Sex Advice: Is it All a Load of Rubbish?
I’ve written a lot of sex books over the years and given a lot of advice. Most of it, I’m proud to say, I still stand by 15 years on. But there’s been a heap of research into arousal and orgasm since I started out as a fledging ‘sexpert’, and we understand more about our sexual systems and responses now, than we ever have.
This means original theories need to be reconsidered - and maybe completely rethought. There has never really been a ‘this works for everyone’ solution to any sexual problem because we’re all individual in our tastes and desires. But there are some pieces of advice doled out over and over again. The question is: what’s stood the test of time and what’s actually a load of rubbish?
She should buy some new sexy lingerie
There’s always been a perception that all you need to really do to rescue a dire sex life is to stock up on stockings, sheer panties and boost-up bras. But can new underwear really sort your sex problems?
Well… yes! It’s not going to solve the serious stuff but if you’ve just fallen into the been-together-forever rut, it can help because it shows what’s really missing: effort.
Does he really need to see you in those big, grey pants? If you must wear them, pull them on in privacy. Personally, I’d never, ever EVER let a man see me in tights. Even supermodels look dreadful in them and believe me, if they look bad, you’re going to look like I do - indescribably terrible.
This advice has stuck because there is truth in it - you do need to look good for your partner to fancy you. This also means eating well, exercising and generally taking pride in your appearance. We all know it’s lovely to pull on your track pants and snuggle up on the sofa in front of the telly - just get off it occasionally and head to the gym and when you go out together, get dressed up.
He should have sex like a woman
For years, men have been told to act like women in bed. Stop diving straight in (literally), and instead spend more time on foreplay, make her feel safe and comfortable and understand that women are like tiny rosebuds that need gentle coaxing before they open their ‘petals’ and burst into flower.
Seriously, when I started writing about sex all those years ago, you were pretty much told to start every sex session with a full body aromatherapy massage, pre-ceded by a two hour chat about ‘the relationship’. Oh, and rose petals scattered on the sheets were mandatory - even on Monday nights.
Everybody took this advice on board - and the affair rate climbed higher. That worked then. Not.
The reason why it didn’t is that if you ask most people what their best ever sex was, they rarely say ‘The time my husband of ten years ran a bath, gave me a massage and gently made love to me in bed’. Instead it’s ‘Shagging a man I’d just met in the loo on a plane’ or ‘This gorgeous Swedish girl giving me oral sex in an alley’.
Hot, urgent, naughty, erotic sex that’s usually with someone you shouldn’t be with, in a place you shouldn’t have sex in, doing something you don’t normally do. Danger is what keeps sex red hot long term - this is why couples that are really close friends have problems sustaining desire over time.
Clearly, there are some ‘female’ sex traits men do need to pay attention to but there’s lots about the male approach to sex that women can learn from. Grabbing it when you can. Not expecting every sex session to last for ages. Having dirty sex and saying ‘Sod it if the neighbours see or hear’. The male sexual psyche might be morally murkier than hers is, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
You should talk about sex
In the beginning, you can’t shut up about sex - if you’re not talking about what you’re getting up to already, you’re talking about what you’d like to.
Until something goes wrong.
Then it’s not quite so much fun because you’re feeling a bit delicate after that happened, or maybe they are, so you sort of shy away from the topic. And just when you really need to be talking about sex - when there’s a problem - you both suddenly clam up.
Sex then becomes the elephant in the room… and, more often than not, you both then watch your sex life slide effortlessly down the drain. Here’s the deal: no-one skates through life without any sex problems and if you can’t talk about them, you’ve got zero chance of solving them. This one’s 100% accurate!
You should plan sex sessions
Relationship experts often suggest couples book in ‘date nights’ or ‘sex nights’.
Now, I’m all for planning - but I do think it has to be done a certain way or it just becomes another chore added to the list.
Instead of planning a ‘date night’, plan an ‘us’ night: a night where just the two of you get to hang out and do something fun or interesting.
This might mean a romantic dinner out or it might mean a game of tennis or it might mean simply sitting in the garden with a glass of wine and no kids.
As for planning sex sessions, again, it really is a good idea but it’s got to be done with a healthy helping of anticipation or it will work against you.
Saying ‘We’ve got to have sex tonight’ is about as sexy as ‘Tonight we’re going to clean out the closet’. But if tonight is the night you’re going to try doing something slightly out there, like tying each other up, spanking each other, visiting a lap-dancing club, suddenly it is exciting. Planning something new and naughty is erotic. Adding sex to the ‘to do’ list isn’t.
You can judge how good your relationship is by the sex you're having
It's a good indicator but not a blanket rule. For instance, you'll often have your most intense sex with people who treat you badly.
Sex fuelled by anxiety, vulnerability, high emotion and longing for someone we're worried doesn't want us, is drenched with adrenaline. This sharpens nerve endings and makes everything feel way more concentrated.
Not all good sex is healthy sex.
Couples who argue constantly and feel a lot of anger towards each other often have more explosive sex than couples who get on well and have a good relationship.
In fact, recent research suggests you choose between a great sex life and a great relationship. As I said earlier, rather depressingly, the closer the couple, the harder it can be to keep desire going.
You should have sex for 20 minutes or longer
This one came into its own because of a survey result that said most women take 20 minutes to climax. Everyone took that to mean 20 minutes of general foreplay but in fact, it meant 20 minutes of direct and consistent clitoral stimulation.
So unless the session actually starts with him diving straight for it and is over the second she’s had her orgasm, it doesn’t make sense. People also missed the crucial words ‘up to’, as in it can take women up to 20 minutes, rather than it always does. Lots of women are able to orgasm in two minutes, others may take 40 minutes if not really in the mood.
Setting a minimum time limit on sex actually damaged people’s sex lives. If you’re struggling to find the energy to even kiss your partner because you’re juggling two young kids, trying to hold down a job and generally exhausted, being told sex isn’t even worth doing unless you’re prepared to devote half an hour that you don’t have put lots of couples off doing it at all. The best results I’ve ever got with couples who’d stopped having sex or had mismatched libidos is to tell them to ignore this piece of advice and instead do the opposite and have sex for no longer than five minutes, three times a week.
Strictly no longer than five minutes.
Even the most frazzled or uninterested can cope with a commitment of 15 minutes a week and the person who’s desperate for sex at least gets it three times a week. Both are happy - and it has an interesting effect.
Forbid something and people are desperate to break the rules go over the time limit.
Two things work to restore sexual appetites: remove the pressure and get the couple having sex again. This, sneakily and effectively, does both.
You should roleplay to spice things up
The world divides into people who love dressing up and acting out sexual scenarios and those who would rather dance naked in front of their mother-in-law.
It’s one person’s idea of heaven, another’s hell. As a general rule, I’d say people who quite like being the centre of attention, are unselfconscious and secretly dream of being ‘discovered’ respond perkily to the suggestion of playing cops and robbers or doctors and nurses. Shy, body-conscious, reserved types simply go pale.
Convinced sex advice isn't a load of baloney? Then check out some of Tracey's top Q&A advice from the archives, including "When we do girl-on-top, I get all self-conscious. How can I get over it?" and "Help! My man wants me to masturbate in front of him."