A balanced sex life requires continuous dialogue if you want things to, ahem, work. Silence isn’t always golden, says this author. From What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal: Secrets from the Love Lab.
I’m going to go against this trend by discussing sexual relations in a frank and detailed manner. The physical part of sex is not complicated. The penis, clitoris, and vagina are among the body’s least complex organs—their structures are a far cry from the intricate anatomy of, say, the heart or kidney. Likewise, orgasm is one of the simpler bodily functions: engorgement, erection, lubrication, ecstasy—that’s pretty much the whole process. What makes sex difficult is that it requires communication. There are differences in what turns on individuals. Partners are unlikely to satisfy each other if they’re uncomfortable discussing their desires.
Research indicates that broaching this awkward topic often and in a supportive manner correlates strongly with a couple’s happiness. The finding is more pronounced when it comes to female satisfaction, at least in heterosexual relationships. In one study, women who discussed their sexual feelings with their husbands were five times more likely to be very satisfied than those who did not. I believe there are two reasons why verbal communication is so important for women. The first is physiological. Men may not need to give their lover instructions to achieve sexual release. As a general rule, they are aroused with great ease and have little difficulty reaching orgasm. Intercourse is often all it takes. But according to pioneering researcher Shere Hite, 70 percent of women cannot regularly achieve orgasm through intercourse.* They require other or additional methods, such as cunnilingus or having their genitals stroked. In addition, it is less common among women than men for orgasm to be the only goal of sex. Research on female sexual response finds that women consider sexual pleasure to be more about intimate touching than orgasm per se. Not all men realize this. (And it is rare for porn to offer a realistic view of what women relish.)
*By the way, The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, published in 1976, remains the bestselling sex book ever, with 48 million copies sold.