Chicago relationship therapist Laura Berman, PhD, and her MD sister, Jennifer, a urologist in Los Angeles, asked 2,600 American women to answer that question while doing research for their book, Secrets of the Sexually Satisfied Woman: Ten Keys to Unlocking Ultimate Pleasure(Hyperion).
The big (or little) O
Reaching orgasm is a great fringe benefit, but it’s not the key to a sexually satisfying relationship. Most women who can reach orgasm don’t do so every time, nor do they have the same quality of orgasm every time. Much more important is a sense of intimacy and connection with their partner. That is one of the strongest predictors for sexual satisfaction.
That doesn’t mean you can’t just have sex for fun, and sex for release, and sex for all sorts of things. But what a woman would characterize as a satisfying sex life is usually connected to the way she feels about the person she is having sex with.
A matter of size
If your partner is on the small side, you may want to engage in sexual positions where you are optimizing stimulation. For instance, going back to front in the spoon position might be harder than the more traditional missionary position.
Also, what’s really important is paying attention to your kegel strength, your pelvic floor muscle strength. If your vaginal muscles are strong, you can use those to provide greater friction and stimulation when you wrap them around whatever size partner you have.
Women who masturbate know their bodies; they know what feels good. They have figured out how to sexually respond. They’ve developed a sense of comfort with their bodies. And all that communicates itself in the bedroom. She is able to be more specific about what she needs.
Too many women just leave it to their partners. They don’t touch “down there” except to change a tampon or wash. It becomes his terrain, and they leave it to him to figure it out.
Men as sexual ‘white knights’
A great deal of men’s sexual self-esteem comes from satisfying their partners. They want to give us pleasure. That’s why they put so much pressure on us to have orgasms. It’s a sign that they’ve done well. Most men will say, “I wish she would tell me what she likes, what she wants.”
I don’t think you need to focus on it every time because sometimes you need to have a quickie and get the kids off to school. But when it’s possible, try to take advantage of that connection. That’s the time when women will find that their partners are really open.
It doesn’t mean you have to have deep, meaningful conversations. But it’s a great time to cuddle together, even watch a movie together. It’s a time when both of you are on the same page and feel really close to each other and feel really committed to each other.
Our findings apply to lesbians as well as heterosexuals. We didn’t have a huge number of lesbian respondents, but when we looked at the results we didn’t see a huge difference in what is important to women in a sexual relationship.
The only one, and this is just anecdotal, is that the stress of low libido on relationship isn’t as intense in a lesbian relationship. Women with women have other ways of feeling intimate and connected. There is often less pressure.
Sexual satisfaction = sexual entitlement
Sexual entitlement is something that doesn’t come naturally to us in our society. Women are supposed to be sexually receptive and sexually available and sexually functional. But to feel entitled? It’s starting to change, but I always joke that the point at which women will feel entitled to a healthy sex life is the point at which we’ll finally see a woman in the White House. Sexual entitlement is one element of feeling sexually empowered overall.