Men’s Health
Special Edition Feb 2005

SEX: Get Some, Get More, Get Better
by Ted Spiker

THE AVERAGE GUY has sex about twice a week if he’s married—a little less often (once) if he’s single, a little more (three times) if he’s single but shacking up. If you’re not hitting your number, work on your approach. In a University of New Orleans Study, nearly 70 percent of men reported that when they initiate sex, they overestimate their partners’ desire to get it on, most likely because they think women are like gas grills: Flick a switch and they get hot. Talking to her—about work, family the news—is the greatest aphrodisiac for women because it establishes a bond of sharing that she equates with romance. To you, it’s conversation. To her, it’s intimacy.

YOU’D THINK stress would be as deflating to a sex life as a litter of puppies in the bedroom. But a stressful job (or even a dangerous one) involving some level of competition, as in law or sales, can actually improve it. “Real competition can drive up testosterone, which boosts libido,” says Helen Fisher, Ph.D., author of Why We Love. “Being amped up by a high-powered, high-stress job is more likely to make you more sexually active” than idling in a cushy, low-key career. If work doesn’t fire you up, seek a testosterone jolt in a recreational sports league. Men who get game increase testosterone levels by 15 percent, according to a Pennsylvania State University study. Even better, make her your steady doubles partner. The same study showed that women increased their libido-regulating testosterone by 49 percent during competition.

A KINSEY INSTITUTE study found that nearly one-quarter of women reported some distress in their sexual relationships in the preceding month. One of the most common causes of dissatisfaction: boredom. “The common denominator of satisfied couples is that they’re very playful,” says sexologist Ava Cadell, Ph.D., author of The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Oral Sex. “My definition of sex is adult play. It should be fun and recreational. You should laugh and release all those pleasure endorphins. A sense of humor is an essential ingredient in great sex because it takes pressure off performance.” Toys = instant play. Shop together at a toy store (the kids’ kind) for playthings you can bring into the bedroom. Imagine the possibilities with washable paint, masks, water pistols and toy handcuffs.

THE AVERAGE MAN’S sex life stays the same or even improves once he ties the knot. To ensure this outcome, do what good pitchers do—throw changeups into your nightlife at least once a week. “Novelty is good for sex, and I don’t just mean novel sex, Novelty in your social life,” Fisher says. It can be as simple as skipping dinner to play miniature golf or listening to a live band instead of the car radio. Anything that makes the start of your date less predictable can change up the ending, as well.

A MAN SHOULD KNOW at least 10 hot spots on his partner’s body that drive her wild, says Dr. Ava Cadell. Not knowing is a sign that you might not have enough colors on your palette to paint a sexual masterpiece. Simple technique—a kiss around the earlobe, a stroke between her toes—will help you find them. “Before you try to experiment with wild position, be the best student of her body that you can be,” says Gloria Brame, Ph.D. a sex therapist and author. To find more spots, slow down your kissing, feeling and touching so dramatically that it barely feels as if you’re moving. “It’s all about slowing sex down to find where she’s receptive,” Brame says.

THE WAY a woman feels about her body correlates with how inhibited she feels in bed. Sure complimenting her shoes validates her taste, and saying something about her eyes, reinforces her beauty. But praising her most guarded body parts—butt, thighs, waist—may be more important to your sexual satisfaction. “Women spend their lives trying to look good for men,” Fisher says. “So a woman who feels she’s sending the right visual signals is pleased with herself.” The very best time for a “nice ass” shout-out is when there’s absolutely no chance that you’ll be having sex soon, like before you walk into her parents’ house for Sunday brunch. “It’s a gift to compliment her outside of the bedroom,” says Fisher. Praising her body at times other than when there’s a bulge in your pants reinforces your sincerity.

ONLY 30 PERCENT of women can climax through intercourse alone; most also need direct clitoral stimulation, as evidenced by the fact that it takes women an average of 4 to 6 minutes to climax when they masturbate and 10 to 20 minutes during intercourse. “Making a move with one’s penis is like trying to write calligraphy with a thick Magic Marker,” says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist and author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman. “The tongue is mightier than the sword.” Assure your partner that going down on her turns you on, and consider the virtue of the flat, still tongue, which she can move against to climax.

THE MINIMUM DURATION of sex—including seduction, foreplay, and intercourse—should be about 30 minutes. “Anything under half an hour is not satisfying to a woman,” Dr. Ava Cadell says. If you’re not quite there yet, build up your sexual stamina by aiming to make each sexual encounter a few minutes longer than the one before. Research shows that the average man lasts about 14 minutes during intercourse, but you don’t necessarily have to go that long to satisfy her. For every 30 minutes of sex, only one-quarter to one-third of the time should be spent on actual intercourse, Dr. Cadell says. This leaves plenty of time for the other things she like—decoupage!—and you don’t feel as if you’re being clocked.

FOREPLAY LASTS an average of 12 minutes, and women would like it to go on for an average of about 18, according to a study by the University of New Brunswick in Canada. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take the express lane sometimes. One quickie a week is a significant sign that your relationship is strong—and that your partner understands your sexual needs, Says Dr. Ava Cadell. If she’s nice enough to understand how much you need the 1-minute variety, reciprocate with the 1-hour kind (or at least the 18-minutes-of-foreplay kind).

YOU’D THINK erection would be like martinis—the stiffer the better. “The theory is that it should be rock hard, but if it’s hard enough for penetration, it’s probably okay,” says Jon Pryor, M.D., a professor of urologic surgery at the University of Minnesota and a Men’s Health advisor. The best time to do an erectile self-check is first thing in the morning—when the smooth muscle around the penis is relaxed allowing blood to engorge it. If you wake up with a limp biscuit, it could be a sign of poor bloodflow or low testosterone.

. “HIGH BLOOD pressure is an important cause of arteriosclerosis—and arteriosclerosis blocking the arteries to the penis may be the most common cause of erectile dysfunction,” says Thomas Lee, M.D., a professor of medicine at the Harvard medical school. Get your BP checked at least once a year. Losing weight and exercising will lower your blood pressure as well as your body-mass index (BMI), another important number to know. (Calculate yours at In a 2003 Harvard study of more than 30,000 men, guys with BMIs over 28 had more than a 30 percent higher risk of ED than did men whose BMIs were less than 23.

. “THE MORE OFTEN people masturbate, the more often they have sex—it’s a surprising correlation,” says Fisher. “It’s probably because sexual arousal elevates the testosterone and dopamine, and that can lead to more sex.” A woman who’s cool with your self-pleasure—and who also masturbates—is likely to be a better lover because she knows what pleases her most, Brame says. A recent survey showed that 20 percent of women masturbate once a week and 60 percent of those women use sexual devices to do so. Need a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift? The popular 4-inch Pocket Rocket ($27, is discreet but packs a vibrating wallop. And he Rub My Duckie vibrating bath toy ($20, makes showering together lots of good, dirty fun.

HEALTHY COUPLES share information on what they like and don’t like. “You don’t have to spend hours talking about your sex life,” Brame says. . “What’s important is sharing with your partner sometime that’s deeply intimate.” Fisher suggests talking at a safe, nonsexual time. Women get intimacy just from talking, and this way, she won’t feel pressured to perform right away—and that can make her more willing to put on the malfunctioning wardrobe another time.

WHEN MEN and women are younger, they tend to have more sex, but the quality increases with age. “As she gets older, she’ll lose a lot of inhibitions and become more comfortable with her body,” Brame says. “And that’s probably the single most important thing in sex—feeling at home in your own body.”

BUTTON-UP PAJAMAS send the message that she’s not ready for sex. But sleeping in the nude doesn’t necessarily indicate sexuality, either. The true green light: when she’s giving some thought to what she wears—because that implies an element of seduction. Whether its lace or a tight T-shirt, spending some time and thought preparing for bed is a sign that she’s more open to sex. If she’s a flannel gal, you can’t quickly turn her into a garter-and-see-through-nightie fan. Start slowly: Buy her a pair of flannel boxers and a cotton tank top. She feels the comfort; you see some skin.

. “DON’T ALWAYS make love in the same place at the same time in the same position: It’s the kiss of death in any relationship,” Dr. Ava Cadell says. In fact, you should always be striving to learn new techniques to satisfy her, like this one: Multitask while giving her oral sex. Lick her clitoris, stimulate her G-spot with one hand, and brush your other hand all through the intimate terrain of her butt. “If you can do that,” Dr. Cadell says, “she’s never going to let you go.”