When it comes to the down and dirty facts about sex, let’s face it: It’s easy to feel like you’re stuck in middle school sex-ed. Even if you know your between-the-sheets ABCs (we’re talking G-, A-, and P.S.-spots), bringing up new things with your S.O. can feel more taboo than the acts themselves.
Sex and relationships educator and Trojan Expert Logan Levkoff, PhD, has the permission slip you’ve been waiting for to get real about getting it on. When it comes to sex—and to bodies—Dr. Levkoff says, there’s no such thing as quote-unquote normal: “Not everyone is meant to look the same and not everyone is meant to look like adult film stars.” According to her, discovering your own sexual preferences—and honoring them—is the best way to practice #selflove between the sheets.
Discovering your own sexual preferences—and honoring them—is the best way to practice #selflove between the sheets.
So, let’s get down to business. Dr. Levkoff says that before you can have a conversation with a sexual partner about what you’re looking for, you need to you need to to conduct a thorough Q&A with yourself. Ask: “What is normal for me? What is it that I really want out of my sexual life? Do I want a long-term, monogamous relationship? Do I want to have fun, casual sex?” she says. There are no wrong answers—the important thing is asking the questions.
Keep scrolling for the answers to the messy, uncomfortable, embarrassing sex Qs you’ve lusting for.
1. How should I have the “I want to spice things up” conversation with my partner?
So you want to add a little zest to your regularly scheduled sexual activities (and we mean, literally scheduled), but you’re at a loss for how to bring it up? Dr. Levkoff says honest, sexy talk with your partner is the way to go. “My philosophy, pretty much for everything, has always been to own the awkward. Be totally upfront about it,” she advises. You can get the conversation rolling with something like, “Honey, I’m not exactly sure how to ask this, but I’m feeling like I might want to try…”
If your stomach ties in knots just reading the above, Dr. Levkoff says you can give yourself an extra push by leaving a note for your partner that says you want to chat later. That way, you have to have “the talk.” To make this little back and forth more flirtatious, Dr. Levkoff suggests leaving a post-it on your partner’s computer that reads, “Hey! Want to talk to you about something fun tonight.” Or, maybe just shoot them a good old eggplant emoji via text.
2. Why can’t I orgasm during penetrative sex?
Even though Hollywood (*cough* 50 Shades of Grey *cough*) would have you believe that the female orgasm comes down to raw attraction alone, in reality, “the majority of female bodies do not have orgasms from intercourse alone. We are built to have orgasms, but not from penetrative sex,” says Dr. Levkoff.
“Recognize that [not orgasming] is a really common thing that takes place, and the reason for that is that the glands of the clitoris are largely external. The clitoris has legs like wishbones that extend down the sides [of your vulva], and technically, penetration can stimulate those slightly, but not directly,” she elaborates. That’s why Dr. Levkoff recommends expanding your definition of sex beyond intercourse as well as adding a little—or a lot—of variety to your sex life in the form of vibrating rings, games, and smart condoms.
3. What’s the norm (and what’s not) for fluids during sex?
Hopefully, you’re already in the habit of washing your sheets after hooking up (FYI: the average man waits 12 days to wash his sheets after sexual activity while the average woman waits four). But embracing the ickier parts of the “dirty deed” might be the trick to enjoying yourself even more. “We don’t say it very often, because for whatever reason we don’t like to tell the truth about sex, but sex is messy! It’s supposed to be!” says Dr. Levkoff.
That being said, there are a few key things to keep an eye (or ear, or nose) out for during sex. “I would say that we should be concerned about fluids if there’s a very unusual odor, if there’s pain associated with them, if they’re a color that doesn’t look like it’s right for your body.” If you do notice anything out of the ordinary, Dr. Levkoff suggests consulting with your OB-GYN.
4. What if one of us just isn’t in the mood?
Well, it kind of depends. Well, it kind of depends. If you’re in the nascent stage of your relationship, Dr. Levkoff warns that a mismatched libido might be a sign that you and your new bae just aren’t that compatible.
If you’re in a long-term relationship, though, a mismatched sex-drive is pretty much unavoidable, and according to Dr. Levkoff, a good solution is to find a fun (for both parties) way to let loose that doesn’t involve intercourse. “I think we put a lot of pressure on penetrative sex as being the hallmark of the sex act, instead of recognizing that there are a lot of different ways to be intimate where people can experience physical, sexual, emotional pleasure that might not be penetration,” says Dr. Levkoff. She suggests—no joke—a hand job. “We don’t talk about that because we think of that being so juvenile,” she says, “But the reality is—that’s intimate, connected touch and that’s a great way to connect with someone.”
Of course, if you’re truly not feeling it, your partner should respect your decision to say “not tonight, babe.”
5. Should the conversation around consent change once I’m in a relationship?
Speaking of saying no…Getting the green light before you make sexual advances has always been non-negotiable in theory, and thanks to the #MeToo campaign, a world that understands and values consent as a human right is hopefully closer than ever before. But does the definition of consent change once you make things official? And if so, how?
“There should always be a ‘yes’ and ideally it’s enthusiastic,” says Dr. Levkoff. And early on in a relationship—or during a fling—both the asking and giving of consent should be explicit. As your relationship progresses, Dr. Levkoff advises setting a solid groundwork of what’s okay and what’s not. “But that does take time, that takes skill, that takes a willingness to listen, and to hear what someone else says whether it’s positive or negative,” she says.
6. Should I tell my S.O. about my sexual fantasies?
“[I]f you’re having fantasies, you’re human,” says Dr. Levkoff. “They have nothing to do with your relationship. You have fantasies because you’re a human being and there are a lot of things we can turn on to.” So while it’s true that some people have more colorful imaginations than others, every. single. person. has sexual fantasies, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of.
Enjoying these fantasies in private does not necessarily mean you’ll enact them IRL, but Dr. Levkoff says sharing them with your partner can bring a new dimension to your sex life. Looking for a solid segue to bring up your hidden turn-ons? Dr. Levkoff suggests using pop culture cues (i.e. things you see in movies or on TV) to kick off the convo. “Is that something you’ve ever thought about?” you could say. Who knows: Maybe you share a mutual, steamy desire you never knew about until now.
Looking for even *more* sexy talk? Here’s the one thing you should be doing every morning to improve your sex life, and why your avo toast might be revving your libido.