“I’ve had more than one guy apply too much pressure with his fingers or tongue during foreplay or ram me too hard during sex,” says Jessica, 42, from Greenwich, Conn. “It’s not that I don’t sometimes like rough sex but it hurts if he doesn’t start out softer.”
There’s a scientific reason for this, explains sexologist Megan Stubbs, Ed.D. Just as your own body needs a warm up prior to, say, squatting your max weight, your girlfriend’s body needs time to become aroused, lubricate, and relax.
The clitoris can also be extremely sensitive for some women, she adds — as can the interior of the vagina when it’s not adequately prepped for penetration. And though some women may ask you to pick up the pace and increase the intensity as they near orgasm, others require a softer touch to be pushed over the edge.
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2. Adding the Wrong Kind of Pressure
“One fail-safe way to make me not orgasm is to keep asking me to climax,” explains Jenna, 30, from Atlanta, Ga. Putting pressure on your lady to get off, already only increases her self-consciousness, and, as a result, shuts down her desire. (In other words, she gets performance anxiety just as much as you.)
“No one wants to feel pressured to come,” says Stubbs. “For orgasm to occur, there needs to be a whole host of things in play for it to happen. Anxiety is not on that list.” Stubbs reminds all men that their girlfriend’s absence of insta-orgasm does not mean that they themselves aren’t rock stars in bed. Some women take longer than others—or they may not yet feel comfortable enough with you to fully let themselves go.
Make it easier on her by not focusing solely on the orgasm but, rather, on the pleasure you can bring her—during foreplay or intercourse.
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3. Not Using Enough — Or Any — Lube
“There is a wide spectrum of the levels of lubrication that varying women create naturally and they all fall within the norm,” says couple and family psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish, Psy.D. “Many women need the support of a store-bought lubricant and men need to understand that it’s not about them and their ability to turn the woman on.”
Stick to water-based or silicone-based lubricants if you’re having intercourse with a condom, as these won’t wear them down like oil-based lubes do. And feel free to err on the side of too much lube rather than too little. The more lubricated a woman is the better it feels for her and for you — regardless of whether that lubrication came from her naturally or from a bottle.
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4. Putting Us On the Spot
“I don’t like it when a partner brings up our sex life while we’re about to have sex,” says Stephanie, 30, from Brooklyn. “’Is there anything you want to try?’ is cool, but not things like, ‘Are you bored with our sex?’ ‘Do you think I’m too small/big?’ ‘What’s something I’m doing wrong?’ ‘Is this the best sex you’ve had?’ There’s something about the timing of these questions that just ruins it for me,” she says.
There’s no shame in being eager to receive feedback from your partner. But to prevent it from killing the vibe, Dr. Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D., AASECT-certified sex therapist, recommends tabling these types of questions for a more ideal moment — say, when you’re having coffee the next day. Or over an intimate lunch during which you share your innermost feelings. “By all means share, just be thoughtful about the atmosphere in which you do the sharing,” says Van Kirk. “It’s not ideal to broach a serious discussion that could make things uncomfortable while you’re in bed with your partner or while you’re on your way there.”
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5. Not Cleaning Up Afterwards
“I’ve been really grossed out by guys who think it’s totally fine to throw a used condom on the floor or who don’t care to shower after sex, even if we’ve gotten really messy,” says Caitlynn, 28, of New Jersey.
Sure, we get it: you want to roll over and sleep after a fulfilling romp. But especially if you’re spending the night (or most of the evening) at her place, do the hygienic thing and clean up after yourself.
“Sex is a team effort and the clean up should be too,” says Stubbs. Everyone has a responsibility as a sexually smart adult. We dispose of condoms and their wrappers — in the trash, not the toilet” (lest they end up in public water-ways: gross).
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6. Staying Silent
“Many men don’t verbalize enough during sex,” explains Van Kirk. “They don’t realize that grunts, groans and other verbal reinforcements can help them feel more engaged with their partners and provide feedback so their partner will know what they like.”
Give some audible cues your girlfriend when something feels good (a simple “that feels amazing” will do the trick), gently showing her what might feel better, and (most importantly) asking her how a position feels — and whether you should go deeper, harder, or (remember!) softer, suggests Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, creator of the Sexual Pro Series Webinars. (Example: “More? Faster? Lower?”)
Of course, if words escape you in the throes of passion, an affirmative moan can help inform your lady that what she’s doing is right on track.
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7. Expecting Her To Tell You Exactly What She Wants
Not all women are going to be able to—or feel fully comfortable—telling you exactly what they do or do not like in bed. Especially if they try to subtly indicate this in some way and you miss the hint.
Pay attention to your girlfriend’s body language and her vocalizations during all sexual acts, advises Walfish. And don’t assume all moans indicate pleasure.
For example: if her muscles are stiffening, she’s angling her hips away from your hand, mouth, or pelvis, or she moves your hand away from a particular area of her body, pay attention. These are all ways that she may be telling you,“I’m not into that.” If, however, you feel her body relaxing or her hips and pelvis pushing towards you, or maybe she’s grabbing you and pulling you into her, take that as a hint that what your doing is working (quite well).
It’s always advisable to check in if you aren’t sure. (A simple “does that feel good?” or “how does that feel?” works just fine.) Just be sure to accept — and not take too personally — a response that skews negative (i.e., “no, sorry, it doesn’t;” “I’m not into that;” or “could you try it this way?”).
“Be receptive and gentle as you figure out what she wants,” advises Walfish. “When you do this, you will reap the benefits tenfold as she feels increasingly comfortable opening up to you.” (Read: She’ll be so much more into you.)
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8. Hiding Your Porn
This may come as a surprise, but that porn stash hidden under “TAXES” on your computer may not be something you have to keep so hush-hush about with your lady. Sure, you might enjoy the taboo of secretly ogling clips on the web’s triple-X recesses. But according to Van Kirk, many women enjoy the visuals just as much as you do. “Sharing pornography with a partner can actually bolster trust,” Van Kirk says. So try asking your girlfriend whether she’s curious and, if so, invite her over to exchange your favorite videos. (She might have some good ones of her own.)
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9. Going for Certain Holes Without Asking
“One of my most uncomfortable memories is when a guy tried to shove his finger up my butt when he was fingering me for the first time,” recalls Crystal, 29, of Manhattan. “He didn’t even ask, he just went for it.”
Men may assume anal play will feel good on a partner because being stimulated around that area feels great for him, says Walfish. But though some women definitely do enjoy being touched in this area, others can’t stand it.
Regardless of your lady’s preferences, it’s important to first ask before you attempt rather than find out after. If you do accidentally graze this area of her body with a finger and she moves her hips away from you or brushes your hand away, take the hint and steer clear so that she doesn’t feel unsafe with you.
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10. Assuming She’s Just Like Your Ex
No two women are the same. A huge mistake men make is to approach a new body as if it’s the last one they learned how to pleasure. (Side note: If it makes you feel better, women make the same mistake too!)
“Every new person is a new body to discover. It’s not to say you can’t apply old skills to new partners. But to think your new partner will respond just like your ex isn’t realistic,” says Stubbs.
To surmount this common pitfall, O’Reilly reminds all new partners to “Ask for verbal feedback and physical guidance during sex.” It can also help, she adds, to talk about sex outside of the bedroom: “Discuss how often you want it and talk about elements of your fantasies that will help you to better understand each other.”