate things. For example, if you can’t find the lube. Lack of prep can also create more serious problems, like if you’re going to have sex with a stranger and you don’t have condoms. “STDs and HIV don’t discriminate and so long as your naked body parts have touched another person’s naked body parts, you may be at risk,” says Malone.
The solution: Think ahead and make personal considerations. “Do what feels right to you. If you need pillows under here, or a little extra lube there, that is what you need, regardless of what is ‘trendy’ or ‘sexy,'” says Katz. She also recommends doing some stretching if you’re considering fancy new moves. You should also get tested for STDs at least once a year and check in on the status of your partner.
When it comes to sex, there is a vast range of preferences. This means that there is no one move that satisfies everyone. “Just because your last partner loved XYZ doesn’t mean your new partner will, or just because you saw a position in a porn scene doesn’t mean that your partner wants to (or doesn’t want to) do it,” says Katz. Along the same vein, do your best to avoid comparing partners. Even if you’re not trying to be hurtful, any level of comparison can sting.
The solution: Talk about what turns you on and what doesn’t. Have conversations outside of the bedroom about it and consider creating some nonverbal ways of giving each other guidance while you’re getting it on. “Discussing how both of you can nurture and enhance your sexual lives together builds your repertoire and treasure chest of fun and excitement,” says Malone.
With the endless varieties of sexual wants and needs out there, people are bound to disagree. “Your partner’s wants, desires, and sexual proclivities may be something you’ve never dreamed of doing or would ever want to do,” says Malone. “While that’s totally okay, shaming or putting down your partner for their different turn-ons is a sure-fire way to throw water on the fire.”
The solution: If you really don’t want to participate in their turn-on, let them down easy. Malone recommends the line, “That may be your cup of tea but that’s not something I see myself into.” If you’re not sure if you’d like what they like, consider expanding your horizons. When trying new things, Katz says that people should still remember to stop if something is making them uncomfortable or hurts. (You might think this is common sense but Katz notes common sense and sex are often at odds.)
Crazy as it sounds, many of us are guilty of forgetting that sex is supposed to be fun. Whether we’re too focused on how we’re performing, how we look, or what we should be doing next, many of the experts agree that people need to relax a little more in the sack.
The solution: Let loose mentally, not just physically. “People forget to laugh — sex is fun and funny. It’s okay to laugh when there are weird noises, or your dog jumps on the bed, or someone falls off the bed,” says Katz. If you can’t simply flip the emotional switch, Malone recommends men take their minds off what’s going on down below by shifting their attention to mutual pleasure and sensations. For women, he says focusing on breathing and talking with your partner can bring a person back in the moment.
This is the one point that all of our experts agreed is an issue many people should address when it comes to sex. Whatever your situation, everyone’s sexual experiences can benefit from better communication. “Even if it is a quick and dirty hook up, you have to be able to have some level of communication in order for both (or all) people to get their needs met,” says Katz. Again, everyone likes different things and making assumptions about what’s best is not likely to produce optimal pleasure.
The solution: Banner recommends setting aside time to make communication a priority, whether it’s a weekly sit down or an all-out get-away. If that sounds a little too daunting, this communication doesn’t necessarily have to be in-person. Katz says Gchat or Skype can work too. Eric Marlowe Garrison, a clinical sexologist and author of Mastering Multiple Position Sex, says people should communicate before, during, and after sex. During sex, little tips like “move to the left” or “slow down” can be helpful. Before sex, Garrison suggests people get into more detail, covering three specific points: 1) What they need less of, 2) What they need more of, and 3) What the other person does that they like.