Swell’s theme for September is Recharge, Renew, Reset. It’s been a rough year, rife with uncertainty, but new seasons offer us a welcome moment to clear the air. How can we wipe the slate clean this month? How can we reset sexually, emotionally, physically, politically?
So, you’ve found yourself in a sexual rut and aren’t sure what to do. You’re not alone, boo. It happens, especially if you’ve been quarantining with someone for months on end, or if you have been your only sex partner since March.
You might want a clean slate; a place to start over and just pick up as if your sex life had never found itself in this situation in the first place. Well, that’s not entirely realistic if you’re in a LTR. When it comes to sex, it’s an intrisic part of our romantic relationships. “All too often, we fall in a pattern with our partner because we assume what we’ve previously done is what they like (and that’s what we like),” says Zachary Zane, Sexplain It advice columnist and Promescent Brand Ambassador. “But often, this pattern we fall into is just because we started one way and never thought to change it. So, go ahead and change it.”
And if you’re single, you can break out and find new sex partners, of course, but you’re still going to be shaped by your history. This isn’t a bad thing. It means you have a lot of meat to work with. I mean, seriously, who wants to go back to all those awkward first-time experiences with new lovers and start over again? Those were learning experiences—opportunities to help you grow as a sexual human and improve future sexual and romantic relationships.
So let’s talk about some strategies to break out of a stale routine, whether you’re single or partnered. And no, we’re not talking about ~buying some lingerie~ or ~trying a new sex move.~ This isn’t a generic women’s magazine. It’s time to recalibrate our sexpectations.
If You and Your Partner Are Having Ho-Hum Sex
As with all things in relationships, if you want to get out of a sex rut, you need to talk about it. There is no magic genie in a bottle who is going to make you and your partner intimately connect. Communication is a must. Dr. Jordin Wiggins, a sexologist and naturopathic doctor, says this is easier said than done. We’re often told to talk about sex without actually having tools to do the talking.
The key to making sex hot again? Take it off the table. Ask yourself: “What would make you feel the most comfortable and intimate with your partner? Have the conversation that you only want to make out for the next 7 days or 14 days or 30 days (or however many you think feels right) with NO PRESSURE to take things further,” Wiggins suggests. Sometimes when we stop making sex so damn stressful or compulsory, we find ourselves wanting it more. It’s about setting up intimate encounters with our significant others that doesn’t make you want to crawl out of your skin from the monotony.
Humans are wired to respond positively to sexual stimuli they perceive as new. When we keep doing the same routine, it loses its luster.
In other words: Change up the rules.
And while you’re changing said rules, why not get a little freaky? Zane says you can add kink to the mix in order to … well, mix it up. “I’d also think about dabbling with some light BDSM,” he says. “Start with dirty talk and light spanking. See how that feels. You can always progress into more intense dom/sub play.”
If You’ve Masturbated the Same Way Since Forever
Self-love is one of the most lovely things in life, but it can definitely get kind of drab if you keep doing the same things over and over again. Humans are wired to respond positively to sexual stimuli they perceive as new. When we keep doing the same routine, whether with a partner or alone, it loses its luster.
So, what’s a person to do when their Old Faithful masturbation position is becoming more of a “bleh” situation?
Kristine D’Angelo, a certified sex coach and clinical sexologist, says that there’s nothing wrong with sticking to your routine if that’s working for you—but encourages those who are feeling bored to stoke their own curiosity. “Learn about new positions, techniques and toys you can do solo and have some fun with it,” she says. There are plenty of really cool virtual classes you can take. (Have you checked out Dame’s sexual health seminars yet?)
Zane says playing with new sexual techniques can also help to boost the spark you have with yourself. “Watch different types of porn. Try edging, where you bring yourself super close to the point of climaxing, without climaxing,” he says.
We often don’t give our masturbation sessions enough self-reflection and attention, and this needs to change. The sexual relationship you have with yourself is just as important as any you have with a partner. Don’t let it fall by the wayside; instead, invest in figuring out ways to really get to know yourself inside and out.
If You’re Sick of Casual Sex and Need to Reset Your Goals
Are you over the casual sex scene and ready for something different? That’s a cool place to be, even if you’re not sure where to begin. So, how do you reset those goals in order to get the sex (and possibly relationship) that you’re looking for?
Zane suggests you take the time to really get to know someone via dating apps. It’s a good time for that: The global pandemic has made zero-to-60 sex with strangers, well…complicated. “Have Facetime dates. Have long conversations,” Zane says. “Just get to know them before you hop into bed with them.” There has never been a better opportunity to skip the casual sex scene and forge deeper connections, if that’s what you’re looking for.
“By not applying pressure to yourself or your partner to ‘perform’ in any certain way you’re more open to the wonderful world of orgasmic pleasure.”
Wiggins says it’s time to get really vulnerable and allow ourselves the space to be open with someone. “Hook-up culture loves to tell us that we can’t be upfront about our feelings, that we can’t be honest about wanting a long-term commitment, that we have to ‘play it cool,’” she says. “Throw those [assumptions] out the window. Ask the tough questions, listen to the answers and be ready to move on when you don’t get what you want.”
If you’re not sure where to start, you can always seek some outside assistance. “Hire a sex coach who can really help guide you through this process. Sometimes you need some direction and it’s OK to ask for help,” D’Angelo says.
If You’ve Been Celibate and Want to Get Back in the Groove
It can be a little emotionally rattling to jump back into the sex game when you’ve been out of it for a while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it awesome and fun.
D’Angelo says you need to know what you like before you engage with partners. After all, they aren’t mind readers. “Go into sexual experiences taking responsibility for your own sexual pleasure/health, be respectful, and have frequent check-ins with your partner(s),” she says. “By not applying pressure to yourself or your partner to ‘perform’ in any certain way you’re more open to the wonderful world of orgasmic pleasure.” In other words, figure out what you like. Don’t expect someone to be your perfect sexual match without any learning curve, and be open-minded about figuring things out together.
And listen, the first time having sex with someone is probably going to be kind of weird. Take a moment to acknowledge that to yourself. It’s perfectly normal and fine. “To alleviate this awkwardness, I would let your partner know beforehand, Hey, I haven’t been having sex for months because of the pandemic, and am excited to have sex, but just letting you know, it’s been a while and I may be out of practice,” Zane says.
We’re all just doing our best out here. Being honest and openly communicating is the best way to get the sex life you want, without going into full panic mode.