Fact: Your life will be better if you’re a better performer in bed. Don’t buy it? Consider the slew of studies that have correlated a thriving sex life and a more satisfied partner with all kinds of positive outcomes, including more satisfying relationships, higher wages, better health, and a lower probability of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. While it’s tricky to generalize about what makes someone good in bed, it turns out that there are a number of things that really great lovers regularly do. We’ve distilled what we’ve learned from talking to experts into a handy cheat sheet that, if followed closely, all but guaranteed to transform your game between the sheets and beyond. So, without further ado, we present the 17 moves great lovers always make—and when you’ve got these down, start slating The 60 Sex Positions Every Couple Needs to Try into your routine, as well.
A study at the University of Albany hypothesized why kissing is so important to good sex. First: kissing plays a vital role in mate selection—we get to “know” a prospective mate chemically by the taste of their mouth and lips. Second: kissing promotes bonding, partly because we know that we are putting ourselves at risk by kissing somebody and also because kissing is thought to raise levels of oxytocin (the so-called “cuddle hormone”) while lowering cortisol (a stress hormone). Their third and most pertinent hypothesis was that kissing is the human way of increasing arousal and therefore increasing the chances of getting it on. The study found strong support for these hypotheses and also found that while more than half of men would happily have intercourse without any kissing taking place, less than 15% of women would be cool with that. Great lovers don’t scrimp on impassioned smooching.
Data from OMG Yes Sexual Pleasure Report: Women and Touch demonstrates—for the first time ever, in a nationally representative sample of American women—just how important the clitoris is to female orgasm. Nearly three-quarters of women said that clitoral stimulation during intercourse was either necessary for their orgasm or made their orgasms better. But before you get carried away, you ought to know that while clitoral stimulation is important to many women, timing matters, and too much clitoral stimulation can be more intense than she’d like. Great lovers know that the clitoris is extremely sensitive and slowly build up to stimulating it by kissing, touching, licking other areas of the vulva.
Most of the women we spoke with attested to loving a quickie every now and then, but almost all of them said that they were more likely to have an orgasm if the build up had been unhurried and of an adequate length. That notion is reflected in studies that have shown that most women need around 20 minutes of sexual activity to climax. That’s almost four times longer than the average duration of what’s called “intravaginal ejaculation latency”—a 2005 study clocked that in at around 5.4 minutes. Luckily, sexual activity doesn’t just mean intercourse. Great lovers know that kissing, manual stimulation, oral sex is a vital part of the sex act. The more attention they give to foreplay, the more likely their female partners are to orgasm.
As kids we plugged our ears when our parents tried to lecture or discipline us. While we probably don’t literally put our fingers in our ears as adults, we can often metaphorically do this when our partner expresses an unmet need or takes us to task for something, even when that something is related to their sexual satisfaction. Your move? Take out the invisible earplugs, and really pay attention to what your partner is saying.
“When you become an active listener you can get a window into what the person is thinking, likes, and dislikes, and this can be outside the bedroom as well,” says clinical sexologist Dr. Dawn Michael. “Practicing active listening, and learning from it will promote intimacy as well, since the other person will feel as though they have been heard and thus closer to you.”
Active listening is a structured form of listening and responding that focuses the attention on the speaker: The listener must take care to attend to the speaker fully, and then repeat, in the listener’s own words, what they think the speaker has said. For example, if you’re a man and your partner brings up one of the 15 most annoying things guys do in bed, don’t ignore her and assume it was a fluke, actually hear what she’s saying and discuss how to improve.
In her practice, sex and relationships coach Effy Blue recommends clients incorporate a tool called “BIDing” into their sex lives as a way to learn from and about their partner. BIDing stands for boundaries, intentions, and desires. Blue explains that a boundary is something that you do not want to do; that could be hair-pulling, for example. An intention is a mindset that sets the tone for the experience based on one’s values. For example: “I would like to experience tonight with openness to trying the new toy we bought.” A desire in this context is something that you want to experience, but don’t have expectations for. “It’s not a goal, it’s a bonus,” says Blue.
“Trying new things, admitting to mistakes, and compromising in a relationship are all ways to grow, evolve, learn together, and strengthen your bond,” agrees Omaha-based sex therapist and certified sexuality educator, Kristen Lilla LSCW.
Great lovers know that mixing things up in the bedroom is a great strategy for taking their partners’ where they want to go. “It is significantly easier for women to experience orgasm when they engage in a variety of sex acts, as opposed to just one act,” says Dr. Debby Herbenick, co-author of Great in Bed. “For example, vaginal sex plus oral sex would be linked to a higher likelihood of orgasm than either one of them alone. This may be because more sex acts mean that people spend more time having sex.”
“Non-verbal cues such as touch can transcend verbal cues,” says Michael, who adds that being aware of a partner’s body language, energy, and sounds will turn them on because it shows that you care enough to know them well.
Help your partner help you by talking about what kind of sounds you make when you are having a good time. “For some people, it is obvious and for others not,” says Blue. “Some people go absolutely silent when they are aroused, which can be confusing. Make sure you address all that before.” If you find out that silence means your partner isn’t have a good time, though, try switching it up with one of these 6 Game-Changing Upgrades to Your Favorite Sex Positions.
Being able to reliably and consistently give pleasure is a hallmark of a great lover. Equally important is an ability to receive pleasure, and to do that well, great lovers learn how to communicate their needs.
“People can’t read each other’s minds,” says Michael. “Something I talk about in my book as well as with clients is that everyone is ultimately responsible for their own pleasure.”
Rather than angrily tell your partner what you don’t like—or worse, suffer through it without saying a word—focus on what you do like and gently urge them to tweak it. For instance: “I like that you pull my hair as I’m about to cum. It would feel even better if you didn’t pull so hard.” That said, if you really don’t like what they’re doing, it’s absolutely your responsibility to tell them so.
In porn, fingers, toys, and penises are shown dipping into one hole and then into another then back again. Great lovers know that putting anything in an and then into a vagina will greatly increase the likelihood of an infection like bacterial vaginosis which, as the name suggests, isn’t going to be fun for anyone. Anytime you put something in an anus, wash it before even thinking of putting back in a vagina. Another tactic employed by great lovers is to use nitrile gloves for anal play to lessen the likelihood of cross contamination.
A study from 2010 found that female participants’ sexual satisfaction was “predicted by high body esteem and low frequency of appearance-based distracting thoughts during sexual activity.” Simply put, the better, sexier, and more confident someone feels, the higher the likelihood of them having a really great experience with you. You can make your partner feel sexy by telling them what you love about their scent, their voice, what they’re wearing—or indeed, what they’re not.
“Women are bombarded many times a day through the media with what an attractive woman should look like, and few feel they measure up,” explains Deborah Fox MSW, Certified Sex Therapist, Advanced Imago Relationship Therapist. “Telling your partner that you find her attractive and sexy—often—is so important.” Just make sure you never say these 5 things to a naked woman.
Ever heard the phrase, “All we have is now”? Well, it’s true. Good lovers know that and endeavor to remain in the moment with their partners. Intimacy and sexuality coach Irene Fehr recommends focusing your attention on the sensations in your body.
“Scan your body from head to toe and notice what sensations you feel,” she says. How does your partner’s touch feel on your skin? How does your back feel against the bed? What’s your heart doing? What sounds are you hearing? “When we put our attention on our body, our mind chatter lets up and we become more present with the pleasure within,” says Fehr. “With practice, by redirecting your attention from your thoughts to the sensations in your body, you will learn to stay more present with it.”
Sex can be many things, and having fun is among the most important sensations to experience. Great lovers know this and incorporate a sense of playfulness into the sex they enjoy with their partners. Not being afraid to be a little silly can be really disarming (in a good way) and cause partners to relax and enjoy themselves more.
“Being playful is so important,” says Michael. “Being sexual is having fun. When sex becomes too serious it becomes less fun, and who does not want to have a good time making love?” Good lovers aren’t afraid to laugh at an act that, at times, can end up being pretty funny. You can even buy things like sex dice and other games that will impart the sex you have with a more playful vibe.
Rarely is the golden rule more important that when you body is intertwined with that of another. Great lovers know to treat their partners the way they themselves want to be treated. Be respectful of your partner’s needs, requests, pet peeves, and limitations. Great lovers treat the small things as big things. “Decide what you need to feel respected in a relationship, set boundaries, and be assertive,” says Lilla. “Expect your partner to do the same.”
Few things are as unique to us as our turn-ons and what we like to do in bed. Your partner might like to be spanked during sex, engage in dirty talk, or take extreme interest in a particular body part. Making someone feel ashamed for something that turns them isn’t going to help either of you.
“When you judge your partner, it not only makes them defensive and feel disrespected, but it deteriorates trust,” explains Lilla. “No one wants to open up to someone they think might judge them.” Take them seriously and approach what they’re telling you with compassion and support, even if those kinks aren’t quite your own—and then have an honest discussion about what you two both enjoy.
For Fox’s money, there’s way too much focus on orgasm-driven sex. The focus, she says, should be on pleasure-driven sex. “Too often men are on a mission for a woman to have an orgasm, and leave her behind in the process,” she says. “The biggest erogenous zone for a women is her brain, so make sure you’re focusing on being fully present with her and what she wants.” And while you’re at it, read up on the biggest oral mistakes you might be making.
While we’re conditioned to like what works for us sexually, we’re also novelty-seeking creatures—so great lovers are ready, willing, and able to add something new to the mix if the time is right. That could mean introducing a new sex toy, experimenting with role play, taking sexy pictures, or having sex in an area of the house in which you’ve never had sex previously. Some great lovers will know that, by being adventurous, they’re benefitting from ETT, or Excitation-Transfer Theory. The theory purports that residual excitation from one stimulus will amplify the excitatory response to another stimulus—as any dude who has ever given a woman a ride on the back of his motorcycle knows only too well. Put another way, do exciting things in the bedroom and chances are that your partner will think you’re that much more fun to be around. If you’re looking for suggestions, one exciting move to try is the prostate massage: here’s how it’s done and what it feels like.
Did your partner have an orgasm during your session? Would she like another? If you really want to be a sexular superstar, make sure she knows that, just because sex is over for you for a little while, that you’re ready, enthused, and able to get her rocks off with your until she taps out.
“Show her you’re eager to engage more, if needed” says sex therapist Constance DelGiudice, Ed.D, LMHC. “Some women feel they have to rush, or that they take to long. Letting her know you’re willing to stay the course. This will relax her and reduce anticipatory anxiety.”
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