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Do you harbor a secret worry that you're not quite up to snuff in the doin'-it department? You're not alone. With all the media focus on sexual gratification, from sex-soaked TV shows to Viagra ads to pop stars prancing around in lingerie in prime time, a gal could get a serious inferiority complex. "Am I drrrty enough?" you might be asking. And if the answer seems to be "nooo," it's time for a titillation tune-up.
"I was such a bore when I first got married," says Erica, 45, of Brooklyn, New York. "Partly it was because I was nervous, young, and self-conscious. But when I discovered the joy of vibrators, my husband was too threatened to let them into bed with us -- his attitude dampened my sexy spirits. That was the beginning of the end for us."
For Erica, a boring sex life was the direct result of bad communication. She was too nervous to explore what turned her on, and her husband was equally dudly (not studly) in his inability to reassure and encourage her. The result? A marriage that went out not with a bang, but a whimper.
If you suspect you're leaving your lover feeling bored, don't give up hope -- there's help on the way!
"I'm boring in bed!" With such a general statement, the true meaning varies from couple to couple. "Everyone's different and has his or her sexual preferences," say Em & Lo (Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey), authors of Nerve's Guide to Sex Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen (Plume, 2004). "Which means everyone has his or her own patented set of sexual moves. But what seems like incompatibility might not just be chemistry -- it could be learned behavior, from books, friends, Hollywood movies, and bad porn. If this is the case, there's hope." Even more confusing, you may have received mixed reviews. Maybe with your first boyfriend, you felt like the most scintillating sexpot on the planet, but with Mister New-Guy, you're suddenly all thumbs. "It's absolutely possible to be super in bed with one partner, and horrible in bed with another," says Sandor Gardos, PhD, a California-based sex therapist who started MyPleasure.com. "It's just a matter of personal taste." In other words, there's no International Thrill-O-Meter to test your skill set against a universally accepted norm of what it means to be exciting in bed. This is just one of those messy problems you have to figure out for yourself, with each partner. (And with a little help from us, of course.)
We tracked down some real reactions and between-the-sheets bitchin'. Some complaints are most definitely gender-based, but communication is the No. 1 most desired sex-tool we heard from both camps. Grumbles from Girls "Don't be so sensitive. I want us to enjoy sex together, so if I tell you I want you to do something differently, don't take it as an ego-blow -- consider it encouragement." "You'd better hold me afterwards. My boyfriend flips over on his tummy, demands a back scratch, and snores... it's annoying beyond belief." "Slow down, cowboy! This isn't the Pony Express, you know. I need more slow buildup before the car enters the garage, if you know what I'm saying." "Just because you found my clitoris doesn't mean you have to dive-bomb it like a kamikaze. Gentle, gentle, gentle -- and if I say 'ouch,' I mean it." "If you finish too fast or something else goes awry, acknowledge it -- chances are, I'll have an idea of how you can finish the job in another way. Don't get so embarrassed, the night's not over!" Boys Bitch Back "I need a woman to communicate what she likes and doesn't like. Just point me in the right direction if you don't want to say it. Silence is frustrating, and guessing games aren't sexy!" "Enthusiasm is the No. 1 aphrodisiac for me. If a woman seems uninterested, I get turned off." "If a girl is disgusted by oral sex, forget it. That's insulting. If you think I'm that ugly, I don't want to be with you. At least pretend it's the most gorgeous item you've ever seen." "I wish the whole concept of 'ladylike' had never been invented. No, I don't want to hear you burp, but I do want you to be lusty and appreciative, not repressed, when it comes to sex." "I don't know why women are so self-conscious. I want to see you naked -- that's why I'm going out with you. Trying to hide your thighs, or insisting on turning off the lights, or otherwise hiding your body -- that's lame. Show it off!"
You might suspect that you are provoking erotic ennui. "If you're asking the question 'Am I boring?' the answer lies with you," says Gardos. "Are you bored? Then you're probably boring." The fact is, you probably know, deep down inside, if your performance is lackluster -- and you can begin talking to your partner about how to improve things. Then again, there's a chance that what you think makes fireworks, really makes your guy fizzle. Again, though, the answer is communication -- and you mustn't ask unless you can handle the answer. "This doesn't have to be approached like a big, intimidating summit meeting," says Jennifer Isham, a Chicago-based sex therapist and sex coach. "If you have a good relationship, you should be able to discuss things without judgment -- don't get mad at his desires, and don't let him squelch yours." Of course, it might be too intimidating (and ego-smashing) to hear him come out and say, "Darling, you're a crashing bore." So you can approach the situation indirectly. When watching a movie, instead of snorting with derision when Michael Douglas puts Glenn Close's butt on the kitchen counter, ask, "Would um... you like to do that, ever?" Or leave him a copy of a sex-advice book, like The Guide to Getting It On (Goofy Foot Press, 2000) or Marty Klein's Beyond Orgasm: Dare to Be Honest About the Sex You Really Want (Celestial Arts, 2002). You can even leave the books with a stack of blue Post-it Notes -- and a highlighter. You may find yourself verrry interested in his choices! The good news is, a lackluster love life does not spell doom for a couple. You have a lot of options, once you start talking about things. And if you're willing to try, and you've got a good guy who'll work with you, you can up your interest quite a bit.
Of course, this all might seem too intimidating -- maybe you just want to keep things as they are, without asking questions, and without making waves. "So what if I'm boring in bed?" you might say. "There's more to life than sex." Sure there is. And if you and your guy are happy, then that's what matters. You might both prefer to have sex once a month, and if your desires coincide, then you're lucky. The danger lies when one partner's not getting what he or she wants; that might be okay for now, but problems may rear their ugly heads down the road. The most important thing is, don't let your ego stand in the way of admitting you're not quite pleased with your sex life. "We expect hot sex to come too easily," say sex authors Em & Lo. "We'll invest time and money in working out at the gym, or talking about emotional problems -- but when it comes to sex, we feel like we have to throw it away if it's not perfect. That's a habit you've got to break." Chicago-based sex coach Isham agrees. "We expect too much of the sexual experience," she says. "We live in a sex-obsessed culture -- but a loving relationship and hot sex go hand-in-hand, and it's not loving to beat up the relationship because all the elements aren't there." In the end, if it's broke, you've got to fix it. But if you approach the situation with humor, optimism, and enthusiasm, you're bound to have fun on the journey from dreary dame to sexy adventuress -- and that's a guarantee!