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The Components of Great Sex

Last year researchers published their study defining "The Components of Optimal Sexuality: A Portrait of 'Great Sex.'"

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

While writing about intimacy (remember the five ingredients of our recipe for enjoying sex after 40?), we came across a study seeking to understand what people consider to be Great Sex. That is, when we talk about Great Sex, what are we talking about?

In the study, authors Peggy J. Kleinplatz, A. Dana Menard, Marie-Pierre Paquet, Nicolas Paradis, Meghan Campbell, Dino Zuccarino, and Lisa Mehak, interviewed 44 people who self-identified as people who have Great Sex, and 20 sex therapists, folks who help guide people toward at least adequate sex. The resulting paper is entitled “The Components of Optimal Sexuality: A Portrait of `Great Sex,'” and was published last year in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality.

The paper itself is a really interesting read, but boiling it down to stock, there are eight components of Great Sex the researchers identified:

What a list! We’ll make an effort to explore and consider each of these components in upcoming blog posts. But what do you think about this list? Is it complete? Does this list spell Great Sex for you? Does sex always have to be Great to be worthwhile? What attributes must be there for sex to be Adequate?

Please feel free to embellish, add to, or subtract from this list. Argue any points. Suggest different language. Would we modify the list if it were Great Sex for Women after 40? for Women after 60?


  • I think what’s interesting about this is what is NOT on the list. I don’t see anything at all on this list about strength or type of orgasms, multiple orgasms, penis size, breast size, length of time, frequency, or any of the other subjects that seem to dominate writing about sex.

    It heartens me to see that the stuff on this list is available to any body.

    jujuridl on

  • I suck at sex. Maybe it’s being an adult with ADD. Maybe it’s a trust issue based on an early sexual experience. Maybe compatibility is an issue. However being over 40 has made me more confident in my own sexual identity. Oddly enough. I’ve only been able to achieve orgasm through intercourse with a partner on a couple of occasions and never with my husband. But I’m more likely to enjoy our time together at my current age, and to accept our limitations. This list contains sexual principles I’d like to work on with my husband. I’d love to read other encouraging wisdom from women on this website.

    Reka on

  • Reka, thanks for being here. And you are so right that recovering from cultural and badly informed lovers’ (what a story!) expectations can take real effort, time, and great counsel. I sure don’t mean to make light of the feelings by calling the cultural ideas silly. As long as we are talking about movies, I’m sort of waiting for a sexual heroine with big thighs to come along…

    One of my favorite themes underlying your comments is something I am starting to understand from our 60 year old readers… Sex can keep getting better for women as we get older. Age brings understanding, wisdom, self acceptance, better communication skills, maybe better focus…? I don’t know why, because I’m only fifty, a sexual babe in the woods.

    jujuridl on

  • Hey Juju. Thanks for your thoughts and opinions, which led me to the Emotional Health section of I’ve been finding some excellent advice there that applies to me. I am so grateful for you, Barb, and everyone associated with this site, and your efforts to debunk myths about sexuality and to offer information and advice otherwise difficult to find. I appreciate a platform to discuss and think through some of our issues with our sexuality in these post-40 years. Juju, you have a wonderful, enviable philosophy about sexual expression and I love that you advocate for women as a whole in trying to tear down some of the notions we have been bombarded with our entire lives. I hope and trust I’ll get to where you are one day.

    Some thoughts in response to what you wrote:

    What I meant to say, what would have been more accurate and gentle is this: “Sometimes I feel like I suck at sex.” Because feelings and thoughts aren’t permanent. I agree that our culture is orgasm-obsessed. And I absolutely see sexual expression the same way that you do, and have written about my strong sense of sexuality and its breadth in comments on this website. I feel very much a sexual being. I struggle to express it during the act of love, but I’m great at expressing it through writing fiction and just being aware. Eye contact passing a stranger on the street. A song on the radio. Robbie Robertson or Leonard Cohen’s voice. And, yes, email flirtation.

    So to say we “suck” at sex because we don’t achieve orgasm easily is, in my opinion, the same sort of cultural brainwashing as the notion of an ideal feminine body type. Silly stuff.****

    This website encourages women to look at books and movies that turn us on. But, Juju, have you ever read a book of erotica or a romance novel or seen a “hot” movie where the woman doesn’t have an orgasm? So, stuff I turn to for arousal is inevitably stuff in which woman ALWAYS come, even if it’s not graphic and only implied. Of course I don’t buy into or believe that this phenomenon is an accurate portrayal of reality. But exposure to it over the years leaves a mark…

    And I’ve found that many men expect that orgasm. I once had a partner perform oral sex and, unbeknownst to me, he timed me. I felt good during our sex, but when he told me how many minutes had passed without my having achieved orgasm? It takes a long time to recover from this sort of thing, even with a loving husband now in the picture.

    This may be “silly stuff,” — because I don’t buy into female body type ideals either — but the feelings, when I feel them, feel real, and I’m sure I’m far from the only woman affected by these feelings. If we could so easily dismiss them, we would.

    I would recommend therapy for those who do experience the “sometimes I feel like I suck at sex” feelings, as well as the great resources offered here at

    Reka on

  • And I’m glad you asked, Reka, because that’s our intention! We’re going to look at each of these components. And, yes, we’d love to hear from anybody with an opinion or a post on these topics!

    jujuridl on

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