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Women are both perfectionists and worriers: not the best combination for explosive sex.

If we’re not beating ourselves up about daring to live inside an imperfect body, we’re worrying about the orgasms we are or aren’t experiencing and feeling guilty for not wanting to lustily rip the clothes off the partner we’ve been with for a decade.

Time for a long overdue reality check for these three common female fears.

OUR BODY

‘She hates side-by-side sex because it makes her tummy look fat. She won’t get on top because she’s worried her breasts will look droopy. She won’t even get out of bed to go to the loo unless I promise not to look at her bottom. Why won’t she believe that I love her body as it is? I don’t see these supposed faults.’

Study after study turns up the same result, year in, year out: feeling sexually attractive means you¿re far more likely to enjoy sex, have more orgasms, initiate sex more and be more comfortable discussing sex with your partner (stock image)

Study after study turns up the same result, year in, year out: feeling sexually attractive means you’re far more likely to enjoy sex, have more orgasms, initiate sex more and be more comfortable discussing sex with your partner (stock image) 

Feeling desirable is extremely important because this, alone, can dictate how happy you are with your sex life.

Study after study turns up the same result, year in, year out: feeling sexually attractive means you’re far more likely to enjoy sex, have more orgasms, initiate sex more and be more comfortable discussing sex with your partner.

A landmark 2012 review of 57 studies, spanning two decades of research, found significant links between body image and just about every factor associated with sex: arousal, desire, orgasm, frequency of sex and sexual self-esteem.

It’s not rocket science: if you’re ashamed of your body and think it’s ugly, why would you want anyone looking at it or touching it?

This revulsion for our own flesh and blood is very much a female thing. Does anyone reading this know any man who thinks, ‘I won’t have sex today because my beer gut’s enormous’?

UK research found one in 10 women never feel confident about their body during sex, compared to three per cent of men.

MOVE PAST IT:

Distraction is a great place to start.

Focus on how you’re feeling during sex. Sex is about what’s happening on the inside not the outside. Focus inwards, not outwards.

Look at your partner not your body. Look into their eyes, look at their body, not yours.

Talk. You don’t have to talk dirty (unless you want to). Just say ‘I like that’, ‘That feels great’, ‘God you look hot’. Moan, groan, compliment. Talking helps you have mindful sex: you’re in the moment when you’re talking not drifting off into worrying about how you’re looking.

Get active. Move around. Take control. Do something to them, don’t just lie back and let them do things to do. The more active and involved you are in sex, the less time your brain has to get paranoid.

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Fantasise. If looking at your partner doesn’t work, close your eyes and escape into a fantasy that casts you in a positive role. Lose yourself in it.

Have sex more often: Having sex improves body image. Enjoyable sexual experiences make us feel better about our bodies. If our partner clearly enjoys making love to it, it can’t be that bad!

It’s a win-win-win scenario: the better you feel about your body, the better sex is. Which makes us want sex more, which in turn helps feed a better body image.

Tracey Cox (pictured) explains how to move past the three hangups stopping women from enjoying sex

Tracey Cox (pictured) explains how to move past the three hangups stopping women from enjoying sex 

OUR ORGASMS

‘I feel such pressure to orgasm with him. He works so hard to make it happen and is always asking me, ‘Does this feel OK?’, ‘Should I do it like this or this?’. We’re both so desperate for me to climax, sex has become something I dread. It’s stressful not pleasurable.’

Women worry a lot about orgasms: not having one, taking too long to have one, orgasms that feel like a sneeze and not a satisfying one – and the list continues.

All pointless anxiety, say sex therapists.

In really good sex, says renown US sex therapist Stephen Snyder, orgasm should be like the dessert at the end of a good meal. Memorable perhaps. But not the reason you went out to dinner.

He says the couples that have the best sex are the ones who don’t set orgasm as a goal. They just enjoy it – when and if it comes.

Distress about orgasm is the second most common reason people seek treatment for sexual problems (losing desire is the first).

We need to change the way we think about sex: orgasm isn’t the goal, pleasure is.

It’s taking you longer to orgasm than you used to? So what? Enjoy the longer ride. The orgasm you just had wasn’t half as intense as the one you experienced last week? Who cares? You’re a human being, not a machine churning out exact replicas.

Orgasms happen when we are happy, relaxed, in the right space and not feeling pressured.

These perfect circumstances don’t happen that often, yet we continue to beat ourselves up for not having explosive orgasms, regularly, on cue.

MOVE PAST IT:

Lose the obsession with orgasm by adopting the following mantras.

Know the facts. Between 17 and 25 per cent of women orgasm reliably through vaginal penetration alone. If you’re one of the many women who’ve always felt like there’s something wrong with you for not being able to orgasm during intercourse, that should make you feel a whole lot better. You’re the majority, not the exception! Focus on clitoral stimulation (inner and outer) and your orgasms will be more reliable.

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Think practically, not emotionally. There are lots of reasons why you might be finding it harder and/or longer to reach orgasm. Our mental state, time of the month, how close we’re feeling to our partner, how aroused we are, hormonal changes – all these things affect how easily we climax. Nearly all women orgasm easily and quickly with a vibrator. If it’s taking too long, speed it up by grabbing one.

Change the goalposts: If you make orgasm the aim of sex, you’re totally missing the point. The orgasm itself lasts between 20 seconds and two minutes. It’s the build-up of erotic tension that’s the pleasurable, intimate part of sex. You can still have a thoroughly enjoyable sex session without either of you tipping into actual orgasm.

NOT WANTING TO HAVE SEX WITH SOMEONE WE LOVE

‘My husband feels unwanted because I don’t want to have sex with him. But I’m more in love with him than ever. He shouldn’t feel rejected. I just can’t get turned on like I used to.’

A high proportion of people in long-term relationships love their partners desperately but have no interest in having sex with them.

And they have no idea why.

It’s baffling (‘The one person I tell everything to and do everything with, is the one person I can’t talk honestly to about how I now feel about sex’) and upsetting (‘I worry that everyone else is having all this great sex and we’re the only ones who aren’t’).

There are many reasons why love thrives and sex dies over time. We all need to adjust our expectations of what’s achievable with long-term monogamous sex.

You’re probably not with the wrong person, for starters.

How many good, solid couples have split because they no longer ‘lust’ after their partner? Most enjoy a temporary lift with someone new – then find themselves straight back at the same place, usually wishing they’d stuck with their first choice.

The grim reality is we aren’t programmed for passionate long-term sex. Lust and love are uneasy bedfellows, not best friends. Sex and love hormones battle in our brains, rather than happily share space because what one likes, kills the other. Love loves predictability and security; lust wants the forbidden and new.

Losing desire for our partners is more ‘natural’ in long-term relationships than continuing to want sex.

Is it a straight couple’s problem? No. Gay men, gay women, bi-sexual, trans…this affects all of us, regardless of our sexual orientation.

MOVE PAST IT:

Ignore what you’ve been force-fed by rom-coms: real life love and sex bears no resemblance.

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Feeling like sex isn’t the only motivation to have it.

Making your partner happy, feeling connected, to reap the many health benefits, giving pleasure – these are just a few good reasons to have sex. We need to move away from thinking desire is the only motivation.

Have an honest conversation about what still works and what doesn’t. Make sure the sex you are having together works for you. Our bodies change with each age and stage we move through. The techniques that used to work before, sometimes don’t later on. Say, ‘I know I used to love intercourse but now I prefer oral sex. My body is different’. He could say ‘I used to not want you to touch me for fear of coming too soon. Now it’s the opposite’.

Stop being sex robots. This might be more about sexual flatlining – going off sex because it’s mind-numbingly routine – than it is to do with losing desire for your partner. We all have a tried-and-true path to orgasm that our partner knows. Great! If they use it every time, though, that well-trodden path feels about as exciting as your commute to work that you’ve done hundreds of times. You fail to notice anything because you’ve seen it all before, countless times.

Don’t do trade-offs. If you both prefer different styles of sex (lusty, loving, wild, mindful), having sex ‘your way’ one time and your partner’s way the next seems like a good solution. It’s not. You both feel resentful when it’s not your turn and dread the sessions that aren’t ‘yours’. Instead, blend a bit of both into the same session. Better still, come up with something new that appeals equally to both of you.

Develop fantasies and stop worrying about what or who stars in them. You don’t fancy your partner but you sure as hell do your boss? Your partner can’t mind-read. Let your imagination run as wild as it wants to, with whoever it wants to. Yes, even that person. It works in your partner’s favour in the end. If that fantasy makes you enjoy sex more with them, your brain associates good sex with your partner, making you more open to doing it in the future.

Add outside stimulation. Watch a sexy film or some erotica together, listen to audio porn, try some sex toys. They’re all zero effort, highly effective ways to inject desire into long-term relationships when you are tired of looking at the same scenery.

  • You’ll find more of Tracey’s advice on sex and love at traceycox.com, along with details of her weekly podcast, books and product ranges.

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