Research has pinpointed the true sources of sexual pleasure for women. Let the findings reignite your sex life…if you dare.
Women haven’t been waiting for a lab report to learn that sexual sensation centered on the vagina is different from sensation centered on the clitoris—or on the breasts, for that matter. But apparently this is breaking news to sex researchers, who have only recently confirmed these facts using high-tech brain scans. And if this information comes as a surprise to your partner too, you’ll be able to change your sex life in the most satisfying ways imaginable.
This research comes from Rutgers University, where Barry R. Komisaruk, PhD, has been studying women’s sexual response for 3 decades. He and his colleagues have now shown that not only does stimulation of the clitoris, vagina, cervix, and nipples activate distinct brain regions of the genital sensory zone of the cortex but also that titillating one area affects other sexual brain sectors as well.
These findings are especially important to long-standing couples, who all too easily fall into sexual ruts, according to Nan Wise, a certified sex therapist and PhD candidate in Dr. Komisaruk’s lab. The same old, same old sex routines don’t work for women because female sexuality is nuanced and complex—more like a symphony than a cymbal clang. If your partner’s approach to sex is one-note—exclusively focused on your vagina, for example—he’s shortchanging your pleasure potential.
“Not every woman likes every type of touch, but there is likely a cumulative effect,” says Wise. “For most women, layering three or four types of stimulation could lead to a better sexual experience than enjoying one thing only.” The result is that couples now have myriad reasons to try new positions, modes of touch, and means of sexual expression. Release your habits and inhibitions and let the fun begin.
Hot move #1: Show and tell
In order to defuse some of the tension that can creep into couple conversations about less-than-satisfying sex, consider drawing your partner a personalized pleasure map instead. Laura Berman, PhD, host of In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman, provides her clients with a black-and-white outline of a figure’s front and back on a sheet of paper. Circle the areas of the body where you’d like your partner to lavish attention. Also key: Assign each zone a number, which tells your partner what part of your body you want stimulated first, second, third, and so on.
Hot move #2: Mix it up
A study from Indiana University underscores the importance of going beyond the missionary position. Researchers surveyed almost 2,000 adults and asked them about their most recent sexual experience. They found that 81% of women who reported receiving oral sex reached orgasm, compared with 66% for those who stuck to intercourse. Just like Dr. Komisaruk and Wise at Rutgers, the Indiana researchers concluded that the more varied the stimulation—oral sex being a particularly good example—in a single sexual event, the more likely the women were to reach orgasm.
Hot move #3: It’s all in the wrist
Some women shy away from breast attention because their husbands don’t know how to touch them in a way that feels good. Now that we see how tied in to the brain’s sexual pleasure circuit the nipples are, it’s time for men to brush up on their technique. “Men tend to touch their partners the way they want to be touched: fast and hard,” says Dr. Berman.
“You need to ask him to start slow, caressing the breast gently.” The foreplay map will point him in the right direction, but you’ll need to refine his efforts by explaining exactly what you want, according to Dr. Berman.
Hot move #4: Lessons in self-love
It helps to try some exploratory masturbation so you know what to ask your partner to do differently in bed. If you’ve been touching yourself the exact same way since you were a teenager, the time has come to try a new routine. Pick an area you don’t usually pay attention to and experiment. When you discover a new sensation you love, show your partner how you like it.
Hot move #5: Play a head game
In long-term relationships, women tend to be tougher to turn on than men, at least in terms of what the sexperts call “spontaneous sexual desire.” That’s the powerful impulse that drives men to come on to their wives regardless of the situation. Many long-married women don’t get lusty on the spur of the moment, according to Wise. They need a subtle matrix of mental and physical cues to really get in the mood.
But there are ways to get things cooking. “Women can kick-start sexual desire in themselves if they just start engaging physically,” says Wise. That means being open to intimacy even if your mind is in a thousand places and none of them is between the sheets. Your brain will catch up with your body, especially if your hot zones are getting expert attention from a partner specially trained to turn you on.