When we get sex ed as young people, we almost never get information about pleasure. Much of the early messaging we get is shame-based and only highlights the dangers of sex. We might be taught to avoid sexually transmissible infections and pregnancy, but we're rarely taught how to discover and negotiate our pleasure.
As the pursuit of pleasure is the primary reason most of us have sex, here are five ways to have more of it in your sex life.
1. Use lube with condoms.
I have a public health background, so I've seen my fair share of condom demonstrations. It's amazing to me that condom use is so often taught without mentioning lube.
Using lube with condoms makes them feel so much better. It's night and day. A drop in the tip before it's rolled on, plus a bit on the outside once it's unfurled, can do wonders.
The lubricant that the condom comes with is just enough to keep the condom from drying out in transport -- not enough for it to stay lubricated during intercourse. Add other variables like a wider penis, longer-than-average sex play, or medication that reduces vaginal lubrication, and lube becomes an even greater need.
Do yourself (and your genitals) a favor: if you're using barriers of any sort, get a high-quality, latex-friendly lubricant.
2. Give the vagina time to tent.
When a vagina is getting aroused, the area around the cervix lengthens and widens creating a "tenting" effect. This allows the vagina to accommodate a penis or toy with more comfort and ease.
Key thing: It takes at least 10 minutes of foreplay for tenting to occur. You can't rush it. For most women, this means clitoral stimulation happening in a context that is sexually exciting.
In my workshops, I've had many women ask me what to do when their male partners get immediately aroused but it takes for them longer to get there.
My answer? Communicate that foreplay is key for your enjoyment and make the foreplay mutual. Do things to each other that turn you both on, either in turns or at the same time. It'll be so fun that no one will be looking at the clock.
3. Strengthen (and relax!) your pelvic floor.
Most of us know it's important to do our Kegels -- the exercises that strengthen our pelvic floor. A strong pelvic floor increases bladder control as we age, supports our posture, and - here comes the pleasure part - helps us have stronger orgasms. You can even get vaginal weights to upgrade your Kegel workout.
But here's what often missing from how-to-do-your-Kegels articles: Relaxation is just as important as strengthening your pelvic floor. Muscles only build when they are at rest. It's like how you can't fix a car while it's running.
If you're practicing your Kegels, make sure to take deep breaths and fully relax those muscles after your workout.
Note: If you have pelvic pain, you should ask your healthcare provider before starting a pelvic floor workout regime.
4. Want to find the G-spot? Don't give up on it after one go.
A lot of mainstream adult sex ed talks about the G-spot as though it's a magic button that when pressed, transmits immediate waves of bliss. It doesn't work this way for many folks. It may take a couple weeks of regular massage to wake up the area. And some people never find the G-spot super erotic (also totally normal).
Often, when people first go about finding the G-spot, they just felt like they have to pee. It makes sense -- the G-spot is a nexus of tissues right in front of the bladder.
But some folks are determined and push past those initial need-to-pee feelings. Many of them empty their bladders beforehand and with time, they find that the area wakes up to pleasurable feelings.
Lesson: Take your time. Some things don't happen over night.
5. People vary in what they like. Ask, "What would delight you?"
So many sex articles and books frame good sex as a combination lock; just get the right moves and it will magically unlock. But the reality is that humans vary widely in what they enjoy in bed.
What one person goes crazy for will feel weird and unpleasant to someone else.
If you want to upgrade your sex life, ask questions like, "What would delight you?" and "What would totally turn you on?" These questions can open lots of pleasurable possibilities.
Know your own answers to these questions, too. Part of what makes one a good lover is knowing what one likes and having the communication skills to articulate that to partners.