OK, so you've been around the block more than once — heck, more than a hundred times. But do you know everything you ought to know about sex? Here are some essential truths that every grown-up person should embrace.
1. The people with the best all-around sex lives aren't swinging singles — they're the boring, married ones.
That people in monogamous marriages have the richest sex lives is not just theory but quantifiable fact. According to a National Bureau of Economic Research study, "The happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is calculated to be one."
What makes married sex so good? Says Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus, director of the Medical Center for Female Sexuality in Purchase, N.Y: "There is a great deal to be said for really knowing what turns your partner on, for knowing you can say or do what you want, and also knowing there will be another time soon to try that new thing again, even if it didn't quite work the first time around."
2. The older women get, the sexier they feel.
One reason women feel hotter as they get older: With the fear of pregnancy behind and children growing up, women feel free to devote their bodies to their own physical pleasure. Another reason: "Women have to learn about their bodies, which are more complicated than male bodies, and that takes time and experience," says Dr. Helen Fisher, a research professor of anthropology at Rutgers University. What's more, there's a large emotional component in a woman's sexual response, and that may take time to develop too.
3. What you say can be as pivotal to passion as what you do.
Researchers have found that words can have as powerful an influence as actions on the quality of your sex life. Telling your lover a secret right before sex, for instance, creates a feeling of intimacy that can enhance the physical experience. Want your erotic messages to have maximum impact? Whisper them in your partner's left ear, where emotionally charged words connect better, according to research by Teow-Chong Sim of Sam Houston State University.
4. Good looks don't necessarily make for good sex.
"Maybe there's a woman in your office who guys think is 'hot, hot, hot' and she can say, 'I have no desire, none, nada. I couldn't care less if I never had sex again,' " Bat Sheva Marcus says. "Then you have one of my favorite patients, a 60-year-old, cute but average, chubby single woman who is currently carrying on an affair with a 30-year-old, a 42-year-old and her lover of 32 years, a 65-year-old pianist. You would never know!"
5. Sex is a need, not a luxury.
We're all so busy, there's a tendency to put sex way down on our ever-present lists of things to do, somewhere above cleaning out the garage but below taking the poodle to the groomer and deciding what to have for dinner. And that's a mistake.
"Many long-married couples see sex as, 'Oh, it would be nice, but I don't have time for that anymore,' " says Christine Bertrand Hyde, a sex therapist in Chester, N.J. "But you make time for chatting with your friends, for getting manicures, for going out to the theater. Couples need to make the time for romance. It's the best thing they can do for their relationship."
Pamela Redmond Satran is the author of the New York Times bestseller How Not To Act Old.