1. Turn on the ons. Everyone’s brain has a sexual “accelerator” that responds to sexy cues in the environment. Women with great sex lives pay attention to these, notice what gets their engines revving – and it can be anything, from obvious things like erotica or hearing your neighbors having sex, to the not-so-obvious, highly individual things, like watching your partner be good at their job or smelling the fragrance they wore the night you fell in love.
2. Turn off the offs. Everyone’s brain also has sexual “brakes,” that notice all the really good reasons not to be turned on right now. When the brakes are on, it doesn’t matter how hard you hit the accelerator, you’re not going anywhere. Women with great sex lives know what hits the brakes for them – and it can be anything from risk of STIs to stress to reputation concerns to grit on the sheets – and they do what they can do minimize them.
3. Pay attention to pleasure. Pleasure’s not simple. Take tickling, for example: under the right circumstances, it can be fun – even sexy! If you like and trust your partner, and especially if you’re already in a flirty mood, tickling can lead to nooky. But if you’re feeling frustrated and annoyed with your partner and they try to tickle you? You just want to punch them in face. Women with great sex lives know that any sensation can feel good… in the right context. And they know that any sensation can be annoying or even painful in the wrong context. Women with great sex lives pay attention to when and how pleasure happens in their lives.
4. Pay attention to their partner. Women with great sex lives know that emotions that are shared, are amplified. The more aware we are of our partner’s experience with in bed (or wherever), the more their experience boosts our own pleasure.
5. Have patience with their self-criticism. It’s just about impossible to make it to adulthood without absorbing some of those critical messages that culture wants women to believe: we’re not pretty enough, sexy enough, or good enough in bed – but also we’re too pretty, too sexy, and sluts to be so good in bed. We’ve all got that noise in our heads. Women with great sex lives are great at noticing it… and letting it go. They recognize it for what it is: noise, planted in their brains by a culture that profits (in so many ways) from women’s self-hatred. And fuck that noise.
6. Stay curious. The worst thing a person can do when something unexpected happens with their sexuality is to start judging themselves as “broken” or “flawed.” Women with great sex lives approach everything in their sexuality – including the unexpected or “imperfect” aspects – with curiosity. “Huh, that’s interesting,” they notice. “I wonder what’s up with that.”
7. Go slow. “Great sex” is so often represented as hot-and-heavy-can’t-keep-our-hands-off-each-other-gotta-do-it-now, but women with great sex lives give sex time to build up. Even if it starts with the saucy looks while you get ready to go out and continues through the sly caresses and whispered thoughts at the party, culminating in the fast, hard sex in a stranger’s bedroom, that’s sex that built up from a fire started hours earlier. Women with great sex lives go slow.
8. Respect ambivalence. Because there’s both an accelerator and a brake, and the two function separately, it sometimes happens that you both want and like something… and don’t want and like something. Women with great sex lives recognize that ambivalence for what it is: normal. And they can sort through what’s turning them on and what’s holding them back, and they (and their partners) give their brains and bodies plenty of time to address the barriers, respectfully and compassionately (see “Go Slow,” above.)
9. Know what’s true about their bodies. Knowledge is power. Women with great sex lives know that the best source of information about their bodies is… their own bodies. They believe what their bodies are telling them about what they like or don’t like, what they want or don’t want, more than they believe other people’s opinions about what they’re “supposed” to like or want.
10. Love what’s true about their bodies. Women with great sex lives don’t always have the lives they’re “supposed” to have. They might not be attracted to the kind of person they’re “supposed” to be attracted to; they might not like the kind of sex they’re “supposed” to like and they might not want the amount of sex they’re “supposed” to want. They embrace what their bodies are doing right now, as they are, in all their rule-breaking, norm-violating, wholly unique glory.