Sex is simultaneously one of western culture’s most and least discussed subjects. Pervasive imagery leads us to believe that everyone should have and desire sex, yet there’s little public discussion on the best ways to have sex, or what people actually desire. There’s even an assumption that everyone desires sex. One thing is clear: Everyone who wants to have sex should enjoy it. So, is it possible to train or practice for sex?
According to intimacy coaches Jennelle Gordon, Kristen O’Guin, and Ross Weaver, there are plenty of ways to prepare your body — and mind — for better sex. And surprisingly, many of them are pretty G-rated.
7. Talk openly and honestly about sex
The first step in improving at anything is understanding it better, and talking can be a great starting point. Especially with new partners, having a conversation is the gateway to better sex.
“The greatest thing that I would recommend people to do is to just start to get real about their intimacy and sex with themselves, like start to have these conversations and dialogues,” Gordon tells Inverse.
Some questions she suggests:
- What do I know about sex?
- Where did I learn this?
- Do I understand the anatomy of my body? (On that note, highly recommend checking out your vagina with a hand mirror.)
- Have I been honest about any trauma or pain I've experienced or any hang-ups or dogma that might have been put on me around sex?
“When [people] start asking themselves these questions they're gonna see that there's a tsunami of stuff that they have to unpack before they can even start,” she says.
Gordon emphasizes that this is an ongoing conversation. Acknowledging and processing trauma, in particular, is a process. Additionally, talking about sex is a foundational first step to align yourself mentally and emotionally. “That's why I say we got to start with just the defining,” she says. “The mechanics is something that's fairly useless if you don’t have a canvas to work with.”
6. Get out of your own head
“Pressure is one of the biggest turn-offs,” Weaver says. One can feel a lot of pressure during sex: to have an orgasm, to make your partner orgasm, to remain engaged the whole time.
A great way to release tension and drop into your body so that you’re not wrapped up in your thoughts is through meditation and breathing exercises.
Here are a few from O’Guin and Weaver:
- Count your breaths. Count 1 on an inhale, 2 on an exhale, and so on up to 10. Then, start over from 1. If you find you’ve counted to a higher number, refocus on your breath.
- Do a mental body scan. Focus on how each particular part of your body feels: your skull, the back of your neck, your left shoulder, your left bicep...
- Breathe through your mouth for several breaths. Then, breathe deeper into your stomach and solar plexus, a network of nerves in the abdomen. Finally, inhale and hold your breath; as you hold it, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles (imagine stopping pee midstream). Hold for a few beats, then exhale. Repeat.
This last exercise, Weaver recommends, should be practiced throughout the day during nonsexual moments, like while waiting in line to pay for groceries. This exercise isn’t overtly sexual, but it’s a contained way to connect with your sensual energy, or your “pilot light” as Weaver calls it.
Gordon recommends that even during sex, if one loses focus they can always go back to their breath. “The breath controls the entire body, the mind, the autonomic nervous system,” she says. “When we can connect to breath, then we connect to our intimacy and pleasure.”
5. Train for endurance
While the pressure to perform sexually is one conversation that needs to be unpacked (because sex is to be enjoyed, not performed), there are still physical exercises that can help with endurance as well as connecting one to their genitals.
Pelvic floor exercises are great for everyone, no matter what sex organs you’re working with. Kegel exercises are good, but they tend to get all the attention. As a refresher, a Kegel is when you contract your pelvic muscles, like what you do to stop peeing midstream. Try not to tense your abdomen or butt. Hold each contraction for 3 seconds. Kegel exercises for penises can help with premature ejaculation and maintaining an erection for longer.
4. Understand how to orgasm (with a vagina)
Ah, the female orgasm. So powerful, yet so neglected.
O’Guin encourages one practice, often called deliberate orgasm, that she says may help people explore feelings associated with the female orgasm.
The practice centers on stimulation of the clitoris. It entails two partners: the receiving partner lying down and the giving partner sitting up. The giving partner stimulates the receiver’s clitoris with a finger for 15 minutes. Ideally, both people are mindful of what they are feeling and what the other person is expressing.
“There's just so much taking from women sexually and so much conditioning [that] sex is all about the penis,” O’Guin says. They go on to say that this exercise is meant to empower the receiver to say aloud what feels good, or what could feel better.
3. Warm up your body for sex
Ted Lasso once said, “Your body is like day-old rice: If it ain’t warmed up properly, something real bad could happen.” He was talking about soccer practice, but it applies to sex as well. Warming up your body is about pleasure as much as it is about capability. While flexibility might be a plus for more positions, loosening your joints will make you more receptive to pleasure, allow different positions to feel good, and will stimulate blood flow.
O’Guin recommends stretching, yoga, and tai chi to loosen up and relax the body. Focus on these body parts:
- Lower back
Of course, there are plenty of strengthening exercises you can do to engage the muscles commonly used during sex. A few good ones:
- Jump squats
- Glute bridges
2. Practice masturbation
Getting yourself off is a great way to learn what feels good for you. It’s another way to connect with the pilot light that Weaver notes.
Weaver also encourages people to regularly take part in things that are pleasurable, but not purely sexual. “I really enjoy taking myself on a date night,” Weaver says. He got the idea from women in his life and has found the pleasures of getting dressed (or undressed), taking a bath, eating pleasurable foods, and more for one’s own pleasure. Again, self-pleasure isn’t strictly sexual, but it can help play into that.
O’Guin endorses that “getting to know one’s body” is another great way to promote a female orgasm.
1. Don’t forget about foreplay
Should you use foreplay? A resounding YES from all three intimacy experts, and probably also from your current sexual partner(s).
Not only is foreplay itself a form of warmup, one that helps get the blood flowing to the genitals and other muscles, but it’s also fun and relaxing.
O’Guin suggests prolonging foreplay and holding off on penetration. This puts less pressure on the act of penetration as the “main event” within sex. Thinking of foreplay itself as part of sex helps draw everything out.
Essentially, look at every communication with yourself and your partner about sex as training for sex. Learning what you or your partner likes will make sex better. But perhaps the most important thing to remember is this: Sex isn’t necessarily a skill to improve at, like cooking or playing chess. First and foremost, it should simply be enjoyed.