Women's bodies are totally overexposed and still seriously misunderstood. Hey, scientists didn't even really know how the clitoris worked until 2009.
So it's not really surprising that when it comes to heterosexual sex, women still don't always get an equal opportunity to have a great time.
So, men, get your pencils out. This is a crash course in being the kind of partner any woman would want to date (or at the very least, have no-strings-attached sex with again).
How a woman feels about her body can directly affect how much she enjoys sex.
This isn't about vanity -- body image can have a serious impact on a woman's sex life. Positive body image is associated with having a satisfying sex life, and the reverse is also true. A growing wealth of research suggests that negative body image can make women distracted and self-conscious during sex, which can seriously detract from pleasure.
These sentiments may seem absurd to men who think the women they sleep with look amazing. But it's important to remember that just because you think she looks good doesn't mean that she feels good.
Our culture values male pleasure more than female pleasure.
Research has shown that women are less likely to enjoy sex than men -- and young women are about half as likely to orgasm during sex as young men.
Some of this is the result of our cultural prioritization of sexual acts that are most pleasurable for men, like vaginal intercourse. While only 8 percent of women can reliably reach orgasm through vaginal sex alone, nearly all men can. And other research indicates that younger women spend more time attending to men's sexual needs than their own. In one 2012 study of college students, a participant described feeling like she didn't have a "right" to orgasm, particularly when it was a first-time hookup.
The more invested a man is in his female partner's pleasure, the more likely she is to enjoy herself.
The "orgasm gap" between the sexes is particularly pronounced when it comes to initial sexual encounters. On average, men show less investment in giving women an orgasm when it's a first-time hookup. The more committed men are in the relationship -- in other words, the more invested a man is in his female partner's pleasure -- the narrower the orgasm gap becomes.
And just because she's not speaking up in bed doesn't mean she's actually enjoying sex.
A 2012 study of college students found that in casual sexual situations, some women may worry about whether it is considered "acceptable" to speak up about their sexual desires. One study participant said, "It’s just not comfortable enough to be like, ‘You know, hey, this isn’t doing it for me." Women, at times, may also fear that men will think they're too experienced if they clearly communicate what they like and don't like, relationship counselor Debra Smouse told The Huffington Post.
It's worth staying engaged with your partner and speaking up if you sense that she's not saying something. A simple "tell me what you like" can break down barriers and create a comfortable space where you both can both truly enjoy yourselves.
Women can enjoy casual sex just as much as men.
Stereotypically, men are seen as eager to acquire more notches on their proverbial bed posts, while women are perceived to be looking for true love over physical pleasure. However, a growing body of research has confirmed what most women already knew: Women aren't actually less "open" to casual sex. In fact, a 2011 study found that women are just as likely to engage in casual sex as men, as long as the situation meets two requirements:
A. They will not be slut-shamed about it. B. Their sexual partner will be skilled and make the experience pleasurable.
When these two factors are accounted for, the disparity in men's and women's willingness to have casual sex completely disappears.
The average woman takes about 10 to 20 minutes to reach an orgasm during foreplay and vaginal intercourse.
Men, on the other hand, typically take seven to 14 minutes to climax. And most women who do orgasm during a sexual encounter don't do so through your typical penis-in-vagina sex alone -- many women require a variety of sexual acts to induce an orgasm. So make sure to ask her what she finds pleasurable.
But if she doesn't orgasm, don't think it was all a waste of time.
Sometimes, making orgasms the sole focus of a sexual experience can actually detract from sexual pleasure. Many women develop anxieties about reaching orgasm with their partners, which only makes it that much harder to have a good time.
So don't expect a woman to orgasm every single time. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a 2014 study suggests that orgasming may not be the chief measure of sexual satisfaction for every person. Again, communication is key. The value of an orgasm -- and a woman's ability to regularly have one -- varies with each individual.
If you feel like your touch isn't turning her on, you probably just haven't found the right place to touch yet.
In a piece writer Jill Di Donato wrote for The Huffington Post in 2012, she asked 7 women about their erogenous zones. The responses ranged from the mouth to the ears to the arches of the feet, which one reader attributed to the 7,000 nerve endings we have down there. But it wasn't just about the number of nerve endings -- some women said they enjoyed being touched in areas of their body that they feel particularly confident about. It's worth taking the time to figure out what a woman loves most about her body and giving it more attention in the moment.
And for some women, unfortunately, sex might not ever really feel good.
Simple explanations for not having sex like "I'm tired" or "I don't feel good," could suggest much more complicated issues. So it's important not to dismiss these statements as "excuses to avoid sex." Though, sometimes a woman is just genuinely tired. And that's ok, too.
For some women, pain or discomfort during sex can be the result of couples prioritizing vaginal intercourse over other sexual acts. For other women, this discomfort may come from medical conditions which may make it difficult to fully engage in and enjoy sex. Researchers have consistently found that nearly half of women suffer from sexual dysfunctions of some sort, ranging from pain during sex to a consistently low libido. Then of course, there are specific conditions that make sex legitimately painful, such as vaginismus, which causes involuntary muscle spasms around the vagina, making it tighter and even closed at times. If your partner is experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important not to take it personally and to be understanding.
When in doubt, talk about it.
Above all, to have good sex, you need to be able to have good, honest communication. If you're unsure how she's feeling, just ask.