Ladies, sex is getting complicated these days. While no-one misses the old days when bedroom bliss was a taboo subject, the media does seem a bit too eager to trumpet every new toy, position and costume that comes on the market.
But is a more adventurous sex life really a better one? Surprisingly, experts say the answer is no. Here’s why:
1. It gives all areas a boost
Sex is good for you because of chemicals released while you make love – and these are released whether you have sex twice a day or a month. Leading researcher Dr Winnifred Cutler says sex once a week helps to regulate oestrogen levels, which are linked to everything from greater bone density to a reduced risk of heart disease. Sex also triggers a chemical called prolactin, which Australian researchers say helps new brain neurons to grow. The University of the West of Scotland found that sex also reduces stress – activating nerves in the vagina releases calming chemicals in the brain. Even if you’re not having intercourse, just hugging gives you a boost as it releases the chemical oxytocin – in US trials, the blood pressure of women with the highest post-hug levels fell 10 points.
2. Benefits peak at once a week
You’ve heard that sex raises immunity, but a study has shown that only couples who had sex once or twice a week received the boost – those hopping into bed three times or more times didn’t. Why? Professor Carl Charnetski at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania proposes: “Maybe couples who have sex just once a week are simply in more secure relationships.” That security may have an effect on their immune system.
3. It’s brilliant for breasts
Research from the French National Institute of Health found having sex just once a month is enough to lower the risk of breast cancer. The reason is likely to be the oxytocin release. In laboratory trials, this has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. There’s also a theory that nipple stimulation actually triggers contraction in the breasts that helps remove carcinogens from breast tissue.
4. Frequency isn’t a test of your love
Ordinary sex is a sign that you’re a strong couple: research from the University of Toronto found that how often a couple has sex has no correlation to how happy they are: it’s how bonded they feel that counts. Dr Massimo Stocchi, a clinical psychologist specialising in relationship and sex therapy (harleystreetpsychology.com), agrees. “A couple once came to see me who were having sex twice a year and were concerned that it wasn’t normal. After spending time with them, I sent them away saying I couldn’t help them. “The amount of intimacy they showed in every other facet of their relationship – how open they were with each other, how tactile they were and so on – was no holdsbarred and indicated that having sex more often wouldn’t have improved their relationship and may have put more pressure on it. “Sex doesn’t have to be the only way you express love.” And if you understand that, you probably have a healthier relationship than someone who uses sex to judge how their partner feels about them.
5. We prefer mild, not wild
Straightforward lovemaking is what most of us actually want. “We have this image that everyone else’s sex life is more exciting than our own – but that’s generally not true,” says Andrew G. Marshall, author of Make Love like a Prairie Vole (Jonathan Ball Publishers, R132 on Takealot.com, eBook). “The problem is that most mainstream media can’t talk in detail about ‘normal’ sexual activities we all do, like masturbation or penetrative sex, because it’s not familyfriendly – so they focus on the things they can talk about, like dressing up in outfits. This makes us all think that’s what we should be doing, but not many of us are. “Instead, ask yourself: what’s wrong with having sex you enjoy, with a person you care about? Nothing at all.”
6. It’s good for his heart
Research shows men who have sex just once a month have virtually the same drop in risk of heart disease as men who have sex twice a week – and if he’s having sex with a longterm partner, he’s doubly protected. You’ve probably heard that sex is a common trigger point for heart attacks. But new research from Italy has shown that rarely happens if the couple is married – in fact, heart attacks occur m o s t c o m m o n l y during intercourse where a man is cheating on his wife or girlfriend. If your man keeps getting frisky with you, he shouldn’t have to worry.
7. Good loving lasts a lifetime
You’ll probably still be at it in your 70s – that’s according to sexologist Dr Barry McCarthy from American University. He calls ordinary sex “Good Enough Sex” and says couples who realise that there’s more to intimacy than intercourse and orgasm are more likely to still be having a loving relationship in their 60s, 70s and 80s. The reason, he tells us, is that as we get older sex doesn’t always go as planned. “Not every sexual encounter ends in intercourse. “In couples who embrace ‘Good Enough Sex’, rather than apologising or panicking when that happens, you’re comfortable making the transition to another erotic scenario, or just a cuddly, sensual scenario –and going back for something sexual later on,” he explains.
8. You want to share, not scare
Keep things simple and you won’t have to rely on thrillseeking. Dr Patricia Love, relationship educator and coauthor of Hot Monogamy (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, R258 on Takealot.com), is currently treating a surge of patients suffering relationship problems because they’ve become increasingly adventurous with their sex life. “This increases the amount of stimulation, novelty and excitement you need to get aroused,” she says. “And as couples try more and more new things and push the envelope further, one person may reach the end of their comfort zone. “If this happens, then the mismatch can trigger problems in a relationship that otherwise would have been completely solid. “If both you and your partner are happy with what’s going on in your sex life, then there’s nothing wrong – and as they say: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
9. Because you’re not sting
The media made a big deal about singer Sting’s claims that tantric sex helps him last longer in bed. But while he got a lot of attention for his tantric tenacity, it turns out that sexual marathons aren’t the best route for most of us. Sex therapists in Canada and the US say most couples find intercourse that lasts seven to 13 minutes the most “desirable” – anything more is too long. “It’s our lifestyle,” says Nicci Talbot, author of Good Sex – A Couple’s Guide (Need2Know Books, R365 on Takealot.com). “Most couples are too tired or busy to think about anything more than a quickie anyway.” This doesn’t give your man an excuse to skimp on foreplay, though.
10. Get in-the-sack satisfaction
Put simply: ordinary sex feels fulfilling. “The most gratifying sex is that which pleases your authentic mood and mindset,” says sex therapist Dr Gina Ogden, author of The Return of Desire (Trumpeter Books). “Many women are trying to live up to someone else’s standards of ‘great sex’ but it’s not the frequency or the number of new positions you try that makes sex fulfilling – it’s how it makes you feel.” And if you’re feeling loved, desired, appreciated, worshipped, and relaxed – whatever – it’s doing you, and your relationship, a world of good.