As a sex coach who works with women and couples to create satisfying and nourishing sex lives, I can easily zero in on three top mistakes that couples make when it comes to sex — mistakes that lead to little or none of it.
While this article refers primarily to heterosexual couples, this also applies to struggles in same-sex relationships where one of the partners is a woman.
Mistake #1: Expecting sexual desire on the spot
The phrase “Honey, can we have sex tonight?” is guaranteed to kill most women’s libido almost immediately.
There’s been a long-standing assumption, all the way from Freud’s time, that there’s one kind of libido — the spontaneous kind. You decide you want to have sex and you’re able to get turned on. There is truth to this: men’s sexuality is indeed more geared towards spontaneous desire, as Emily Nagoski documented in her book “Come as You Are”.
When women come to me for coaching, they share how they freeze on the spot hearing this request from their partners, in fears and in tears, thinking “There’s something wrong with me as I can’t get turned on, even though I love my partner.” They expect they they should get turned on and beat themselves up when they don’t.
The truth is that women’s libido is simply different. And that is ok.
Women’s libido is responsive to arousal, and arousal comes from stimulation: emotional, psychological, energetic, mental and physical. It can come from deep connection and curious attention, from play, from affectionate and sexual touch, from sharing desires, and simply from kind and thoughtful gestures through out the day that show her that you care.
Too often, after the initial wooing period, demonstrations of affection tend to be limited to foreplay — which makes them transactional. Just another stop on the way to the home run. And that kills women’s desire.
Women’s desire is to be evoked, not asked for. It is explored, built up and led up to, not turned on on-demand, like a light switch.
It’s important for both men and women to understand that for most women, sex is not something they give or do. It is a state that women enter — an emotionally and physically opened state — where they can share themselves sexually with another person. It cannot be willed. It has to be awakened and aroused.
Without understanding the mechanics of their own libido, women will often get aroused “just enough” to be able to have intercourse, but miss the mark on getting deeply aroused to reach the kind of nourishing, satisfying sex that generates connection as well as desire for more (and more) sex.
Women having penetration sex (and oral sex too) before their bodies are aroused, turned on and ready too often leads them to conclude that they don’t enjoy sex. And when there is pain during sex, which is most often caused by tightness due to lack of deep internal arousal, it’s easy to believe that women’s body are broken.
When I work with both partners in a couple, the crucial first step to shifting sexual desire is understanding the dynamics of female arousal and learning to evoke her sexual desire — by the woman herself and her partner — rather than expect it. And when a woman can reach high levels of arousal and access deep sexual pleasure, her libido becomes more spontaneous on its own.
Mistake #2: Going for the goal
The openness and curiosity we often experience in the beginning of relationships is also what creates the closeness and the natural turn-on that leads to fun, passionate sex. After the initial wooing period, couples lose their curiosity and explorations with each other (and I don’t mean in terms of finding new sex positions). I am talking about being curious about each otherand what their bodies — and hearts — are all about.
We stop the exploration assuming — erroneously — that since we now know our partners enough, we can just do what we know to do. And that kills sex drive, especially for women.
Without curiosity, sex becomes perfunctory and goal-oriented towards orgasm and release as well as transactional (orgasm for orgasm, or orgasm for an illusory sense of emotional security), losing its magical opening, connecting and generative powers.
When it comes to the female libido, the typical approach to sex — where you hit all the “bases” on the way to the “home run” — doesn’t inspire, arouse, or satisfy women. It kills women’s desire, when it’s all that’s available on the menu.
When I work with couples, we reintroduce the curiosity element into the mix, renewing their excitement for each other and adding more spark and passion that fuels more sexual desire. When couples learn how to get curious verbally, energetically and physically with each other, they start to feel more open, satisfied and nourished from the experience.
Mistake #3: Stop touching for the sake of touching
Couples that stop touching for the sake of touching invariably stop having sex.
Touch is connecting. Touch is arousing. Touch has healing elements. And when touch is just one of the things you do on the way to sex, it becomes transactional and it loses its magic powers.
Because women’s sexual desire is responsive to stimulation, spontaneous non-sexual as well as sexual touch — a stroke on the back of the nape, holding hands, and genital stroking (not to get her to orgasm, but to stroke for pleasure) — will help her build up her arousal well before you get into sex.
Touch is equally important for men. Learning to receive touch helps men learn to receive pleasure in a way that they don’t get to experience when being in the doer position, expanding their capacity for holding sensation in their bodies and their capacity to last longer during intercourse.
These discrepancies in desire are never the issue in and of themselves. It’s how couples deal with them that can break or heal and deepen the relationship. Understanding and honoring our sexual desire and arousal patterns is just like understanding and honoring our personality needs in a relationships. And when couples open up to the experience with curiosity and learning, they can create connection that inspires, invigorates — and turns them on and on.
To understand female libido and what couples can do to create radically fulfilling sex, attend my free live online training and Q&A “Understanding Female Libido: What Couples Need to Know to Have Radically Fulfilling Sex” on November 15, 2017 at 5pm PST/8pm EST. Register to attend live and receive a recording.