If you're looking to improve your sex life, these tips from experts can get you started.
Sexual desire is widely misunderstood. We expect the urge for sex to strike us spontaneously. And when it doesn’t, we assume we must not be that interested in having sex. But the truth is, many people ― women, in particular ― don’t typically experience desire this way.
As sex therapist and psychologist Nazanin Moali told HuffPost, people have been led to believe that things are supposed to work like this: “First, they spontaneously want sex, then their bodies respond with erection or lubrication, which then leads to sexual activity and orgasm.”
“However, for a large part of the population, desire is more often responsive — that is to say, first, something must feel good before one wants to be sexual,” explained Moali, host of the “Sexology” podcast. “Many feel sexual in response to the situation or context, rather than out of the blue.”
It’s also important to know that our sex drives will ebb and flow throughout our lives for a variety of reasons, both internal and external.
“Issues like medications and medical issues, relationship conflicts, financial and work stress, depression and anxiety, body image issues, poor diet, and the connections people have to their social media devices can all contribute to one’s losing interest in seeking out or receiving sexual gratification,” clinical sexologist and sexuality educator Lawrence Siegel told HuffPost.
But if your low libido is persistent over time and it’s become an issue for you or your relationship, then it’s worth discussing with a professional. If the decreased interest in sex coincided with the onset of illness or injury or beginning a new medication, talk to your health care provider, as “there may be options and alternatives available that don’t have the same impact,” Siegel said.
Making an appointment with a sex therapist can also be worthwhile, as they can help address issues such as low desire, desire discrepancy between partners, erectile dysfunction and difficulty having an orgasm, just to name a few.
“If you’re not feeling sexy or sexual, for whatever reason, that’s 100% OK. Seriously.”
- FRANCISCO RAMIREZ, SEX EDUCATOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF OKAYSO
A quick note before we jump in: If you’re just not in the mood for sex, for whatever reason, please don’t beat yourself up about it or try to force yourself into feeling differently.
“It’s completely fine not to feel sexy and not want to have sex for that reason,” said Zachary Zane, author of “Boyslut” and sex expert for the queer cruising app Sniffies. “Sometimes, we’re just not feeling it! You or your partner shouldn’t pressure yourself to ‘get’ in the mood.
”That said, if you’re feeling blah but do want to get that sexy spark back, the expert-backed tips below might help:
1. Take care of your basic needs first.
“It is hard to be in the mood when your basic needs aren’t taken care of, and so many of us are excellent at overriding our most basic human needs. Tend to the basics — hydration, food, rest, meds, movement — and then ask yourself what more you might be wanting.” — Chris Maxwell Rose, sexological bodyworker and founder of Pleasure Mechanics
2. Too stressed to feel sexy? Address what’s on your mind or do something to wind down — or both.
“If you’ve had a really challenging day at school or at work, or if you’ve got tons on your mind, it can be really hard to immediately switch into sexy-time feelings. When we’re super stressed, it can be that much harder to open ourselves up to a state of arousal.
So, consider two options: No. 1: Take some time to deliberately tend to whatever’s stressing you out, even if just for a few minutes. Think: journaling or jotting down one small action you can take today for a less stress-filled tomorrow.
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To help you de-stress, tap into what feels good in your body. Maybe it's a warm bath or a pair of silk PJs.
Or No. 2: Exercise self-care and good ol’ R&R. Whether it’s taking a luxurious nap, putting on your comfiest sweater, or sipping a warm beverage while taking a hot bath, take a moment to create a come-down period where you turn down the stresses of life and start to turn your attention to things that feel really good.” — Francisco Ramirez, sex educator and co-founder of OkaySo
3. Be OK with however you’re feeling right now — hot or not.
“Often we talk about getting in the mood — as if there is one singular mood or place that we should ideally be in if we are going to be sexual or experience sexual pleasure. Instead of getting in ‘the mood,’ attune yourself to whatever mood you’re already in, without trying to change that vibe.
Meaning: if you’re not ‘feeling sexy,’ luxuriate in how you are feeling right now. Get in touch with your body’s own rhythm and vibe, without expecting that traditional feelings of ‘sexiness’ have to show up. It’s totally legit to feel snoozy, or neutral, or quiet, or lazy and still pursue partnered or solo sex, if that’s what you want to do.
Ultimately, please, please, please know that it is so OK to not be in ‘the mood.’ Often, if we are wishing we were in ‘the mood,’ and then find that we are not, a frustration of not being where we want to be can quickly grow. If you’re not feeling sexy or sexual, for whatever reason, that’s 100% OK. Seriously.” — Ramirez
4. Tap into your fantasies.
“When I ask my clients about their fantasies, sometimes they tell me they have none. Sexual fantasies are thoughts, images and scenarios that help press that sexual accelerator. Even though it is normal to have sexual fantasies, many people feel uncomfortable, ashamed or embarrassed by them.
If you know what you like, place yourself in that exciting fantasy, which helps you get in the mood. While it is important to be present with your partner, borrowing ideas from your fantasies might be just what you would need to get excited. If you are not sure what you like, you can just browse erotic fiction category online and see what you like. Also, if your partner is into it, you both can talk about your favorite sexual fantasies, which can also help you get in the mood.” — Moali
5. Read or listen to erotica on the regular.
“Listen to an erotic audio story for ten minutes a day. Whether you find the time while you are making your morning coffee, waiting in line at the sandwich shop, after you drop your kiddo off at school, walking your dog, stretching at the gym, or folding laundry, carve out a ten-minute pocket of time each day when you can dip into our imagination. Pop in your earbuds and remind yourself that your body isn’t just made for work and more work. It gets to enjoy pleasure, too.” — Ashleigh Renard, author of “Swing” and creator of the “How to Keep Monogamy Hot” video series
6. Make your environment more seductive.
“It’s easy to take for granted how our environment affects our ability to relax into sexy feelings. Is your bed unmade? Are your clothes unfolded? Do you live, work and cohabitate in the same environment every day? Think about changing up your environment by co-creating a sexy playlist with your partner, changing into something that makes you feel sexy, lighting candles, using scented essential oils or incense and even adorning your bed temporarily with textures that make you feel sensual — e.g. fluffy pillows, satin sheets, soft throws. Prepare the room or space to appeal to your partner’s and your senses.” — Luna Matatas, sex and pleasure educator
7. Do some solo foreplay in the shower.
“This accomplishes two things. One, after a shower, you’re clean and looking fresh; this will make you feel sexier. (It’s hard to feel sexy after a long, exhausting day of work.) Two, you get yourself in the mood to have sex.
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A sexy solo shower might just put you in the mood for partnered sex.
Personally, I ‘edge’ myself in the shower. In other words, I pleasure myself ― getting really close to orgasm ― but then don’t climax. When I’m out of the shower, I want to jump my partner’s bones. We often think of foreplay as something you have to do with your partner, and of course, you absolutely should have tons of foreplay with your partner, but you can also have foreplay by yourself.” — Zane
8. Nurture your connection to your partner outside of the bedroom.
“If you feel disconnected from your partner all day, no amount of ‘getting in the mood’ tips is going to change the lack of connection that’s needed for sexual intimacy to develop. Feeling seen, heard and supported will.
This means you need to focus on what happens during the day to begin building the mood for the evening. If you’re going to be apart from your partner during the day, plan ahead.
Set up a breakfast or lunch date where you can connect and be playful with each other, then build anticipation throughout the day with sexy texts. Let that morning heat simmer until the fire is aflame at night. Staying connected to a partner throughout the day can also mean more energy and less depletion while you tackle the hard stuff.
“It’s easy to take for granted how our environment affects our ability to relax into sexy feelings. Is your bed unmade? Are your clothes unfolded? Do you live, work and cohabitate in the same environment every day?”
- LUNA MATATAS, SEX AND PLEASURE EDUCATOR
Lastly, if you’re going through something difficult, initiate a heart-to-heart vulnerable conversation with your partner or enlist their support when you reunite. Carrying a heavy emotional burden alone typically acts as a heavy brake to sexual intimacy that can only be lessened when you feel seen and supported. Even if you’re going through something that requires your involvement alone, feeling supported lessens the emotional load and helps you become more available sexually.” — Irene Fehr, sex and intimacy coach
9. Take some “pleasure pauses” throughout the day.
“If you’re stressed all day, draining your fuel tank down to empty, infuse your day with what I call ‘pleasure pauses’ that will fill you up and keep you energized. These don’t just work for sexual desire. They reset your nervous system, helping you relax, and give you an energy boost when you might feel tired.
Examples of pleasure pauses include: Taking time at lunch to enjoy your meal, sitting down to breathe in quiet room and let yourself relax fully into your seat by softening the pelvic muscles, activating your sensuality by stroking your own skin, getting hugs throughout the day.
In and of themselves, these pleasure pauses don’t do a lot. But together, they fill your tank and feed your aliveness and mood for more.” — Fehr
10. Move your body in a way that feels joyful or powerful.
“Getting reconnected with your body can be a helpful step in feeling sexy! In a world where we can spend so much time on our phones and can be stuck in comparison, it can do wonders to just remember ’Whoa, I have a body! It can do cool stuff!” This might be a dance class (maybe a heels or pole class, if you want to put extra emphasis on tapping into sexuality), or whatever kind of movement is your jam! Go climbing, play some dodgeball, do some yoga!” — Eva Bloom, sexuality educator and the creator behind @whatsmybodydoing on Instagram
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Movement can help you reconnect to your body. Put on a playlist and dance, do some yoga flows outside, or whatever else tickles your fancy.
11. Get a sext convo going with your partner.
“Sexting is a fantastic way to increase anticipation, arousal, and confidence. Hearing how badly your partner wants to pleasure you or being told explicitly how beautiful and sexy you are can absolutely make you feel sexy ― and subsequently get you in the mood.” — Zane
12. Find ways to add a little seduction to your daily routine.
“Do you rush through your daily tasks on autopilot? Instead, make a habit of treating your body with the hands of a gentle lover. As you shower, dress, shave, or apply makeup, touch yourself slowly and with intention. Hair in your eyes? Tuck it behind your ear like a sexy barista-turned-love-interest in a rom-com. In the shower, lather up your body and rinse carefully like you have a sexy shower attendant. Next time your shoe is untied, imagine that your arms are full of grocery bags and the cutie at the bus stop kneels down to tie them and then looks up to hold your gaze. Whoa, it’s getting hot in here.” — Renard
13. If sex feels like too much, focus on parts of the body other than the genitals.
“It’s OK to say to your partner: ‘Hey babe, I want to be in the mood but I’m feeling slow to warm today, can we try slowing everything down?’ Slowing things down without the expectation of the kind of sex you usually have can take the pressure off of the need to perform sexiness.
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Try taking sex off the menu for the night and experimenting with other kinds of intimacy.
You can slow down sex by massaging erogenous areas other than the go-to hot spots. Try scalp, hand or thigh massages. Use breath to send the touch sensations all over your body with deep inhales and exhales. Another way to slow things down is to take genitals out of the play for the night and try focusing on making out, chest play, grinding, dry humping. Sensuality can also show up with tools like eye contact, contrasting touch (e.g. hard to soft) and with dirty talk.” — Matatas
14. Practice mindfulness.
“Mindfulness is the practice of learning to be in the present moment. Research shows that people who practice mindfulness experience more desire. If you would like to experience lasting effect of mindfulness, it is important to dedicate time to it, daily. However, even in the moment, if you shift your attention to how your bed sheets feel beneath you, the scent of the room, or the sensation your partner’s fingers running down your body, you might notice a buildup of desires. Sometimes, we are so distracted that our minds struggle with computing sexual cues.” — Moali
15. Role-play in public.
“Sometimes couples get stuck doing the same things, over and over, which impacts their desire to have sex. If this is you, role-playing in public might be a solution. Pretend you’re meeting for the first time from the internet. Have a few drinks, dance at a club, have a nice dinner all while you sneakily touch each other’s sexy spots beneath the table or when no one’s looking.” — Moali
16. Or role-play in your own mind.
“Can you think of a couple who routinely appears ready to rip each other’s clothes off? Now, I am not suggesting we all go full-blown Kourt and Trav PDA, but how would you move around your house if you truly couldn’t wait for your partner to jump your bones? How would you walk? How would you look at them? How would you touch their shoulder as you passed them? Notice the parts of you that light up — and the parts that relax — when you have sex appeal and attraction coursing through your veins.” — Renard
17. Attend a sex workshop that piques your interest.
“For those of us with responsive desire, ‘feeling sexy’ or interested in sex is often a gradual process that requires receiving various environmental cues associated with sexuality over time. Taking a sexuality workshop can put sexuality into the forefront of your mind in a fun and curious way without pressure to actually have sex immediately.
One of my top recommendations for sexuality classes you can take from anywhere in the world at any time are those from educator Luna Matatas! She has an amazing library with everything from ‘Banishing Bedroom Boredom’ to ‘Cannabis and Pleasure.’” — Bloom
18. Remember the afterglow.
“Take a moment to remember why you enjoy sex and what it feels like to be basking in the afterglow. It’s like visualizing stepping onto the beach while you are waiting in endless airport lines — actively thinking about the rewards will help your brain motivate through the early stages of the journey.” — Maxwell Rose