Whether you think Valentine’s Day is the pinnacle of romance or a cynical marketing ploy to get cash out of couples and make singletons feel lonely, it’s a time of year when love, sex and relationships come into the spotlight. We’ve spoken to two experts – Emma-Louise Boynton, founder of the Sex Talks podcast and event series, and Anna Richards, founder of the erotic pleasure platform Frolicme – for some top tips on how to get your rocks off this V-Day if you’re loving yourself or someone else.
Solo sex is something everyone, whatever your relationship status, should practice. As Emma-Louise says, “I think we need to reframe solo-play as a key part of our overall health and wellness and hence something we make sure to set aside time for, as we know to do with exercise, skin-care and moisturising that peachy butt. So, schedule it in. Add it to the google cal. Make sure you are making time for masturbation. And don’t rush things while you’re there.” That last point is especially important, as Anna says, “be mindful and be in the moment so you can experience more. Remember this is your time and it doesn’t have to be long, but quality time is what is key.”
If you are single, use this V-Day to make time for yourself, which you can do in a number of ways. Mindful breathing will help release any tensions of the day and ground you in the moment, allowing you to focus on areas of your body that feel good. Anna recommends trying audio porn as it “will fuel your mind with erotic thoughts and you’ll quickly find yourself aroused. It allows the listener to feel part of a shared fantasy, setting the scene as you may wish to imagine it, creating your personal erotic porn of choice to stimulate pleasure.” For Emma, it’s all about the sex toys, and she means plural; “for years I got stuck with the same vibrator I first used to masturbate with. I was so shocked that this tiny little bullet could give me an orgasm that I never really bothered to see what else was out there and settled for far too long. I have since explored a plethora of different sex toys and have so much fun experimenting with what I like and what works for me in different ways.”
If you’re nervous or unsure where to start when it comes to exploring your sexuality, the first thing to work on is being open-minded – sexuality is fluid, you don’t have to conform to a label, experimenting is good, and your desires will change over time. Emma has some great ways to start thinking about sex and sexuality more openly, including “listening to a podcast that explores different topics around sex and desire (I love Kate Moyle’s podcast The Sexual Wellness Sessions) or attending an event like Sex Talks (a shameless plug here as this is my event series, but I set it up specifically in order to foster more honest and open conversations around sex) or exploring a sexual wellness app like Ferly, Dipsea, Quinn or Kama. I also recommend reading the sexual wellness brand Maude’s blog as it has some great articles, and also the Feeld website has some great pieces that prompt you to think about your relationship to sex and sexuality.”
Two (or three’s) company
Sex is about connection and pleasure, for every person in a relationship – good sex should never be one-sided – and both Emma and Anna agree that the number one way to achieve this is communication. “Your partner can’t read your mind, even if you’ve been together for a long time, and what you want sexually, what feels good and what feels satisfying, changes and fluctuates continually,” Emma says. “As such, it is key to keep communicating to your partner what you’re enjoying and what you’re not. Is there something you want to explore together? A new position? A new sex toy? Communicate that to them!” Anna echoes this, saying openness is essential “to ensure we can give each other the satisfaction we deserve. Help each other achieve the desired satisfaction, if that is orgasms, then talk about what would help and how to achieve some fabulous O. Take time to explore what you enjoy and let your lover know. If you are confident in bed knowing what you want, it’s a huge turn-on for your partner.”
Only 20% of women are able to orgasm through penetration alone, and men orgasm 95% of the time during sexual encounters (whether that’s with someone else or solo), so when it comes to heteronormative partnered sex, women are being left short. Faking it doesn’t do anyone any favours, so it’s really not worth pretending. As Florence Bark of Come Curious said on the Sex Talks stage, “your pleasure is your responsibility” so it’s up to every person having sex to communicate with their partner what’s working and what’s not,” says Emma. It all comes back to communication, and Anna agrees, saying, “we need more open conversations around understanding a woman’s body and feel more comfortable using the correct terms of vulva and clitoris. Much of this is due to our lack of understanding of how the clitoris provides pleasure for women”.
Just like sex with yourself, sex in a relationship is something that you have to make time for – scheduling may not be the sexiest thing in the world (unless the idea of a perfectly colour co-ordinated calendar gets you hot under the collar), but it’s important to have moments where you can properly focus on your partner. This doesn’t always have to be about penetrative sex, as Anna says, “remember to look at it as pleasuring your partner intimately. Stop thinking of sex as the focus, and think of it as just time for being intimate together. Sex is all about pleasure which can take many forms. Ensuring you have the connection through touch will keep things alive and your bond strong and often lead on to other things.”
Equally important as making the time is making the effort – with busy lives, it’s easy to get stuck in a routine but trying to mix things up a bit will make your sex life with your partner even more exciting. It could be something as simple as moving it out of the bedroom or trying a new sex toy. Anna recommends looking at “ways to trigger sexual desire and explore what turns you on such as watching some ethical porn together. Pornography is a place where we can indulge in sexual fantasy and be turned on even by genders and activities that we would never choose to engage in sex within life. It’s normal to find some things exciting in the fantasy that you would never enjoy in reality. It can create sexual adventures you can both enjoy or just fantasise about.” If you want to be even more adventurous, Emma says, “why not venture to a sex party together, or perhaps invite another person into a sexual situation if you’re interested in exploring a threesome?” The most important thing if you go down this route though is “to be super communicative with each other about what your boundaries are in every situation and avoid making any assumptions as to what you think the other person will or will not like. Keep. On. Communicating.”