Ladies, be honest: when your sex life becomes a little humdrum, out comes the mental catalogue of all the ways your partner isn’t quite measuring up. Guys tend to get a bad rap when it comes to understanding women’s bodies and what turns us on, making them easy targets in the blame game when sexual satisfaction starts to wane. And sure, they make their fair share of bedroom errors. But as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. As it turns out, top sex and relationship experts say that women make plenty of sex mistakes of their own. Here’s what they have to say about the six most common mistakes women make in the bedroom and what you can do to get the satisfaction you so rightly deserve.
Sex Mistake #1: Not Initiating Sex With Your Partner
Many of us worry about ladylike behavior. We don’t want to appear pushy or come on too strong for fear of being labeled aggressive. According to Les Parrot, professor of psychology at Seattle Pacific University and author of a new book called Crazy Good Sex, failing to initiate sex is one of the biggest mistakes women make.
“Most guys feel like they are always the initiator and that sets up disequilibrium on the passion scale in the relationship,” he says. Generally, men want to be pursued by their partners just as much as women do.
Holding onto outdated ideas about sex roles also inhibits satisfaction with our sexual relationships, says "Dr. Ruth," aka Ruth Westheimer, PhD, a psychosexual therapist, professor at New York University, and lecturer at Yale and Princeton universities. “They used to think that women are less interested in sexual activity and I don’t want to say that anymore. I think there are women who are as interested in sex [as men].”
Show your interest by taking the first step from time to time. Your partner will likely appreciate it, and you may find a new level of satisfaction in taking responsibility for your sexual experience, something Westheimer feels strongly women must do.
Sex Mistake #2: Worrying About What You Look Like
Thinking about how you look during sex stops you from enjoying yourself and ruins your chances of achieving an orgasm.
“Don’t think about the fat on your belly or the makeup on your face,” advises Westheimer. “Concentrate on the pleasure of the act. You must give yourself permission to have an orgasm.”
“Men want their wives to abandon themselves in sex play, and that’s not likely if she is anxious about her physical concerns,” Parrott says.
Helen Fisher, PhD, a cultural anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of a new book called Why Him, Why Her, says men don’t notice half the things women obsess about anyway.
“It’s amazing what men don’t notice if you’re enthusiastic, energetic, interested in them, and flexible minded.”
According to Fisher, there is an evolutionary explanation for the selective blindness men show to our physical flaws. For Darwinian reasons, says Fisher, men are (unconsciously, of course) looking for women who are able to bear healthy babies. Starting millions of years ago, men who attracted fertile women and had a lot of children lived on. Those who couldn’t died out. Although maybe not as necessary today, Fisher says that primal survival mechanism lives on.
“Men are much more attracted to women who show signs of health and youth and fertility. Rather than worry about the shape of your waist and hips, worry about your energy level and enthusiasm and interest in him,” Fisher advises.
Sex Mistake #3: Assuming Sex Is Casual for a Man
Westheimer believes we should all let go of old-fashioned notions, such as women are not sexual or that sex is just sex to men. “For some men, sex is a very important act. Don’t minimize it.”
The research, says Parrott, supports the idea that both men and women find sexual intimacy in the context of a committed relationship to be more satisfying.
“Numerous research studies make it very clear that the people who have the best quality and most frequent sex are married couples. That says a lot about the inadequacies of ‘casual sex,” Parrot says.
In a study being conducted by Fisher and her colleagues of university students engaging in one-night stands, the numbers show that men are just as serious about sex and relationships as women. In fact, more than 50% of women and 52% of men who went into a one-night stand, according to Fisher, reported that they did so hoping to create a longer relationship. One-third of them actually did so. What’s the lesson?
“Never assume that a man is not romantic,” Fisher says. “Two huge mistakes in this culture are that women are not sexual and that men are not as romantic [as women].”
Sex Mistake #4: Believing He’s Always Up for Sex
Sure, most teenage boys are ready and willing just about any time you ask, but not true for men. The pressures of everyday life -- family, work, bills -- can zap a man’s libido. This comes as a big surprise to many women, and often his lack of interest in sex is something we take personally.
“It comes as such a shock [to women] that they just don’t believe it,” Fisher says about the reaction many women have when their partner says they aren’t in the mood for sex. “They know themselves that they are not always interested in sex but they still love the man. But when they discover he doesn’t want to have sex, they think, ‘he doesn’t love me.’ Not true. He just doesn’t want to have sex.”
Sex Mistake #5: Not Giving Him Guidance
Talking very directly about sex, what we like and don’t like can make us feel uncomfortable, even with a partner we’ve been with for a long time and otherwise feel close to, says Parrott. But it’s the only way to achieve a satisfying sexual relationship.
“A woman must take responsibility for her sexual encounter,” says Westheimer. “No man can bring a woman to orgasm if she doesn’t take responsibility for her sexual experience. Even the best lover can’t know what she needs without her letting him know.”
The good news, according to Fisher, is that men very much want to please women.
“If you can tell them in a way that doesn’t kill their ego, they will appreciate it,” says Fisher. She advises women to sandwich what they don’t like in between five things they do, because he’s listening. “You won’t find out until the next time you’re in bed with him. But men do listen, particularly if you’re quite clear about it.”
Sex Mistake #6: Getting Upset When He Suggests Something New
After a couple has been together for a while, it’s natural to want to spice things up with a little variety. Just because your man wants to try something new doesn’t mean he’s unhappy with you or your sex life. In short: Don’t take it personally.
Still, it’s important that you tune into your comfort zone says Parrott.
“Nobody should ever feel obligated to do something they don’t want to do in the personal and intimate area of sexuality,” Parrott says. “If your man asks you about trying something that’s outside of your morals, make it clear that it’s off limits for you and explain why. Of course, do this in a loving way as best you can. If it is something that is not really a moral issue for you but you still don’t want to, again explain why. If it is a simply a startling request and you’re initially uneasy about it, try not to overreact. Instead, let him know you need some time to think about it.”