Listen, you likely know a thing or four about sex. How to set the mood, what turns your partner on, the correct angles that work for you. But there’s always more to learn and adjustments that could be made to correct common mistakes and improve the experience for your partner. After all, when your partner enjoys sex more, you both win — because that just means you’ll both want to have more sex more often.
So, in everyone’s best interests, below are a few common mistakes men make in bed with women and what you can do instead. Just note: All women are different. None of these are hard and fast rules that will apply to everyone, and some might be more applicable for some women than others. Take these as inspiration for how you can be rethinking what you’re doing in bed for her benefit.
1. Lack of Eroticism
One of the biggest mistakes men make when it comes to sex is ignoring the full energetic context. Sex is so much more than just the ins and outs (pun intended) of the physical act. Most of us intuitively know this. It’s why sex with a new partner is so titillating: it’s the flirtatious buildup, the palpable tension in the space between you aching to be closed, that throbbing desire for something that may or may not actualize, and the feeling of somebody else’s hunger for you. It’s that lusty dance of is this gonna happen?, the delicious unknown and all the possibilities within it.
This energetic component of sex — the eroticism — often gets discarded over the course of a long-term relationship. Instead, sex devolves into just “getting it done.” While all genders can be guilty of perpetuating this dynamic, there’s some evidence that suggests women’s desire is more sensitive to context. Meaning, if you’re a guy wondering why your female partner isn’t as interested in sex these days, you may want to consider how intentionally you are crafting the context around your shared sexual experiences.
Focus on cultivating more erotic energy leading up to and during sex, and also just in general in your relationship. Pull her into an intense, sensual kiss right before she leaves for work. Whisper in her ear how sexy she is while you’re out in public and how hot and bothered she’s making you. Reminisce about a particularly erotic memory you have of her, and tell her how she made you feel.
2. Not Taking Your Time
Speaking of going through the motions: Men can sometimes make the mistake of moving too quickly once sex starts, wanting to rush right into genital stimulation. That can look like going straight from making out to trying to stick your hand down her underwear, for example, or immediately turning her around to get into doggy as soon as you get to the bedroom.
While a hard-and-fast “I-need-you-right-now” quickie can be fun at times, other times it can feel like you’re rushing past a lot of the good stuff — the building of erotic tension, the playing with different types of pleasurable sensations, and honestly just longer periods of time spent in a sexy zone. Most people would choose a long and luxurious 90-minute message over a rushed, aggressively-delivered 30-minute one, no?
Take your time. Don’t ignore the other very sensitive parts of your partner’s body — her neck, stomach, thighs, and ass cheeks, for example. Give each part of her body some dedicated attention throughout a sexual experience. You’d be surprised how much excitement and pleasure these other erogenous zones can offer.
3. Mistaking Wetness for Arousal
Many men assume a wet vagina is the indicator of an aroused woman. But in reality, a person’s genital responses may not always align with what they want.
Arousal non-concordance happens when a person’s mind and body aren’t in sync in terms of arousal—for example, a woman might be mentally turned on but not experiencing wetness, or vice versa, she might be physically wet but not subjectively aroused or actually wanting to have sex. This can happen for folks with penises as well by the way (ever been super turned on but not able to get erect, or had an erection in a situation where you definitely didn’t want to have sex?), though some research suggests it's more common among vagina owners.
There are a million and one reasons why a woman’s vagina might not naturally lubricate despite being turned on (stress, medications, aging, and so many other factors can play a role), so if you’re hooking up with a woman who isn’t getting wet down there, you don’t necessarily need to take that as a sign that your partner isn’t into you. Check in with her and see how she’s doing, and if she’s giving you the enthusiastic yes, reach for that bottle of lube and keep on going.
And of course, on the flip side, don’t assume wetness is an automatic green light.
4. Following a Script
A common mistake that couples make is thinking every sexual encounter needs to follow the same play-by-play. It often goes something like: start with a little kissing, maybe fondle a boob, exchange a little oral if you’ve got the energy, then missionary for a few minutes until the guy ejaculates, and then it’s over.
Listen, I get it. It’s so easy to fall into a one-note sexual routine, especially when you’ve been with the same sexual partner for a very long time. We know what works, and it’s easier to stick to the tried-and-true script than to try to experiment. But the thing is, great sex is often fueled by the excitement of the unknown—from exploration and experimentation.
This isn’t to say that you need to try an out-of-the-box kink or an acrobatic new sex position every time you do it (though those can be fun, too). Actually, my biggest recommendation is to just to get rid of the checkboxes of what acts “need” to happen when you have sex. I like to call this “aimless sex.”
Say you’re spooning your girl in bed one morning, and your hands gently graze her breasts. You feel a tremor of excitement in her. But instead of turning her over to start making out and going down “that path,” you just keep laying there, slowly circling her nipple with your finger. You let the minutes pass, and you don’t rush. There is nowhere you need to be, no other act you need to get to. You just enjoy this sensation, letting the pleasure build up in her like a wave, until her whole body is shaking. Finally you reach down, stimulate her clitoris with your hand, and help her orgasm. And then, perhaps, you just leave it there.
Trust me when I say having more sexual experiences like this will dramatically improve your shared sex life as a whole.
5. Making Everything That’s For Her “Foreplay”
The word “foreplay” has been doing women’s pleasure a disservice for decades. This framing turns everything that gets a woman off into a rushed-through prequel that’s just there to gear up for the “main act” of penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse—an act that often provides a lot more orgasmic pleasure to the person with the penis than it does for the person with the vagina. (One 2017 study found that just one in five women can orgasm from vaginal penetration alone.)
To always make the act that reliably gets you off the “main event,” while the acts that reliably get her off (like oral sex) are relegated to “foreplay,” is essentially making your pleasure the center of all the sex you have. Imagine the reverse: If every single sexual encounter was focused on you stimulating her clit with very little attention given to your penis, that would be pretty one-sided, right?
Get rid of the hierarchy of sexual acts. No sexual act should be assumed to be more or less important than the others. Give just as much attention and time to the sexual acts that get her off as you do for the sexual acts that get you off. Stop demoting her pleasure to the dismissive category of “foreplay.”
6. Making the Clitoris an Afterthought
There’s a whole list of clitoris-related mistakes we could get into (aggressively rubbing one of her labia thinking it’s the clit is probably one of the most egregious, so, uh, try to avoid that), but it all comes down to this: Are you really prioritizing the clitoris during all your sexual encounters? If touchinglit is just a sometimes-nice optional add-on during penetration, it’s time to update your mindset.
While everybody’s body is different, for the vast majority of women, clitoral stimulation is necessary for having an orgasm. Focusing solely on the vagina while ignoring the clitoris is kind of like focusing solely on the balls while ignoring the penis.
So, actually learn where her clit is (when she’s lying on her back, it’s located underneath a small hood of skin at the top of the vulva between where her labia meet) and give it as much attention during sex as you’re expecting for your penis. Remember that penis-in-vagina sex stimulates your main pleasure organ (your penis) but not her main pleasure organ (her clit).
7. Putting Pressure on Her Orgasms
“Cum for me” and “did you cum?” are controversial phrases among women. Be warned: Many women vehemently hate hearing these words. On the other hand, some women love to be commanded and controlled by their lover, and being told when to orgasm can be extremely hot.
However, what’s never hot is feeling like you’re being rushed during sex (especially while receiving oral sex) so that he can get to the stuff that he likes better. What’s more, it can be frustrating to a woman to only have her orgasm truly considered and asked about after sex is already over—this reinforces the idea that her orgasm was optional to you, while your orgasm was considered required for the sex to be completed.
Communication is really important here: Does your partner feel like she can orgasm every time she has sex, and is that something that she would like to be prioritized? Moreover, how can you prioritize her pleasure—whether or not it results in an orgasm—without making her feel rushed, pressured, or “optional”?
8. Ending When You Ejaculate
You know that trope of the man ejaculating, rolling over, and passing out instantly? In addition to it sometimes being a bummer to not get that emotional aftercare and pillow talk after sex, the idea of sex being “completed” by a man’s orgasm can also play into that same lopsided dynamic we’ve been talking about where women’s pleasure can seem like it’s always getting the shorter end of the stick.
In the interest of bucking the scripts, consider switching up the order of sexual acts: maybe you have your orgasm first, and then you move on to helping her orgasm. This actually addresses a lot of the aforementioned issues all at once: It gives you the bonus hit of a little novelty in your sexual routine, it allows you to focus on your partner’s body without any rushing to get to the next thing (because you already ejaculated!), and it allows her to enjoy the pleasure you’re giving her without feeling pressured to cum more quickly. A win on all counts!
The Bottom Line
There are so many little ways to be a better lover to your partner, but the key is to earnestly care about how good the experience really is for them and to be willing to make meaningful adjustments to make things better on their end. To really personalize this endeavor, try opening up a conversation with your partner about what other little things they might like more or less of during sex: More buildup? More stimulation? More variety? Then, go do those things.