Judy Dutton is the author of How We Do It: How the Science of Sex Can Make You a Better Lover, published by Broadway Books. Here, she offers her insights on everything from aphrodisiacs to orgasms.
Q: Why should women plan dates around their ovulation schedule?
A: By tracking men’s ratings of women’s attractiveness levels throughout their menstrual cycle, scientists have found that women are deemed most attractive right when they’re ovulating and most fertile. So, if you’re a single gal and want a guy to be totally smitten with you, you should plan to meet up when you’re ovulating, which typically occurs nine to fifteen days after the start of your last period. (If you’re a woman in a long-term relationship, ovulation is also a good time to ask your guy to fix that leaky pipe in the bathroom, since he’ll be especially willing to bend to your every whim.) Men also get something out of it, since women who are ovulating are 25 percent more likely to initiate sex and have twice as many orgasms as women at other points in their cycle.
Q: What are some of the most overlooked male/female erogenous zones?
A: Believe it or not, scientists have seen everything from knee rubbing to neck nuzzling trigger an orgasm; there’s even one documented case of a nose orgasm! Scientists aren’t entirely sure why this happens, although part of it has to do with our neural wiring. In the brain, for example, the area that receives sensations from the big toe is located right next to the area receiving sensations from the genitals. That’s why stimulating someone’s big toe can simultaneously fire up the genitals as well. To find where you own erogenous zones are hiding, you can try an exercise known as “sensate focus.” For a half hour, you and your partner agree to caress each other from head to toe but avoid the obvious hot spots like breasts and genitals. This will help you hone in on more surprising sensitive spots that often get overlooked.
Q: We’ve all heard of the G spot, but what are the A and U spots?
A: The A spot (which is short for anterior fornix erogenous zone) was discovered by a Malaysian sex researcher named Chua Chee Ann. It lies on the front wall of the vagina two to three inches in, just past a rougher area known as the urethral sponge. Stimulate the A spot with a finger, and it can cause women to become lubricated in five to ten seconds and orgasmic in one to two minutes. The U spot is a half-inch-in-diameter donut of extra-sensitive tissue surrounding the urethral opening, just above the vagina. Though tiny, the U spot contains erectile tissue. Rub this area gently, and the U spot will inflate like a life preserver, which is a sign you’re delivering some very pleasurable sensations.
Q: How can sexual fantasies help your relationship?
A: Fantasies are like having a private movie theater in our minds, playing our favorite scenes-what’s not to love? Scientists have found that people who fantasize frequently have happier sex lives than those who don’t fantasize that often. For one, fantasies provide variety and excitement without repercussions. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, for instance, fantasizing about some cute coworker is harmless fun-and don’t worry, scientists have found no evidence that people necessarily want all their fantasies to come true. So even if you “cheat mentally,” that doesn’t mean you’re going to cheat in real life. In fact, fantasizing about others might actually keep you from cheating by keeping your sex life exciting even though you’re only having sex with one person. Discussing your fantasies with your partner can also be a turn-on, although you probably don’t want to kick things off by blurting out that you have a crush on your partner’s boss or best friend. To avoid revealing too much too soon, steer clear of open-ended questions like “What are your fantasies?” Instead, ask, “What are your fantasies about us? What are we doing?” and build from there.
Q: How about adding a little kink?
A: Scientists estimate that as many as 60 percent of adults fantasize about kinky sex, and that 14 percent of men and 11 percent of women will give it a try. If you’re unsure what your kink is, try tuning into what you already do find a turn on and take it from there. If, for example, you get aroused when your partner pins your wrists during a make-out session, then bondage may be a logical next step. Or if you like rough sex complete with back scratching and light bites on the neck, upping the pain quota with some light spanking or a riding crop might do the trick. If you wonder where these kinky urges come from, one study found that people into sadomasochism score high for a personality trait called “sensation seeking,” a measure of one’s need for new experiences. Firefighters and mountain climbers also score high for sensation seeking, which suggests that kinky people are merely adrenaline junkies. There is no evidence that kinky people are messed up mentally. In fact, one study where sadomasochists took an array of 30 psychological tests found that sadomasochists are psychologically healthier than average.
Q: Do aphrodisiacs really work?
A: Yes-but not necessarily the ones you might think. Oysters, for example, certainly look sexually suggestive, plus they’re rich in zinc, a mineral that boosts libido when taken in pill form. That said, the levels of zinc in a pill are much higher than the amount found in several dozen oysters. So, unless you eat oysters all day, every day, you won’t feel any amorous side effects. The same is true for chocolate, which contains phenylethylamine, a chemical that’s released in the brain when we fall in love. Still, you’d have to eat boxes of Godiva before your phenylethylamine levels would rise high enough to impact your libido. Meanwhile, Spanish Fly, the most legendary aphrodisiac of all, can cause kidney damage and is banned in the U.S. But not all aphrodisiacs are bogus. Ginseng, coffee, and vitamin C supplements have all been shown in studies to boost libido. So, if you do want to pop a pill that’ll get your sexual motor running, you do have options.
Q: How can a woman increase her odds of having an orgasm?
A: Scientists have invented a new sex position that can boost your orgasm odds called the Coital Alignment Technique, or CAT for short. To do it, you assume the missionary position but then the man moves his torso up a few inches so that his chin is closer to her forehead. Then he rocks rather than thrusts into his partner, keeping his pubic bone connected to hers at all time, thereby increasing stimulation to the clitoral area. One study found that the CAT allowed 75 percent of women to reach climax during intercourse, and 36 percent of couples to climax simultaneously with their partners. Couples can also rack up more orgasms by adding more variety to their repertoire. In one study, couples who engaged in straight intercourse without any frills enabled only 50 percent of women to reach orgasm. Couples who threw in two extra activities, such as manual stimulation and oral sex, boosted a woman’s orgasm odds to 90 percent. Five activities was deemed ideal for sending a woman over the edge.
Q: How about multiple orgasms?
A: For women, it’s simple: Keep going. After you’ve had one orgasm, continue stimulation however feels best. For men it’s a little harder, but many have found success with a tactic called the Stop-start Technique. To do it, men should bring themselves to the brink of orgasm, then stop all stimulation to allow the sensation to subside, then build again from there, repeatedly. Occasionally, men may feel the pleasurable sensation of orgasm, but if they stop stimulation before it’s overboard, they can avoid ejaculating and have as many orgasms as they please. Another tactic men can try is the Squeeze Technique. Just before men feel they’re about to ejaculate, they can squeeze the tip of their penis with the thumb on top and two fingers underneath. This should help stave off ejaculation but allow multiple orgasms to happen unabated.
Q: What is a “blended orgasm” and where can we get one?
A: A blended orgasm may sound like a fancy new cocktail, but it’s actually a new type of orgasm that mixes together sensations from two or more nerve pathways in the body. To get started, pick two erogenous zones you’d like to try stimulating. Women might choose their clitoris and G spot; men their penis and prostate (other erogenous zones you might want to consider are the breast/chest, testicles, cervix, anus, A spot, or U spot). To start off, focus on stimulating the more reliable erogenous zone of the two, which is typically the clitoris for women and the penis for men. This step is important, since the second erogenous zone might not get “turned on” unless your primary erogenous zone is already aroused. Step two: Try stimulating both spots at once. On women, try reaching the G spot manually (insert a finger in the vagina and crook it in a come-hither motion against the front wall) while treating the clitoris to some oral stimulation. On men, stimulate the penis orally and reach around with your hand to stimulate the prostate by pressing up on the perineum (the patch of skin between the scrotum and the anus). Once you get a hang of stimulating two erogenous zones at once, try for three to triple your pleasure potential. The options are endless, since with science, there’s always new territory to explore.