Ways to Be a Better Kisser

As cliché as it sounds, a kiss can feel like a Michael Bay-level explosion, or it can make you feel absolutely nothing at all. And if a common goal of the kiss is helping determine your attaction to someone, lip-locking can also establish a budding relationship: it’s the great divide between friend and lover.

After all, a kiss can be just as intimate as sex, and just as important. (I, for one, remember certain smooches more than most of my sexual encounters.) But there’s more nuance to a simple kiss than just an equation of lips and tongues, and there are easy ways to set the pace even if you’re not the most experienced kisser. Below, 10 tips on how to make the most out of a make-out session (sorry, I had to) like you’re a seasoned pro.

1. Freshen Up

It’s common sense, but too many people are guilty of going without correcting bad breath. Practice self-awareness and make sure you keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh. It doesn’t matter how good a kisser you are, since a fresh whiff of garlic can really kill the mood, especially if you’re just getting to know each other.

2. Build the Moment

Whether it’s the end of a first date, or after a few weeks of dating, the anticipation you build creates tension which can only be broken by…a kiss (just kidding, but really). It’s just like any moment of conflict in any good developing story! Just make sure you don’t wait so long that the other person questions whether you’re interested in them.

3. Work Your Eyes

When you’re leaning in for a kiss, you can’t use your mouth to speak, so why not say something with eye contact? When you’re actually mid-kiss, though, dial it back a bit since it can be a little creepy when one of you has your eyes open, and it can be distracting. Just as a blind person’s other four senses are enhanced, temporary blindness during a kiss can intensify the way it feels—the sound of another person’s breathing or the gentle touch of their hand.

4. Kiss People You Like

We’re all guilty of kissing people we could care less about: maybe on the dance floor, or during a moment of weakness late night in the bar. If you only kiss people you really want to kiss, those kisses will feel a lot better and you’ll naturally be more invested in them. Kissing too many people might lead to numbness. But on the other hand, there’s always the manta “practice makes perfect.”

5. Take Your Time

Kissing is a team effort. Don’t squelch someone’s spirit by going on the offensive (AKA getting too heavy-handed with tongue) or trying too hard to control the situation. Feel out each other’s tendencies and kissing styles, and go from there.

6. Mind Your Tongue

Tongue use can be great, or horrible. Remember, it’s a kiss, not a facial wash. No one likes to be attacked by a tongue, or have their entire mouth filled by someone’s tongue. But a tongue used well can make a kiss magical.

According to a New Study on Your Hottest

If you’ve been going through a bit of a dry spell lately, you’re not alone: Americans aren’t having as much sex as they used to, and that’s true no matter their age, gender, or wealth, according to a new study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior that found people are having less frequent sex than they did 10 years ago.

To conduct the March 2017 study, researchers at San Diego State University analyzed data from 26,000 Americans who have responded to questions about their sex lives since 1989. Overall, the researchers found that Americans had sex nine fewer times each year from 2010 to 2014 compared to 2000 to 2004. And Americans who were married or living together had sex 16 fewer times a year than the decade prior. (Cue the married-people-never-have-sex jokes.) This is a reversal from previous decades—in the 1990s, married people had more sex than never-married people, but that flip-flopped by the mid-2000s.

So why are people having less sex these days? Researchers say it’s all about having a steady partner. If you are married or living together, you’re more likely to have more sex, and the study found that there were simply fewer people with long-term partners. Combine that with the fact that partnered people were having less sex themselves, and it adds up to a whole lot less sex in America.

The numbers vary greatly depending on age: People in their 20s reported having sex more than 80 times a year, 45-year-olds reported having sex 60 times a year, and 65-year-olds reported having sex 20 times a year. And being busy at work wasn’t an excuse, as people who worked longer hours actually reported having more frequent sex. (No surprise there—getting it on is apparently good for your career.)

The cause isn’t generational, though. People born in later decades—such as millennials—actually reported having less sex than their parents and grandparents did when they were their age. And that makes sense—back in the day, people got married and settled down earlier, so they fell into the “partnered” category at a younger age.

But don’t let this info get you down! A November 2015 study found that the happiest couples had sex just once a week, which supports something you probably already knew: When it comes to sex, quality always beats quantity.

Great Tips for That Even

It’s easy enough to follow tutorials on must-try sex positions or study up on technique with the help of videos, but what about the stuff that actually makes for a healthier sex life and a better orgasm? Below, instead of simply asking experts for sex tips, we pressed them to reveal what actually works for them in bed (personal examples strongly encouraged). Because if firsthand advice from sexologists won’t get you anywhere, what can?

1. Pucker Up

“This is so simple, but so necessary…and it’s maintaining the habit of kissing my husband before he leaves the house every morning. Research has shown that this (and a kiss before bedtime) is beneficial to any relationship, and it’s a great way to stay affectionate and connected even when time doesn’t allow more. Sexually speaking, it keeps intimacy on our radar, which helps us be more responsive other actions in the bed.” –sexologist Yvonne K. Fulbright, Ph.D.

2. Hit the Toy Store

“I’ve found one of the best ways to enhance my sex life is to introduce new products. It not only mixes things up—which we all know is key to having an expansive, fulfilling sex life—but partners get just as excited to try something new, whether it’s a new lubricant (not just for dryness or discomfort!) or the way the vibrations feel on their bodies.” –sexologist Emily Morse, host of Sex with Emily

3. Give Yourself a Hand

“Don’t forget to masturbate even if you have a partner. Enjoy solo sex often—it’s good for health and mood, and besides, it just feels so nice.”

4. Tidy Up

“Create an environment that is stress-free and reduces as many external distractions as possible. I clean, turn off the TV, silence my phone, turn off the computer, and even turn the clock away so I can’t see the time. This helps to release feel-good endorphins like dopamine, which motivates our pleasure and reward center in our brain.” —Ava Cadell, Ph.D., author of NeuroLoveology, the Power to Mindful Love and Sex

5. Don’t Focus on Your Orgasm

“It’s not always about the orgasm. There is immense pressure to be a rock-star-sex-goddess in the bedroom 24/7 as a sexologist. My partner and I will kick it old school and make out, cuddle, or give each other a nice sensual massage. There is something inherently intimate about touching your partner in all of these different ways. Try exploring their body for your pleasure. Not that sex doesn’t evoke similar feelings, but it’s a different kind of feeling. Of course, the aforementioned activities can totally be followed by orgasm-filled sex, but just those activities can leave me satisfied. It’s always reassuring that you can still feel good about the sex you have and relish in the pleasure, orgasm or not.”

Guide to Dirty Talk

You’ve mastered the bedroom eyes and sexy lingerie, but what about the pillow talk? To ease you into the sexy banter, we chatted with Dana Myers, founder of Booty Parlor, about tips and tricks for talking dirty. The beauty expert (and sex goddess) had suggestions for beginners and shy girls alike, and assures us that even she still has to practice occasionally.

Marie Claire: To start off, how would you define dirty talk? The phrase feels so intimidating!

Dana Myers: It does feel scary. People will often clam up and think, “I can’t do that!,” but it’s really just another way to express yourself in the bedroom. Women can use lingerie or toys or just their voice, and best of all, it’ll be totally unique to you. Women can be soft and sleek and still a little naughty, or racy and raunchy and way out there, and anywhere in the middle! It’s really just another way to heighten foreplay, add adventure, and actually get what you want in bed.

A lot of women are afraid to ask for what they want, and it’s important to translate what feels good and what’s going to bring you satisfaction into words. Doing that in a fun, sexy, and frisky way is dirty talk! Be confident, and discover a little bit of your inner bad girl.

DM: It’s a combination of the words you’re saying, how you say it, and the mood you’ve set. Use your voice the way you’re moving your body. Talk softly, look at each other or close your eyes if you feel more comfortable. You don’t want to be laughing hysterically while you describe what you’re about to do to your lover, but it’s okay to be silly and giggle a little if that’s how you feel.

You don’t need to jump in with anything extreme. Something that can read as innocent as I love the way your tongue feels on my skin obviously means a whole lot more. If that’s still too much, just whisper into your lover’s ears. The heat of your breath and a few sultry words is incredibly scintillating.

MC: When’s the best time for dirty talk? Before you get into the bedroom or when things are already hot and heavy?

DM: Well, once you’re really comfortable with it you’ll find yourself using it at dinner, I swear! You’ll be out hiking, and you’ll say something sexy and give him a slap on the bottom. When you use it as foreplay completely out of the bedroom, it’s fun and saucy and gets mental stimulation going on during the day. It’s important for women to think about sex outside the bedroom so by the time you get in there, you’re warmed up a bit.

For a lot of women, the point of talking dirty is to get more of what they want. Some people are totally satisfied and just incorporating it as a fun thing, which is great, but you can use it to ask for what you need or to make sure he stays put and keeps doing what he’s doing.

Stories That Will Make You Cringe Forever

More often than not, sex toys do what they’re supposed to do: give you an orgasm. But sometimes fate (and uncontrollable bodily functions) has other plans.

Here, seventeen people get *real* with some serious cautionary tales about sex toys, but also a reminder that you’ll laugh about it later. Eventually.

1. “The guy I was dating bought us a vibrating ring to put on his penis. He has a pretty thick shaft. After amazing sex, he went to take it off and it was stuck. It would not come off him! So we tried using lotion and it still wouldn’t move and his penis was starting to turn purple-ish from losing circulation. Luckily, he trusted me with scissors to cut it off. Let’s just say he won’t be using that again.”

2. “My husband and I got a couple’s bag from a local sex shop and it came with one of those vibrating egg things that you control with a remote. We had used it a couple times, but it was pretty cheap. We were messing around with it and I kept feeling this pinch that wouldn’t quit. Then all of the sudden an awful jolt went through me because apparently one of the wires was frayed and exposed, literally shocking me in the vagina.” — Kendra, 22

3. “Me and ex-boyfriend were using a butt plug while cat and house sitting. During doggie style he had ‘poor aim’ and pushed the butt plug up inside me (the base was small, as it was an intro plug). I essentially had to go to the toilet and poo it out. Luckily, me and my ex were super chill and were laughing about it while I sat on the toilet.” — Sophie, 18

4. “My boyfriend and I had always been fairly vanilla with our sex, save for a few nights where we’ve role played. About a year ago, I decided to buy some toys—vibrating cock ring and butt plug—to have some fun with. I’ve never been a fan of butt stuff but my boyfriend loves it, so I’m always down to go along. We did our thing, played with the toys, and when it was time to clean up, I pulled the butt plug out and I pooped. Everywhere.

How to Pull Off About It

Believed to date back 5,000 years, Tantric sex is an ancient Eastern spiritual practice. Like yoga or Zen, its purpose is enlightenment—and the philosophy transcends the bedroom into all aspects of life. In the Tantric view, sex and orgasm = spiritual awareness at its peak. And when Shiva (male energy) and Shakti (female energy) join in one sexual union, it’s believed to be the highest point of enlightenment.

The best part is that all of us hold the key to Tantric sex: breath. If you can keep your body relaxed and your mind clear of the mundane, your “inner goddess” can be fully present. Using your breath can spread orgasmic energy from your genitals through your entire body. This all-over tingling, in turn, leads to a deeper, more intimate connection with your partner.

And despite all the talk of a too-good-for-words orgasm, the big “O” is not the goal of Tantra. Instead, it’s more about being in the moment and riding a wave of sensation and arousal (yours and your partner’s). If you focus on getting to one big bang at the end, you may miss out on tons of other “orgasmic joys” happening in your bodies along the way. Tantric instructors promise that in addition to fuller orgasms, women experience them more quickly since they learn to become more relaxed and sensitized. Dawn Cartwright, a SkyDancing Tantra instructor in Los Angeles, advises that beginners to tantra follow the below tips and tricks to fully commit to the tantra experience.

1. Create a sacred space.

Transform your bedroom. Awaken your senses with flowers, aromatherapy oils, scented candles, fresh fruits, and chocolates. Include sensual fabrics like silk for added sensory elements—whether it’s your sheets or your lingerie.

2. Shake your body alive.

Put on your favorite music and stand with your legs hip-width apart, relaxing your body and breathing through your mouth so that your breath travels down to your belly button. Shake your whole body—your legs, head, and butt— for one minute. Lie down, and invite your partner to come into the bedroom. “You’ve opened up all these places where there’s tension and increased the sensitivity, allowing pleasure in,” says Cartwright. “If you make love after doing that, it’s more likely that you’ll have a whole-body orgasm.”

3. Breathe and rock.

Sit on the bed or floor, facing your partner (you’re on his lap). Start by closing your eyes, and use your imagination to watch your breath move in and out of your body. Start to allow your breath to go three inches below your belly button. Begin rocking like you’re in a rocking chair, moving your chest forward as you inhale, and rocking back as you exhale.

Then, as you inhale and rock forward, tighten your PC muscles; relax them as you exhale and rock back. “You may start to feel sexual sensations,” says Cartwright. Stare into each other’s eyes (“soul gazing”) and breathe, rock, and pulsate together. “The amazing connection that you’ll feel will blow your mind,” says Cartwright. “Your energy fields get together, so you’re both in the same state and are much more sensitive to each other. It’s very electric.”

4. Share a Tantric kiss.

Continue to sit on his lap and rock together—you inhaling while he’s exhaling and vice versa. As he breathes out, you’ll discover yourself breathing his breath into your body and down to your sex organs. As you exhale, be conscious that you’re sharing all of yourself with your partner. Then kiss and share the breath. “Intercourse is not even necessary because you’re so merged,” says Cartwright. “Tantra is about diving deeply into desire and pleasure. If you feel good and ecstatic, then you’re on the right track.”

What Exactly Makes Over the Top

Fifty Shades Darker opens in theaters February 10th, and Christian and Ana’s explosive and boundary-breaking sex scenes will once again rile up audiences all over the world.

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and we all have to start somewhere, MarieClaire.com asked four erotic novelists for insight into what makes those sex scenes tick—and how to turn fiction into fact. The five tools you’ll need for amazing sex—according to author Tiffany Reisz? Tension, foreplay, emotion, creativity, and fearlessness. Let’s break them down.

“You can create tension by simply holding back, even when you’re turned on. Whether that means taking a break from manual stimulation and stringing kisses along their neck; or doing a sexy little striptease; or taking off one item of clothing before you go further—you can build up your arousal and add playfulness to your sex life. Basically, tension can be fostered by taking your time.” —Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor of the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series

“The actual mechanics of sex are fairly simple: Tab A in Slot B (Or, Tab A in Slot A—I love Slot A). So if you want to add spice to your sex, do it with dialogue. I can still remember with crystal clarity something an ex-boyfriend whispered in my ear one night while misbehaving. Words have power. People say things during sex they could never get past their lips during any other type of interaction.” —Tiffany Reisz, international bestselling author of The Original Sinners series

“Instead of simply rushing into sex, say ‘I’m going to [*fill in the blank*].’ You can even up the ante by saying something like, ‘I’m going to lick you in your favorite spot…if you’re good,’ and add tension by keeping the other person on edge, hoping they’re good enough to get rewarded.” —Rachel Kramer Bussel

“When you’re in the bedroom with someone, you’re at your most vulnerable. Even if you’re having wild and crazy swing-from-the-chandelier sex, you’re the most exposed you’ll probably ever be. Multiply and use your emotions to enhance sex. Don’t hide them. If you’re feeling playful, build on that with role play. Feeling aggressive? Tell your partner what you want—or what you want to do to them—in explicit detail. Then do it.”

Talk About Female Who Ejaculates

The first time it happened, my boyfriend Rick and I had been fooling around in the front seat of his late ’80s model Toyota Camry. Imagine hub cabs meant to look like rims, self-applied window tint, and two Midwestern teenagers working enthusiastically to get each other off.

Afterward, we looked down to discover that the seat below me was wet. I mean, really wet. Soaked as if I’d spilled his extra large Mountain Dew.

Since that awkward initiation, being a squirter is something I’ve come to own with pride. But back then, I was mortified. We thought I’d peed myself.

This was pre-Google, in 1996. There was very intentionally no Sex Ed at Bedford High in Bedford, Ohio, and the fact that we all bought into the mythical value of virginity had the unintended effect of encouraging creative experimentation. Oral sex was okay. Getting fingered. Basically anything besides s-e-x. By 16 years old, I would become one of those girls who had had anal sex and still called herself a virgin.

All this experimentation started two years earlier with a boy named Charlie. I’d thought I’d like the taste of an older boy’s mouth, cigarettes and metal and Listerine. The afternoon of our first “date,” Charlie had gotten his tongue pierced. He wasn’t supposed to be making out, but we did it anyway, in his car in the parking lot. It felt sexy and exciting to be liked by someone more “sophisticated,” 16 to my 14. He must really like me, I remember thinking, to be using his new tongue ring before it was properly healed.

For days or weeks or months—I don’t know, time stands still when you’re a teenage girl getting fingered—Charlie would pick me up in the afternoons after work and bring me back to his house. While his grandparents were away, we made out on the couch. I’d get naked and we’d kiss. Sometimes I’d touch him through his clothes. When I did, he felt enormous, engorged and insistent, and I’d become terribly afraid—”dick shy,” the boys my age would say.

Since Charlie was two years older than me, I trusted him. More and more, I became comfortable lying next to him naked. He’d kiss me everywhere, expecting nothing in return. We barely talked, always getting right to business. He touched me, gently at first. I was surprised to learn my body’s responses. It was like he knew just what to do. Slow or fast, he pushed his fingers inside of me, gently, then harder.

One afternoon, as he was doing this, the living room began to spin. The ordinary day crumpled into itself and, in one perfect moment, everything centered on my body. As it was happening, Charlie told me that I was having an orgasm.

Tell Your Doctor If You Do This

Six years ago, whips and chains were anything but mainstream. But thanks to literary juggernaut-turned-film-phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey, everyone and their grandma knows kink. But what most don’t know is how concealing bedroom behaviors can hurt your health.

A study recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine titled “Fifty Shades of Stigma: Exploring the Health Care Experiences of Kink-Oriented Patients” revealed that less than half of BDSM practitioners (that’s bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism) confess their kinky lifestyles to their doctors, and most cite fear of judgement as the reason for their secrecy.

The stat suggests a pretty large community (accounting for 11-14% of Americans, according to rough estimates) is failing to get adequate health care because its members are afraid of what doctors may think of their bedroom behavior.

“Other sexual minorities, like those in the LGBT community, have all been found to suffer from health disparities,” says Jess Waldura, MD, medical director of The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (TASHRA), the team behind the study. “This shows up as poorer health, worse access to culturally competent medical care, and healthcare-related stigma.”

This prompted TASHRA researchers to dig deeper, and they’re currently crunching the data from a larger follow-up survey that explores the reasons why so many kinky people stay closeted. This new study, likely to be published later this year, also delves into the potential consequences that can arise from keeping BDSM behaviors secret.

“A [clinician] might bypass or fail to recognize your needs if they don’t have all the information,” says Carol Queen, sex educator and author of The Sex & Pleasure Book. “Doctors aren’t mind readers, and they’re mostly very poorly trained about kinky sexual practices. Hearing real info from patients will help them put faces to sexual practices and help them better understand what the stakes are.”

For some BDSM practitioners like Sally,* a kinkster from suburban South Carolina, the stakes can feel astronomically high. “I fell while being untied from a suspension bondage scene and hit the edge of a table,” she says. “I broke a rib. I didn’t seek treatment because I was embarrassed to tell them how it happened.” Despite the act being consensual and the injury an accident, she was worried: “I thought they would take my boyfriend in for domestic abuse.”

This kind of fear is overwhelmingly common in the kink community, according to Anna M. Randall, LCSW, MPH, a San Francisco-based sex therapist and TASHRA’s executive director. “About 13 percent of the survey respondents told their doctors their injuries were caused by something other than BDSM,” she says. “People make up stories; some are embarrassed, but most are more worried about being shamed by their doctors or not getting good care.”

“I’ve delayed OB/GYN visits due to bruises,” says Julie*, a submissive from Hanover, Massachusetts. “Having visible marks when going into a medical setting usually means I have to ‘out’ myself and that I won’t receive the care I require.”

While a busted ankle or broken rib may not seem like a major health concern, the injuries that sometimes arise from BDSM can potentially lead to bigger issues if left untreated. According to Randall, bruises, muscle strains, and piercing tears are common medical issues associated with kink, but foregoing medical care for seemingly minor problems isn’t a good idea.

Ways to Be the Best

When it comes to knowing what makes your partner tick in the bedroom, tutorials on “mind-blowing sex positions” only get you so far. To discuss a few practical ways couples can actually have more stimulating and gratifying sex, we sought out Dr. Bea Jaffrey—a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist based in Switzerland—and Mary Jo Rapini, a psychiatrist and sex therapist based in Houston. Below are some suggestions from Rapini along with tips from Jaffrey’s new book on overcoming common sex issues, 159 Mistakes Couples Make in the Bedroom.

Tell Him What Turns You On

Research suggests that better communication is key to better sex, and no, we don’t necessarily mean dirty talk. Communicating what you like and don’t like can be instructional and informative as you get to know each other’s bodies. If he’s doing something you like, say so rather than relying on ambiguous gestures or noises. And if it’s something you’re not into, communicate that or guide him in a new direction. Want to try a different angle? Suggest one. If simultaneous orgasm is your goal and you’re close to climaxing, don’t be mum about it.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Praise

In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, researchers analyzed answers from 39,000 heterosexual couples that were married or cohabiting for over three years. Sexual satisfaction reported to be higher among the couples who revealed that they gave each other positive affirmation during sex and were open enough about embarrassing moments during sex to joke about them and move on. Dr. Jaffrey notes that this lighthearted approach to sex is key, saying, “Don’t take life too seriously. Happy couples laugh together.”



Keep Things Spontaneous

Even great sex can start to feel monotonous over time if it’s more or less the same old routine. To mix things up, Marie Claire’s guy expert Lodro Rinzler suggests that “if you’re in bed with someone and have a sense of something new you or your partner might enjoy, be it some teasing, a change in position, anything…go for it. Men love it when women are spontaneous and confident in their ability in bed.”

Dr. Jaffrey also recommends switching up the time and place to avoid falling into a rut of once-a-week “duty sex.” “Try new places to have sex, maybe on the sofa, in the car or on the kitchen countertops? Or how about the back row of a movie theater? Be careful though because sex is illegal in public places. Try role-playing…take a bath together. Be inventive, have fun.”

Think of Foreplay as a Long-Term Act

Jaffrey notes that setting the mood for sex is vital, for women especially, and that foreplay should start long before sex even begins: “I am talking here about the mental foreplay that happens days in advance, not the one that you have just before sex. Make sure to be attentive to your partner. Small gestures and nice comments are significant to setting the right mood for sex.” She also suggests keeping up communication during the day through texts or emails.