A while ago, we began exploring the qualities of great sex that were identified in a study published in The Canadian Journal of Sexuality. These qualities were gleaned from interviews with 20 sex therapists and with 44 ordinary people who identified themselves as having experienced great sex. From that material, the researchers gleaned eight characteristics that popped up repeatedly. The list was surprising. Rather than sexual acrobatics or obscure paraphernalia, the list included qualities like connection and authenticity—which would tend to make any relationship great.
One of the qualities we haven’t yet discussed is the willingness to experiment with your partner. Respondents referred to great sex as an “adventure” and a “discovery process” in which they learned new things about themselves and their partners. In the study, however, this quality was often described in a playful, lighthearted context.
Anything we do repeatedly for a long time tends to become routine. We trot along the same worn dog path in which every bump and bend is familiar. After a while, any routine activity, sex included, can become a bore and then maybe a chore. That’s why here at MiddlesexMD, we often prescribe a healthy dose of novelty to spice up the routine—a change of position, place, or props, especially for partners who have been together for a long time.
But great sex goes beyond trying new toys. These respondents seemed to revel in the joyful aspect of experimentation, of trying new things together. Exploring new dimensions of sex wasn’t a test they passed or failed; it wasn’t medicine they took because it was good for them; it didn’t involve one partner trying to “sell” the other on something new. The outcome didn’t matter; how they looked didn’t matter. What mattered was that both partners were engaged in the adventure and were having a good time doing it. Often, too, the exploration uncovered new qualities about the relationship or themselves.
Playfulness has to be genuine, and this joyful experimentation probably also requires another aspect of great sex that the researchers identified: extraordinary communication. But whatever the quality of our communication or spirit of adventure, it’s always possible—and helpful—to be open to new things, to be willing to relinquish the safety of routine and even boredom, and to step into new territory, even if it involves some risk and some energy. And if playing together also contributes to a great sex life, well then, game on.