Ten Tips For Better Sex

SOLO | Justin Lehmiller | Tips For Better Sex


Whether with a partner or solo, sex is fun–or at least should be. Peter McGraw and guest co-host, Laura Grant, talk to Justin Lehmiller, a sex researcher and author of “Tell Me What You Want” about how to have better sex. They discuss Justin’s “Ten Resolutions for Better Sex.”

Listen to Episode #212 here


Ten Tips For Better Sex

Our guest is a relationship and sexuality expert. He’s a social psychologist and research fellow at the Kinsey Institute with over fifteen years of experience studying sexuality, human behavior, and relationships. He is the author of the excellent book, Tell Me What You Want, which happens to sit on my bookshelf. Welcome, Justin Lehmiller.

SOLO | Justin Lehmiller | Tips For Better Sex
Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life

Thanks for having me.

It’s great to have you here. We have a return guest who’s going to be serving as a special co-host for this episode. You’ll recognize her from many episodes, including the Friends With Benefits episode, the Solo Poly episode, and a variety of Solo Book Club episodes. She’s a spreadsheet artist and a contributor to my book Solo. Welcome, Laura Grant.

I’m glad you included me. Thanks, Peter.

You’re necessary for this because you’re going to spice this up, I have a feeling.

I’ll try my best.

Sex is important whether solo or with a partner. I want to keep in mind that what we might be talking about may be solo-related. You’re enjoying the company of yourself or with a partner or partners. We have a big tent here. Beyond the obvious of reproduction sex benefits, your physical and mental health, and facilitates emotional intimacy. bonding and as I like to say, it is a great form of stress relief. What would you add to that list, Justin?

You hit on some of the big ones now. We’ve done research looking at why people have sex. What we found is that there are more than 237 distinct reasons why people might do it. When you start rank-ordering them, it turns out that reproduction is a surprisingly uncommon reason to have sex. It’s down there toward the bottom of the list. More often than not, when we’re having sex, whether it’s solo or with a partner, we’re doing it for pleasure or because it feels good or it’s fun. There are all kinds of self-care reasons for why we engage in both solo and partnered sexual activity. You hit on a big one, which is stress relief.

There are studies showing that on days people engage in sex, they feel less stressed the next day and that is good for their relationship. It’s also good for them in the workplace. On days you have an orgasm, the next day you go into the office, you’re more productive at work and you feel like you can take more things on because it has this way of resetting the brain, to some degree and makes us feel better. It provides a mood boost and stress relief.

I think one of the other key benefits of sex and both masturbation to highlight is that it helps us sleep. There’s research showing that when you masturbate or have sex before bed, particularly when that’s coupled with an orgasm, you tend to fall asleep faster and you get better quality sleep. Sleep is important for our overall physical and mental health. For the sleep benefits alone, if you’re going to masturbate or have sex, that’s one great reason to do it.

Take the time. I love that.

Laura, what would you add to that list?

I love how we’re talking about how sex and masturbation improve your internal state. I sometimes use it as a barometer of my internal state. I’m not the most self-aware. I’m not the most in touch with my body all of the time. That is a way to focus on connecting with my body to see what’s going on with it and, improve all of those things in in theory.

I’m a scientist and Justin is too, you said sex and masturbation. Those are distinct things. Can you define sex and masturbation because we’re going to be talking about both here?

Masturbation, I would define as any form of solo self-pleasure. It’s whatever it is that brings you pleasure. Different people masturbate in different ways. I want to do a whole study on this at some point to look at varied techniques and ways that people do it because I think there’s a lot that’s still unexplored when it comes to masturbation. When it comes to partnered sex, this can take a lot of different forms.

Some people provide a very narrow definition and and define it specifically in terms of penetrative intercourse. When it comes to how we sexually engage with other people, that’s one of many things we might do. I tend to take a more expansive view of partnered sex. That might include oral sex, mutual masturbation or anything you’re doing with a partner that brings you pleasure. I tend to take pretty expansive definitions for both of these things. The big difference though, between masturbation and partnered sex is whether you have a partner or not.

Tip #1: Be More Vocal During Sex

You put out a list of ten resolutions for better sex. I thought they were great and thought we’d have some fun. We’re going to go through each of them and discuss them to talk a little bit about best practices and why this is on your list. I have some questions. Laura has some questions. We have some audience questions and we’re going to roll right through this. The first one is, and as someone who’s a big talker, I like this one, “Be more vocal during sex.”

This means a couple of different things. On the one hand, it’s a call to have more sexual communication. with your partner or partners because if we’re not communicating about what it is that we want, we’re less likely to get that when it comes to sex, then that can make it less pleasurable for everyone. Part of this is about communicating more about your likes and dislikes, boundaries and all of that other stuff. The other part of it is making more noise and vets.

This is the moaning, groaning, panting and all of those sorts of things. What we see in the research is that people who make more of these vocalizations in bed tend to be more sexually satisfied and their partners are more satisfied too. There’s some interesting research finding that if you look at this in a heterosexual context, the noises that women make during bed are technically called in the scientific world Female Copulatory Vocalizations.

The more of these noises that women make during bed, the more it facilitates men’s orgasm. It makes it easier and faster for men to have an orgasm. We tend to take delight and pleasure in the noises our partner makes. I think that’s true for a few reasons. One is that it provides some validation for us. It lets us know how much our partner is into us, but it is a sign that you are a sexually confident or skilled partner and that your partner is getting what they wants and enjoying it. There’s so much to be said for taking pleasure in your partner’s pleasure. We hear a lot about this in the context of polyamory, where we hear the term conversion, taking pleasure or delight in someone else’s pleasure. It happens in any sexual context that when you’re engaged sexually with another person and they’re happy, they’re enjoying it, they’re taking pleasure in it, that tends to increase your own sexual pleasure as well. Noise is a great way of communicating that.

I’m glad you mentioned not just talking because sometimes, “I don’t want to talk,” but any vocalization. You can communicate in many different ways. I’m glad you laid that out there.

You used the word vocal. To me, listening to you, Justin, there are these three stages as I see it. There’s pre, talking about things beforehand. People know I have a saying which is, “Ask for what you want.” You can do that before and during. I practice intimacy design, this idea that you are co-creating this rendezvous, experience and sexual relationship, and then revisiting it regularly. There’s the conversation afterward. How did that go?

Each stage is enhancing. I like that you’re encouraging from a heteronormative standpoint as a straight man, those vocalizations because as a guy, there are times where I’m like turning dials, pulling levers, paying close attention, “Am I doing the right thing?” Having someone either say yes right there or keep doing that, or just vocalizing that they’re enjoying what I’m doing is not only helpful but as you mentioned, it’s also a turn-on because I enjoy it when my partner has pleasure.

Something else that’s worth adding to all of this is that for a lot of us, sex is this high-stakes thing. We place so much value and emphasis on sex, and whether we are a sexually skilled or confident partner, “What is the quality of our sex life?” This communication in the form of moaning and groaning or even one word like yes or more, things like that, is the positive reinforcement we need to keep going to take some of the pressure off to make sure that we know that we’re doing the right thing, our partner’s enjoying it.

Anything you can do to take that little bit of edge off during sexual activity is a good thing because it’s this high-stakes thing for a lot of people. I wish it wasn’t, but that has a way of getting in the way of good and pleasurable sex because when we start getting in our head and we start questioning like, “Are they into it or not? Are they enjoying this?” then we start second-guessing ourselves that leads to self-defeating thoughts that can contribute to a drop in arousal. It can make it harder to have an orgasm and all these other sorts of things.

What tips do you have for the person who’s like, “I am probably not talking or vocalizing enough.” Where’s a good place to start for them?

For a lot of us, being vocal in bed sounds like a heavy lift because we’re not used to doing it. Some people are only used to having completely silent sex. If that’s the case for you, I think a good place to start is by trying vocalizing when you’re masturbating, try it on your own and you can experiment with different types of noises, different volume levels, and there’s no one around to judge you. You don’t have to worry about how that’s going to be perceived, but it’s a way where you can try it out and you can get used to those sensations. You can also see, “Does this add to my enjoyment? Is it cathartic is a way of releasing more?” if you can be a little bit more vocal during masturbation.

Once you’re ready to start incorporating that into partnered sex, you can do it in baby steps. Maybe it’s you’re like moaning into a pillow or something like that. It doesn’t have to be the kinds of noises that you might see in pornography. Don’t try to mimic or replicate what people on screen are doing. The key here is to do what feels natural for you and that you feel comfortable with, but you also don’t want it to feel forced. You want this to feel like an authentic expression of you in the moment. something that adds to your own and your partner’s enjoyment, not something that feels like this heavy lift or burden and you’re trying to be someone that you’re not.

I would even say the breathing that you’re doing, not to get too in your head about it, but how loudly you’re breathing. That can be very sexy to say, “As my arousal increases, the speed of my breathing and maybe the volume of my breathing can increase.” That might also be a good baby step to experiment with, “This is another way of bringing another one of the senses into this wonderful sensual experience.” Sex is such a multi-sensory thing. It’s often an overlooked thing because we often focus on the physical sensation of genital contact and there’s much else that’s going on. That’s where learning to be more in the moment during sex and paying attention to all those different senses add to and contribute to having that nice multisensory experience.

One of the tips that I would say especially when you’re having an orgasm is an excellent time because there’s this release and for many people I know there’s like stuff where you’re recycling your orgasm through your body, but a lot of people when they orgasm, they’re orgasming out. One exciting thing to do is to articulate that with the noises that you make. In many ways, it’s very rewarding to your partner because they’re like, “I did that.” That I think is that you’re not holding anything back, whether it be your breath, noises and vocalizations as you like to say.

I want to point out that making noises in bed is not just for your partner’s benefit. It’s also for your own benefit. One way to easily see that is that if you are making more of these noises and they’re cluing your partner into what you like and enjoy, then that ensures that you’re going to get more of those things in the future. If you think of it through the lens of positive reinforcement, this is an easy way of communicating your wants. For many people it’s easier to communicate it through moans, groans, panting and breathing than it is to vocalize and say, “I like it when you touch me here or do this specific thing.” It’s hard to put those things into words for a lot of people. This is an easy workaround for putting that communication out there and getting more of what you want.

I’m going to ask this question for Laura because I know she wants to know. What about dirty talk in particular as a form of vocalizing?

In my research on sexual fantasies that I conducted for Tell Me What You Want, I asked people to what extent their fantasies incorporate dirty talk. Most people have some level of dirty talk in their fantasies. That goes back to sex being this multisensory thing. This is a slight tangent, but if you go into people’s fantasies, it’s about so much more than a visual image. It’s about not just what you can see and feel, but what you can hear and oftentimes, smell and taste. It’s all of these things at once. Dirty talk is one of those big contributors to the auditory enjoyment of sex. That’s why a lot of people like erotic audiobooks, which are becoming a thing these days as a new form of pornography.

That’s fun because it allows your imagination to run wild as opposed to being dictated by exactly what you’re seeing on screen. Different people prefer different kinds of dirty talk. There’s some care and effort that needs to be put into how you talk dirty in the bedroom and how you introduce that because it’s very easy to turn somebody else off by saying the wrong thing. That’s where ideally it’s beneficial to have some communication beforehand about what are your boundaries, and some words that you might like to hear more of. What are some words you don’t want to hear so that you can reduce the risk of dirty talk easily going wrong? I can think in my own personal experience of partners who have said things where it was clearly arousing to them, but it was like a huge massive turnoff to me because that is not my preferred way that I would talk about things.

I usually make bad puns, which is why I don’t do speaking. I’ll do vocalization all day long, but something about it. I end up making bad puns.

Do you want to share one?

I got caught off guard in a very lovely way with some light role-playing. It was a teacher-student scenario that my partner wanted me to play along and that was exciting, but I wasn’t prepared for that in any way. I was like, “I could trade you two Ds for an A,” then I started laughing because that’s a pretty good joke, but it was not the time for it.

Tip #2: Experiment With Sex Toys

Two, “Experiment with sex toys.”

Sex toys can mean a lot of different things. I did two episodes of my own podcast all about sex toys because there’s so much to be said about them. Sex toys mean a lot of different things. You’ve got your vibrators, dildos, cock rings, penis pumps or butt plugs. There’s a million different things. I did a quick search on Amazon for sex toys when I was doing my own podcast to see how many different toys are out there. There were more than 30,000 hits on Amazon alone just for sex toys.

Your Amazon algorithm must be great.

You don’t want to see my history and my suggested products, it’s a whole thing. It’s for research purposes for me. When it comes to experimenting with sex toys, sex toys can do a lot of different things for us. They can open up new possibilities for us to experience pleasure or to have an orgasm and we might discover things that we didn’t know before that were pleasurable or that we like or enjoy. Sex toys are a great way to explore your own body, discover new sensations, find new erogenous zones, and oftentimes, find easier roots or faster or more efficient roots to orgasm.

Some people struggle with having orgasms. They have what we call delayed orgasms and sometimes it takes a long time or it doesn’t happen with sex toys. Can sometimes open up new avenues for that to happen. Sex toys can also help us when it comes to treating certain sexual difficulties. For example, men can use sex toys as a way of building up their sexual stamina. If you’re a guy who deals with premature ejaculation, you might consider getting yourself a masturbation sleeve and practicing edging with that toy. That’s a great way to build up that stamina so that you can last longer when you’re with a partner.

Also something like cock rings. You could use that to help you to maintain an erection easier. if you’re somebody who’s prone to erection loss, particularly in high stakes or more stressful situations like when you’re with a partner, this can be a way of making it easier to maintain that arousal in the event that’s, you might be responsive or reactive to that kind of stress. Sex toys are also great for bringing in when you’re in a couple or partnered situation, they can add an element of novelty and excitement. It’s a way of trying something new and different with your partner. It’s a great way to surprise your partner with something new and fun. One of the best holiday gifts or birthday gifts you can give your partner is giving them a sex toy either that they can enjoy alone or that you can enjoy together.

I’m a lady on a budget. I would love to maybe MacGyver something, but can we talk a little bit about safety when it comes to sex toys?

Are you asking about safety in terms of how you use it or when you’re buying a toy, “What are the things to look for to make sure that this is safe for me and my body?”

First of all, you hit on one thing. Buy something specifically designed to be put in your body. It is a big safety tip.

As a sex educator and researcher, I often like to say that anything is a sex toy if you’re brave enough, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe for use. There are lots of things around your house that you probably shouldn’t use as sex toys because they might have a risk of breaking inside of you, could have sharp edges or other things like that. Buy toys that are specifically designed for the purpose that you want to use them for, but it’s not just that. You also want to be looking at what is this toy made of because toys are made of a lot of different types of materials and those materials are going to feel different on or in your body. Certain materials might be better for certain uses than others.

For example, is the toy made of something that is porous versus non-porous? Is it made of a material like silicon that’s going to feel a little bit more fleshy and has some give to it? Is it made of reinforced glass that’s going to be completely firm and it’s going to have no give to it whatsoever? There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to buying toys. It’s not just what comes in the prettiest packaging or looks the nicest. It’s, “What is this made of? Is it body-safe? How am I going to use this?” then follow the instructions if there are instructions that come with your toy in terms of use, especially if it’s one of those high tech toys to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth out of it and that you’re using it in a way that is safe because not all sex toys are created equal.

Good tips. Thank you so much.

The general idea behind experimenting with sex toys is that they have this ability to enhance the experience, whether you’re alone, with a partner, or partners. For the person who feels very kinky, you start talking about sex toys, I suspect especially as a man, a lot of men are not that experienced with using them. I think that the rates of sex toy use are much lower with men than with women in general. For anyone, where’s a good place to start if you want to dip your toe in, so to speak?

People do have mixed feelings about sex toys and there is a big gender difference. If you look at the data, a majority of adult women in the US have used a sex toy before, but far fewer men have ever used a toy before. Men are much more likely to have this complicated relationship with sex toys where they often view a toy as being like a competitive threat. If their partner is using a toy alone or wants to bring a toy into partnered sex, they start thinking like, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I not able to be enough to satisfy my partner? Why do they need this toy or this artificial thing?”Men are the ones who tend to have that more complicated relationship with it, to begin with.

A good place to start when it comes to toys if you’re totally inexperienced with them, this is something I talked about on my own podcast, The Sex And Psychology Podcast, which is that a good place to start is with lube. A lot of people have never even tried lube before. Lube is a great way to explore some new and different sensations and to try something that might be a little bit different for you. There are all kinds of lubes on the market. You can buy water-based, silicon, the kinds that have flavors or scents or that are going to have like a tingling sensation. It’s a good way to explore, experiment and try some different sensations. Once you get used to that, then it’s bringing in toys on top of that because you’re often going to want to use lube in combination with your sex toys.

That’s where it gets back to that conversation about the materials of the toys to make sure that what the lube is made of is compatible with what the toy is made of so that you’re not using a lube that’s going to degrade the quality of the toy. There’s like a lot of research and things that you should think about when it comes to buying these products. If you’re new to toys, you’re thinking about something to try. If you have a penis, I think a good fun place to start can be with a cock ring because it’s something that can enhance performance, can help you to last longer, can give you a firmer and fuller erection.

It doesn’t require you to spend a lot of money. The only thing I would caution about with cock rings is that don’t start by buying a metal one, buy something that’s rubbery that’s not going to get stuck on your penis so you won’t have to call the fire department to remove it if it gets stuck on there. That can be a fun way to go. If you have a vulva, you might think about some type of masturbation, you might think about some type of vibrator. There are tons and tons of different vibrators on the market that can help you to explore new sensations. It can be internal, or external, something that fits in the palm of your hand, you can wear it over your fingertip. A vibrator is a great place to start as an entry point.

I think this one is an intimidating one for a lot of people, but I do believe that if you have the perspective that you want to enhance your partner’s experience or your experience, there’s a reason there are 30,000 sex toys available on Amazon because they do work. It’s a matter of experimenting and seeing what ends up working with you. There are like the Rolls Royce of sex toys which can cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars, but there are the basic intro stuff that’s cheap and easy that you can safely experiment and not break the bank with.

If you’re new to sex toys, don’t go out and buy the gold-plated ones. Literally, they do exist. They’re very expensive. You don’t need that. That’s not necessarily going to add more pleasure for you. Also don’t buy the absolute cheapest thing you can find too because when it comes to sex toys what you spend is equivalent to what you’re going to get. The quality is going to be lower. If you’re buying the cheapest thing that you can find on Amazon, that’s probably coming from some factory in China. I think you’re better off buying something that comes from a reputable brand and that’s more in that mid-tier price range. You don’t have to break the bank. There are some great sex toys for $20, $30 or $40, but if you go for the absolute cheapest thing, it’s probably not going to be great.

Tip #3: Do Your Kegel Exercises

You need enough energy in these things if they are battery-powered. Three, “Do your kegel exercises.”

I think we should start with a little caveat. Kegel exercises can be great, but they’re not great for everyone. If you’re somebody who already has a very tight pelvic floor to begin with, tightening that pelvic floor further through Kegel exercises is not going to be the right move for you. It might create some problems. You need to know something about your pelvic health generally, to begin with, before you decide whether it’s right for you. If you try these exercises and you start to feel pain or discomfort, you have some worsening symptoms, so stop doing them. That’s a sign that you shouldn’t continue to go down that route. That said is the beginning caveat.

Kegel exercises are exercises you can do anytime, anywhere to improve your pelvic floor health. These are the muscles that are around your genitalia and the easiest way to locate them, regardless of what set of genitals you have, is to try stopping the flow of urine midstream. The muscles you would use to clench and stop that flow of urine would be the muscles you want to target. Once you get used to figuring out how to do that, then you do this mix of what we call short kegels and long Kegels where you have some rapid contract, release and then you have somewhere you contract and hold for 10 seconds and then release it. You’re doing these exercises, this mix of shorted long Kegels. You do it a few times. maybe once a day or twice a day over a period of a few weeks is when you usually start to see some benefits emerge.

One of the big benefits across genders is that we see that kegel exercises tend to be linked to having more intense orgasms. It makes sense because orgasm essentially is a series of muscular contractions. If you’ve strengthened those muscles it can give you this more intense feeling of orgasm. That’s one of the big reasons why people do their Kegels, but it can also more generally improve your sexual health and function.

For example, there’s some research finding that Kegel exercises can assist when it comes to premature ejaculation and erectile difficulties in men. By strengthening those muscles down there and providing blood flow in that region, it can have these broader sexual health benefits as well. It’s worth considering doing your Kegels, but you have to know something about your pelvic health to begin with. If you have questions or concerns about how to do them or how to do them right or, “Are they right for me?” There are lots of wonderful pelvic floor physical therapists. who are on social media, they’re on TikTok, they’re on Instagram.

I had one on my podcast a while ago who’s great. Her name is Alicia Jeffries. Follow her and you can learn more about like what you need to know about your pelvic floor, what her Kegel and, “Other exercises are right for me,” also whether you might benefit from having a pelvic floor physical therapist. It turns out that a lot of people have pelvic health issues that they don’t know about or that go undiagnosed.

What’s a pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a series of musculature that surrounds the genital region. I don’t know how to describe it better than that. It’s a bunch of internal muscles that you can’t see.

Is it named after someone, Dr. Kegel, who discovered it?

Kegel exercises are named after Dr. Arnold Kegel. He initially developed them as a treatment for urinary incontinence for women who had recently given birth because incontinence issues are common after pregnancy and childbirth. They are effective for that, but they also have this broader benefit in terms of people’s sexual health. They can be beneficial for us in a lot of different ways.

Another thing that Kegels are good for is if maybe you are preparing to have a sexual experience later in the day, it is a way to increase the blood flow there and work as something you can do for yourself to get mentally and physically ready for sex.

You can prime the pump by doing your Kegels.

For someone who’s never done Kegels and wants to start a practice because the same as going to the gym and working a muscle, you’re not going to suddenly become strong overnight. What is a basic protocol that you would suggest someone does?

What we see in the research is that the people who benefit from Kegels are the ones who are doing them correctly and consistently. That’s the key thing here. Some people don’t do them correctly or they’re exercising the wrong muscles or they’re overdoing it, to the extent that you can get a pelvic health trainer, that’s a great way to go. I know they have these designed for women. There’s a product, for example, called the Parafit. It’s a device that you can insert inside the vagina. It’s connected to a smartphone app.

It’s the gamification of Kegels. When you do a Kegel correctly, you’ve got this game like Flappy Bird, the bird goes up when you do one of those contractions. That gives you the path for what your series of exercises is like, “Should you do the short contraction or the long contraction?” You can see based on whether the bird is going up. If you can get one of those pelvic health trainers, that can be a great way to go for ensuring that you’re doing those exercises correctly. Aside from that best way to go is if you can talk to a pelvic floor physical therapist or if you follow one on social media, they can give you the tools for like how to do that step by step so that you’re not overdoing it.

I’ve heard this, and tell me if this is good or not good. If you have a penis and you’re urinating to interrupt the flow, to practice by stopping the flow, letting it start again and stopping it and so on.

That’s a great way to first identify what are the muscles that we’re even talking about. When you cut off that flow of urine, that makes it easy to identify like, “Those are the muscles that are involved. that’s what I need to learn to do when I’m not peeing.” Once you can replicate that, that is a good baseline starting point, but you want to start low and go slow with these exercises. You don’t want to overdo it. You can do a series of ten contractions, do that like twice a day and do that every day for a few weeks and see how you’re feeling. A lot of people report that there’s an increase in genital sensation or that they have more intense orgasms. If you find it’s not working for you or if there’s pain or discomfort, stop. Don’t do it anymore.

Take it slow. You’re like, “Sorry, I wore out my pelvic floor earlier today.”

“I had to make it onto the Parafir leaderboard.”

Tip #4: Expand Your Definition Of Sex

I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one, to be honest. Four, “Expand your definition of sex.”

I mentioned toward the top of the show that some people have very narrow definitions of sex where they define it as say penile-vaginal intercourse. A lot of people define it that way. They tend to be less sexually satisfied, particularly as they age. People who adopt the most narrow definitions of sex tend to be the least sexually satisfied. I think that makes sense because if you have a very narrow definition of sex and you approach your partner and you initiate sex and they say no, there’s nothing else you can do because you only have that one possibility in mind.

If you have an expansive definition of sex where it’s just not penile-vaginal intercourse, it can mean a lot of different things. It could mean oral sex or mutual masturbation. It might mean some type of cuddling, caressing or some other type of intimate body contact, that gives you a lot of different things on the menu that you can choose from.

Maybe your partner isn’t down for penetration right now, but they’re up for something else. That gives you the flexibility and adaptability to do different things at the moment. That’s especially important as people age because as we get older, our bodies aren’t the same. We become less flexible. There are cases where the penis might not get as hard or where it might not get hard at all, or where you might have vaginal lubrication issues. Our bodies don’t function the same as we age or we might develop a chronic illness or disability.

If you have a more flexible definition of sex, that makes it easier to adapt to later life circumstances because you found these other roots to pleasure that you’ve identified I think. The earlier in life that people start expanding their definition of sex and start putting more of those options on the menu, the better off they are because the more options they have at that moment the more flexible and adaptable they’ll be as they age.

This is handy if you have a long-distance relationship or any other barrier, no pun intended there to being together or being together in the way that you have been in the past. If we can expand what sex is to include dirty talk and sexting and doing video chats and strip teases for each other over video that allows you to keep that connection going and to keep the fire burning there.

It’s one of those things where it’s not just people who oftentimes have that very narrow definition of a specific sexual activity, but they also often say that orgasm has to go along with that as well. When we can start saying, “You can enjoy sexual activity with a partner that doesn’t have to involve penetration and that doesn’t have to involve orgasm,” that opens up the door to many different things. I did an Instagram poll of my followers the other day that I thought was telling about this, where societally we hear about the importance of orgasm.

If an orgasm isn’t happening, like it’s not really sex or there’s some type of problem there. I found that 62% of the people who responded to the poll said that they could enjoy sex without orgasm. That’s a good sign that there are other things we can do that we can enjoy without necessarily putting all that pressure on ourselves to follow a certain sexual script or to have an orgasm every single time. Orgasms are great. I’m not saying don’t have them as much as you but don’t put that pressure on yourself to feel like you have to have an orgasm in every single sexual situation.

I appreciate you, bringing this up. I had a conversation with Dan Savage in a previous episode and I had mentioned that I don’t need to have an orgasm when I have sex for it to be good sex. That has been very liberating as a man. In part because it takes pressure off you’re tired or whatever can be going on that may make that difficult. I communicate this with my partner so if it doesn’t happen for some reason, they know it’s not them. It’s not threatening in any way, but it also has this wonderful benefit, which is by taking the pressure off, it enhances the experience and in many ways makes it better, more likely and so on. I like this idea that sex to be successful doesn’t have to have an orgasm. It doesn’t have to include penetration. I would add one thing. It doesn’t have to have a particular time course. It’s not moving towards some end. You can take a break in the middle, cuddle and have a conversation.

You can go have a snack.

It also changes the timeline. This is anticipating one of the resolutions you have. I love a good makeout session and that is super sexy. It’s super fun. It’s bonding. It’s an incredibly intimate thing to do. Sometimes it’s even more intimate than other sexual acts that people think of as intimate. I had a partner who had suggested that we both get tested so that we could forego barriers. We could stop using condoms. One of the things that she said that I thought was wise was that oftentimes with heterosexual sex, once a condom goes on, the clock starts ticking.

Tip #5: Be Mindful Of Your Drinking

You can get around that by taking the condom off and putting a new one on, and stuff like that. That was very liberating. We don’t have to be in lockstep towards this one particular act between the two of us. It opened up the possibilities. It expanded what good sex meant for us. This one, I’m happy you put on the list. Five, “Be mindful of your drinking.”

Future bar owner here, telling people to be mindful of their drinking.

Justin is opening a bar in his hometown, which is very exciting.

It is very exciting, but but funny that this is one of my pieces of advice. Alcohol consumption in small doses can be great. Alcohol makes us feel good and in small doses, it can also be an aphrodisiac. It can make it easier for us to get in the mood or to feel sexual desire. That’s why for decades, one of the most common pieces of sex advice that physicians have given out to people who come in complaining of sexual difficulties is to have a glass of wine. Was that always the best advice? No. Is that glass of wine I’m going to solve every sexual problem? No, but there is some truth to this idea that in these small doses, alcohol can be good for us in terms of causing a disinhibition effect where it helps to take us out of our head a little bit to relax and that can open the door to arousal.

The problem with alcohol is that it is very much dose-dependent. The more you drink of this, the more it’s going to impact your health sexually and overall in terms of your broader health and body. Some of the issues that we know that are linked to alcohol are that short-term binge drinking can cause arousal difficulties. It can make it harder to get and maintain an erection. It can make it harder for women to experience signs of sexual arousal as well. It also tends to delay orgasm or it can make an orgasm impossible to happen. We’ve got a whole wealth of research findings in terms of all the different drugs and substances that people might take. Alcohol has one of the most negative effects on sexual response and function across genders, particularly when it’s consumed in those larger quantities and/or when it’s consumed in large quantities for a prolonged period of time.

If you’re concerned about optimizing your sexual health, it’s very important to be mindful of your drinking. To try and do it only in those smaller doses and not overconsume it because that is one of those things that can impair your sexual health and function, not just in the short term but long term because the more you do it, the more it can create broader cardiovascular health issues that can permanently impair sexual health and function. It’s helpful to think about sexual arousal as being a cardiovascular event. It’s all about the blood flow. You’re consuming a lot of alcohol and this is impacting your cardiovascular health that’s necessarily going to impact your sexual health.

“Dear, you want to have a cardiovascular event tonight?”

When we’re talking about health here too, you have to consider your emotional health. When your decision-making is impaired, then can you give consent? Can you receive consent? Are you making good choices for yourself if you’re under the influence of any substance?

It’s a great point also when we look at the research comparing alcohol use to other substances in terms of how it impacts people’s sex lives, one of the biggest differentiators of alcohol use compared to marijuana is that people are more likely to report sexual regrets that they had sex with someone that they didn’t want to or they regretted what they did. Sometimes that is implicated in sexual assault or violence. Alcohol is more likely to lead to those sexual problems and issues and violence compared to other substances.

You mentioned marijuana. There’s a lot of variance with regard to how marijuana interacts with people, but a non-trivial number of people say that it enhances the experience becomes more pleasurable, more sensual, enhances orgasms and so on. What does the research say about that and if people want to be a little bit altered, what are some better options than alcohol?

With any drug or substance, it’s all about the interaction of that substance with your own body. No two people are exactly the same. If you start with alcohol, there are some people who have this ALDH enzyme deficiency where having half a drink or a small amount of alcohol is going to have the effect of making them wildly drunk, whereas, for somebody else, it might take 6 or 8 drinks to get to that same level. With any drug, you got to know, “How does my body tend to respond to this?”

With something like marijuana, it’s all over the map too. Different people are more sensitive to it. Marijuana is further complicated by the fact that there are different strains of it. You’ve got the more relaxing kind, the indica and then you’ve got the sativa, which is more stimulating and you might respond differently to that. Frankly, the research on how marijuana affects sexual function is shitty because it doesn’t take into account a lot of these factors.

It doesn’t look at what is the specific strain of marijuana that they’re using. It doesn’t control for the dose like how much are they consuming? What I can tell you is that marijuana is going to be dose-dependent. The more you consume and if you’re a chronic user of it, you’re more likely to report sexual difficulties compared to if you’re a light user or you don’t use it every single day. We don’t know as much about like the different strains or types of it. If you’re somebody who finds that it enhances sexual arousal for you, great. You can enjoy that, but if you’re somebody who finds that marijuana makes you paranoid or super sleepy, it might not be right for you.

It’s hard to give one-size-fits-all recommendations or advice to people about any of this stuff because it’s dependent on, “How does this interact with my own body?” The only way you’re going to know is by exploring and experimenting with it. If you do that, it’s like, start low and go slow because you don’t know how this is going to affect you.

Start solo. Do it while you’re masturbating and see how’s the experience different.

You don’t want to freak out in the middle of sex. That’s not going to be good for anybody.

Don’t kink shame. Maybe that’s it for somebody.

Are there any other alternatives, aphrodisiacs, other substances or foods?

Much has been said and written about aphrodisiacs and unfortunately, like most of the food-based aphrodisiacs things like oysters, chocolate and so forth, there isn’t science or evidence that those things work the way that we think they’re supposed to work in terms of being an aphrodisiac. To the extent that those things do work for people, it’s likely a placebo effect where if you believe that this substance is going to have a certain effect on you, or this food is going to have a certain effect, then it has that effect because you’ve made it a self-fulfilling prophecy. The foods probably aren’t going to work too much. There are some herbs that do seem to have aphrodisiac-like properties. Korean red ginseng is one of them.

That’s one of the most promising natural aphrodisiacs that’s out there. I can’t remember everything off the top of my head. I feel like Ginkgo Baloba has some promising research behind it. There’s more data to support the idea that the herbal stuff could work as an aphrodisiac. We still need more research. The food, not so much. If you get into illegal drugs or other substances, there are a whole host of things that could be considered aphrodisiacs. I have a whole section in my textbook, The Psychology Of Human Sexuality where we talk about different drugs that people use recreationally. One of the big ones, for example, would be, ecstasy, Molly and a lot of people do report aphrodisiac-like properties of that, but at the same time, it also tends to have the effect of making it harder to maintain sexual arousal. Sometimes the substances we take that are designed to increase desire simultaneously reduce arousal. There’s often a trade-off with these things.

I had a conversation with a guy who uses MDMA. He says it makes you very touchy-feely, very connected. He’s like, “I also take half a Viagra,” to try to balance out these two issues that you brought up.

That gets into what we call polysubstance use where you’re taking one drug to produce a certain effect, but it causes an unwanted side effect so then you take another drug to get rid of the side effect, but then that drug might cause another side effect. Another issue in looking at the research on all of this is, “How does this one drug affect sexual function or dysfunction? Is it being combined with anything else? Are people trying to offset certain side effects?” That makes it messy as well.

It’s true that a lot of people will take Viagra, Cialis or you know, one of those sister medications to combat the effects of alcohol, MDMA or other drugs that might impair sexual function, but they might not realize that that can create other risks because when you start getting into the polysubstance use, then you start getting into the medication interactions. You might be getting your desired effect in terms of avoiding a certain side effect, but you might be creating risk in another area.

We can all agree that sex is already good and enjoyable, to the degree that you are, you’re drinking or any other substances should be enhancing, knowing what are your limits, knowing how it interacts with you, getting the dosages right and so on, is something that you’ll have to work through judiciously.

One other question to ask yourself here is if you feel like you need to have a certain substance in your body in order to engage sexually, let’s step back and ask why is that? What is it that’s causing you to feel like you need to consume this substance so that you can have sex? Is it because you have some unresolved sexual shame? Is it because you’ve got some body image issues or anxiety? What is it that you’re trying to escape, avoid or tamp down in the brain so that you can enjoy sex?

Maybe there are other ways that you can go about addressing those issues so that you don’t then become dependent on a certain substance to enjoy sex. Ideally, we should all be able to enjoy sex in our own natural states and bodies. If we find that we can’t do that for some reason, that’s where it might be worth talking to a certified sex therapist to figure out, “Is there some bigger issue,” and the substance or medication is becoming a crutch to avoid dealing with that issue. Now it’s a different thing if you’re taking a substance as an enhancement where you know you can enjoy sex at baseline and this adds something else extra for you. That’s a different thing, but if you can’t function without it, that’s a different issue.

Tip #6: Spoon Or Cuddle More After Sex

Halfway, six, “Spoon or cuddle more after sex.” Before you answer this, I have to ask spoon or cuddle. I’m curious about your choice of words there.

Different people use different terms. Some people use spooning and cuddling interchangeably. That’s the way that I think of it. I think of spooning as the more cutesy term. There wasn’t anything special.

I didn’t know there’s something special about spooning that brings you closer together or something.

Spooning is a more specific position of cuddling, as a way to think of it, as a cuter name associated with it. This goes back to something you talked about a little bit earlier in the show, which is that when you think about sexual communication, there’s the before, during and after. This is the aftercare portion of it. Spooning and cuddling after sex we see scientifically in a number of studies, the people who engage in more of this, what we call post-sex affection, tend to be more sexually satisfied and happier in their relationships. I have a colleague, Dr. Amy Muse, who’s done longitudinal research with couples where she has tracked their behavior over a period of weeks.

“What are they doing sexually? What do they do after sex?” and then related that to sexual and relationship satisfaction months down the line. The people who engage in more of that after-sex affection are better off in their intimate lives. I think this makes sense because after sex, cuddling, spooning or engaging in some intimate chat, it doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. It could be talking, or chatting with your partner about the experience that you had, which tends to increase those feelings of intimacy and connection with a partner then which can make it more likely that you’re going to feel in the mood again for sex later. It can also feel nice to do that. It can feel reassuring or comforting, especially if sex is something that feels particularly vulnerable for you that increases that feeling of connection.

You have that release of oxytocin when you’ve got the body and body skin action happening for this prolonged period of time. Biochemically, there’s something else going on there as well. Lots of people do different things after sex. Some people will get up and go have a sandwich. Some people will maybe go take a shower. Some people might go do their taxes. I don’t know, different people do. They are different things, maybe because you’re finally less stressed. You’re in the right head space to finally meet that tax filing deadline. There do seem to be benefits to taking that time after sex to optimize that connection with your partner.

One thing I often talk about with my partners is agreeing when sex is over. That’s a big one for me. We talked a little bit about not being goal-oriented, and I like that a lot. Orgasm isn’t necessarily the end of sex, especially when only one person orgasms. All the aftercare is great, but also listening to figure out, “Is sex over?”

I want to say this because you’re about to give straight men around the world a cheat code. That is that because he has had an orgasm doesn’t mean that things need to stop because almost no man does that where they continue pleasing their partner in various ways after they’ve had an orgasm, and they will have a more satisfied and frankly surprised partner typically because the script is male orgasm happens, sex is over, time to start aftercare. I appreciate you bringing that up because it is a cheat code for a very healthy sex life and an appreciative female partner should you be in this heteronormative world.

I can confirm.

I want to ask a couple of questions. Suddenly, aftercare is a thing. It shows up in dating profiles now, especially on the field. It’s something people desire. It’s probably because of the TikTok and Instagram reel world we live in. As you were saying, there were these two elements to it. There’s connecting, but also there’s an opportunity to, this is decidedly unsexy language, to debrief. How was that for you? Especially, to revisit some of the stuff we were talking about earlier, like the dirty talk, which was like, “How did that feel? What did you like?” When’s a good time to have that conversation? It seems like aftercare could be a good time, but it may be the case with some partners doing it later that day or the next day or before you see them again might be a good time. How do you figure that out?

A couple of things I want to say there. One is that you’re right that aftercare does seem to be this trend. It’s interesting, on my Psychology Today blog, I published an article that was all about this idea of spooning and cuddling after sex, and then I got this spontaneous email afterward from a sex therapist in the field who published a book. It was called Aftercare in the 1980s or something. I was like, “This idea has been around for a long time. People have been writing about it for decades, but it’s just now coming into the cultural consciousness.” A big part of that is that social media.

There’s a lot to this idea and a much richer history to it than I even imagined based on my reading of the data. In terms of aftercare, when’s the right time to have discussions with your partner about how things go, it depends on what is your feedback and what is it that you want to communicate here. If it was something you want to say that you enjoyed and that you might want more of in the future, afterward is a great time to say, “That was amazing. I loved it when you did this, or when we did that.”

Tat can be a great time to communicate that and see if you’re on the same page about it. if there were things that happened that you didn’t like or you wouldn’t want to do next time, right afterward might not be the time to do that because you might interfere with that intimacy and connection process with the partner. Rather than facilitating connection, you might be laying the seeds for conflict or disagreement. It might be better to save that for a later time.

If it’s something that you didn’t like, that you don’t want more of, that’s a difficult thing to address. Criticizing our sexual partners never turns out well. We need to find ways to express or communicate like that. We don’t want something without hurting our partner’s feelings or making them feel insecure or leading to conflict. Maybe that’s a better thing to wait in terms of communicating that.

If you’re on a clock, sometimes this happens, you’ve got a dinner reservation coming up, there’s a meeting and you want to engage in aftercare, but you don’t have that much time. Is there anything in particular that you would suggest?

I think there are different models and ways to connect and engage in aftercare. It’s going to look different depending on what came before. For example, was this like an afternoon quickie or something like that where you don’t have the time to have an extended sexual session, let alone have aftercare? In some cases, it doesn’t permit that opportunity, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to happen every single time. If you feel like you want that opportunity, but don’t have time to do it, you can also schedule it for later. Scheduling sex and intimacy is not a bad idea. You can say, “Why don’t we pick this up later tonight?” You can come back and revisit that. It might not be exactly the same because you don’t have the exact same post-rush feeling of the endorphins from orgasm and sex and all that other stuff, but you can still have that opportunity that can pop up later.

I like the intention that you bring to it. The act isn’t as important as, “We are here right now in this moment to connect we are going to do something with the goal of maintaining this connection,” whether it’s breathing together or whatever, as opposed to, “We just had sex. I’m tired. I’m going to lay here.” Maybe that looks exactly the same, but bringing that intention in to say, “This is still an intimate moment that we’re having,” seems a nice way to keep those happy feelings rolling.

The last question about, this is for the solo, for masturbation, what does aftercare look like?

Aftercare for solo masturbation is going to look a little bit different, but it can be doing something that makes you feel good and connected to yourself. It could be a deep breath or some type of breathing exercise. It could be taking a nice long hot bath. It could be taking a little nap. It could be treating yourself to something that makes you feel good or heightens those feelings of relaxation that you have following that engagement in self-pleasure.

Personally, one of the things that I love most about having an orgasm is there’s this brain reset that happens. There are those few glorious moments during an orgasm where my mind is completely clear. That’s one of the things that is most appealing about an orgasm to me, is clearing that resetting of the brain. I like to capitalize on that and enjoy the freedom from the stress and everything else that was happening before. It feels good. Do something that prolongs that sensation and that contributes to that stress relief at least temporarily that you’re experiencing.

We call it post-nut clarity.

People around the world were like, “That’s called post-nut clarity.”

I contributed to one of the first articles that used that term in Cosmopolitan many years ago. Some journalist approached me and said, “We want to interview you about post-nut clarity.” I’m like, “What the hell is that?” That’s funny it was some term that somebody came up with that describes like exactly what I experienced afterward. I’m like, “It makes sense. I can talk about this.”

The other thing that’s related to solo aftercare is because an orgasm has happened doesn’t mean sex has ended. Basking in the glory of that experience and not just popping up and getting back to real life is a way to enhance and prolong that arc of pleasure and arousal that’s there.

Enjoy the afterglow.

We talked about giving feedback to others, but it’s also a great time for reflection for yourself. What worked, what didn’t, what was pleasurable and what wasn’t. Maybe think about it or do some journaling. Giving yourself feedback in a more conscious way will help you remember because sometimes you forget in the moment what worked.

Tip #7: Focus On Quality Not Quantity

Seven, “Focus on quality, not quantity of sex.”

I don’t know if I agree with this one.

People get obsessed with sexual quantity and they’re often asking, “Am I having enough sex?” They’re looking at what other people are doing, what people they see in the movies and on TV are doing or what their friends are doing. To the extent that they feel like they’re having less sex than other people, they suddenly feel less satisfied with their sex life. I’m a social psychologist by training and we all engage in what’s called social comparison all the time. We are evaluating our own self-worth based on what other people are doing. It’s all relative to our perceptions of others and those comparisons that we’re making. There is that natural human tendency to feel that there’s a problem if we’re not measuring up in some way.

Here’s the problem with that line of thinking as applied to sex. There are studies where people have been asked to double the amount of sex that they’re having for a period of a few months. Other people in that study were not given any instructions to change how much sex they were having. What they found was that for people who tried to double the amount of sex they were having first, it was hard to do that. Almost nobody was able to achieve that goal. On average, people were having sex about once per week at baseline. Trying to get to twice a week was a heavy lift for these people. They were able to increase it by about 40% or so on average. They were having more sex, but they weren’t able to double it. The people who tried to double it at the end several months later were less sexually satisfied and they reported less desire for sex.

They wanted it less because forcing themselves to have more sex for the sake of doing it reduced their intrinsic motivation to want to have sex. It made sex less rewarding to them. Going through the motions and having more sex for the sake of doing it because you think you should be doing it more, isn’t necessarily going to make you happier. That’s why I say don’t get hung up on the quantity of sex that you’re having. Focus on the quality because you can be having sex with a relatively low frequency compared to others, but if the sex you’re having is great, it’s amazing and it’s meeting your needs, what else do you need? That is the true measure or barometer of a successful and healthy sex life is, “Is this meeting your needs? What’s the quality of it?”

One other thing to add to that is if you’re only having mediocre sex, to begin with, that isn’t meeting your needs, having a lot more mediocre sex, it’s just that, it’s having more mediocre sex. That’s not necessarily better. the starting point is to say, “Am I having the sex that’s worth having, that’s meeting my needs? If not, how do we change that?” That is meeting those needs. Once you start having, what some people might call magnificent sex or the sex that’s worth having, that’s what’s going to amp up your desire and make you want to do it more because it’s worth having.

Something you talk about a lot in Tell Me What You Want, your book was that there is no normal or stop comparing yourself to what you think is normal because there’s probably no basis for whatever you think is normal and you’re probably way off base why would you want to be normal anyway? Sex is one of the most personal unique things that you can engage in.

Normal is boring. Another way to think about normal is that normal is a wide range. As a statistician, you have to know statistics to be able to do the work that we do. We talk about normal as not being this one thing. It’s a wide range. You’ve got the normal range. You only have a few outliers on each end that are not normal and that moves beyond that. The vast majority of people, whether it’s in terms of their penis size, their sexual frequency, their sexual desire or what it is that they want during sex, they’re going to fall within the normal range and there’s nothing wrong with them.

Oftentimes, learning and discovering that basic fact is enough to resolve a lot of sexual problems. It’s estimated that 80 to 90% of sexual problems can be resolved without the need for intensive therapy. That’s because giving people the sex ed that they never got in school that helps them to better understand that, “What I want and do is pretty normal.” That solves a heck of a lot of sexual problems.

I think your book is a wonderful resource, in part because we don’t talk about these things. You’re not learning about it in school. Even friends don’t talk about this stuff. It’s all very hush-hush. The more unconventional it is, the more people tend to hide it away. Folks don’t get the full range and they also don’t get a look into other people’s bedrooms.

Unless you’re a voyeur, which is a different thing.

As long as there’s consent go for it. Some people like to be watched. The more you can understand that there’s a lot of variance out there and that even if the thing that you are into isn’t, the majority, there are still millions of other people around the world who enjoy this thing. You are not alone in it. I liked your advice about having more of this style sex is not the goal. The goal is to try to find ways to enhance the sex that you’re having. I have an audience question that’s related to this. I think the solicitor asks, “Tips for having a discussion with new sex partners or ways to establish having good quality sex starting from your first interaction.”

Communicating about sex in general is hard. Communicating about it with a long-term established partner is very difficult for a lot of people. How the hell do you talk to a new person about this? It’s something that a lot of people struggle with. You have to find some way to break the ice and open the door to having those sexual conversations. If you don’t have this long-established history with somebody who can make intimate communication easier, the bar can be a little bit higher. That means you need to work and put some effort into how we put everybody at ease when it comes to talking about this.

A lot of the same sorts of tools and techniques that we might use in a long-term relationship can also apply in short-term relationships or with newer partners. For example, if you’re somebody who struggles when it comes to like verbalizing what it is that you want from sex, you can leverage technology to make that easier. Sometimes it’s easier to type things out than it is to say things. You might try communicating about it through sexting or you might try downloading an app that facilitates communication. There are a couple that I like to recommend. I don’t have a financial stake in them. I wish I did because I recommend them all the time.

They’re both like Tinder for sexual fantasies. One is called XConfessions. The other one is called Own Your Sex. You and, your partner download the app, you sync your accounts, and then you each take these sexual quizzes and the quizzes help you to hone in on your shared sexual interests. They only share the things that you’re both a matchup. That way you don’t have to share something that you’re into, but your partner isn’t, especially, if you’re new to meeting this other person, this is a great way of like, “Let’s get on the same page right now about what we’re both into and what we both might be down to try together.” That can be an easy entry point for this if you struggle with verbalizing what it is that you waning..

I want to ask one last thing before we get to eight that is this idea of quality versus quantity also apply to solo masturbation? I often say like, “Take your time. Light a candle. Make it a celebration of yourself rather than, ‘How do I get to an orgasm?’”

My answer to that is going to be that it’s okay to have some masturbatory sessions that are quick and efficient, but others where you take your time and do exactly what you said. This goes to the fact that as there are 237 different reasons why people have partnered sex, there are a similar number of reasons why people engage in masturbation. For me, as one example, an orgasm, if I can’t sleep like that is the fastest thing that is going to help me fall asleep. I might want a quick, efficient orgasm and I’m the best person to stimulate myself because I know exactly what works. I can bang that out in under a minute if I want to. That serves my need at that moment, which is to fall asleep faster.

Do that every time? No, because sometimes you want to enjoy it. Sometimes you might do it for 10, 20 or 30 minutes. Who knows? It could be as long as you want it to be, as long as you have time to do it. It’s not like making you arrive at work late or miss your appointments. Enjoy. You can be as long as you want. When it comes to masturbation, quality is important, but it’s going to depend on what is you need at that moment that you’re trying to achieve through masturbation. Is it to fall asleep, have that brain reset, take time, explore your body and uncover new pleasure sources? All of those things are going to dictate the terms of how you want that scene to unfold.

Tip #8: Add More Intimate Touch To Daily Life

Let’s do the last three more Rapid-fire. Eight, “Add a more intimate touch to daily life.”

Touch is super important in relationships. I’m not just talking about sexual touch. It’s the little things that happen during the day. It’s the hug or kiss that you might have in the morning before you go to work or at the end of the day when you both get home. It might be holding hands or putting your arm around your partner when you’re sitting on the couch watching a movie or a TV show. It might be coming up to them when they’re sitting at the table at their computer and giving them a little massage on their neck or shoulders. It’s all the little kinds of touch throughout the day.

What we see is that couples who have more touch in their intimate lives tend to be happier because touch does a lot of things for us. Touch helps us to feel connected literally with our partners, but touch is also something that signifies how is your partner feeling right now and, “Can I help them relax through this intimate touch? If I touch my partner’s shoulder while they are sitting at a chair, I can feel that tension.” With a few seconds of massaging their shoulders and neck, you can see that tension release and disappear. It’s almost instantaneous the way that we can help our partners to relax through a little bit of touch. It makes sense. That’s why it’s good to incorporate more of this touch into your daily life. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have sex every day or that it needs to be like a certain touch. Find ways to incorporate those bits of touch that communicate with your partner every day.

I would like to add for the Solo Community, in my social spheres, I’m trying to normalize platonic intimate touch, holding hands with friends or giving your friends back rubs. It doesn’t have to be sexual in nature, but we are social creatures and physical touch is very healing and important. Trying to find ways that aren’t necessary. It doesn’t have to intrinsically be linked to a romantic partner or a sexual partner.

Another great extension of that is that this can also be paid touch. I’m not talking about sex work. I’m talking about going out and getting a professional massage can accomplish a lot of those same goals, the feel of another person’s hands on our body. The tension relief that comes from that. There’s something different from getting a massage from another human being than putting one of those electronic massagers on your neck or back. It never feels the same Like during or afterward, having that other person’s hands on your skin. There’s that connection that happens. Touch can happen in a lot of different ways. Getting a haircut or a manicure. It feels good to have other people touch us.

I’m not talking about like through an erotic lens. There’s something about that intimate contact, whatever it is. That’s part of the reason why we see in the research that people tend to disclose a lot of information to their aestheticians, especially their hairstylists. They will reveal the most intimate details of their lives when somebody else is washing their hair or cutting their hair. It’s not just because there’s that time or opportunity or there’s nothing else to do. There’s something about that touch that happens that opens us up and facilitates communication.

There’s research on grooming in a variety of species, but there’s a mutual endorphin relief, a release from that which is a bonding element to it with your partner only when you want to sleep with them. This is about maintaining, developing, and connecting within a relationship more generally in that way. This is not a pre-foreplay play.

It’s a fantastic point because if you always use a certain type of touch as an entry point to sex, then that becomes a cue for sex. Let’s say it starts with you grasping your partner’s hand and gently stroking it then that always leads to this overture to have sex and a fair amount of the time your partner’s not in the mood, well then suddenly every time you grasp your partner’s hand and start stroking it, they’re going to start pulling back and being like, “I know what this means. I know where this leads,” because it’s not just intimacy for the sake of intimacy. It’s intimacy like, “This is my bid for I want to have sex,” and then that can shut off opportunities for intimate touch.

Tip #9: Learn To Be In The Moment During Sex

Nine, “Learn to be in the moment during sex.”

This goes back to what we mentioned briefly earlier about mindfulness and being more attuned to your senses. A lot of us find that during sex we’re very stuck in our heads. We’re thinking about something, hopefully, it’s not your taxes. I know it’s tax season, it’s clearly on my mind. People are often over overanalyzing their own sexual performance or think about like, “Am I hot or attractive? How do I look right now? They’re worrying about the dishes in the sink or whatever.”

It’s very easy for our minds to wander during sex or maybe there’s a noise outside. You hear a dog barking or something else, the neighbors are being loud and it takes you out of the moment. When you’re not in the moment and present, it’s very hard to enjoy sex, maintain your arousal and have an orgasm. It’s very important for us to learn how to be present during sex so that we can fully enjoy the experience. We could do a whole several-hour-long conversation on mindfulness.

One resource I would recommend is my colleague, Dr. Lori Brotto has a book called Better Sex Through Mindfulness. It’s specifically mentioned that it’s for women, but the tools that are in there are applicable to people of any gender, any sexual orientation, any relationship status. You can use these mindfulness tools and practice them to have more mindful masturbation and also more mindful partnered sex. An easy way to start with this is to sit in a chair for 5 or 10 minutes every day, close your eyes, and pay attention to the different sensations that you feel throughout your body like what is it that you’re feeling right now. If a thought pops into your head, acknowledge the thought and let it go.

SOLO | Justin Lehmiller | Tips For Better Sex
Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire

Don’t judge yourself for having thoughts or not being able to stick to this if it seems hard to do. Mindfulness is about being nonjudgmental, having that present moment awareness, but letting the thoughts go and then returning to the sensations and what are you feeling throughout your body. Once you start to learn how to do that in daily life, try incorporating that into masturbation. Practice the same thing when you’re touching yourself and pay attention to all your different senses. What are you feeling? When thoughts come into your head, acknowledge them. Let them go and return to the senses.

Once you get to practice with this, you build up that mindful muscle if you want to call it that, then you can also incorporate that into partnered sex. Once you do, this tends to increase the intensity of the sensations that you experience because you’re very in tune with your senses and with your body. You’re truly feeling and experiencing everything instead of being stuck in your head thinking about those things that you don’t want to be thinking about.

I read another great book, Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski. She talks about the gas and the brakes. It doesn’t matter how hard you’re slamming on the gas if you never take your foot off the brake. Removing those barriers and being able to put things aside and say, “This is a time especially for sensuality, pleasure, sex. Everything else will still be there when we’re done and we’ll go back to solving the world’s problems, but right now is a time for me, for us.”

SOLO | Justin Lehmiller | Tips For Better Sex
Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life

The dishes are still going to be there after sex. The election’s still going to be there. Take your time and enjoy it right now while you can.

I want to ask about fantasizing during sex. I think the average person when masturbating is fantasizing. They’re thinking about other partners, scenarios, and so on. There are probably exceptions to that, but there’s a phenomenon with insects where you might be very focused on your partner and the experience, and there may be times when your mind either consciously or unconsciously wanders to other people, other scenarios and so on for a variety of reasons. When you talk about being present in the moment, how does this impact this, tendency to fantasize?

Fantasizing during sex or during masturbation is a normal thing. Most people do it at least some of the time. We do it for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes we’re fantasizing because we need something to focus on that’s going to help to maintain our arousal, or that’s going to help be the thing that puts us over the edge and allows us to experience orgasm. Fantasies can be adaptive during sex and masturbation for those reasons. I don’t think fantasy during sex and mindfulness have to be at odds with one another. I know that intuitively it sounds like these are two different things. One is like you’re lost in your head in a fantasy. The other is that you’re totally focused and present in the moment

Fantasy can be a tool for when mindfulness isn’t quite working for you or when you are highly distracted or there are other things that are going on, the neighbors are being loud, there are sirens and other things outside. You need a way to focus. Fantasy is often that hack or that tool or whatever that gives you that efficient way of getting recentering like those sexual feelings and sensations and maintaining arousal and having an orgasm. You can do both. You can practice mindful sex. When for whatever reason, that doesn’t work and you need to turn to fantasy, great. Do that. If it works, there’s no problem with it.

Tip #10: Share Your Sexual Fantasies

Speaking of fantasy, 10) Share your sexual fantasies.

Sexual fantasies are things that almost everybody has, but a lot of us have never shared or acted on those fantasies with a partner because we feel a lot of shame, guilt, embarrassment and anxiety about them because we don’t know what’s normal when it comes to fantasy because we’re never taught about that. That gets in the way of communicating about our fantasies with a partner or we might be worried that our partner’s going to judge us or shame us and forth for being turned on by something that maybe they don’t get turned on by.

Fantasies are a fraught topic for a lot of people. We have them. We who want to share them. Oftentimes, we want to act on them, but we don’t know how to do it. That’s what I try to do in my book, is offer people the tools and skills they need to not just better understand their own fantasies and realize that they’re probably pretty normal and that they’re fantasizing about the same things that most other people are fantasizing about as well, but to also tell them what they need to know in terms of how do you communicate about this with a partner in a healthy way that’s going to increase the odds of having a positive response and experience if you decide to act on it.

What I see in my own data and in the broader research literature out there is that the people who are sharing and acting on their sexual fantasies are the most sexually satisfied. They have the healthiest relationships. They have the fewest problems with sexual difficulties. In general, their intimate lives are better by almost every metric one other important thing there that we see in the research is that in particular, women who share and act on their fantasies have the highest rates of orgasm. There’s something to be said for tapping into your wants, and desires and realizing them. If we want to talk about ways of closing the orgasm gap, I think we need to talk more about sharing and acting on our fantasies.

It’s important to talk about maybe all the reasons you’d want to. In your book, you say 79% of folks want to act on their favorite fantasy. I’m in the minority here. I don’t necessarily want to act out my fantasies, but talking about them is arousing, promotes intimacy and opens the doors for all kinds of other communications, and presents you as a very three-dimensional interesting person with your own very vivid internal life.

As I often say when I teach workshops and lectures on sexual fantasies, is that you don’t have to act on your fantasies in order to be sexually satisfied. Most people have at least one fantasy that they want to act on. Some people don’t want to act on their fantasies, and that’s fine. There are various reasons why they don’t want to do it. Sometimes it’s like the thought that’s arousing, but the idea of doing it is not a turn-on to them, or maybe their fantasy is about an impossible scenario and it’s not even something that they ever could act out. Or there might be some risk if they were to act it out because there’s a difference between what takes place in your head versus doing something in reality.

You have complete control over the fantasy in your head. When you start acting on it in real life, bringing in other partners, that’s a whole different beast. You don’t have to act on your fantasies to be sexually satisfied. Simply communicating about them can be a way to better understand one another as sexual beings. It can be a form of dirty talk that some people find to be arousing. It can be an exercise in trust and vulnerability. there are lots of benefits that come from sharing our fantasies, even if we don’t go the extra step or extra mile of acting them out.

I had a partner who had a particularly kinky sexual fantasy. It was very difficult for her to find a partner who could fully. She found one of these AI apps where essentially the algorithm can play that role with her. She has a texting relationship and she gets to explore this fantasy with a partner who is very good at it because the program learns. She never gets tired of doing it. It is a safe place for her to do this. I thought that was a very exciting proposition for people who might want to try to act more on their fantasies, but have difficulty finding the right partner.

It’s almost like a mental sex toy.

I gave a talk on virtual reality and artificial intelligence as being the future of sex therapy and the way that we explore our sexual selves. I think the technology in a lot of respects still has a long way to go, but there are promising ways that these tools can help us to better explore and understand ourselves sexually. Virtual reality in particular is going to be the way that people start to explore and experiment with fantasies in the future before they do them in reality to see, “Is this something that I might like or enjoy? How would this go?”

You can work through the different possibilities and scenarios there. It’s also promising for people with sexual difficulties, especially centering around anxiety or where they might have communication issues where you can put them in this controlled environment where you can put that anxiety at ease. You can model communication behaviors and other things. There’s so much potential there for this technology. I know we hear about the apocalyptic, like doom scenarios of it. Use the right way. It can also be a boon to our intimate lives and as a way to explore the world of our fantasies.

This is a question for both of you. If you have a fantasy and you’re spending time with people who are a little bit too vanilla for it, the solution is you could try to bring that person, make them a little spicy, vanilla and so on. The other way to do it is to find someone who is kinkier. What is your advice if you want to try to identify partners who are going to be more open to it, more experienced, who are not going to yuck your yum and give you a chance to act out of fantasy?

The first starting point would be to reassess how you’re looking for or trying to find partners because there are certain dating apps and websites that make it easier to connect with like-minded folks who might have kinkier interests. The dating app field is one good example of a place where people might have kinkier interests or might be looking for threesomes or other things. You might be able to go and find people who might be more sexually open-minded. If you’re going to the mainstream places like Match.com, Tinders, and so forth of the world, it can be a little bit more challenging to find partners who aren’t going to yuck your yum and who might share the same interests as you. Sometimes the answer is looking for a more niche app or website to try and connect with other people.

You can look for partners to do the thing or communities who can advise you, who have been doing the thing that you’re interested in, and who can tell you how to do it safely, and where to find people. All that good information is helpful, even if you’re not engaging in that play with those specific people. Don’t break any of the agreements you have in your existing relationships. The definition of cheating is so wide that you could never narrow it down. Maybe talking to an AI bot is not cheating, but maybe sexting with someone you’ll never meet is, and you have to work that into agreements you may have with the people in your life already.

It’s a good reminder. Justin and Laura, this was great. I think that there are people who are writing notes down. I hope that they resolve to have some better sex through these ten tips.

I hope so too.

Thank you so much for including me. I was a little confused. I thought, you and Justin wanted my ten sex tips, but this was fun too.

That’s going to be a follow-up, I think. Let’s get started. Cheers.


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About Justin Lehmiller

SOLO | Justin Lehmiller | Tips For Better SexJustin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and expert in the field of human sexuality. He holds a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Purdue University and is currently a Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. Lehmiller’s work encompasses a broad range of topics within sexuality, including sexual fantasy, sexual health, and the psychology of casual sex. Lehmiller is the author of “Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life,” a comprehensive analysis of one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on sexual fantasies. He runs the popular blog “Sex and Psychology,” where he translates scientific research on sex and relationships into helpful and accessible information for the public.