Another day, another dating term. Today, we introduce you to Fleabagging. This trend relates to consistently dating people who are wrong for you. Sound familiar? Yes, us too.
In a poll of 1,000 singles, dating website Plenty of Fish discovered that Fleabagging is more common with women, with 63 per cent admitting to Fleabagging compared to just 38 per cent of men. Interesting, very interesting.
Without realising, Fleabag creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has created the dating buzzword, and it has been added to a dictionary compiled by the dating site. It was inspired by Phoebe’s TV character Fleabag, who consistently dates unsuitable men – including ‘hot priest‘ Andrew Scott (still rooting for that to work out, tbh).
Other modern day dating terms include Dial Toning – when someone gives you their number to text them but you never hear back – and Eclipsing – adopting the same interests as the person you are dating.
Also, Glamboozled – getting done up for a date only to have your plans fall through at the last minute. This is something 54 per cent of daters have experienced and we’re not here for it – wasting quality make-up is the worst.
One term that is mostly affecting singletons in their early 40s, is getting back in touch with an ex to ask for a favour. It is known as ‘Cause-Playing’ and is usually to ask that former lover to donate to something charity-related, like a marathon. Plenty Of Fish estimates that 47 per cent of people on the dating scene have experienced this.
Now, we move on to ‘Exoskeleton-ing’, which is when the ex of your current partner keeps getting in touch with you, usually via social media. This has been experienced by 22 per cent of daters, while six per cent of people have admitted to being the instigator.
Finally, ‘Typecasting’ is when you base people’s compatibility based on things like star signs. Guilty.
From issues with orgasm and intimacy to trying out fantasies, Marie Claire investigates porn’s devastating effect on our sex lives
Words by Olivia Foster
Porn is now more accessible than ever before, with sites such as PornHub which currently boasts nearly 10 million videos, to others where viewers can watch real-life ‘normal’ people engaging in sexual acts either alone or with a partner. In fact, research says that within the last six months 73% of women and 98% of men have watched porn.
But with scenes that are often skewed entirely towards male desires and over dramatic representations of female pleasure, what does regular viewing of this type of material really do to our sex lives? Well, reports suggest that overuse of porn could be linked to a rise in the number of men suffering from erectile dysfunction, as well as delayed ejaculation. This can be because of ‘edging,’ where men hold off from orgasm when watching porn in order to climax at the perfect scene – the result being that when he has sex IRL, without the high levels of visual stimulation, he can’t orgasm.
This is something 32 year old Harriet* experienced with her last boyfriend. ‘I knew that Tom was into watching porn because he’d mentioned it a couple of times, but I hadn’t thought anything of it,’ she said, ‘It quickly became apparent though that it was a bigger issue when we started having sex and he could never orgasm with me, always having to finish himself off. It was hard for me because it always felt like our sex lacked true intimacy.’
Relationship counsellor and BBC Three Sex On The Couch presenter Lohani Noor told Marie Claire, ‘Many people are influenced by porn in terms of how they define their sexual self. Much like an actor or an activist might influence your thinking. But this is quite scary when you think the whole premise of porn is fantasy and largely male fantasy,’ she says. ‘Further a woman is not likely to achieve orgasm in the ways often defined by pornography. Female orgasm is largely linked to stimulation of the clitoris, consequently vaginal penetration alone is not likely to generate an orgasm.’ And Noor has a word of warning about porn’s negative effects regarding emotional intimacy. ‘Pornography also generally tends to omit the deeper feelings of intimacy and emotional connectedness – factors which rank fairly high on what determines good sex.’
Indeed, all the women we spoke to confessed that the way their sexual partners behaved left them feeling a lack of true intimacy, such as 25-year-old Lily.* ‘I met a guy on a night out and took him home, it was all going really well until he started asking me to call him, “Daddy,” and later, “Papi.” That’s not something I’m comfortable with which I explained to him, after that he was really awkward and when he left in the morning I never heard from him again.’
Sarah*, 31, revealed the last person she dated introduced fantasies about ‘breeding,’ her the second time they had sex. ‘He started telling me he wanted to get me pregnant,’ she said, explaining that she later discovered this is a common strand of pornographic story in which men take ownership over a woman by impregnating her. ‘Having had a pregnancy scare with a previous partner this was not a turn on for me, but when I tried to talk to him about he just shut me down saying, “People say all sorts during sex.”’
In fact, with most of the women we spoke to the problem wasn’t necessarily the sex itself, but their partners’ inability to have an open dialogue with them. ‘If you want to act out some fantasy role play based on pornographic images/ videos [then you should] speak to your partner and negotiate some terms. Role play can be hugely exciting and stimulating,’ Noor says. Communication is the key believes the relationship counsellor to overcoming the disruptive and negative effects of porn. ‘If you cannot speak to your partner about your sexual needs then you really need to address communication and trust before advancing onto sexual play of any kind,’ advises Noor. ‘Couples that engage in sex without communication are couples who are sorely lacking in intimacy and potentially missing out on the real joy of sex.’
We’re more likely to engage in casual or unprotected sex during the festive period. But with STIs on the rise, you need to arm yourself against the main five
Words by Charlotte Haigh MacNeil
You might associate syphilis with Tudor monarchs, but according to a recent report by Public Health England, cases leapt up 76 per cent between 2012 and 2015. Meanwhile, gonorrhoea jumped up 13 per cent since 2017. And worryingly, the sexual-health charity FPA reveals that 68 per cent of Brits have never had an STI test, so could be unknowingly affected. This is bad news if you’re single and dating because several of the most common infections have serious long-term health consequences.
‘As the party season approaches, it’s a good time to evaluate your sexual health’, says Dr Claudia Estcourt, who specialises in sexual health. ‘People drink more at Christmas and it’s easier to get carried away and take risks. We see a rush in the clinic after the festive season as people have had unplanned sex and not used condoms so need an STI test or emergency contraception.’
Dating apps have also changed our sexual habits. ‘Women using apps like Tinder are having sex with more partners,’ says Estcourt. ‘In clinics, I’ve noticed they now talk about their sex lives with a new level of frankness.’
Her main three tips for the party season? Always use condoms with new partners. View a sexual health MOT as something you do regularly, like going to the dentist (if you’re having sex with new partners, aim for a check-up every three months). And once you get serious with a new partner, both book in for a full check-up before moving on to non-barrier methods like the Pill that do not protect you from STIs.
Here are the main five STIs to watch out for:
What is it? The most common STI, with 220,000 cases a year in England alone, half of them in women. ‘The under-25 group is most affected but it’s far from exclusive – we see chlamydia in women through to their thirties,’ says Estcourt.
Symptoms: Bleeding after having sex and between periods, and pelvic or abdominal pain. However, 70 per cent of women don’t have any symptoms at all.
Risks: Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can start when the bacteria progress through the cervix into the pelvis and can cause inflammation and scarring in the Fallopian tubes, leading to infertility and a raised risk of ectopic pregnancy.
How to treat it: Get a test – chlamydia can be treated simply with four antibiotic tablets you take all at once. ‘It’s also key to make sure your recent sexual partners are tested and treated if necessary, or you can be reinfected. Repeated chlamydia infections are more likely to lead to PID,’ says Estcourt. Use condoms to be safe.
What is it? The second-most common STI, the human papilloma virus (HPV) is actually a family of over 100 viruses, and some of them are responsible for genital warts.
Symptoms: Sometimes there are no symptoms at all, but if warts occur, they are small, fleshy growths that might crop up months after initial infection and can recur.
Risks: The strains of HPV that don’t cause warts have been linked with cervical cancer. ‘There’s also growing evidence of oral cancers being caused by certain types of HPV, which can be passed on during oral sex,’ says FPA chief executive Natika Halil.
How to treat it: Treatment usually involves using a topical cream to kill the warts, or they can be frozen or cut off. It’s passed on easily through skin-to-skin contact, so avoid sex if you or a partner has an active outbreak.
What is it? Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), this STI basically leads to cold sores down below.
Symptoms: ‘There are two strains,’ says Estcourt. ‘HSV1 usually causes cold sores around the mouth.’ About 70 per cent of us are affected, and if you’ve had cold sores in the past, you have some protection against contracting genital herpes through oral sex from someone with cold sores. HSV2, meanwhile, only causes genital herpes.
Risks: Just as with cold sores, genital herpes might crop up in the first two years after the initial infection, and often when you’re run-down.
How to treat it: Your doctor may prescribe acyclovir, which suppresses the virus and reduces symptoms or prevents flare-ups. Avoid sex if you or a partner has active herpes, and use condoms. ‘For oral sex, a dam (a square of plastic) can be used to form a barrier between the mouth and genitals,’ says Halil.
What is it? The infection that used to be referred to as ‘the clap’, Public Health England figures show that gonorrhoea cases jumped by 13 per cent between 2017 and 2018.
Symptoms: It can cause a thick yellow or green discharge, pain when peeing and bleeding between periods, though half of women have no symptoms.
Risks: As with chlamydia, gonorrhoea can raise the risk of PID and infertility. It can be treated with antibiotics, but scientists are worried about a rise in cases of drug-resistant gonorrhoea.
How to treat it: It’s usually treated with an injection, then a tablet. Prevention is key – it’s passed in semen and vaginal fluids, so condoms will keep you safe.
What is it? The virus that can lead to AIDS. ‘HIV doesn’t affect large numbers of British women in their twenties and thirties,’ says Estcourt. ‘But all clinicians know someone who doesn’t fit the usual profile who has been affected, so you can’t afford to be complacent on this one.’
Symptoms: While some people have a mild illness when first infected, HIV usually has no symptoms until it starts to damage your immune system, often many years later.
Risks: HIV can be managed so most people with it can live long, healthy lives. But it’s still a serious condition that will affect your quality of life.
To treat it: Testing is important – if you’re HIV-positive, the sooner you start treatment, the better. Male or female condoms are the best way to prevent HIV, and use a lubricant designed for sex – this helps stop the small friction tears that can mean HIV is passed on more easily.
It’s time to try out the sex tips you didn’t even know you needed. From role play to technique perfectors, we asked the best experts for some inspiring advice on a between-the-sheets reboot
Words by Rebecca Newman
1. Get on edge
One discovery from award-winning sexual education website OMGYes is the power of edging – or repeatedly nearing orgasm then pulling back just before it happens. For two thirds of women, edging builds longer, more intense orgasms. Explore it during solo or mutual masturbation, during love-making, whenever you like.
‘There are three variations of edging,’ says Emily Lindin of OMGYes. The first is ‘pausing’, in which you stop what you’re doing during sex, cool down and start again. The second is ‘distraction’, for instance you take time out to kiss, or to take up a different position before resuming. The third is ‘continuous’ edging, in which you shift your touch slightly as you approach climax until the feeling quietens a bit, then bring yourself closer, then back. Do this several times before finally letting go.’
2. Respin a favourite
While there are endless terms for sexual positions, many of them are just variations on the basic missionary, cowgirl, rear entry. So why not just explore the myriad twists you can add to your old favourites? ‘Notice when you get into patterns, and explore the opposite,’ says sexual therapist Mike Lousada. ‘If you like slow sex, then speed it up.’ So, whisper in your lover’s ear, or text them that tonight you want to try things super slow. Or that you’ve brought a toy to play with. ‘Try using lubrication – it changes the quality of touch,’ adds sex coach Sarah Rose Bright of Sensualhealingharmony.com. ‘Massage his testicles and perineum (the area between the anus and the penis), pulling and squeezing,’ even tickling his skin while you are in your favourite position. You might try a vibrator you can wear during love-making, such as the We-Vibe 4 (£106 at lovehoney.co.uk). Or use a butt plug while in doggy (check out the ceramic anal toy Livia, which should be nuzzled into place with a water-based lube such as Anal H20 – £140 and £12 at pureeros.com).
3. Go solo, then share
‘We all have go-to masturbation techniques,’ says Lindin. After interviewing more than 2,000 women, OMGYes discovered that ‘breaking away from the routine to explore other styles of touch can improve pleasure for the rest of your life.’ If, say, you like to work directly on your clitoris, try stimulating it indirectly by moving your fingers on your labia. Explore coming on your own in a way you haven’t before, then share this new technique with your partner. While it may feel weird at first, realise it’s not all about you – think of how happy your partner will be to find a new way to bring you to climax.
4. Talk out of bed
This can be daunting, but it can also be most rewarding: put a date in your diary just to talk. Pour a glass of wine, sit down and set aside an hour to discuss what you need more or less of; what things you love and what things he might be doing that don’t do it for you. Then, let him have his say. Be brave. Perhaps clarify the words you speak during love-making (‘When I say, “Stay there!” I mean, “Stay there!”’). It may be worth making an honest appraisal of your sex drive, and what affects it – from the time of day, work stress and tiredness to your time of the month. This might even stretch to how his failing to put his plates in the dishwasher kills your mood stone dead, but his fixing the brake on your bike is weirdly hot.
You may also consider talking about how the kind of stimulation you want changes. Lindin says, ‘A specific type of touch might feel awesome for you one day, and a different variation is better the next day.’ Discuss how best to communicate this next time you are in the heat of the moment.
5. Go multiple
Instead of finishing at your first (hard-won) orgasm, why not try working towards having more? ‘Many women think they have to stop after their first orgasm, because the kind of touch that led to it is uncomfortable after climax,’ says Lindin. ‘We found in our OMGYes research that many women realise, usually in later life, they should treat their body after the first orgasm like it’s new, with different likes and dislikes. And there are specific ways they like to touch after the first orgasm to rebuild to multiples, often going back to the stimulation they used in the initial warm-up.’
You might continue with a ‘palm hug’, cupping your genital area with a warm hand to exert gentle pressure. Other approaches include stroking in large circles over the labia, downward swipes from the top of your hood to the bottom or slow, clockwise ovals that glide over your hood skin.
6. Recreate the first time
It may sound obvious but try replaying a sex scenario from your first weeks of dating. Or re-enact one of your first sexual experiences from before you met. Was it with that hot guy from the year above, him kissing you up against a wall; a moment of passion in a bathroom while there were people waiting outside? Recreate the scene: tell your partner you have a fantasy about them being your first kiss, and plan it. (You might meet in a bar and dance together a while, then he pushes you to the edge of the room, raises your hands over your head, runs his fingertips down your body to pinch your nipples hard etc.)
Or play with the scenario in your head and immerse yourself in that heightened first-time excitement. Lousada adds, ‘If you act like you are experiencing the electric feelings you remember from the early days, you will feel them all over again.’
7. The adoration ritual
The essence of this ritual is that you take complete control of a love-making session, guiding your partner every step of the way. ‘Design an experience that will make you feel divine,’ says tantric coach Elena Angel. ‘Is there a sensation you’d like to explore? A setting you’d love to find yourself in?’ It may be that you want your partner to kiss every inch of your body before sex. Or you might ask them to dress up as a soldier and give you cunnilingus all afternoon. Whatever it may be, this is your time. Discuss your fantasies with your partner beforehand. It’s a good idea to plan a whole afternoon or evening, so there’s no time pressure. And of course choose a day when they are worshipped in return.
8. Climax creatively
This one is about rekindling the experimentation of the early days by bringing each other to orgasm in creative ways that don’t involve penetrative sex.
‘Make a list by yourself of everything you think might turn you on. Be specific, using words like licking or sucking a specific body part in a certain way,’ say MJ Barker and Justin Hancock, authors of Enjoy Sex (How, When And If You Want To) (£7.99, Icon Books). ‘Take the pressure off if you don’t fancy writing it out by instead sharing fiction excerpts, images or video clips that involve a technique you would like to try.’
During your session, take the focus away from penetration by using one or two of these techniques on each other. It will bring you both back to that inventive state you enjoy when you first take one another’s clothes off. It’s about trying to climax in a different way instead of falling back on what you know.
Whether you’re looking for true love on an online dating site or a casual hook-up on a sex app, there’s one thing that we have all experienced at one point or another – a terrible dating trend.
Long gone are the days when it was just ghosting that you had to worry about – now there’s the zombieing dating trend (when someone ghosts you and then pops up from beyond the grave a few months later and messages you as though no time at all has passed), there’s dogfishing (when someone uses another person’s dog in their online dating profile to lure you in), and then there’s the very frustrating r-bombing (which, to be honest, we are all guilty of doing).
But, sadly, they’re not the only ones we need to be aware of. Enter yet another dating trend that nobody asked for: cushioning.
The act of cushioning is very much as it sounds; you’re in the early days of dating someone, everything is going well and you’re pretty smitten. However, your other half is secretly lining up several other people (aka cushions) incase things go sideways in order to soften (or cushion) the blow.
Dr Jennifer Rhodes, a relationship expert, told VT.com: ‘Quite frankly, it makes me sad that people have such trouble with emotional intimacy and talking about feeling scared with the person you are dating.
‘You can’t really fall in love unless you are ready to get hurt. Cushioning is for people who are not ready for real love.’
Of course, you’re free to do whatever you want while dating – want to see one person? Fine. Want to see five people? Also fine.
However, if you are dating other people you need to make it perfectly clear to your partner/s so that you’re on the same page and nobody gets hurt.
With so many dating trends out there these days, it’s no wonder that anyone who has been in a relationship for years keeps (irritatingly) saying: ‘Oh, I don’t know how I’d ever get on with dating these days. It must be so hard.’
Yeah, thanks for that.
You’ve got the classic ghosting when someone you’re seeing suddenly disappears into thin air, there’s cushioning (lining up another partner before dumping the one you’ve got), sneating (dating someone for a free dinner) and orbiting (when the person who has ghosted you continues to be your biggest fan on social media).
And when it comes to dating apps, there are even more swiping-specific behaviours. Dogfishing, anyone?
Well, luckily the experts have coined another term for some seriously unusual dating etiquette – Tindstagramming.
You know, when someone you’ve swiped left on suddenly starts following you on Instagram and DM’ing you? Yeah, that.
Dating coach Samantha Burns told Women’s Health: ‘Tindstagramming is when someone whom you swiped left on on Tinder decides to stalk you on Instagram and slides into your DMs in an attempt to connect.
‘They basically ignore the fact that you clearly aren’t interested in talking to them, since you didn’t match on the dating app.’
She continued: ‘It feels like a violation. You joined a dating app so you could find dates with whom you mutually match, and you likely did not sign up for Instagram to be bombarded by dudes, especially ones you already ruled out.’
Addicted to love, bad men and dramatic bust-ups, here writer Daisy Buchanan explains the highs and lows
My husband calls me ‘puppy’ due to my excessive energy, enthusiasm and tendency to get distracted. I’m anxious, easily excitable, and giggle and weep with alacrity. However, he finds a stillness within me that I never knew existed. I can rest my head on his chest and be unconscious in minutes. After years of dating bad, crazy, exciting men who kept me on an emotional rollercoaster, this one has shown me the simple joy of just being. We never run out of things to say to each other, and we rarely argue. And I’ve realised that this isn’t boring – it’s normal. I’m aware I sound smug, but I still can’t get over how many years I wasted being anxious and sad – and how many women I meet who have done the same. Before I met my husband, arguing was my preferred means of communication. I thought that fighting showed true passion. I spent more time analysing my boyfriends and obsessing over them with girlfriends than I actually spent with them. My love life was like a bad 80s exercise video – if it wasn’t hurting, it wasn’t working. I actively looked for relationships that would hurt me emotionally, because I was so addicted to love and the sheer excitement of the highs and lows. Sound familiar?
Recent research by The Oxford Centre For Neuroethics shows that for some people in romantic relationships, the brain’s reward centres are stimulated in the same way as if reacting to addictive drugs. They experience euphoria, craving, dependence, withdrawal and relapse on a regular basis, and they’ve labelled them ‘love addicts’. Like drug dependency, being addicted to love can impair judgement and cause those affected to put themselves in dangerous situations that impact their physical and emotional health. I never considered myself a love addict and yet I spent much of my life exhibiting that behaviour.
Early signs of being addicted to love
Looking back, the signs were there early. As the eldest of six girls, I felt a little lost within my own family at times. I longed for attention and, although I loved my sisters, sometimes it seemed like I was never listened to, and only looked at when I was being told off for doing something wrong. I longed to be the cleverest or the prettiest or the best at something – and I thought I would never stand out.
As a child, I was also badly bullied at school and sexually abused by someone who lived in the area, which made me feel anxious and ashamed. It was a lonely time and I longed to meet someone I could trust, who made me feel safe. At secondary school, after the bullying stopped, I still struggled to make friends and was excluded by my classmates. When, aged 15, I met a boy at a disco, I promptly fell in love with him. It felt like the first time anyone had ever paid me any attention. In hindsight, I would have fallen for anyone who had taken the time to talk to me that night. I was simply grateful he wanted to spend time with me. I kept being grateful, even when he shouted at me, sexually degraded me and pushed me to the ground. I remember crying because I wanted to end it, but I was convinced that no one would ever want me. I truly believed having him was better than no one at all. Incredibly, the situation went on for six years before I got out towards the end of my degree, when it dawned on me that I might actually be able to have a life without him.
In my twenties, the pattern continued. I thought I just had a lot of bad luck with guys, but I was addicted to the punishing cycle of negative relationships. I’d fall for someone who seemed out of reach and spend all my energy trying to ‘win’ them. I really believed relationships had to be hard to be worthwhile. There was the guy who told me I needed to lose at least a stone if I wanted him to take me seriously, and the one who would invite me out with his friends, then disappear with other women for hours on end. Meanwhile, my self-esteem was crumbling. I started to think there was something fundamentally wrong with me, and obsessed over fixing my flaws in order to make myself ‘good enough’. It was an awful way to live and yet I found the idea of being single frightening. I had terrible sex with men I can barely remember, just because I needed proof that someone wanted me. I was desperate for another boyfriend and longed to feel loved, and then the second I felt secure in a relationship, I’d cheat as an act of self-sabotage.
Writer Daisy Buchanan during her tumultuous 20s
I was 26 when I turned to a therapist. I felt overwhelmed, unworthy and constantly on edge. I used to wake up and burst into tears without really understanding why. My anxiety was so bad that I had chronic IBS, and I’d find myself overwhelmed by stomach cramps, with sweat pouring down my face. My gut knew that something was wrong before my head did. I believed these feelings came from the anxiety I felt around my career, and the constant pressure to achieve. But it was something else.
My boyfriend at the time was highly unpredictable. I fell for him because he could be affable, carefree and charming, but his mood swings were intense. When we were with our friends, he seemed relaxed and happy, but when we were alone, he’d shout at me and tell me that he couldn’t bear to be around someone who was so unhappy. One day my therapist suggested that the cause of my unhappiness might be him and yet I’d never considered it. She suggested I was addicted to choosing partners who would hurt me, because my self-esteem was so low that I needed someone to confirm my sense of poor self-worth. Initially it seemed like a crazy idea, but gradually it all fitted into place.
According to my therapist, many female clients in their twenties and thirties have similar relationship problems. ‘Most people who’re addicted to love are high achievers who were under an enormous amount of academic pressure at school,’ she told me. ‘They want to “achieve” in their relationships in the same way, but are also filled with a conflicting urge to act out and rebel.’ From what I see around me in my friends and read online, this rings true. Anxiety is endemic in our generation. When we’re overwhelmed by a sense of worry and nameless dread, creating relationship drama is a way of taking control. If we’re causing our own problems, we don’t feel as if we’re at the mercy of the universe.
Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings adds, ‘Millennials have grown up in a world that embraces the ease of finding the next love fix. They have a longer time to date and make non-permanent relationships, and technology has allowed them to form those relationships with greater simplicity and variety. So, the pattern of craving love, followed by heartbreak and falling back in love again becomes the “norm”.’
Happiness: Daisy today, with her husband, Dale.
Just when I was beginning to gain some insight into why I was the way I was, my therapy ended, I found myself single and immediately spiralled out of control emotionally. I soon reverted to what I knew – a man. This time it was an affair with someone who was married. It was the one line I thought I’d never cross. With the logic of a love addict, I told myself I wouldn’t get hurt by someone I could never have in the first place. Of course, I got horribly hurt. And yet some of my therapist’s words were starting to sink in. The fifth time I spent money I didn’t have on new underwear, only to get a text cancelling our meeting, a little voice said you deserve more than this. Lying in bed next to him when he had one eye on his phone and the other on the TV, the voice got louder. I did what I’d always done, and looked to yet another man for validation. However, the one I met next would change my life. He was funny, clever, kind, and far too nice to me. ‘He bought me this book I’d mentioned, randomly, like some kind of psycho!’ I wailed to an exasperated friend. ‘What’s wrong with him?’ She replied, ‘This is the first time that I’ve known you to date someone who is nice to you. Perhaps it’s you who needs to change.’
At first, it was so hard to change my habits, but once I realised that my future didn’t have to be determined by my past, things fell into place. I’m ashamed by how obvious this sounds, but I learned that there’s so much more to spending time with a partner than fighting and making up. We could be friends. I went back into therapy and instead of trying to destroy my relationship when I got scared, I talked through my feelings. Dealing with being addicted to love has helped me to manage my anxiety and boost my self-esteem. I’m not cured, but I now understand that I was addicted to searching for someone to love me, because I wasn’t capable of loving myself. Five years later, I’m finally in a happy, healthy relationship because I have accepted that I’m worthy of love – my own love, as well as my husband’s.
Two mothers and daughters explain how talking openly to each other about sex, identity and pleasure has strengthened their relationship and enriched their love lives
Words by Rosie Mullender
The average woman’s sex life is anything but predictable. From a drought in your twenties to the excitement of a revived and satisfying love life in your fifties, via fluctuating hormones which can crash your libido one minute and make you insatiable the next, there’s no way of knowing what might happen. The common misconception is that as we get older, we prefer less sex. But as we grow more confident in ourselves and our bodies the opposite can be true. So, does sex really improve with age? And could having a frank conversation with your own mother about her sexual journey lead to a more satisfying love life for you?
‘There’s a misconception that sex belongs to young people,’ says research fellow Dr David Lee, who compiled a study on sexual satisfaction across the decades for The University of Manchester. While statistics may show that millennials are having more sex than older women, they’re experiencing half as many orgasms*. ‘With age comes increased awareness of our own kinks and idiosyncrasies and a more relaxed approach with our partners, which is conducive to great sex,’ says family therapist Stefan Walters.
So, what life lessons can we learn from our mothers when it comes to sex? We spoke frankly to three mums and their daughters about how their experiences have shaped their erotic lives.
‘Mum opened up about her own queerness’
Artist Sam Roddick, 47, ran erotic boutique Coco De Mer, before becoming a politically charged agitator. Her daughter O’sha Roddick, 20, is currently based in New York and studying journalism.
Sam Roddick: ‘Both my mum [the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop] and my grandmother liked to shock. Mum extracted strangers’ sexual secrets with ease, and would recount these for entertainment – the more secrets she spilled, the more we learned to keep ourselves to ourselves. At home, sex was a topic of hilarity that never got personal, and at school our sex education was so rudimentary, we’d done everything already.
‘When I was 19, I moved to Montreal and met a queer community. At the time, I was a sexually active teenager with very little confidence. But they fully embraced their bodies without shame: hair, curves, orgasms were all pleasures to be enjoyed. Celebrating my own sexuality became a personal right that led to much of my happiness, and when I opened my ‘erotic emporium’ Coco De Mer, we had three main goals: prioritising the teaching of consent, embracing sexuality and pleasure as a natural form of expression, and creating an accessible, inclusive space.
‘After O’sha [who identifies as queer and non-binary, and uses the pronouns they/them] was born, they moved fast, walking before the other kids and doing everything early. I felt as though they needed time to grow up, so I hid items from my store in the basement, and just kept out a few pieces of decor.
‘I wanted to create a safe space for childhood to exist. As O’sha got older and started having boyfriends, I tried to have conversations about their sexuality. But, like most kids, they absolutely didn’t want to discuss it with me.
The only way to avoid discomfort was by writing a letter full of information. It talked about how to get to know your own body, because a lack of confidence is the very thing that blocks you from standing up for yourself. It told O’sha that sexuality needs time, care and respect – boys also haven’t got a clue what they’re doing, so always be guided by your own gut feeling of what is right or wrong.
‘Once O’sha was older, they asked me to help some of their friends who were having issues around their bodies. I always felt privileged to be able to have that open relationship with O’sha and their community. For O’sha to start to understand themselves fills me with relief. I’m completely unbothered with what gender or sex they are; I just care what kind of person they are, and if they are cared for by others.’
O’sha Roddick: ‘As a child, I grew up with pearl and glass penises plastered across the walls and shelves, and I felt a lot of shame about that. When I was ten, Mum created some cornicing out of hundreds of plaster vaginas laid side by side. I’d blurt out, “Those are roses,” before anyone could question what they were seeing. I’d also get teased about a TV show Mum hosted about sex [Channel 4’s The Joy of Teen Sex], so it was always a touchy subject for me.
‘At 13, Mum talked to me about masturbation instead of sex. She held my hand and said, ‘Before you can let anyone else feel good, you need to feel comfortable with yourself.’ In my embarrassment, I ran away and avoided her for the rest of the night.
‘The experiences we have shared have been a process of teaching one another’
‘When I lost my virginity, it was a physically and emotionally painful experience. For years, I had sex with men, and constantly questioned how anyone could enjoy it – most of my experiences were negative in some way.
‘But then, when I was 18, I fell in love with a girl, which was the beginning of my sexual journey. Once I started having sex within a queer relationship, and accepted my identity, I learned how beautiful sex can be.
‘A year later, I came out to Mum. We discussed my fears about my gender identity and how wrong it felt being labelled as a woman, and Mum opened up to me about her own queerness. Sex is only now becoming something I can discuss, but as I’ve grown into my own sexuality, I’ve come to love how open I can be with my mother.
‘The experiences we have shared have been a process of teaching one another – the use of my pronouns has been a learning curve for her, but it’s something she’s accepted. I’m extremely grateful to have a parent who doesn’t shame me, and encourages healthy ways of relating to my body and my sexuality. My mum is filled with knowledge, and I’m very proud to have her in my corner.’
‘We discuss Mum’s sex life with Dad’
Eunice Chang, 59, is a radio host in Taipei, Taiwan. Daughter Wan Tseng, 31, lives in London and runs WISP, a ‘sensual tech’ jewellery collection.
Eunice Chang: ‘Back in the 60s and 70s, sex education wasn’t that open, so I guess I was self-educated. What I discovered about sex came from books, and I wasn’t able to bring it up with my mum.
‘I remember asking her if sex would hurt, and she replied, “It won’t hurt if there’s love.” Looking back, that was very good advice, and a lesson I wanted to pass on to Wan.
‘When it came to raising my own daughter, I was much more open. Wan’s dad is a gynaecologist, so the house was full of books about the human body. She had read them all by the time she was ten, so when I tried to tell her about sex, she already knew about it.
‘Working in the media, I’ve kept in touch with the younger generation’s views on sex. I worry that more women are choosing to stay single – it’s a shame not to have children and a family, but it’s also good that they don’t have to rely on a partner to support them.
‘I’m proud Wan is encouraging conversations about sensuality, especially as it’s not very commonly talked about in Asia. It’s important to spread the idea that it’s OK to discuss your desires with a partner, rather than to grin and bear it. Sex gets better with age because you grow in confidence, and talking is crucial.’
Wan Tseng: ‘Growing up, my house was a comfortable place to talk about sex. Even though I was raised in Taiwan, where people are often too embarrassed to discuss it, Mum’s very open-minded. It was a bit awkward in the beginning, but after a while it became more natural – we even spoke about her intimate relationship with Dad, and she’d give me advice about drinking water after sex to avoid getting a UTI.
‘Mum being so honest really influenced me. She’s a good listener, and respects my boundaries – so I was, and still am, happy to share a lot of my experiences with her. She’s very patient, with a positive attitude, so I try to bring that into my own relationships.
‘When I talk about how open our conversations are, some people are envious’
‘I tell her whenever I go through a new experience, like when I lost my virginity. Usually, she thinks I’m a bit too crazy. When I talk about how open our conversations are, some people are envious. But, ultimately, sexual relationships are about personal choice – discussing sex with Mum hasn’t changed who I choose to be with, it’s just made us closer.
‘I think, overall, my generation mostly has a healthy attitude towards sex – women are open with their partners about their desires, and have conversations about consent. But there isn’t any focus on interactions before sex that trigger desire, which is why we created WISP. Since then, I’ve been even more open with Mum about it – and it’s good to have those conversations.’
For more information on sex tips and safe sexual health, visit nhs.uk/sexualhealth
‘Men are impressed by my size, but women don’t feel the same way’
Statistics show that the average British male’s penis grows from 3.6in (flaccid) to 5.2in (erect). But what about the guys who lie at the other ends of the spectrum? Two men bare all…
Michael Maloney*, 33, is a ‘shower’ and a ‘grower’, measuring in at 4.5in while flaccid, and increasing to more than 9in when erect
‘When I was younger, I never gave much thought to the size of my penis. Sure, you hear stories of how men see each other’s tackle in the shower but, as I wasn’t the sporty type, I never really had that chance. I went to the gym a couple of times and tried to sneak a subtle peek, but without catching a glimpse of my bench-pressing buds’ members while erect, it was impossible to tell. I watched porn, too, but I wasn’t particularly impressed. My knob seemed bigger, but who was I to know? It was only when I lost my virginity that I found out. As with most people, the first time was a bit of a disaster. I was 16, and I was so scared that it took me ages to get an erection. But while it wasn’t there for long, it also kind of was. My non-virgin girlfriend looked horrified. “Oh my god, that’s massive,” she exclaimed. And that’s the moment when I knew.
Over the next few weeks, she literally got to grips with it, and together we tried to figure out how to make sex work. It wasn’t easy. While sometimes it made her scream in ecstasy, on other occasions she was screaming in agony. After a while, we found a position she was comfortable with – missionary; with her legs positioned so she could control how deep I went. And we did it like that every single time. If I tried to do it from behind, she’d get really panicky and flip around before I’d even got going. We broke up eight months later, and I still believe my penis was a factor.
I turned to the internet for support. Size-wise, I discovered I was in the top five per cent, but while male friends were impressed by my phallic stature, women didn’t seem to feel the same. Not that I let that get in the way- the old saying “it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that matters” may ring true for me now but, when I was younger, I was so pleased with what nature had given me, I expected my partners to be happy with it, too.
Thankfully, that phase didn’t last for long. When one-night stands started crying in pain, I realized I had a lot to learn. Sex isn’t meant to be unpleasant and I didn’t want to hurt anybody. But even when I was trying to be gentle it seemed unavoidable, and I found that hard to accept.
Since then, the longest relationship I’ve had has been with the mother of my son. When we first got together, she was delighted with every part of me. But she got pregnant after we’d been dating for a few months, and our sex-life dried up. I became frustrated, but when I tried to talk to her about it, she’d us my size as a retort: “You think you’re so great, with your massive cock,” she’d tell me, or “It might be big, but you haven’t got a clue how to use it!”
We separated shortly after our son was born. Having said that, my size does have its upsides. The whole “package” looks pretty good in jeans and, on holiday, I do like to strut my stuff in my swimmers. Of course, I’ve attracted my fair share of attention from female admirers, as well as a couple of coarse comments, but I can’t complain – it’s still nothing compared to what women with big breasts have to put up with.
Generally speaking, I’ve discovered that although some women prefer bigger, most would choose thicker over longer (girth-wise, I’m a healthy 5.5in) and many are perfectly happy with average. But short of having an operation (and I’m not planning on that), there’s nothing I can do. After all, as far as problems go, this isn’t a big one. Except it is – if you get my drift. Oh, and not all the rumours are true – I’m only a shoe size eight.’
‘I’m smaller than average, but I’m better at sex’
Stewart Green*, 39, has a penis length of1.5in while flaccid, and a below par 3.5in when fully erect.
‘Let’s cut to the chase: God shafted me in the penis-size stakes. But here’s the funny thing- despite giving me an unusually small member, he’s compensated by providing me with the personality and looks to make up for it. If I sound cocky (pun intended), I make no apology. Frankly, I’m not going to worry about things I can’t control and, given the way life has turned out, I wouldn’t change a thing.
You see, ever since I was young, I’ve never been short of female company. While the rest of my mates spent their teenage years fumbling around like amateurs, I’ve been the one they’re all jealous of. People tell me I’m the tall, dark, handsome type with the gift of the gab. I matured earlier than my peers – in my case, I hit puberty when I was 11, and I lost my virginity shortly after my 13th birthday.
Even then, I knew my penis was definitely smaller than average. In the interests of journalism (honest), I’ve measured the old chap and found out that he’s less than 2in when resting (OK, more like 1.5in) and I’m still under 4in when erect. The girth is fairly normal, I think, but definitely nothing to write home about. I’ve asked a couple of girls I was in long-term relationships with, and when pushed – they all said mine was “probably” the smallest they’d been with.
But here’s the thing: they didn’t care. I don’t want to sound boastful, but I know I’m good at sex. If it was just a competition based on length and girth, I’d be a waste of space, but experience has taught me that sex is about so much more than that. At school I used to cop some grief about having a small cock, but it was all half-hearted because everyone knew that while they were wanking themselves silly, I was getting the real thing.
It’s impossible to talk about it without sounding like an idiot, which is why I never do. But every now and then the subject will come up and, on occasion, I’ll put people straight. The fact is, if I hadn’t been circumcised when I was nine years old (for religious reasons which are now irrelevant to me), my penis would look bigger. But so what? You get what you’re given, and I’ve learned to make the most of it.
Some positions aren’t great – doggy-style, for instance – and by and large I’ll try to stick to variations on missionary. But I’m a master of oral, and that, for my money, is the real deal-breaker. Some girls like to use a vibrator as well, to stimulate the parts I can’t reach, and I’m always up for experimentation. With the right planning (yes, I have to buy a smaller size of condom, which I order online), the size of my penis doesn’t affect me in any way. I’m not bothered by how big other guys are. Why should I be? I’m not going to bed with them.
I’ve never once been belittled by a partner about it – at least not to my face. I like to think I have better taste in women than that. If you’re the kind of person who watches porn and thinks that’s even close to real life, then you should probably seek help. I’m sure 99 per cent of men would feel inadequate alongside some of those steroid freaks pumped full of Viagra.
I’m in a serious relationship now and thinking about marriage, but over the years I’ve slept with around 50 women.If I’ve learned anything along the way, it’s that the real thrill is in the chase – and if you’ve got a sense of humour and confidence, the sex takes care of itself.’
Looking to try something new in bed tonight? Here are the best LGBT sex hacks everyone needs to know about
Words by Alix Fox
Not all types of love look the same. Neither does all lovemaking. What happens in LGBT relationships is often different to what goes down beneath the duvet for heterosexual couples. But where ‘traditional’ penis-in-vagina sex is impossible, a multitude of alternative forms of carnal pleasure are now on offer, and straight couples could arguably benefit from borrowing a LGBT sex hack or two.
Same-sex lovers have a better understanding of how a certain touch or position feels for their partner. After all, someone who possesses a particular organ – be it a penis or clitoris – will have a good idea on how to operate it for someone’s pleasure, too.
However, it’s about more than just the physical side of sex. Queer communities frequently embrace more open, progressive attitudes to sex than the hetero norm. Whether it’s talking about anal play or challenging limiting gender stereotypes, many straight sex lives could be revolutionised by a frank Q&A session with the LGBT players. Here, a few non-heterosexuals share their hottest LGBT sex advice.
LGBT sex toys
‘Straight women are told sex toys must be ‘discreet’ to avoid making their partner feel like he, his penis and his fragile masculinity are threatened by a machine,’ asserts Rashmi Malik, who is homosexual. She worries some women choose cute, tiny devices like bullet vibrators to avoid emasculating men, when they may actually need bigger, more powerful toys to get off.
‘Lesbians pick playthings to get results, rather than flattering anyone’s ego or trying to be feminine about it. As women, we understand it’s no judgement on us if our partners need intense stimulation to come, so we aren’t intimidated by heavy-duty toys like massage wands,’ she says.
Wands emit strong, rumbling vibrations and are famed for giving countless, previously non-orgasmic women their first Big O – but they’re not exactly subtle. ‘I feel badass wielding a hefty wand with enough oomph to make my girlfriend orgasm, even through her jeans,’ declares Malik. ‘Maybe if straight men viewed such toys as power tools that allow them to bring lovers new levels of ecstasy, they’d see them as assets, not enemies.’
Try suggesting a wand to your partner by selling it as the ‘ultimate’ sex toy and frame it as something that will make him feel mighty, not undermined.
Doxy massagers (from £89.99) are superb, and come in glittery finishes as a mild concession to lessening their industrial feel. Alternatively, the Tokidoki x Lovehoney wand (£99.99) resembles a unicorn. Any guy whose sense of manhood is jeopardised by a mythical beast probably has bigger problems…
Tips for anal sex
Topher Taylor is gay, and works for homocentric sex shop Clonezone. It saddens him that in 2017 there’s still such taboo around anal play for men in hetero culture. ‘Probing a guy’s ass can give orgasms incomparable to those produced by masturbation or intercourse,’ he says. ‘Plus, it can make men feel high for hours afterwards.’
Want to start breaking down butt-based barriers with your own partner? Taylor has tons of LGBT sex tips to get him so hot that any previous inhibitions will quickly melt away.
‘Try introducing rimming (anal licking) to a blow job,’ he advises. ‘Take a shower together to nix hygiene worries, then while you’re going down on him, run your tongue from his anus to his penis head. Wet his anus with saliva, then breathe gently on it while using your knuckles to rub his perineum – the patch of skin between his balls and bottom. This technique really is one of the best out there.’
Once you’re ready to move on, try inserting a finger, but avoid positioning your man on his hands and knees. ‘It’s hard for beginners to relax in a doggy-style pose; lay him on his side instead,’ advises Taylor. ‘Treat his hole like you’re holding a fragile egg. Use lashings of lube, and encourage him to take deep breaths and “push out” as you push your finger in, like he’s going to the loo. This will help his muscles yield to you.’ This area is packed with nerve endings and, provided he can relax and go with it, trying this can only add to the intensity of his orgasm.
Sex without penetration
Alyssa Black is a transgender woman who’s pansexual – she’s attracted to people regardless of gender. ‘Although I have a penis, the feminising hormones I take weaken my erections,’ she explains. ‘I could take Viagra, but instead I focus on other ways to give and receive pleasure. Removing the obvious “putting my penis in an orifice” from being the primary goal of sexual interactions has made my love life significantly better. More people should give this approach a go, because it promotes creativity and inventiveness.’
Even if you only do this one out of every three times you have sex, try to make the main event something other than intercourse. One new thrill Black has discovered is extended nipple play, which is also enjoyed by bisexual Reed Amber, co-founder of sex vlog Come Curious. ‘Tweaking or sucking nipples is something many straight couples do only fleetingly during foreplay,’ she says. ‘But if you make nips your focal point and build up sensitivity over a long session, you might be surprised by how sensual they feel. Good sex doesn’t always mean “sticking something into something”.’
How to give a great blow job
‘Hundreds of ads from gay guys on Craigslist and Grindr ask for hookups where they’ll just get a good old dick-sucking – not as foreplay to penetrative sex, and without expectation of reciprocation,’ says Master Dominic, an award-winning gay professional dominant who runs adult workshops at erotic boutique Coco de Mer. ‘I suspect many straight dudes would love to sit back and savour being blown occasionally, and for that to be the sole focus of a sex session, but they fear women will think they’re selfish pigs for asking,’ he adds. ‘Yet even for the most considerate, giving bloke, it’s a treat to be able to relax into getting head without worrying about having to conserve energy for action afterwards.’
Master D suggests telling your lover tonight is, ‘just about you doing the sucking – no fucking.’ Start the experience with gentle nibbles and licks through his underwear while he’s hard and keep this going for a while. This adds a novel layer of unusual sensation and builds the tease, which will send him wild. ‘Plus, it’s a ridiculously hot visual to look down and see someone worshipping the bulge in your pants,’ he adds.
Role play in the bedroom
‘Same-sex couples are less likely to fall into gendered clichés when role playing in the bedroom: when you’ve got two men or two women together, it’s not as obvious who “ought” to be in charge or who “should” play what part in a saucy scene,’ explain Drew Harvey Bigglestone and Ian Diamond, who have been together for 15 years and now run adult store Lukeandjack.co.uk.
Multitudes of new, exciting adventures await straight couples if they’re willing to similarly push against the boundaries mainstream society says males and females should occupy. ‘Why can’t you throw him around like a lumberjack or fire fighter?’ suggests Bigglestone. ‘What about him intimately pampering you by doing your hair or nails?’
Gay blogger Luke (@Beardynoise) advocates heterosexuals reading queer erotica for inspiration. ‘I’ve picked up awesome moves from X-rated stories on LGBT fiction site Nifty.org,’ he says. ‘There are fascinating categories, like “Stories set in rural locations” and even a specific “Hot but no sex” section.’
So, what are you waiting for? You’ve got the hottest LGBT sex hacks, now start experimenting…