Since joining the gym two years ago, Robin, a mother of three in Ajax, Ont., has a buffer body. Her sex life is in better shape, too. “I feel more confident about being naked,” says the 48-year-old, who’s been married for 21 years. “And I used to be tired at night, but now I have the energy for sex.” If you’ve lost the urge lately, perhaps you’re not feeling confident in your own skin or are just too tired at the end of the day. You should visit your doctor if you’re at all worried about your sex drive. But if you’re simply in the midst of a short dry spell (pun intended!) – or just want to add a little passion to an already good love life – we’ve got expert tips that are sure to take your sex life from so-so to toe-curling good.
If you don’t use it, you may risk losing it, says Clare Mezes, a registered couples and sex therapist in Toronto. Self-pleasuring helps keep the pubococcygeal muscles – which form the floor of your pelvis – in shape, improving sexual sensations, says Mezes. So the next time the mood strikes, don’t be shy – act on it, says sex columnist Josey Vogels, author of Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy (HarperCollins Canada). “Set the mood, light some candles, put on some sexy lingerie and take your time,” says Vogels. And, “since a picture is worth a thousand words, masturbating with or in front of your partner is a great way to teach him what you like.”
Tip Try using a vibrator. According to a U.S. survey of 2,000 women, those who masturbated with a vibrator were more interested in sex, had an easier time reaching orgasm and experienced less pain during and after sex compared to those who didn’t use one and those who didn’t masturbate at all.
Lubrication is important for preventing pain during intercourse, says Dr. Stephen Holzapfel, medical director of the Sexual Medicine Counselling Unit at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. If you’re not naturally producing enough wetness, don’t hesitate to use a lubricant. And remember: being dry is not a direct indication of your interest level. “Some women get aroused without lubricating significantly,” says Dr. Holzapfel.
Tip Vaginal yeast infections, breastfeeding, menopause and fear of sexual pain can all cause vaginal dryness. Talk to your doctor for more information.
If your partner is experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED), don’t blame it on your flabby thighs. “Couples use his erection as a barometer of his turn-on,” explains Joan Marsman, a marriage and sex therapist in Toronto. But ED – a condition where your partner can’t achieve a full erection or loses it before ejaculation – is normal in some men as a result of aging or stress, and often has very little to do with how sexually aroused your partner feels. “If he’s not getting an erection, talk about what’s going on so you can be reassured it has nothing to do with you,” says Marsman. And while it is a delicate subject, it’s worth urging your partner to talk with a physician right away.
Tip Don’t be surprised if, when your partner has ED, you temporarily misplace your libido. Research from the University of Western Ontario in London shows this is often the case; however, the problem can be remedied when your partner’s ED is treated.
If you get the sense that your partner just isn’t that into you (and he doesn’t have ED), realize that – contrary to common gender stereotypes – some men simply aren’t as sexually active as others. Sheila of Calgary experiences this with her partner. “My boyfriend is only 25 and I’m 24 and we’re madly in love, but he doesn’t initiate sex,” she says. “It makes me feel unattractive. I have stopped hoping this might be the night – for fear of being rejected.”
Marsman says women shouldn’t panic or internalize a less than enthusiastic response to a sexual overture. She says it’s a good sign if your partner is affectionate and loving outside the bedroom. Try to enjoy those occasions and, once in a while, use them as opportunities to initiate a lovemaking session. Check out Rekindle your relationship for more pointers.
Tip What should you do if he’s cold outside of the bedroom, too? “There might be more going on because he’s not making himself available to you in more ways than one,” says Marsman. It may be time to reassess your relationship. Talk with a close friend, and seek the help of a professional relationship therapist.
Because a woman’s libido is affected by how close she feels to her partner, fostering an emotional connection with your mate is especially important for a good sex life, says Vancouver clinical sexologist David McKenzie. So keep things heated up by playing the dating game. “Carve out one night a week to spend several hours alone together,” says McKenzie. Or spend a night at a hotel or out of town. After 21 years of marriage, Robin and her husband have recently started a nightly ritual. “We meet in our hot tub at 11 p.m. after the kids have gone to bed,” she says. “It’s our time together to talk over the day and reconnect.”
Tip Don’t lose the intimacy of sex. “When you’re together long term, it’s not unusual for sex to just be intercourse,” says Marsman. Enjoy an occasional, fully clothed session of hugging, kissing and touching.
Can’t get in the mood when you know the laundry is piled Everest high? A study in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality revealed that married women are more likely to have a low sex drive than unmarried women, and less likely to have an orgasm during intercourse. Busier lives may be to blame, according to the researchers. So get your spouse to pitch in more around the house. If one person is doing substantially more than the other, she may feel resentful or taken for granted, which is not good for any relationship, much less a sexual one, explains Dr. David Posen, a physician, stress consultant and author of The Little Book of Stress Relief (Key Porter). “Hidden anger or unresolved conflict can lead to lack of desire, for women in particular,” agrees McKenzie. So always try to deal with conflict head-on, he says. If you need help communicating, consider getting outside counselling with your significant other.
Tip There’s nothing wrong with a quickie when you’re both short on time. But don’t settle for a few hasty thrusts for his pleasure alone, says Mezes. “Stimulate yourself during sex and have an orgasm.”
If you’re bored between the sheets, don’t endure another night of counting ceiling tiles while your lover gets all the pleasure. Try a new position, suggests Vogels. “Changing positions not only allows you to discover new sensations but gets you talking and laughing about sex, because some positions are more complicated and require you to figure them out together,” she says.
Tip If you like it on top, try facing the other direction so your back is to your guy.
Lemme guess…you’re pretty sure you’d be a tigress in bed if you could just shed those last 10 pounds? How you feel about your body may indeed be affecting your sex life. According to a review of studies in the Journal of Sex Research, women who were more satisfied with their bodies or considered themselves attractive reported having more sexual initiation, activity, sexual partners and orgasms than those who were dissatisfied. Try changing your attitude, and start by listening to your inner voice. If you’re criticizing a body part, stop yourself and make a positive comment about it instead. And if you do feel sluggish, rundown and unattractive, do something about it, says Marsman. You’ll feel better just by cutting out a few hundred extra calories a day and slipping in a 20-minute walk. Quitting smoking will also improve your sex life.
Tip Put in a steamy flick after your next at-home workout (see Rent a for-her DVD). This may seem a bit quirky, but several studies by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin discovered that women who watched an erotic film after exercising experienced significantly higher levels of sexual arousal compared with non-exercisers.
Exploring erotica that’s made for women by women may heighten your arousal. “The brain is your largest sexual organ and erotic material feeds it,” explains Mezes. Watching erotic movies once in a while was a guaranteed turn-on for Theresa and her former boyfriend of three years. “We never made it through a whole movie,” she recalls. “We’d get to a place where it was working for us and all of a sudden we’d be rolling around on the floor!”
Rent a sexy flick such as Body Heat. Or, for something more explicit, check out Eyes of Desire or Caribbean Heat, two movies by Candida Royalle that are recommended by Carlyle Jansen, owner of Good for Her, a women-oriented sexuality shop and workshop centre in Toronto. She says they “don’t have up-close gynecological shots, but show women getting their fair share of the pleasure.” If you’d like to use your imagination instead, Jansen suggests these erotic books: Best of Best Women’s Erotica or Ripe Fruit: Erotica for Well-Seasoned Lovers, both by Marcy Sheiner (Cleis Press).
Tip Too embarrassed to hit the local sex shop? Buy erotica online from a site that offers delivery.
Getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night (most adults get an average of 6.9) won’t just keep you in the sack with your lover longer, it could result in more sex. Nearly a quarter of people who are in a relationship have sex less often because they are too sleepy, according to a recent poll by the U.S. National Sleep Foundation. Aside from being too tired for sex, “if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re cranky and irritable, which will have an impact on all aspects of your life, including your relationship or sex life,” says Dr. Meir Kryger, director of the Sleep Disorders Centre at St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Talk to your doctor if you’re not getting enough sleep.
Tip Instead of falling into bed exhausted at midnight, make time for sex by getting under the sheets together earlier, says Dr. Posen.
There’s no one perfect way to measure your sex drive. Generally, if you feel less desire than usual and you’re distressed about it, you shouldn’t hesitate to visit your doctor, because there may be a simple remedy. Even if you’re not worried about your lack of sex drive, you should mention it at your next checkup so your doctor can rule out medical causes such as diabetes, hypothyroidism (low thyroid) and menopause, says Dr. Stephen Holzapfel, medical director of the Sexual Medicine Counselling Unit at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. Other potential causes of a low libido: alcohol use; past sexual traumas; medications for high blood pressure, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis; antidepressants; breastfeeding; and the pill.
Testosterone There’s been a lot of buzz around the use of testosterone as a solution for women with low sexual desire. Unfortunately, it is not an option for the vast majority of women who have low libidos and who don’t suffer low testosterone levels (one of the tests your doctor should conduct when you report low sexual desire). Testosterone is only a viable remedy for some post-menopausal women, such as those who have had both ovaries removed, says Dr. Holzapfel. Talk to your doctor about side effects.
Viagra Some studies show that women on antidepressants who have a reduced sex drive can benefit from taking Viagra.
So you’re interested in regaling your lover with X-rated lingo, but the thought of it makes you blush. Try it anyway! Besides making sex hotter for your guy, talking dirty may improve your sex life by helping you relax and let loose, says sex columnist Josey Vogels. Don’t know where to start? Here’s what she recommends.
Give a play-by-play Dirty talk doesn’t have to involve obscenities. You just need to vocalize what’s going on, such as “I like it when you do that.” Go a step further and describe how something makes you feel, such as “I’m tingling.”
A low voice goes a long way Whispering something explicit into someone’s ear can be a great way to initiate sex, and is probably more of a turn-on than putting on a loud performance that wakes the neighbours. Go for the straightforward approach, such as “I’ve been thinking about you all day and can’t wait to see you naked.”
Pick up the phone Practise your dirty talk by having phone sex when you’re away on business or even in separate rooms of the house. “It can be easier because you can’t see the person. Once you’re more comfortable with the language and verbalizing sexual activity, then you can bring it into the bedroom,” says Vogels.
Not sure how to spice up your sex life? Try these fun-for-two sex aids recommended by Chanelle Gallant, Chatelaine’s Ask an expert sex columnist. (Prices and retail locations can vary.)
Pjur Woman lubricants Don’t shy away from the wet stuff – it can make intercourse a lot more comfortable. Hand jobs are the busy woman’s best friend, and to do one right, you (or your partner) will need some lube. Try Woman by Pjur – it’s silicone-based so it won’t get sticky or dry out (100 mL/$23 to $25; available at www.goodforher.com, www.venusenvy.ca).
Vibrating rings Sex in the missionary position leaves your clitoris all but abandoned. So try a vibrating penis ring. It fits around the base of the penis and has a small vibrator positioned at the top, which provides clitoral stimulation. The Elexa Vibrating Ring by Trojan is a disposable version ($10; available at Shoppers Drug Mart), or you can spend a little more for a reusable, waterproof version such as The Come Together Set ($29; available at www.goodforher.com).
Liberator Shapes These velvety-soft “sex pillows” come in a variety of shapes, but the most popular (and least expensive) are the Wedge and the Ramp, which change the angle and intensity of intercourse and oral sex ($99 to $119 for the Wedge; $199 to $229 for the Ramp; available at www.goodforher.com, www.stagshop.com).
The Orchid G-Spot Vibrator Get your partner to stimulate your G spot while he’s giving you oral sex and you’ll enjoy a whole new sensation. Try a specially designed G-Spot Vibrator. I recommend The Orchid, as it’s exactly the right shape for G-spot stimulation and doubles as a well-priced clitoral vibrator ($28; available at www.goodforher.com).