Charlotte Hilton Andersen, Reader's Digest
We include everything from why wearing socks is sexier than lingerie to how sleeping with your wife can get you ahead with your boss.
Nearly 10 percent of all dreams include sex
Sex dreams aren’t just the territory of horny teenage boys. In fact, nearly one in ten dreams contain some R-rated sexual content—and that’s true for both men and women, according to a study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. There were some gender differences though: Women were more likely to have sex dreams about politicians, celebrities, or their exes while men were more likely to dream about having sex with multiple partners at once. Check out these sex facts about committed couples.
Women get erections too
Women actually get erections in their genitals and even though they’re smaller than the male counterpart, they are just as important, says Sadie Allison, DHS, a sexologist, founder of Ticklekitty.com and author of Tickle His Pickle–Your Hands-On Guide to Penis Pleasing. “The clitoris is made up of the same spongy erectile tissue as the penis, which expands and engorges with blood when aroused,” she explains. “You can observe this—just look at your clitoris or touch it when you’re aroused and it will be bigger.”
3 percent of people have no sexual fantasies at all
Think you’re a freak for thinking about freaky stuff? Nope! Even though most people don’t talk about it, fully 97 percent of us have sexual fantasies, according to Justin Lehmiller, PhD, a research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and author of a study on sexual fantasies and the book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. The vast majority say they fantasize somewhere between several times per week and several times per day. Really, the surprising part is that there are some people who report zero sexual fantasies.
A headache may actually make you more in the mood
Contrary to the popular cliché, “Not tonight, I have a headache,” one study found that not all headache sufferers avoid sexual activity. In fact, migraine sufferers reported higher levels of sexual desire according to the research done by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues. Why? “Our study suggests that sexual desire and migraine headaches may be influenced by the same brain chemical,” said Timothy Houle, Ph.D., lead author and research assistant professor of anesthesiology.
The clitoris is way bigger than you think it is
In addition to the part of the clitoris you can see, there’s a much larger part—called the clitoral urethral vaginal complex—underneath the skin that also engorges with arousal, says Stella Harris, certified intimacy educator and sex coach and author of Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships . When a woman is aroused, the vaginal canal also lengthens as the uterus is pulled further upward into the body, the angle often changing as well. “Not only is this fascinating, but it’s one of the reasons that waiting for full arousal means having more pleasurable sex; sex is best when your body is ready,” she says.
Want an orgasm? Leave your socks on
Forget lingerie, if you want to increase your chance of having an orgasm, keep your socks on during sex, says research done by The University of Groningen. No one is sure exactly why this works but one theory is that in order to orgasm, you need to be totally relaxed and anxiety-free, and cold feet can interfere with the ability to really get into sex, especially for women, says Fran Walfish, Ph.D, psychotherapist and author.
A big penis won’t “stretch out” or ruin a vagina
A weirdly popular myth circulating on the Internet these days is that having too much sex or having sex with a large partner or toy can stretch out a woman’s vagina and/or labia, resulting in ugly “roast beef flaps.” Ridiculous, says Harris. “The vaginal canal is a muscle and does not permanently stretch from having accommodated a large penis or toy,” she explains. “The vagina is incredibly resilient and bounces back quickly.” Also, the shape and size of the labia are unique to each woman and are not indicative of her sexual status or history.
The G-spot exists. Except it doesn’t.
“G-spot is a misnomer, as what we consider the ‘spot’ isn’t a discrete anatomical entity,” Harris says. “Instead, it’s an area of the urethral sponge that is highly sensitive for many people. But bodies and arousal are complex, and there’s no surefire technique, or even erogenous zone, that works for everyone.” So basically you may have a spot you identify as the G spot—but it isn’t a spot and it won’t work the same for every woman.
We’re talking about sex more but having it less
Sex is mentioned in the media more than ever before but that’s not translating to more sexy times. Americans in relationships reported having sex 16 fewer times per year from 2010 to 2014 compared to 2000 to 2004, according to a 2017 study. It gets worse: Folks in the 2000 to 2004 group were already having sex about nine fewer times per year in 2010 to 2014 compared to 1995 to 1999. “In a previous study, we found that the happiness of adults over age 30 declined between 2000 and 2014,” adds TK. With less sex and less happiness, it’s no wonder that American adults seem deeply dissatisfied these days.” Find out some medical reasons for low libido.
The average person’s sexual peak is the same age they can rent a car
OK, so that’s definitely a correlation, not a causation, but the average American will have the most sex around age 25, according to the study. They found that people in their 20s have sex more than 80 times per year, declining to 60 times per year by age 45, and 20 times per year by age 65. Each year after the peak of sexual frequency at 25, sexual frequency declines 3.2 percent. Make sure you don’t fall victim to this new totally unsafe sex trend.
When it comes to pleasure, penis girth is more important than length
Many men like to compare the length of their penises but the only people who really care about that number are… other men. “The vagina mainly is covered in stretch mechanoreceptors, which means that girth (or width) is a more important aspect of the penis for women, on average,” explains Nicole Prause, PhD, a sexual physiology researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, and licensed psychologist.
The only thing fancy condoms turn on is your credit card
Remember the “ribbed for her pleasure” and other similar ad campaigns? They are more marketing than sex magic, Prause says. “The vagina is relatively insensitive to pain and stimulation—for example, surgeries can be done on the vagina without anesthetics,” she says. “So the condoms with all the little bumps, ticklers, and ridges? Don’t bother.”
More thrusting does not equal more fun
Forget what you see in porn, “pounding”, or fast, hard thrusting, doesn’t turn most women on and it can actually cause pain and injury, Prause says. “The most common place women experience pain during sex is in the vulvar vestibule, just under the opening to the vagina, where a thin skin stretches underneath the opening that is very vulnerable to abrasion and tearing,” she says. “This is why generally women do not benefit from (or want) prolonged ‘pounding,’ which just drags the penis repeatedly across this area, creating painful friction fairly quickly. We (sex therapists) are not kidding when we suggest not making intercourse the focus of sex, there are good, physiological reasons for playing elsewhere for most of any sexual experience!”
Men can orgasm without ejaculating
Surprise! Orgasm and ejaculation are two distinct physiological responses in men. “While ejaculation generally does coincide with an orgasm, the two actually occur in rapid succession with orgasm coming slightly before ejaculation and tapering off during ejaculation,” says Xanet Pailet, sex educator and author of Living an Orgasmic Life. “Men can learn to differentiate between the two and to have orgasms without ejaculating.”
Want to do better at work? Have more sex at home.
Having sex might get you your next promotion—and no, we’re not talking about sleeping with your boss. It turns out that having a happy sex life was linked with improved job satisfaction and greater engagement at work, both of which can help advance your career, according to a study done by Oregon State University.
Men suffer from low libido as much as women do
Men are always up for sex, anytime, anywhere, and with anyone, right? Not only is this myth flat out wrong, but it’s also incredibly damaging to both men and women, says Stephanie Buehler, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and AASECT-certified sex therapist at Hoag for Her Center for Wellness in California. “The fact is that in practice, the number of couples complaining of low sexual desire in the male partner is about equal,” she explains. “Couples need to accept that it is perfectly normal to have mismatched desires and to work out both sexual frequency and ways of initiating sex that works for them,” she adds. Here are some natural ways to boost your libido.
Orgasms: Use it or lose it?
File this under scary sex facts: It’s rare but it’s possible to lose your sexual sensation if you go for long periods without sex, Allison says. “There is a medical condition known as clitoral atrophy, which occurs when the clitoris doesn’t receive enough blood flow, causing it to retract into the body,” she explains. Penile atrophy can also occur although it’s less likely to do with lack of sex and more often caused by aging or injury. Bonus: A regular orgasm can help you slow down aging.
Fantasies rarely get acted out in real life
Most people seem content to keep their sexual fantasies as strictly that—imaginary. Less than one-third of participants in the study reported having ever acted out their most prominent fantasy, Lehmiller says. So it appears that all that locker room talk really is just talk. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to compare your sex life to a friend’s!
Vibrators were first developed as a medical device
The vibrator was invented in 1869 as a treatment for “hysteria” or mysterious “female disorders,” according to Allison. Whenever a woman reported being mentally or emotionally upset (which was quite common, unsurprisingly), it was considered an illness. The cure? Using a large, steam-powered massager (yikes!) to massage the genitals with the goal of inducing “hysterical paroxysm,” the Victorian term for orgasm. But hey, at least the ladies felt better?
75 percent of women don’t orgasm from “regular” sex
A lot of people worry there’s something terribly wrong if the female partner can’t orgasm during “normal” penis-in-vagina sex. But not only is that totally normal, but it’s also true for the vast majority of women, Buehler says. Three-quarters of women need direct clitoral stimulation—either from a hand, a toy, or special position—to orgasm. To better your chances, wait: Science says the best time to have sex is right before bed.
The egg chooses the “winning” sperm
Most of us imagine conception as a race to the egg where the fastest sperm wins and gets to pass on its genes to the baby-to-be. This is one of those sex “facts” you should forget, says Jill McDevitt, a human sexuality expert and CalExotics’ resident sexologist. “The narrative is biased with our cultural lens about men being competitive (see violent words like ‘drilling’ ‘burrowing’ and ‘penetrating’) the egg, while the egg (women) sits around passively,” she says. “In reality, eggs have sophisticated biological mechanisms that actively choose which sperm they allow in and it isn’t always the first one to arrive.” Find out 16 quirky traits you didn’t know were inherited.
Breakup sex isn’t always a bad idea
The conventional wisdom says that hooking up with your ex is a terrible idea. But a new study, published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, finds that not only does breakup sex not interfere with the process of ending the relationship but it may help the process of moving on. It turns out that in some cases breakup sex may be exactly the closure you need.
Just because you’ve completed intercourse doesn’t mean you’ve had sex
When it comes to a successful sexual experience, you know what a home run is but do you know all four bases? “I tell people to make sure they make it to each base before heading for the home run,” Miller says. “The ‘bases’ are the 4 Fs: French (kissing), Feeling, Fingering, and F******.” A good baseball player would never skip first through third base before sliding home and neither should you.
The “celebrity sex bucket list” isn’t as common as you’d think
The TV show Friends may have popularized the idea of having a celebrity sex list—the idea that either partner can keep a list of famous people they’re allowed to have sex with if the situation ever (miraculously) presented itself, without it being “cheating”—but it turns out that celebs don’t actually fuel very many fantasies, Lehmiller says. What is the primary target of fantasies? Over half of participants said that they fantasize about their current partner, while only 7 percent said that they often fantasize about celebrities, he says.
Older people have some of the best sex
Too many people assume that retirement age means retiring from more than just your job, giving up hope of having an active sex life. This does not need to be true, not even when you’re talking about menopause, says Sarah de la Torre, MD, an OB/GYN at Seattle Ob-Gyn Group. In fact, having a lot of sexual experience can mean your sex life is more fulfilling than younger people’s. Following a healthy lifestyle by exercising, eating right, and managing stress are the key to a healthy bedroom. If you’re still experiencing pain or loss of libido, talk your doctor about treatment options, she says. Find out the best ages to peak at everything in life.
Sex toys are unregulated
You’d think that something that’s designed to be put in such an intimate area would have some federal or business oversight to ensure safety and quality standards but sex toys aren’t considered medical devices and as such, they are completely unregulated, says Jessica Gordon, founder and managing partner of the intimate boutique LUVOQA. “There are items on the market today made from materials that are prohibited from use in children’s toys,” she says. “Be very wary of the secondary market or third-party sellers on platforms like Amazon and eBay. Buy only from trusted stores that are committed to selling only body safe and non-toxic sex toys and lubricants.”
The most popular sex fantasy isn’t Princess Leia in a gold bikini after all
So if everyone does it, what exactly are people fantasizing about the most in the bedroom? “The single most popular sexual fantasy amongst Americans today is multi-partner or group sex, followed by BDSM, novelty/adventure, and taboo/forbidden sex,” Lehmiller says.
Republicans are more likely to fantasize about cheating
“Many demographics—including political leaning—affect sexual fantasy statistics,” Lehmiller says. For instance, his research found that compared to Democrats, Republicans were more likely to fantasize about sexual activities that are typically considered immoral—like infidelity and orgies—or taboo—like voyeurism.
Too many solo encounters can make sex with a partner more difficult
Many men suffer from ‘delayed ejaculation,’ a term used for men who struggle to have orgasms in conventional ways, but it’s very seldom discussed, says Cyndi Darnell, an Australian clinical sexologist, sex and relationship therapist. One reason for this is an “idiosyncratic masturbation style” which means they’ve become accustomed to a certain kind of pressure and speed from manually masturbating and now find that difficult to replicate with a partner vaginally or orally—making for a less than satisfying experience for both partners, she says.
The penis and vagina account for less than 10 percent of erogenous zones
“The entire body is capable of arousal, pleasure, and stimulation so making sex-focused solely on genitals can lead to ‘performance pressure,’” Darnell says. So instead of honing in straight for genitals, spend time getting the whole body aroused by stimulating everywhere including the limbs and torso, she recommends. “Going straight for the genitals doesn’t always feel good and in many cases is the cause of unsatisfying sex in long-term relationships,” she says. Find out 31 steamy ways to help you have better sex.
You can have an STD and not know it
Sexually transmitted diseases can be sneaky so even if you think you know your body really well and you’re careful with who you sleep with, you may still have one of these dangerous infections, says Robert Huizenga, MD, author of Sex, Lies & STDs. “Far too many people forget the fact that STDs don’t always present with obvious tell-tale symptoms,” he says. This is why it’s so important for all sexually active adults to get regular screenings. This is just one of the things you need to know about having sex in your 40s.
You can’t tell if your partner has an STD just by looking
“A common sex mistake people make is mistaking good hygiene for good health,” says Noni Ayana, sexologist and founder of E.R.I.S. Consulting LLC. But just because your partner may appear clean and attractive on the outside, doesn’t mean they’re free of STDs. Plenty of STDs don’t show outward symptoms and a healthy sex life should include ongoing dialogue between sexual partners discussing a plan on how to keep each other safe and healthy.
Desire doesn’t always come before arousal
It’s a myth that you have to be experiencing sexual desire before you can get aroused and in fact, it works the opposite way for many people who think they have low libidos, says Irene Schreiner, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Solid Foundations Therapy. “For lower sex drive people, sex generally isn’t on their mind and they don’t just ‘get in the mood’,” she explains. “Often times for them to feel the desire to have sex they need to be aroused first. That’s why regular flirting and physical affection is so important.”
No couple is perfectly balanced in the bedroom
You may think that if you could just get you and your partner’s libidos to match up perfectly then your life would be all sunshine and orgasms. The truth, though, is that no couple is perfectly matched and libidos change over time and circumstance, Schreiner says. “There is a low desire and high desire person in every relationship,” she says. “Only by removing judgment can each person work on acceptance and create a happy compromise.” Check out these 10 silent signs you have intimacy issues.
Sex doesn’t have to include an orgasm
“The idea that sex must lead to orgasm can be a very damaging thought for people of all genders and sexualities as it puts undue pressure on them and can cause anxiety—the two enemies of sexual pleasure,” says Melissa Coats, a licensed professional counselor specializing in sex therapy. “Sex is meant to be pleasurable but there are many ways to find pleasure in sexual contact without orgasm.” Taking the pressure off yourself to always climax can lead to a more relaxed and positive experience.
1 in 6 women have never had an orgasm
About 15 percent of women report having never experienced an orgasm—if that’s you, rest assured you’re not “broken” and there is hope. “I get many clients in my office, especially women, that fear there is something dysfunctional about their bodies if they have never had an orgasm,” Coats says. Focusing on the “rule” that one must be orgasmic to enjoy sex distracts from the actual pleasure that they can get from a healthy sex life, she says. If you want to become orgasmic, she recommends reading Because It Feels Good by Debby Herbenick, but know that an orgasm it is not a requirement in order to enjoy your sexuality.
The most effective sex toy is…your voice
Think if your partner really loved you, they’d know how to please you in bed? Think again, says Melody Li, licensed marriage and family therapist associate and relationship specialist. “American culture has long shamed women that take charge of their sexual pleasure so I encourage partners to take the guesswork out and speak up, verbally or through touch. It’s perfectly OK to ask for what you desire!” she explains. Men, we’ll give you a tip: This is exactly how long women want sex to last.
Sex therapy isn’t just for virgins or sitcoms
Everyone experiences sexual problems sometimes and a trained sex therapist can help you identify the underlying issues and work them out, Coats says. A big red flag for many people is anxiety. “When an individual feels anxious about their body or performance ability, they are in a place of criticism and panic as opposed to experiencing the pleasure,” she explains. “Anxiety is usually present when someone experiences a variety of issues such as premature ejaculation, desire issues, erectile dysfunction, body image issues, etc.”
The pullout method really doesn’t work
Although the “withdrawal” or “pullout” method is better than totally unprotected sexual intercourse, it’s not great at preventing pregnancy, says Zvi Zuckerman, MD, a doctor and certified sex therapist at Between Us Clinic. “The problem is it requires the man to have a high level of control over his ejaculation and also a great deal of responsibility to pull out in time,” he explains. “If the ejaculatory spasms have already begun, a few drops of semen in the vagina are sufficient to cause pregnancy, even if withdrawal is quick. Every drop of semen contains a large quantity of sperm. Sometimes the man won’t even feel the first drops ejaculated.” Between 10 and 18 percent of women using this method will get pregnant within a year. Find out the signs you’re using the wrong birth control method.
You can break a penis
Getting a penile fracture is a real thing that can and does happen, says. It’s relatively rare but it’s worth talking about as there are things you can do to protect against this injury. “The highest risk of fractures to the penis occurs when the couple changes position while the erect penis is still inside the vagina,” he explains. “If you are interested in changing position I advise you to fully withdraw the penis from the vagina first.” Extremely aggressive pumping can also sometimes lead to a penis fracture, so take it easy there, cowboy, he adds.
Sexting can improve your relationship
Sending steamy messages and pictures to your significant other increases not only your sexual satisfaction but also your overall happiness in your relationship, says Emily Stasko, MS, MPH, lead author of a study on the impacts of sexting on relationships. “We found a robust relationship between sexting and sexual and relationship satisfaction,” Stasko said. However, for people who identified in the study as single sexting seemed to decrease their sexual satisfaction, indicating that it might be harmful in establishing a happy relationship but helpful in maintaining one.
A cucumber is not a sex toy
Silicone, steel, Pyrex, glass, or specially laminated wood are the only materials that are actually safe for use inside your body, according to a Yale review. (Pyrex, not just for casserole dishes anymore?) Toys made with vinyl, latex or a combination of these with other plastics (for example, a silicone-jelly mix) are not considered to be safe for skin contact and should only be used with a condom, researchers added. Don’t miss these foods that kill your sex drive.
Sex is powerful medicine
Having a happy, regular sex life isn’t just good for your mood but studies have shown it can also improve your heart health, boost immunity, and lower your risk of some cancer—just a few of the many unexpected health benefits of sex. Researchers say it’s because good sex lowers your stress levels, improves hormone balance, and even counts as a little exercise. Best workout ever?
Fantasy sex isn’t that sexy in real life
When it comes to porn, life should not imitate art, says Alex Chinks, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist and clinical sexologist. Movies are a concoction of fantasy and special effects only loosely tied to reality, yet many people feel that a “good” sexual experience should be like what they see on the screen. “Keep expectations realistic and be open to changing the ‘script,’” she says. “It’s important to realize that great sex is usually achieved through the simplest acts and a meaningful connection to one’s partner.” Here are some more realistic ways to improve your sex life in just one day.
The secret to mindblowing sex? Lube.
Using a good personal lubricant can make all the difference between “meh” and “amazing!” says Maureen “Dr. Mo” Miller, PhD, the host of The Basics with Dr. Mo, “Put a drop or two inside a condom before you put it on—you’ll wonder why you never did this before,” she says. Don’t miss more habits of couples with steamy sex lives.
Lack of erection doesn’t mean he’s not turned on
“I have no idea why the myth persists that an erect penis must stay erect to show interest. Sex that is focused on pleasure is likely to explore many different types of pleasure, including relaxing pleasure (e.g., massage) and comforting touch (e.g., hug),” Prause says. “An erection alone does not mean that it is ‘penetration time’ and is not the only indicator of what a guy might want. Just as with women: ask.” P.S. Sex doesn’t have to get worse with age! Here’s everything you need to know about having sex in your 50s.
80 percent of women will experience chronic painful sex
Sex shouldn’t hurt and yet the truth is that it certainly does sometimes. In fact, the vast majority of women at some point in their lives will have a condition that causes painful intercourse, says Tara Langdale-Schmidt, a pelvic pain expert. “If this happens to you, don’t be ashamed,” she says. “Don’t let a doctor tell you that your physical pain is ‘in your head’ or simply put you on a medication or antidepressant, which they try to do frequently. That is not an answer. Know that there are many resources they can turn to for help and information and new treatments that can help.”
Most women can have more than one orgasm but few take advantage of it
Whether it’s from a lack of understanding of their own bodies or a partner who is unwilling or uneducated in good sex, many women aren’t taking advantage of the fact that they can have multiple and different types of orgasms, says John Wilder, a marriage, relationship and sexual coach and author of Sex Education For Adults. The real problem is that there is no “sex school” for adults and it’s assumed everyone will just figure it out. But great sex doesn’t come naturally, it’s a learned skill, he says.
A sense of humor is the sexiest attribute
Farting during sexytimes happens! So does falling off the bed, belching, losing a contact, and making a wide variety of bizarre noises. Bodies are weird! So don’t take yourself too seriously during the act. “While sex should be passionate, it should also be fun so don’t be afraid to smile and even laugh during sex, especially at the occasional mishap,” says Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor, author, and relationship coach at The Popular Man. “Be so comfortable with each other that you’re both able to experience a whole range of emotions during sex.” Don’t miss 48 simple ways to improve your sex life.
Sex should never hurt
“Intercourse should never be painful,” Buehler says. “Somehow, women often get the message that ‘sex hurts’ and that’s just how it is.” The first time may be uncomfortable but after that sex shouldn’t be painful for either partner and if it is, talk to your doctor about possible causes and treatments, she says. Don’t just accept that this is how sex is for you. Next, find out the sex problems you should take seriously.