Ten Tips For Better Sex in 2009

BlogHer Original Post

“Did you know that 71 percent of guys would rather have great sex occasionally than not-so-hot sex all the time?” Simone asked me, paging through the February issue of Cosmopolitan.

“Let me see that,” I said, reaching out and scanning the cover of the magazine. “I'm writing an article about how to improve our sex lives.”

Simone turned a page, “well, if anyone can write that, it's you.”

“Actually...” I started, but I trailed off. The truth is that I need a guide more than anyone.

“I have a theory that the longer we're exposed to a stimulus, the higher the tolerance, and the less able said stimulus is to engender the effect it once did,” I said, lighting a cigarette.

Simone looked at me for a moment, then smiled, “what?”

In preparation for this piece I did a little crowdsourcing on Twitter, asking over the course of several weeks what people thought was an essential component to good sex. The answer, seven times out of ten was: intimacy.

“Really?” I asked myself over and over as the direct messages and e-mails poured in. It just didn't jive.

“When I think about dynamite sex, I don't think about intimacy,” I told my friend Sugar during one of our late night discussions on the phone. “Am I stunted? Do you think about it?”

“Hell no,” she replied. “I just want to be thrown against a wall and devoured.”

BE DESIRED

Sugar and I are in line with Marta Meana, a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and who has been studying sexology since the 1990s. Meana also disagrees intimacy is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

In a piece on the New York Times Magazine by Daniel Bergner, author of The Other Side of Desire, Meana emphasizes the role of being desired and the inherent narcissism in women's sexuality, which she has gleaned from her laboratory and qualitative research, as well as her clinical work. Desire, she concludes, has “little to do with building better relationships,” or with fostering communication between partners.

“Female desire is not governed by the relational factors that, we like to think, rule women’s sexuality as opposed to men’s,” Meana told Bergner. “Really, women’s desire is not relational, it’s narcissistic.”

She is basically saying that women's desire is dominated by the wish to be the object of erotic admiration and sexual need. That's not to say women don't want closeness and longevity—they do. But according to Meana, to imagine that these things are the catalysts of desire is incorrect.

“It’s wrong to think that because relationships are what women choose they’re the primary source of women’s desire,” Meana said. For women, “being desired is the orgasm.”

“How do you make yourself desired?” I asked my friends the following night over drinks at The Standard Downtown.

“Can I tell you?” my friend Tess asked, leaning in. “I like to dress up like a hooker and walk by construction sites. Instant desire.”

“Ew!” Sabrina exclaimed, laughing. “Girl, you're a freak.”

“What? You leave your windows open when you change in case your hot neighbor is home!”

“Mmm,” Sabrina said. “He's so hot.”

“Does he watch you?” I asked.

“Sometimes.”

“I like to dress myself in the sluttiest lingerie when no one is home,” I confessed. “There's stuff I have that my husband has never even seen—not because he wouldn't like it, but because it's for me. I wear these things while I work. I love taking a client's call in nothing but garters, a hat and stilettos.”

“Does desire require an audience?” Sabrina mused.

“You can be your own audience,” Tess said. “And if not, there's always the internet.”

DO SOME RESEARCH

The next day, I contacted the one woman whom I knew would have something to say about sex: Viviane Tang, of Viviane's Sex Carnival.

“Read, read, read,” she wrote me in her e-mail response. “When I was getting back into the dating game after being married, I read up. I think people assume there's a basic level of sexual knowledge—there's not. I was encouraged by a 60-year-old reader who told me she learned how to roll a condom by reading my site.”

Tang suggested the minds at the forefront of sex: Violet Blue, Susie Bright, Cory Silverberg, and Ducky Doolittle. As well as the blogs Sugasm, Sexoteri'sc blog news, and Pleasurists.

She's right. Before you can get what you want, you have to understand what it is that you want. Her comment that we tend to assume there is a basic knowledge of sex is dead on—the same is true for what we desire. I didn't know the extent of what I wanted sexually, for example, until I read The Story of O for a second time—a second time!

SEXIFY YOUR SURROUNDINGS

“Create the right environment,” a male friend told me when I asked him for sex tips. “Candles, petals, run a bath.”

“Are you serious?” I asked him. “You have no idea how many movies I've seen where a house catches fire from the candles during a sexy scene. I can't think of anything less brilliant—unless you're minding the candle, say, using it for wax play. But petals and a bath? I don't know. To each his own, I guess.”

That's the key thing. There is no real way of knowing what will work for you in terms of creating a sexy environment. For me, a sexy environment is a cheap motel—the seedier, the better. Extra points if it's in a really raunchy town.

But hey, that's just me.

“For me, there is no better place than my own bed,” my friend Lisa told me when we met for coffee that day. “With everything that I need right where I can find it. I have a four poster that doubles as a sex playground with a few ropes and a set of handcuffs.”

“Furniture,” Tang had mentioned to me, is essential. “Try the Tantra Chair.”

The Tantra Chair is a multi-purpose piece of furniture designed to fit seamlessly into any décor. Its arc is designed to enable a variety of positions while providing a support system that enables control over the depth and angle of penetration during sex. And you can use it for yoga, too!

“That is SO epically hot!” my friend Atherton told me when I showed him the Tantra Chair.

“Of course, there is something to be said, too, for the sex that happens randomly in other parts of the house not intended at all for such couplings,” I replied. “Like the kitchen counter.”

“Or even outside the house,” Atherton remarked.

AU NATUREL

“We were leaving the club when she looked at me and then toward the beach,” my friend Brad told me one afternoon on the phone. “I knew what she was thinking. The beach was deserted. They have these little swan boats you can take out around the lagoon, right, so I untied one and we got in and started making our way out.”

Before Brad and I were good friends, we were lovers. That didn't work out at all and for a long time, we didn't speak a word to one another. I might even describe the situation as hostile. Eventually, however, we found our way back and remembered what it was that had attracted us in the first place: how much we had in common and how easy it was to talk.

“She starts going down on me,” he went on with his story. “And next thing you know, I've bent her over in this swan and I'm going at it, doggy style, right there in the middle of the lagoon.”

“Oh my god,” I replied. “I'm so jealous, I could just die. That sounds positively amazing.”

“But I didn't just call to brag,” he said after he disclosed every delectable detail. “Afterward, I'm securing the boat again and, the worst thing ever! I mean, EVER: I stepped on a goddamn sea urchin! Can you believe it?”

Moral of the story: Be adventurous in where and how you have your sex. Follow hunches and explore unchartered territory. But keep potential dangers in mind and exercise caution. Or at least keep a properly stocked first aid kit in your car.

THE OTHER PLEASURE POINTS

“Anal sex, hands down,” my friend Callie declared at a New Year's party some weeks ago. “Pick up Tristan Taormino's The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women and give anal sex a try.”

A rudimentary, completely unscientific survey of the women I know later showed many of them had either not experimented with anal sex or had tried it once and crossed it off.

“Did you know—my yoga instructor told me—the anus has a hundred times more sensory receptors than the vagina?”

“I had no idea,” I responded, lighting a cigarette and adding with a cheeky grin. “I've felt it, but didn't realize it.”

Anal sex is a tricky beast, much like the initial taming of the g-spot. The key to learning to love it is relaxing the muscles.

“I was with a man once,” my friend Lisa told me when we had our coffee recently. “I was cockwhipped. He would message me at the weirdest hours and ask me to do the weirdest things.”

“Did you do them?” I asked her.

“Yes!” she exclaimed. “Last year, I had to go to New York and he wanted to see me. When I told him I couldn't, he asked that...”

“What?”

She picked up her phone. “Let me find it.”

I sipped my coffee.

“Thank God for technology,” she said, pushing some buttons. “OK: 'Upon your arrival, you have one week to hang yourself using a belt. First, you are to strip naked and insert a smooth object at least one centimeter in diameter into your ass. Use a door to hold you up, with the belt around your wrists. Hang from it thus without letting your shoulders or knees give way, for an hour, suffering the contractions of your muscles as you sway, not too much or too little, for an hour. Delight in the embodiment of my pain.'”

“Oh. My. God.” I said. “Where do you find these people?”

“Jealous?” she asked, laughing.

“I'm not sure if I'm jealous or terrified or both or just totally aroused,” I confessed. “Did you do it?”

“Are you crazy?” she asked. “Of course I did! And until then, I'd never really been into anal sex. So I bought—you're going to laugh—blush brushes. They sell them in kits in all kinds of different sizes. So that afternoon, I started with some oil and the smallest brush and slowly worked my way up to a big one.”

“One centimeter.”

“A bit bigger,” she said with a mischievous grin. “Quite a bit.”

“Overachiever.”

FOUND OBJECTS

Lisa isn't the only one who was using objects meant for other purposes to achieve her sexual ends. When I asked my editor at Black Heart Magazine, a web publication that pairs intellect and smut, her first piece of advice was to open my mind to the sexual possibility of everything.

“The Dollar Store is a wonderland for anyone with a dirty mind!” she told me.

“I didn't realize the Dollar Store sold sex toys,” I commented. I've never been to one, I realized. What am I missing?

“Dollar Stores tend not to have sex toys, per se,” she explained, a little amazed I didn't get it. “But dirty minds can definitely find paddles, rope, chains, nipple clamps to re-purpose.”

Interesting!

“What is the strangest non-sexual object you have turned into a toy?” I asked my friend Atherton immediately via IM.

“A 9mm Glock.”

I almost spit out my coffee. “Are you serious?”

“It was with Blaine, after a day at the range with my father and his,” he recounted. “They were down in my father's study, drinking. Blaine disengaged the cartridge of one of our Glocks and fucked me with it.”

“I can't think of anything that tops that,” I admitted. “Am I boring? I've had a variation of the Jackrabbit since I was a teenager. Maybe I'm just pampered and lazy.”

“YOU?” he asked, aghast. “YOU BORING? Dude, you've had your tits beat up. That's at least on a par with fucking a Glock.”

MAP YOUR WANTS

While doing research for an article about oversharing sex, I happened upon the map of human sexuality by Franklin Veaux, a depiction of a landmass featuring a variety of human desires, from the common, to the downright freaky, as cities.

Looking over it, I wondered where I "lived" and "frequented" on that bizarre continent, so I called up Atherton and together, we spent the entire morning coloring in our maps. We tweeted so much about it, that many of our followers on Twitter asked for a blank copy for them to fill out themselves.

That whole day was spent discussing, quite openly, the things we desired in sex. It occurred to me to have my husband fill one out as well.

I sat him down that night and we went through the list. We kept going down the list. Dogging, tickling, speaking foreign languages, showering together, exercising, dancing, ass play, commercial sex, hentai, sex machines, prodommes, erotic asphyxiation, peep shows, multiple penetration, strippers, bukkake, talking dirty, anonymous hook-ups...

I looked at the finished product. We lived on different planets.

“Is it bad?” he asked.

“Kind of.” I showed him.

You can't very well teach someone to love to beat you if that's just not what they're into. But as Viviane Tang told me, sex isn't something we know all about at birth. It's possible that some of the things we end up loving are things we never knew existed until we bumped into someone who liked them and helped us open our minds enough to give them a shot.

Graphing out what you and your partner want can be a bonding experience, as well as an interesting way of learning their inner workings, and maybe sparking some interest in terms of trying out new things neither of you had previously considered.

DON'T HAVE SEX

Lisa still can't get enough of Mr. Smith, a guy she hooked up with randomly and with whom she spent a night talking dirty and making out.

“We didn't have sex,” she recounted for the 18,000th time. “We just kissed. Like in high school. Remember that? Just kissing? I used to think women who talked about the perfect kiss were so boring. But no, there is a power in kissing. Something impossible to quantify. It can be one of the most erotic things.”

Victoria Zdrok, the resident love and sex columnist at Penthouse Magazine agrees.

“Kissing has numerous benefits,” she writes in 40 Steps to Great Sex, a recent piece at Penthouse. “From increasing saliva production, which improves your oral health, to turning on you and your partner.”

“I would never imagine that your contribution to my sex tips article would be to not have sex,” I said to Lisa.

“It's like that game—did you ever play it? Where you held your hand over a lover's naked body and see how long you could stand it without touching them?”

“Oh, yes!” I exclaimed. “God, I love that.”

“There is something in the denial of immediate satisfaction. They're there and they want you, but you're not going to indulge, not yet. It's a part of the dance.”

“God, I wish we had time for that kind of stuff nowadays,” I said sadly.

PRIORITIZE

“Make sex a priority,” Zdrok writes in her 40 Steps to Great Sex. “Set a sex date, if necessary, because in our crazy-busy schedules, sex often gets put on a back burner.”

She's right.

“Often we get so consumed with life, we leave sex out,” Tess told me over drinks the night we spent talking at the Standard. “We think we can just make that call at 3AM and get our fill, but it doesn't work that way. Most of the time we have had a grueling workday and we know we're going right back into the office the next morning. What kind of sex can you have like that?”

“My husband calls it 'the lazy fuck,'” Sabrina said.

“Like in the Ars Amatoria?” I asked. “On the side, barely moving?”

“That's in Ars Amatoria?” she laughed. “Damn you Ovid! I can't stand the lazy fuck. I think it's an assault on everything that is sensuality. It has to be the most boring, soul-crushing type of encounter.”

“It has its place,” I said, smiling to myself.

“Maybe if you're at your in-laws for a family reunion, sharing a room with your sister-in-law and her husband and don't want anyone to notice!” Sabrina yelled. “No! I hate the lazy fuck. I hate hate hate it! My husband wants to do nothing else. 'I'm tired,' he says. I'm like, 'what? Do I need to schedule sex now?' It's annoying!”

“Maybe we do,” I said. “Maybe we need to schedule sex.”

“Ugh,” Tess sighed. “Who wants to schedule sex? Shouldn't it just happen?”

“Yes,” I said. “But until we learn to give it the importance it deserves in the busy schedule of our lives, maybe we do need get in the habit of penciling it in and keeping our appointment.”

Sabrina took out a lip liner from her purse and pulled out her planner.

“SEX,” she wrote in giant letters across the lunch slot of the next day.

“There, see?” Sabrina asked. “I just made a commitment to have a nooner tomorrow.”

“The timeless question,” Tess said, laighing. “Food or sex?”

“Honey, this is the United States of America,” Sabrina said, her English accent stronger than usual. “We get to have both food and sex!”

LIVE IT, DON'T LIVE THROUGH IT

“Think of the last time food transported you,” Anthony Bourdain writes in his 2001 novel A Cook’s Tour. “Your first taste of champagne on a woman’s lips… steak frites when you were in Paris as a teenager with a Eurorail pass, you’d blown almost all your dough on hash in Amsterdam, and this slightly chewy slab of rumsteck (rump steak) was the first substantial meal in days… a single wild strawberry, so flavorful that it nearly took your head off… your grandmother’s lasagne… a first sip of stolen ice cold beer on a hot summer night, hands smelling of crushed fireflies… left over pork fried rice, because your girlfriend at the time always seemed to have some in the fridge… steamer clams, dripping with drawn butter from your first family vacation at the Jersey shore… rice pudding from the Fort Dee Diner… bad Cantonese when you were a kid and Chinese was still exotic and wonderful and you still thought fortune cookies were fun… dirty water hot dogs… a few beads of caviar licked off a nipple…”

A few beads of caviar licked off a nipple. What a simple, gorgeous celebration of touch and taste. The idea stopped me cold the first time I read it.

We stand at the edge of our senses, waiting for the sets of data to come in: hot or cold? Pleasure or pain? Nice or mean? Red or green? Too spicy? Too loud? Too big? Too slow! Hungry! Tired! When was the last time we stopped and touched something and focused on the brush against our fingertips? When was the last time we turned off the constant background noise of our iPods and pressed down on a piano key to hear the clarity of a single note? When was the last time we paused briefly before putting that snack in our mouths and committed ourselves to savoring the marriage of flavors in a bite?

When was the last time you had sex for the sake of your senses? No, think about this. I am not talking about orgasm. I am not even talking about pleasure in and of itself. I am talking about using every given sense receptor, focusing your energy on it and really, truly experiencing what that sense tells you, not just whether it feels good or not, harder, baby, harder, deeper, deeper, faster, faster, oh, yeah, oh, yeah.

No.

I mean: when was the time you lived your sensory data?

You don’t need to awaken your senses. They were never sleeping. You just have to pay attention. The next time you eat, let your taste buds overwhelm you, let your mouth feel the texture of what’s inside it. The next time you hear a song, let the notes carry you. The next time you kiss, let your mouth become your hands. The next time you have sex, let yourself become the skin throbbing inside you or wrapping around you.

Open up. Living through things isn’t the same as living those things.

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