Want Better Sex? Stop Obsessing About Sex

We’re not supposed to talk about sex. But we’re still supposed to be good at it.

I’ve always suspected this approach is silly and counterproductive. Now science has proof.

In a new study, Dr. Frédérick Philippe of the University of Quebec, Montreal, has determined there are two kinds of sexual passion: harmonious and obsessive. With obsessive passion, sex is the goal and you’re competing with yourself to be the best at it. Harmonious passion dispenses with the idea of competition. You’re aiming for physical intimacy that feels good for both parties.

“People get this idea that [sex] has to be this perfect thing,” says Dirty Lola, a sex educator and host of the New York-based sex Q&A: “Sex Ed A Go Go.” It’s unfortunate because “you can have great, hilarious sex and you can have great, serious sex. As long as you’re able to go with the flow, that’s awesome.”

You’ve likely got enough to stress about without adding the obsessive need to be a sex champion to the list. Here are ways to “go with the flow” and boost your harmonious sexuality.

Consider separate rooms/beds
In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, a booking fluke at a B&B leads to a night in separate beds for Lily and Marshall. Free of excess body heat, sharp toenails and competing opinions on food in bed, they sleep soundly in separate beds and copulate in a third, “dirty, dirty sex bed.” Until Lily (of course it’s the woman) fears the arrangement will kill their marriage and the episode ends with them spooning on a twin mattress. The moral being your marriage is doomed unless you cram two adults onto a bed that barely contains a college first-year.

The CDC names sleep (or lack of it) as one of the biggest threats to American health. Maybe you’re a light sleeper and frequent pee-er; maybe you snore and your partner is the one who can’t rest. Consider adjourning for the evening to a different room, if you have the money and resources.

With this arrangement, you not only get the right amount and quality of sleep you need, your sex becomes intentional and pleasurable, not obligatory. You’re both doing it because you want to, not because you find yourselves between the same sheets at 10 p.m.

Flirt outside the bedroom

If kissing for more than 15 seconds means clothes must come off, smooching is going to feel a lot more like a chore. Flirt, kiss and cuddle with zero intention of having sex. Presumably, you like your partner for their mind and entire body, as well as their genitalia. Integrate that appreciation into your daily life so that when sex happens, it’s a part of the collage of sexual chemistry you’ve built throughout your relationship.

Consider taking orgasms out of the equation

If I haven’t already lost your trust at “break up the marriage bed,” here’s another crazy thought: decenter orgasms. Three-quarters of women don’t orgasm through penis-in-vagina (PIV) alone, yet intercourse is the gold standard for hetero sex. The obsessive pressure to orgasm is a pleasure-killer and the primary cause of faking it.

Dirty Lola says orgasms are a bonus, not an endgame. “You can feel good, and yes, orgasms are amazing but you don’t need to get there.”

Enjoy making your partner feel awesome regardless. If you have a hard time orgasming, don’t feel pressure to do so.

Broaden your definition of sex

Don’t obsess over doing sex “right.” Go beyond PIV or PIA (anus), to oral, fingering, massage, BDSM or any number of things from Debby Herbenick’s groundbreaking study on all the sex stuff Americans are into.

Get away from the curse of American sex: the baseball metaphor that starts with kissing and ends with vaginal or anal penetration.

Home plate is a dusty rubber mat; your sex life should be anything but dusty and the only rubber should be condoms, costumes and kink instruments.

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