Almanac

Between the Sheets: Stop and smell the roses—how staying present makes for better sex

We open on a scene: You and your partner have been having a lovely dialogue about your days. You find yourself staring at them as they finish their sentence and you let the room go quiet.

The silence between you builds and becomes a palpable tension you can both feel. You lean in and bring your lips as close to theirs as they can be without touching.

You linger here for only a moment, but each second feels like an hour. Finally, you let your lips come together in an easy, supple kiss. 

You continue this for a while and then begin to keep your lips locked on each other’s with no pausing in between. The intensity heightens as you move your mouths in seamless, rhythmic motions. 

This happens for a while and, just as you both become swept up in the moment, you pull away. A mischievous smile breaks on your face as you look at their slightly dazed expression. Slowly, you bring your lips back to your partners and give them a tender kiss like the one you began with—that already seems like ages ago. 

You gently bite their bottom lip and feel their grasp tighten just a little… (END SCENE)

The fundamental things that combine to make a pleasurable, romantic, fulfilling sex life don’t come from the positions we choose, but rather from the little moments before, in between and during intimate interactions. 

Sex should never feel routine and, if it does, it might be because we’ve forgotten to “stop and smell the roses,” if you will. By this, I mean slowing down and taking the time to kiss our partner intently or noticing that we can give our lover goosies by slowly tracing our fingers down their arms or back. Remembering to add in these little things can make all the difference. 

“Slowing things down” doesn’t have to mean stopping a progression of activities, but rather taking the time to really get into a good rhythm with our partner before switching things up. 

Although fast-paced banging can be hot as hell, sometimes it can feel a bit robotic or mechanical. Slowing things down, even very briefly, can help us get into a rhythm that is more pleasurable for everyone. 

There are a few ways to develop this rhythm. First, we can try to give our partner physical cues. Hands are a great communication tool, especially when it comes to sex. We can strategically place our hands on our partner’s bodies—whether that be their face, waist, or what have you—and use them as a guide by creating a slower, more rhythmic motion with them. 

When using our hands as a guide, it’s important to not force our partner’s bodies into a specific motion, but rather to gently coax them. Think of this as the difference between a command and a suggestion. 

No matter what we might be doing with our sexy friends (kissing, pegging, etc.), we can explore switching up the speed and intensity of any action to create playful tension. 

When playing with speed, we might try quickly kissing our way around our partner’s bodies while stopping in strategic zones to slowly blow some warm and gentle breath. 

If we’re thrusting things (penises, dildos, fingers, etc.) we should think about alternating between fast and slow motions to see what gets the best responses.

It’s easy to get lost in the passion of the moment and think faster is better, but this is our time to channel our teenage selves and slow grind like Usher just came on at Homecoming. 

Once we’ve had some fun experimenting with speed we can start playing around with intensity. As the beginning scene hopefully illustrated, kissing is a great way to introduce some intensity that can sometimes be overlooked. 

When things just start to get a little mundane we can bring it right back with an enticing and passionate kiss. 

Biting is also a great way to instantly bump up the intensity, as long as we don’t go too big too fast. It’s a good idea to bookend intense actions with gentler ones. For example: Soft kiss, lower lip bite, soft kiss. Or: Caress, ass slap, caress. Mixing sensations in this way is sure to keep our partners engaged and coming back for more. 

Any time we dabble with intensity we have to remember to pay very close attention to our partner’s reactions so we don’t push them further than they are comfortable with.

While some of us may have bed buddies who immediately pick up what we’re putting down through physical indications alone, others of us may find verbal cues more effective. 

Typically, I suggest having conversations about sex outside of the bedroom so as not to spring things on our partners, but some concepts are better grasped in the moment. 

When we bring up something we would like to change or introduce into the bedroom, it’s important to avoid sounding overly critical. Going about things gently might sound like, “I think it would feel really good if we slowed things down a little, would you like that too?” 

We should avoid accusatory phrases like “You’re going too fast,” unless we are experiencing discomfort and truly need things to stop at that moment. 

Asking our partner to change rhythms is a great way to start a dialogue and lead to greater pleasure. It will make both partners pause and think about the motions they’re creating with their bodies and whether or not it’s pleasurable for the other person. It also is a great way to establish a sexy check-in system using simple phrases like “does that feel good” or “do you like that?” 

When we take the time to actively think about the different emotions and sensations we can create by playing with things like speed and intensity, we get more out of our intimate moments. 

We may also find we learn much more about what really turns our partners on, as well as ourselves. 

Author of “Girls and Sex,” Peggy Orenstein put it well in an interview with NPR when she said, “Is the person who rushes toward intercourse wasted getting more experience than the person who spends three hours making out with a partner sober and exploring ideas about sexual tension and pleasure and what feels good?” 

She makes a fair point about the negative role alcohol can play in our sexual encounters, but I think her broader claim is that we learn much more about the overall pleasure experiences of both our partners and ourselves when we keep our minds as active as our bodies during sex.  

Remember, sex is not baseball. There are no rules. We are not trying to “make it home” as fast as possible without stopping to enjoy the view along the way. And if we are, think of all that we are missing; for instance, the delightful difference between soft, slow, pillowy kisses and deeper, more open-mouthed ones using just the right amount of tongue. 

Having great sex doesn’t have to mean acrobatic positions and constant primal screams. It can be as simple as taking the time to actively think about remaining present. This alone will allow us to play with pleasure and make magic moments happen. 

When we actively choose to make our partners feel as good as possible, while also advocating for our own pleasure, we set ourselves up to have nothing but completely satisfying experiences. 

Want to save 15 percent or more on your insurance? Anna will be no help to you, but if you want to know sex stuff, she’s got you covered at sex@dailycardinal.com. 

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