“We are all born sexual creatures, thank God, but it’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift.”—Marilyn Monroe

I’ve been privileged enough to experience relationships in which my partner’s sex drive matched mine, my partner’s sex drive was lower than mine and my partner’s sex drive was nonexistent. Despite the varied frequency of sex I have had, all these experiences taught me one thing: Sex is superimportant to a relationship.

Sex sells in our society, but we’re told there are more important things than physical intimacy when it comes to love and romance. While other elements must be present for any union to be successful, the downplaying of just how important sex is should not be. Whether you’re single, married, divorced, don’t know, hoping for a prayer or saying “F*ck love,” your sex life should never suffer.

Here are six ways to “sex up” your love life:

1. Make Sexual Pleasure a Priority

There’s a huge difference between making sex a priority and making your sexual pleasure a priority. One allows for routine to set in (which can lend itself to boredom in the bedroom), the other makes room for more highly anticipated, enjoyable experiences. No matter your martial status, you can and should enjoy sex, and self-pleasure is one of the most effective ways to discover what gets you off. It not only relieves stress, but it also helps you accurately please yourself and communicates to your mate what pleases you.

If you’re one of those people who feels pleasing yourself just does not work for you, chances are you’ve either had trouble or have never attempted to communicate your sexual desires. Although the goal isn’t to always “get off,” in my opinion, it’s very difficult for someone to become excited about sex as much as someone who actively “arrives” at the desired destination.

So light some candles, put on some soft music and get to know yourself so others won’t have a hard time doing so. Sex always will and should be about pleasure!

2. Explore, Explore, Explore!

The world has made sex boring! The last time I checked, aside from procreation, sex was about connecting and feeling good. It’s an act shared between consenting adults in the name of providing pleasure to each other. No, I’m not saying you have to get a private dungeon built in your basement, but do be open to exploring other ways to engage in sex.

Create a sexual bucket list, and commit to checking off what’s on there. Exploration is the name of the game, so consider experiences you might not have thought of in the past. Aim to push past your comfort level–within reason–and always seek to be honest with yourself about what you find to be too much. Sexual exploration is not an excuse to get out of hand; it’s merely a means of pushing past your comfort zone in the name of arriving at optimal sexual gratification.

3. Unleash the Freak

Society places limits on just about everything, and sex is no different. There are so many rules to executing this very natural practice, and for many, it’s reached the point of becoming robotic. No wonder so many people are having issues in the bedroom.

Well, I’m telling you to unleash the freak. We all have fantasies, so be bold enough to turn them into reality. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t incorporate your deepest desires into your sex routine. Every healthy relationship thrives on optimal communication. So tell and/or show your lover what is it you wish to do. More than likely, he or she will be down for the ride.

4. Pick Partners You Enjoy Outside of the Bedroom

There are plenty of people in the world who can have sex with complete strangers. They meet for one common goal, and that’s to get off. More power to them. But being able to kick it with your lover outside of the bedroom can yield better sex.

When you develop a connection that goes beyond intercourse, you add an extra layer to the bond created with another being. The closer you are to someone, the more invested you become in pleasing him or her; plus, the layer of trust increases because you are getting to know the other person on multiple levels. And when you trust someone, you’re more inclined to get with his or her program. Getting to know a mate outside of the bedroom will lead to you getting it on with him or her outside of the bedroom in no time (which aids with tip No. 2).

5. Make Teasing Your Weapon of Choice

Most of the time, anticipation is greater than the act itself. Whether you’re the type of lover who likes to get right down to business or the mate who prefers lingering anticipation, teasing can assist you in your journey to climax. Plant seeds of eagerness in your mate’s ear to make him or her want you. Think about how much fun you’re going to have once you connect with your significant other later tonight. Shoot a quick text message reminding him of that time you guys almost got caught in Vegas. Give her a call to let her know you cannot wait to hear her moan again. Few things are more powerful than the imagination. Use it to your advantage when attempting to amp up your sex life.

6. Act Responsibly

We are living in a time when sex can lead to death. No matter what you do, place sexual responsibility at the top of your list. Those who gets tested regularly and demand that of their partners maximize their chances of being sexually fulfilled. No one should be ashamed to discuss sexual STI history with a potential partner. It gives all parties the power of choice to move forward, and undoubtedly increases the likelihood of having good sex if you know they are clean. There’s nothing like peace of mind, so before you “get busy,” get tested.

When it comes to sex, it’s normal to fall into routine, just as other parts of life do. What shouldn’t be normal is accepting a whack sex life. Like all things, keeping the flame alive in the bedroom takes work. Be willing to report to active duty, and you won’t be disappointed.

Freud once called female sexuality “the dark continent,” and if that’s true, then male sexuality might as well be the dark planet. Because when it comes to sex, men are far from simple. (As much as they may try to convince us otherwise.) The bedroom is one of the great stages of male performance, so what you see on TV is typically far from what can (and should) be delivered in reality. That’s why sex experts chimed in with more accurate insight about what guys really want you to know when the two of you climb into bed. Here are their top sex tips for women.

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1. Men respond to praise.

It’s believed that men are so consumed by libido that they have no self-consciousness surrounding sex. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. ” plenty of men who feel very self-conscious about their weight, or parts of their body, and really are affected by this in the bedroom,” says Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., author of A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex and Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters. Many are impacted by performance anxiety too, asking themselves questions like, “Will I be able to get an erection?,” “Have I gained too much weight?” and, “Will I be able to please her?”

That’s when it can be helpful for him to hear compliments both in and out of the bedroom. Mintz suggests starting outside the bedroom, when you can have what she calls a “kitchen table sex talk” — AKA a lower-stakes time to discuss things that are bothering you in the bedroom without having to be “in the moment” of, well, having sex. That’s when your partner can talk about what pressures he’s feeling, or what he’s self-conscious about. Then, you can boost his confidence.

“In a really good, connected, long-term partnership, there’s not a magic word that will work wonders; it’s more about getting to know what it is your partner is worried about, and addressing that outside of the bedroom, when he’s not already anxious about whatever the issue at hand is.”

Once you’re in the bedroom (and aware of his insecurities), remind him of how much you enjoy being intimate. For example, if he’s worried about his weight, maybe give him a sexy once-over and tell him how how buff he looks naked. Other key areas to compliment: His gut, as men often worry about the size of it (and other measurable parts), and their hair, as guys tend to feel self-conscious once they start losing it.

2. Some fear intimacy.

But not for the reason you think! Studies have shown that boys are more affectionate, even more expressive, than girls until they reach school age. At that time, social repression begins — of words, thoughts, feelings — and the desire for human connection goes underground. So taboo is this desire for intimacy that its possibility can terrify men; not because it’s smothering, but because they realize how desperate they are for it.

So what’s a woman to do? First, understand that your guy’s hasty retreat post-sex may be because he doesn’t understand how much he craves a connection with you. Then, it’s time for another kitchen table sex talk, Mintz says. “If he’s been jumping in the shower right after sex for the last 10 years, he’s going to be really taken off guard if, the next time he goes into the shower, you all of a sudden say it upsets you,” she explains. “Instead, set aside a time to talk when the situation has passed.”

When you do talk, Mintz suggests using the sandwich technique: Give him a compliment, tell him your problem, then follow it up with another compliment. Example: “I really love having sex with you, and after we have sex I feel really close and connected. I know you really want to shower, but I really want to cuddle. Is there a compromise that will work for both of us?”

It can be as simple as asking to cuddle for five minutes before a shower, or even showering together. Regardless of the solution, talking about it may reveal something you never knew, and allows fore more understanding before coming up with a new norm that’ll make all parties happy.

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3. They appreciate sex for sex.

While intimacy and post-sex cuddling can be wonderful for many men, sometimes a little “throw-me-down sex” is exactly what they want, plain and simple. “Men want their wives to enjoy raw sex, not just endure it or take it personally,” says Joe Kort, Ph.D, a psychotherapist and sexologist in Royal Oak, Michigan. “It’s not about dominating a woman, but rather ravishing her.” On occasion, don’t be afraid to let him do just that. (So long as it’s something you’re comfortable with, of course.)

4. Guys want to be touched.

The penis gets all the press, but men have many erogenous zones, just like women, says psychologist Melodie Schaefer, PsyD. They just don’t tell you to move your hands elsewhere because they’re afraid that if they do, women will shut down and not touch them at all, she explains. “But there are many places a woman should touch, like the chest, inner thighs, and face,” Schaefer adds. Another key move: Gently gripping a man’s testicles, as it can be a real turn-on that blends control with release. You can also stimulate the perineum, the area between the scrotum and anus, which heightens pleasure during oral sex.

5. Yes, they have sexual fantasies.

“Men want to share their fantasies but worry their wives will shame or judge them,” Dr. Kort says. Similarly, Dr. Schaefer notes that men wish women would reveal their own sexual imaginings. The solution: Make a game of it.

First (and most important), promise not to judge the other. Then, privately write out scenarios that have tantalized you and place them in a box. Next time you’re feeling hot and heavy, pull one out. Either jump right into fulfilling that fantasy or, if you need a little more time to adjust, ask what it is about that fantasy that your partner likes, Dr. Kort says. “Sometimes, its themes can be addressed in different scenarios that feel comfortable for both of you,” he adds.

6. Men want you to be vocal.

Talking during sex stimulates more than our ears, as Mintz says heavy breathing, groaning, and moaning are all sounds that we make when we’re feeling free, and studies have shown that it’s erotic for all parties involved to hear. It’s also a great way to really express what you want, which is a huge turn-on for men when they know they’re doing exactly what you need to have an orgasm.

If you’re not usually one to speak up, Mintz suggests trying it solo first. “Next time you’re masturbating, make some noise,” she says. “You might find something is really fun, and then you can transfer that to partner sex.” Otherwise, saying anything that’s praising, instructive, and even a little dirty tends to go over well with men. Tell him exactly how you want to be touched (and where, and using what) and you’ll his pleasure meter — and yours —through the roof.

7. And they want you to be honest.

Sex can help ease many stressors in a relationship, but it can also cause stress. If he complains about a lack of sex (or the fact that you’re only doing certain things on his birthday), then be honest about what’s causing you to withhold.

One reason that you may not even be aware of is an issue called receptive desire, Mintz says. “As a woman ages and the relationship goes on, stop being spontaneously horny,” she explains. “A lot of men and women don’t know this, so they wait to be to have sex…But you can have sex to get , rather than wait to be to have sex.”

If you have a normative lack of desire and don’t know about it, Mintz says these kitchen table sex talks are especially important because they can help both of you realize what issues are really at hand without feeling attacked, hurt, or rejected.

Of course, it’s also possible that there’s anger, resentment, or deeper issues going on. If that’s the case, Mintz says you shouldn’t be using sex as a weapon — that’s only going to cause more harm in the relationship — and should instead be honest about how you’re feeling. If you’re not comfortable bringing it up on your own (or discussing it when your partner does), she suggests seeing a therapist, who can help the two of you navigate the issue in a healthy way.

8. Guys enjoy the dance.

Men like a good quest, so even if you’ve been together for awhile, allow your partner to court you. “Emotional intimacy is about closeness, but sustaining sexual desire demands a certain amount of distance,” Dr. Kort says.

How do couples strike this tricky balance? By allowing each partner to have what he calls “separate sexuality,” or a sex life that doesn’t include (or betray) the other. “For him, that might mean allowing his wife to use sex toys or letting other men look at her,” Dr. Kort says. “For her, it might be permitting him to watch pornography in order to experience a fantasy.” Such indulgences help maintain the balance of desire and devotion for both parties, so talk to your partner outside of the bedroom and see if this is something one (or both of you) might be interested in.

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9. Speaking of pornography, it isn’t always a big deal.

Finding a spouse using pornography is a top reason couples seek counsel, but it shouldn’t be overreacted to or pathologized, Dr. Kort says. First of all, sex addicts only represent 3-6% of the population, so it’s unlikely your man is one. Plus, because childhood experiences influence sexuality as an adult, people are very idiosyncratic about what turns them on, Dr. Kort says. “So no woman can, nor should be, everything to a man.”

Still, it’s tough not to take it personally when he’s getting off by looking at another woman. To help tamper that, Dr. Kort recommends taking the secrecy out of pornography and discussing it. “Ask him what about it turns him on, and what turns you off,” he says. That way, a dialogue is created that allows for honesty, dignity, and closeness without him feeling like he’s doing something shameful, while you can figure out what you’re OK with accepting and what you’re not.

10. Men want you to embrace sex.

Guys are often accused of being sexually insatiable, but women should rethink this line of thought. “Men see sex as a celebration,” Dr. Schaefer says. “They wish women would take more of a ‘carpe diem’ approach to it.”

We all move through life at the speed of sound, with multiple challenges and pressures. That makes it easy to allow demands on our time and energy to rob us of the joy, pleasure, and opportunity that sex affords us. And more often than not, sex ends up being at the bottom of a long list of priorities. But viewing sex through a different lens — something you want to do versus have to do — can make all the difference.

Plus, there are health benefits to sex. Orgasms release oxytocin, for example, a hormone that’s nicknamed the “bonding hormone” for its ability to bring couples closer together while also alleviating stress, reducing blood pressure, and promoting healing. And who couldn’t use more of that?

With the Casual Sex Project, Vrangalova is trying to build a user base of stories that she hopes will, one day, provide the raw data for academic study. For now, she is listening: letting people come to the site, answer questions, leave replies. Ritch Savin-Williams, who taught Vrangalova at Cornell, told me that he was especially impressed by Vrangalova’s willingness “to challenge traditional concepts and research designs with objective approaches that allow individuals to give honest, thoughtful responses.”

The result is what is perhaps the largest-ever repository of information about casual-sex habits in the world—not that it has many competitors. The people who share stories range from teens to retirees (Vrangalova’s oldest participants are in their seventies), and include city dwellers and suburbanites, graduate-level-educated professionals (about a quarter of the sample) and people who never finished high school (another quarter). The majority of participants aren’t particularly religious, although a little under a third do identify as at least “somewhat” religious. Most are white, though there are also blacks, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic groups. Initially, contributions were about sixty-per-cent female, but now they’re seventy-per-cent male. (This is in line with norms; men are “supposed” to brag more about sexual exploits than women.) Anyone can submit a story, along with personal details that reflect his or her demographics, emotions, personality traits, social attitudes, and behavioral patterns, such as alcohol intake. The setup for data collection is standardized, with drop-down menus and rating scales.

Still, the site is far from clinical. The home page is a colorful mosaic of squares, color-coded according to the category of sexual experience (blue: “one-night stand”; purple: “group sex”; gray: the mysterious-sounding “first of many”; and so on). Pull quotes are highlighted for each category (“Ladies if you haven’t had a hot, young Latino stud you should go get one!”). Many responses seem to boast, provoke, or exaggerate for rhetorical purposes. Reading it, I felt less a part of a research project than a member of a society devoted to titillation.

Vrangalova is the first to admit that the Casual Sex Project is not what you would call an objective, scientific approach to data collection. There is no random assignment, no controls, no experimental conditions; the data is not representative of the general population. The participants are self-selecting, which inevitably colors the results: if you’re taking the time to write, you are more likely to write about positive experiences. You are also more likely to have the sort of personality that comes with wanting to share details of your flings with the public. There is another problem with the Casual Sex Project that is endemic in much social-science research: absent external behavioral validation, how do we know that respondents are reporting the truth, rather than what they want us to hear or think we want them to say?

And yet, for all these flaws, the Casual Sex Project provides a fascinating window into the sexual habits of a particular swath of the population. It may not be enough to draw new conclusions, but it can lend nuance to assumptions, expanding, for instance, ideas about who engages in casual sex or how it makes them feel. As I browsed through the entries after my meeting with Vrangalova, I came upon the words of a man who learned something new about his own sexuality during a casual encounter in his seventies: “before this I always said no one can get me of on a bj alone, I was taught better,” he writes. As a reflection of the age and demographic groups represented, the Casual Sex Project undermines the popular narrative that casual sex is the product of changing mores among the young alone. If that were the case, we would expect there to be a reluctance to engage in casual sex among the older generations, which grew up in the pre-“hookup culture” era. Such reluctance is not evident.

The reminder that people of all ages engage in casual sex might lead us to imagine three possible narratives. First, that perhaps what we see as the rise of a culture of hooking up isn’t actually new. When norms related to dating and free love shifted, in the sixties, they never fully shifted back. Seventy-year-olds are engaging in casual encounters because that attitude is part of their culture, too.

There’s another, nearly opposite explanation: casual sex isn’t the norm now, and wasn’t before. There are simply always individuals, in any generation, who seek sexual satisfaction in nontraditional confines.

And then there’s the third option, the one that is most consistent with the narrative that our culture of casual sex begins with college hookups: that people are casually hooking up for different reasons. Some young people have casual sex because they feel they can’t afford not to, or because they are surrounded by a culture that says they should want to. (Vrangalova’s preliminary analysis of the data on her site suggests that alcohol is much more likely to be involved in the casual-sex experiences of the young than the old.) And the old—well, the old no longer care what society thinks. For some, this sense of ease might come in their thirties; for others, their forties or fifties; for others, never, or not entirely.

This last theory relates to another of Vrangalova’s findings—one that, she confesses, came as a surprise when she first encountered it. Not all of the casual-sex experiences recorded on the site were positive, even among what is surely a heavily biased sample. Women and younger participants are especially likely to report feelings of shame. (“I was on top of him at one point and he can’t have forced me to so I must have consented . . . I’m not sure,” an eighteen-year-old writes, reporting that the hookup was unsatisfying, and describing feeling “stressed, anxious, guilt and disgust” the day after.) There is an entire thread tagged “no orgasm,” which includes other occasionally disturbing and emotional tales. “My view has gotten a lot more balanced over time,” Vrangalova said. “I come from a very sex-positive perspective, surrounded by people who really benefitted from sexual exploration and experiences, for the most part. By studying it, I’ve learned to see both sides of the coin.”

Part of the negativity, to be sure, does originate in legitimate causes: casual sex increases the risk of pregnancy, disease, and, more often than in a committed relationship, physical coercion. But many negative casual-sex experiences come instead from a sense of social convention. “We’ve seen that both genders felt they were discriminated against because of sex,” Vrangalova told me. Men often feel judged by other men if they don’t have casual sex, and social expectations can detract from the experiences they do have, while women feel judged for engaging in casual experiences, rendering those they pursue less pleasurable.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise: the very fact that Vrangalova and others are seeking explanations for casual-sex behaviors suggests that our society views it as worthy of note—something aberrant, rather than ordinary. No one writes about why people feel the need to drink water or go to the bathroom, why eating dinner with friends is “a thing” or study groups are “on the rise.”

It is that sense of shame, ultimately, that Vrangalova hopes her project may help to address. As one respondent to a survey Vrangalova sent to users put it, “This has helped me feel okay about myself for wanting casual sex, and not feel ashamed or that what I do is wrong.” The psychologist James Pennebaker has found over several decades of work that writing about emotional experiences can act as an effective form of therapy, in a way that talking about those experiences may not. (I’m less convinced that there are benefits for those who use the site as a way to boast about their own experiences.) “Often there’s no outlet for that unless you’re starting your own blog,” Vrangalova points out. “I wanted to offer a space for people to share.”

That may well end up the Casual Sex Project’s real contribution: not to tell us something we didn’t already know, or at least suspect, but to make such nonjudgmental, intimate conversations possible. The dirty little secret of casual sex today is not that we’re having it but that we’re not sharing our experiences of it in the best way.

Worst Sex Tips Ever From Women’s Magazines

Women’s magazines get a lot of flak for being a bit crazy at times. Though they often raise great points in terms of relationship and sex advice, the truth is that even the greatest magazines out there will occasionally slip up and come up with advice that is totally off-kilter, weird, or downright hilariously bad.

Bad sex advice is everywhere – and sometimes, even pros may get fooled. One can only imagine how bad some of the outcomes of this bad sex advice could have been with the poor people who tried these. For your own sake, you might want to avoid trying out the following sex tips – even if someone you know may have shared that advice via email or Facebook.

“Lick the soft spot in front of his ears.”

Uh, wait. Guys have a soft spot in front of their ears? I thought that section was skull…or like, these chubby things people call cheeks? Could we have an anatomy lesson, here? I think someone forgot what a human head looks like.

Or, you know, maybe they forgot what species they were working for when they were writing this thing. It kind of sounds like a sex tip Liono from Thundercats would use.

“Take a tennis ball and roll it with slight pressure between his shoulders and over his butt to help him release pent-up sexual energy.”

We’re not kidding, people. This is a legitimate tip that was published in an old issue of Cosmopolitan. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really feel comfortable using tennis balls as part of sex.

Also, what kind of guy has pent up sex energy between his shoulders? At least, with the butt part, that makes sense.

“Firmly hold the bottom of his shaft in one hand and slowly push it towards the base. (Imagine you’re pushing his penis into his body).”

If you literally are trying to push a man’s penis into his body, you probably don’t understand how sex is supposed to work. He’s not a transformer robot. You can’t make him turn into a girl, and if anything, this might just feel really uncomfortable.

This hilariously bad tip regularly gets called one of the worst sex tips from women’s magazines as a whole. We can see why.

“Very softly bite the skin of his scrotum.”

Photo by Nastia Cloutier-Ignatiev

This reader-submitted tip appeared in yet another issue of Cosmopolitan, and we have to at least point out that the magazine writers weren’t the ones who came up with that idea. That being said, we’d be terrified if we felt teeth down there as men.

In terms of being able to get guys into the ER, this is one of the best sex tips out there. However, in terms of being able to get guys into the idea of sleeping with you, this is one of the worst sex tips ever suggested in history.

“Head to the local Indian restaurant or try a new recipe together – the spicier the better. Studies found that ginseng and saffron, in particular, are two spices proven to enhance bedroom performance.”

This tip, which came right from SHAPE, has its heart in the right place. You should take care of your body and diet right in order to ensure that you can perform well in bed. Indian food also happens to be very healthy, so there’s that, too.

However, going to an Indian restaurant probably isn’t a good idea if you’re trying to get laid. Indian food is incredibly filling, is easy to overindulge in, and trying to bounce up and down during sex may make certain things come back up.

We love the idea of bringing fitness and nutrition into the world of sex tips, but for the love of all that is holy, you might want to actually think about them being realistic.

“Bring your lover on your food shopping excursion. View it as sensual foreplay. You can have a lot of fun caressing and gently squeezing foods and inhaling their aromas. The conversation should be entertaining, too.”

This gem appeared in SheKnows, and anyone who has ever taken their lover food shopping can tell you that it’s really not that erotic. More often than not, it’s scrambling to get all the items you need without forgetting things – just like every other food shopping trip you’ve ever taken.

That being said, if you can turn it into foreplay, I will be impressed with your skill. If you do decide to get pervy in the grocery store, you should probably expect to get stares. You might even end up having a kid nearby ask his mom what you’re pretending to do to that zucchini.

Oh, and you may get banned from Trader Joe’s. Isn’t that sexy?

“Make two fists around my shaft and twist them in opposite directions as hard as you can.”

This sex tip first appeared inCosmopolitan, and since then it has gone viral – and for good reason. This really bad sex tip has been inspiring people to write about bad sex tips because it literally is telling you to give your partner an Indian Rug Burn on the most sensitive part of his body.

Many sexperts say that this might just be the worst sex tip in magazine history. In fact, it even sparked an entire article on Crackedabout the sex tips published in magazines that would land you in the hospital.

That being said, if you do choose to use this sex tip, you will make your man scream. However, his screams will not be pleasurable; they will be telling you to get him an ambulance.

This only goes to show you that the worst tips from women’s magazines often make for the best comedy.

“Making him a snack after sex. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal – a simple grilled cheese or milk and cookies will do.”

Glamour magazine was the one that penned this pearl, and to be fair, it would probably go over well with the guy. The only problem with this is that it’s kind of a 1950s-ish tip that makes the girl basically act like a house servant to a guy, and that this tip was actually noted as a way to “lock him down.”

The same article that spawned this bad sex tip also ended up being retracted, with the magazine’s editors releasing the following apology and statement:

We understand that the list read like a 1950s marriage handbook – and nobody wants to go back there. That being said, we’ll always be here to help you decode dating. So let’s be clear: You’re welcome to make a grilled cheese for anyone you love, but you shouldn’t be whipping one up in an effort to lock the all-important ‘him’ down. (That’s just a waste of Gruyere.)What we want for you is love based on equality, not indentured servitude with date night. We’re sorry for slipping off message. And speaking of slipping, please, please ignore that beer-right-out-of-the-shower thing. It feels like it could get dangerous fast.”

You know things are pretty darned bad when the editors of a magazine actually have to step in to apologize for what they said.

“My girlfriend gets a glazed donut and sticks my penis through the hole. She nibbles around it, stopping to suck me every once in a while. The sugar beads from her mouth tingle on my tip.”

This confession became Cosmopolitan’s worst notorious sex tip, primarily because it just doesn’t work, looks hilarious, and could also possibly cause yeast infections and UTIs – depending on the man’s cleanliness.

Colloquially, it’s known as “The Donut Trick,” and it’s spawned a huge number of articles mocking the magazine’s sex tips section. Some have even used it to illustrate the insane disassociation that there seems to be between men and women.

Though some of Cosmopolitan’s advice has been spot-on, the Donut Trick was not one of those sex tips that actually helps women rule the bedroom. It’s only excellent when it comes to adding humor to sex. Besides, not all guys can actually fit in a donut hole, anyway.

“Pick up a box of drugstore hair color (the kind that eventually washes out) and go to town on each other. You’ll get that sexy hands-on-the-scalp feeling along with the risky excitement of not knowing quite how it’s going to turn out.”

This gloriously awful sex tip was found in the pages of Women’s Health, and man, it leaves us speechless.

Hair color and sex do not work out well. That “tingle” you feel dyeing each other’s hair is actually your scalp burning. Moreover, getting frisky while dyeing your hair is a good way to dye your pristine white bathroom walls brown, blue, black, red, or pink.

Also, if you have ever seen the kind of sheer panic women tend to have when they’re not sure how their hair will turn out, you already know that this isn’t so much a sex tip as it is a form of psychological torture.

What’s scary about this is that this is one of the worst sex tips from women’s magazines. Like, they should know their demographic well enough to not suggest a form of torture on them. Really, Women’s Health?

Again, the point here is not that Kemble was gay, but rather that there was nothing at the time considered odd or unusual about a heterosexual, married woman having this kind of erotic fantasy about another woman. Marcus goes on to connect these heterosexual, eroticized female-female bonds specifically to fashion magazines of the era. Then (as now) these magazines were a venue in which women were encouraged to actively participate in the admiration of other women’s bodies.

Marcus suggests that this admiration was explicitly and intentionally erotic and as evidence she points to debates about birching in the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. These debates were a series of letters in England’s leading fashion magazine devoted to the question of whether or not mothers should punish girls (especially those past puberty) with beatings. These letters were explicit, debating how and to what extent girls should be undressed—some arguing, for example, that girls must strip themselves in preparation for punishment, and dwelling on the relative merits of bare bottoms vs. the retention of underwear. Marcus says the letters also frequently picked up on the tropes and style of Victorian pornography, including “teasing delay, first-person testimony, and punning humor.” Again, the link to a sex-drenched contemporary woman’s magazine like, say, Cosmo, seems fairly obvious.

There are other similarities as well. Marcus points out that many Victorian women’s magazines often showed women looking at other women in their images, explicitly inviting the reader to see herself as a woman seeing/appreciating/enjoying other women. This remains a common trope in contemporary fashion magazines as well. Here’s an image from the Amazon.com/Fashion ad in April’s Vogue.

Arm on shoulder, knees touching, hand in the pocket pointed down towards the crotch—and that intense look of fascination/desire, suggesting and modeling the reader’s fascination/desire.

It’s true we’re a long way from the Victorian era in many ways. But still, the tropes and ideas Marcus identifies remain quite recognizable. Which means that in many ways Bilmes is more accurate than he suspects when he compares men’s magazines to women’s magazines. Not only do both kinds of magazines objectify women, but they both present images of women for similar—and similarly erotic—reasons. The reason images in men’s magazines often look like images in women’s magazines is that, despite the different audiences, they are both doing more or less the same thing. They are making women sexual objects, and serving them up to satisfy, or more likely to provoke, the desires of their readers.

Still, doing the same thing for different audiences ends up not being quite the same thing after all. Esquire is providing female bodies for men. It is telling men (as the editor himself says) that female bodies are objects to be used for their enjoyment. This is a pretty common message; men are in general and in lots of ways are told, day in, day out, that the world is organized for their erotic pleasure.

12 Simple Ways to Have Better Sex

Old joke: Having nearly finished creating the universe, God says to Adam and Eve, “I have two gifts left. The first is the ability to urinate standing up.”
“Oh, God! Can I have that one?” Adam pleads. Eve just smiles.
“Fine,” God says, rooting through his bag. “What’s left here?… Oh, yes, multiple orgasms.”
Some women are still thanking their lucky fig leaves. Others, however, may be wishing Eve had gone for the pee advantage. Because, somewhere between Eden and eBay, multiple orgasms have been replaced by multitasking, and amid the dishes, diapers, and company reports, all too many of us look up one day to realize our sexuality has been stuffed into the back of a sock drawer.
Sexuality may not be the first thing you think of when tending to your health. But what a great natural source of energy. It’s more powerful and lasting than any smoothie or protein bar, not to mention calorie-free.
“Sex doesn’t always have to be an act of love—it can be a kind of play, a celebration,” says LLuminari’s Pepper Schwartz, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and the author, most recently, of The Lifetime Love & Sex Quiz Book. Whether you have sex or simply a healthy appetite for it, when that drive is activated, no matter what your age, you feel resilient, vibrant, ready for the rush of life.
How to spice it up:

  • Think like a man for an afternoon: Every time you see a half-decent guy on the street, in an elevator, in a Gap ad, mentally undress him and imagine how great he looks naked.
  • Assume for a day—radical as this thought might be—that your partner is not as critical of your body as you are. “For men there’s one goal besides eating: sex,” says Mehmet Oz, MD, director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. “We’re very focused. Whether or not you have an extra pound or two, whether or not a nose is crooked, these issues are not first on our minds.”
  • Unplug the TV for a week (just do it and see what happens).
  • Try this on your partner: Tell him it’s really hard to work all day, cook, do homework with the children, straighten up, and then feel like having sex. Suggest that if he’d take the kids out for dinner or ice cream one night, you’d probably be more in the mood.
  • For Valentine’s Day, buy yourself a new vibrator (see GoodVibes.com).
  • Take a shower or bath with your partner. See where it leads.
  • Think back to your courting days. Did you neck during concerts? Talk forever in coffeehouses? Go Rollerblading? Do one of those things again together.
  • Pick a day of the week for you and your partner to come home from work early, and don’t use the time to do chores.
  • Call at least once during that same day and flirt.
  • Go away one weekend without the kids. If you can’t afford a hotel and a babysitter, switch houses with another couple and take turns caring for each other’s children.
  • Try a little change of pace, something sensual: Wear a different color than you normally do, put on cashmere instead of flannel, listen to music instead of the news, burn a scented candle, get a luscious massage.
  • Masturbate at least once this month. If there’s any one thing you can do to enjoy sex (aside from getting shipwrecked with an absolute heartthrob), this is it. “Have a glass of wine if you need help getting in the mood,” suggests Alice Domar, PhD, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health at Boston IVF and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

Next: The right foods for romance: What to eat for a healthy body, head-to-toe

The Women’s Health Big Book of Sex

About The Women’s Health Big Book of Sex

The editors of Women’s Health magazine bring you scientifically proven expert tips, intensely researched studies, and doctor-approved advice. Step-by-step details elevate every aspect of your sexual life–from the foods you eat to what you say, from amazing foreplay techniques to some mind-blowing sexual techniques you’ve probably never tried!
The result will be breathtaking sex that lasts longer, happens more frequently, and is more pleasurable and exciting than you ever thought possible.
The Women’s Health Big Book of Sex contains everything you need to know about great sex, including how to:
• Get your body into tip-top sexual condition
• Increase the passion in your relationship
• Find the perfect sexual position to maximize your pleasure
• Enjoy earth-shattering orgasms beyond anything you’ve ever experienced before
This is your blueprint for a hotter sex life–whether you’re looking to improve your performance or increase the passion. That’s because The Women’s Health Big Book of Sex book is the the result of hundreds of interviews with the most notable doctors and researchers in the world. The exercises, techniques, and programs inside span numerous disciplines, including: cardiology, physiology, psychology, psychiatry, urology, nutrition and weight loss, behavioral therapy, sexology, religion, and more.

Sex articles in magazines

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