Sex and relationships educator 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.
Below, Levkoff and other sexperts answer the messy, uncomfortable, and 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, actually 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. 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.
7. How do I get comfortable "talking dirty" in bed?
If the idea of whispering sweet nothings into your S.O.'s ear mid-sex makes you want to blush, gag, laugh, or some combination of all three, Sari Cooper CST, Director of Center for Love and Sex in NYC, advises planning ahead. First and foremost, decide if you're genuinely interested in sexy talk. If the answer is no, no biggie. Have a convo with your partner to let them know your boundaries, and focus your sexual experimentation on something else (maybe acupuncture...).
Feel like giving it a shot? Cooper has a few tips to help you navigate the discomfort, starting with having a beginner's mentality. "Remember when you first began to French kiss? You probably weren’t very good at it," she says. "Talking dirty is a skill, just like flirting, introductions, and public speaking." For motivation, Cooper suggests emulating the script from your favorite Hollywood sex scene in front of the mirror.
Of course, make sure to chat with your partner before getting down to business: "Setting expectations and discussing consent can be sexy in its own way because it builds anticipation," says Cooper. "It also ensures you’re on the same page and your partner gets that you’re nervous and need a lot of encouragement."
8. Do I need to treat an uncircumcised penis differently than a circumcised one during oral sex?
If your partner has a penis, Cooper advises asking them if they have any preferred methods, boundaries, and expectations before getting started. (In sexier words, presumably.) In general though, if you're dealing with an uncircumcised penis, "one should slide the foreskin down just until the head is exposed, and use the tongue more gently while sliding the foreskin up and down over his shaft," advises the sex specialist.
9. Should I use condoms during oral sex?
Even if you're on the pill or using another form of contraception (like an IUD), it's a smart move to also use a condom in order to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases like HPV. And condoms aren't reserved strictly for penetrative sex. According to Cooper, they're something you should plan on using for all varieties of tantric pleasure.
"Using condoms during oral sex is a safer choice and recommended if you don’t know your partner either at all or very well," she explains, adding that without the extra form of contraception, "one can be at risk for several STDs, including herpes, HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, or HPV in one’s throat when giving oral sex to a man." To make the experience a little bit more, er, appetizing, Cooper says picking up a flavored pack is a good option.
10. Will deeper penetration give me more pleasure?
"Each person enjoys different experiences," explains Cooper. According to the expert, one size fits all mentality just doesn't apply when you're doing the dirty (pun intended). For some sex-loving ladies, deeper thrusts will stimulate the G-spot and spark a climax; for others, the same action can cause cervical pain.
So not to sound redundant here, but this is yet another case that proves the convo you have *before* doing it will set you up for success while you're—you know—in the throws.
11. Can women *actually* have multiple orgasms?
Since we've already established that having one orgasm is far from a walk in the park for many women (at least when it comes to penetrative sex), the idea of more during a single romp kinda seems like a miracle. But in a shocking turn of events, Cooper says it's actually easier for women to have multiple orgasms than it is for men. "Women are built to have multiple orgasms and they have a lower refractory rate than men. This means that their body doesn’t need as much time to get re-aroused to have another orgasm," the sexpert explains.
In fact, a women's first climax is really the equivalent of a warm-up: "For many women, the first orgasm they have in a session becomes a higher arousal platform from which to move ahead to the next one—think of it like building blocks, so that each climax becomes easier to reach," Cooper says. So while you're BF might have the upper-hand when it comes to round one, rounds two, three, and (maybe?) four are all in your court.
Originally published on February 2, 2018; updated on September 19, 2018.
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.
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