We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist based in San Francisco, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off-limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, on to today’s topic: how to feel more turned on during sex.
Q: I’d love some tips on how to get aroused and stay aroused during sex. It seems like my boyfriend can be ready to go whenever, and we can both get frustrated that it takes me more time to get worked up. I’ll usually go along with sex because I want to make him happy, but it’s hard for me to stay focused. My mind wanders, and sometimes I feel bored or worried about coming, and stop feeling turned on. This can happen even if I was really horny and wanted to have sex. I’m only 25, and it feels like I should be enjoying sex more. How can I work on this without forcing myself to feel something I'm not?
A: Thanks for your question! Arousal is a complex process, and there could be a lot of different factors at play here. Fortunately there are some tried-and-true ways to increase your enjoyment of sex. Let’s dive right in!
1. Respect Your Natural Sex Drive
You said in your message that you almost always say yes to sex when your boyfriend initiates, even if you’re not in the mood. It’s hard (though not impossible) to feel aroused during sex if you weren’t ever aroused in the first place. It’s like sitting down to eat a really great meal when you’re already full. Sure, it might still taste kinda good, but you’re probably not going to be able to enjoy it the way you would when you were legitimately hungry.
Maintenance sex can be part of a healthy relationship, but you should feel comfortable turning down sex if you’re not in the mood (and your boyfriend should be respectful of your decision). Doing so may help you get more in tune with your own natural feelings of arousal and desire.
2. Give Yourself Time To Warm Up
It sounds cliche, but women do tend to take longer to warm up to sex than men do. A lot of women will get frustrated with themselves for not responding faster, instead of being patient and giving themselves time to feel desire.
The process of getting aroused is an enjoyable experience, so it’s not like this should feel like a chore! Let your boyfriend know that his frustration with you only derails your arousal even more, and ask him to be more supportive of helping you get aroused. Ask if the two of you can spend more time on foreplay before moving on to intercourse. What are your favorite foreplay activities? Kissing? Holding each other? Talking and connecting? Laying in bed naked together? Spend 10-20 minutes going nice and slow, doing the things you enjoy the most. Feel your pleasure and desire gradually building.
3. Don’t Expect To Be Present All The Time
It’s normal to get distracted during sex, even if you’re enjoying yourself. Think of the last time you did one of your favorite activities. Let’s say you went out for dinner and drinks with your best friend in the world. Even if you guys had the most ridiculously fun night, there were bound to be times where you drifted off mentally. Maybe you checked out looking at Facebook or got distracted by period cramps. A lot of people expect to be completely in the zone during sex, but it very rarely works out that way in real life. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be present and engaged 100 percent of the time.
4. Get More Familiar With Your Desires
A lot of women struggle with asking for what they want during sex, so they go along with the flow of whatever their partner decides to do. Other women don’t even know how to describe what they want, so they stay quiet, too. If you’re not tuned in to your own desires when you’re being intimate, it makes a lot of sense that you wouldn’t be feeling a lot of pleasure. It takes time to develop a healthy relationship with your sexuality and learn what you like, but it’s also one of the most fun adventures you can embark upon!
One easy way to get a sense of what you like is to compare how much pleasure you’re experiencing from moment to moment. If you’re type A, you can even rate it on a 1-10 scale. Or you can remind yourself in the moment, “It’s OK to ask for what I want” or ask yourself, “Is there anything I’d like right now that I’m not allowing myself to ask for?”
5. Focus On Your Body
Pleasure happens in your body. The best way for you to enjoy yourself more in the moment is to pay close attention to the sensations you’re feeling. Start from the top of your head, and imagine slowly traveling down your body, scanning each area that you pass. Pay specific attention to your genitals, and even try honing in on your clitoris for a few moments. What are the specific sensations you feel in each area of your body? Don’t analyze the feelings — just notice them. Maybe you feel a warm heat growing in your stomach, or a gentle fluttering in your thighs. You can do this little exercise before you and your boyfriend get started, or at any point during a sexual interaction.
6. Make A Change
It can be easy to zone out if you’re in the same position or doing the exact same thing for a while. If you find yourself getting lost and distracted in a particular moment, try switching things up. This will instantly bring your attention back to the present. Take a quick break to kiss your boyfriend. Ask him to go down on you for a bit. Change positions. Anything that gets you moving your body will be a welcome change.
7. Get More Visual
Most people have sex in the dark. But it can be tricky to be present and aroused if you can’t even see what’s going on! Turning the lights on or pulling up a mirror are great ways to increase your arousal in the moment. Humans are visual creatures, and we like seeing our partner’s bodies in action. If you feel self-conscious about too much light, try lighting candles or using a small bedside lamp.
8. Practice Meditation
Meditation is one of the best ways to train your brain to be more present in the moment, both inside the bedroom and out. It can also help you learn to observe your thoughts without getting overly distracted by them. For most of us, meditation is like exercise; we know it’s good for us, and that we should be doing it, but we just don’t. This might be the motivation you need to finally start a meditation practice! I personally love the guided meditations from Headspace.
Work your way through this list of techniques, one at a time, and see what works best for helping you get more enjoyment out of sex.