How to have better sex
For some of us, spending more time with our partners during lockdown has meant more intimacy. Research by the sex toy brand We-Vibe found that 18% of live-in couples were having more sex than usual, with 16% saying they’d tried new things in the bedroom. On the flip side, a survey by OnBuy found nearly half the couples surveyed were having less sex – 41% of women said they weren’t satisfied with their sex lives. So, why is lockdown sex so divisive?
‘A lot of people find it hard to feel sexy when they’re worrying about staying safe, or losing their job, or have their kids around,’ explains Samantha Evans, sex and pleasure expert. Dating and relationships expert Sarah Louise Ryan adds that being with your partner 24/7 can be an obstacle to desire. ‘You’re cooped up between four walls and there isn’t much space for excitement or spontaneity,’ she says. ‘A lot of what drives our sexual desire is the space between us, but now you know what the other person is doing every minute of the day.’
But for couples who have found a way to keep sex exciting, its mood-boosting benefits could be a salve for the current climate. ‘Sex is really good for anxiety relief,’ explains psychologist Emma Kenny. ‘When you have sex, the happy hormones oxytocin and serotonin get released in your brain, lifting your mood and making you feel good.’ So how do we start breaking down those barriers and reap the feel-good benefits? Try these expert-backed tips for better sex.
Rethink what sex means
According to experts, our expectations about sex can be enough to put us off doing it. ‘We build up pictures around what we’re meant to be doing and how we’re meant to be acting,’ explains Kenny. ‘One thing we try to do in therapy is get people to see that a five-minute quickie is just as important as an hour of drawn-out lovemaking.’
Evans believes sexual touch can be an important part of intimacy for couples who are feeling tired or stressed. ‘People might feel they can’t face having full-blown intercourse, but they could try mutual masturbation, or oral sex, or just having a snog,’ she says. ‘Many couples don’t have penetrative sex, anyway – it’s about exploring different things. You could just try giving each other an orgasm before you go to sleep.’
Once you’ve expanded the boundaries of what sex means, it’s easy to start having more of it. ‘The more sex we have, the more we want,’ explains Ryan. ‘We get addicted to the feel-good factors.’
Good communication is vital if we want our sex life to flourish. ‘One reason your libido might be negatively affected might be a feeling that you and your partner aren’t sharing the load,’ explains Kenny. Whether it’s childcare duties, housework, or financial worries, failing to address an unequal balance in responsibilities can cause sex to dwindle. ‘When you feel bitter and resentful towards your partner, the last thing you feel like doing is sharing yourself with them,’ explains Kenny.
The solution? Explain how you’re feeling and try to reach a compromise. ‘You both need to work through those feelings and get to a place where you feel equally cared for,’ says Kenny. And you shouldn’t feel afraid to ask for what you want in bed. ‘In long-term relationships in particular, people get into a bad habit of not asking for what they want, and then feeling too embarrassed to do that,’ says Kenny. ‘Try to be open with one another.’
Find a compromise
‘If a couple has mismatched libidos, it’s not necessarily the one who wants it less who has the right gauge,’ says Kenny. Evans believes that planning sex can be helpful in this scenario. ‘It sounds boring, but if you know your partner wants to have sex that night, you can try to feel ready for it. Obviously, you should never have sex that you don’t want to have, but talking about it beforehand means you might be able to play together.’
If you’re still not feeling it, reflect on what’s holding you back. ‘It might be you’ve got issues with your body,’ says Kenny. In this case, honesty is the best solution. ‘Often our partners are the first port of call to remind us why we’re so fantastic and beautiful. Express that you don’t feel sexy unless you feel good about your body and talk about what they can do to promote that.’
Try new things
With more time at home, you might decide to try a toy – not just for solo sex, but to use with a partner. ‘Start with something small, like a bullet vibrator, because they’re inexpensive and easy to use,’ says Evans. ‘You can use it on a clitoris or a penis, or on the nipples.’ But choose a toy with a skin-safe material – rubber and jelly are porous, absorb bacteria and will degrade over time.
Fantasies can also help you escape from your routine. ‘Share stories about what you find exciting with your partner,’ says Ryan. ‘That can provide stimulation itself, because you’ll create an air of mystery and spontaneity in which lust can thrive.’ Evans also suggests trying a bit of kink. ‘Using a blindfold can be exciting, as you don’t know what’s coming next and once you’ve been deprived of your sight, it feels like other senses are heightened. You could use a little scarf to blindfold yourself, or your partner, or even tie each other to the bed frame.’