If you're trying to be better in bed, there are a few things worth knowing right away: First, the very act of trying puts you well ahead of the curve, says Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., a social psychologist, research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, and author of Tell Me What You Want.
"If being better in bed is one of your goals, that means you probably care a lot about giving your partner a positive experience—and that’s a good thing," he says. "People who care more about meeting a partner’s needs tend to be more sexually satisfied, in part, because if you're invested in giving your partner pleasure, odds are that they’ll be inclined to do the same for you."
Selfish lovers, in other words, don't spend much time dwelling on how they can improve between the sheets. So long as you're not just looking for an ego boost, your desire to be more attentive shows that you're conscientious and that you put the needs of your partner on the same level as your own. That said, everybody's needs are different, Lehmiller adds.
"Being 'good in bed' means different things to different people. As a result, you can’t just assume that the sexual techniques you used with one partner will work with another," he says. "Instead, you need to communicate and tell each other what it is that you want."
Being open about your desires is truly the only way to give your partner what they want. That's why we teamed up with Touchpoint, a New York City-based townhall where people regularly meet up to share stories from their love and sex lives. (For those outside of NYC, Touchpoint also has a podcast.) Here's what ten of Touchpoint's members said about what works for them, and the signs that predict a more satisfying night.
Before you’ve slept with someone, do you think it’s possible to tell if they’ll be good in bed?
I do. I pay attention to if someone is a good listener. Are they being responsive? Do they exhibit emotional intelligence and read non-verbal social cues? I pay attention to if they're sure of themselves—they don’t feel the need to project or assert their masculinity. It’s just organic. That shows me that this person will pay attention to how their partner is responding physically, be considerate of their partner’s needs, desires, and boundaries. And crucially, they will not feel like they have something to prove. —Sophia P., 28
There are signs I notice, like self-awareness and attentiveness. A guy that has both qualities can usually carry them into the bedroom, too. He's quick to pick up on what you like and don’t like and is good at communicating what he likes, as well. —Nikki G., 26
How they touch me in non-sexual ways is always so telling of how they will touch me when we get in bed. When someone touches you often—like, little grazes of the shoulder, a squeeze of the arms, etc, or when they are intuitive enough to know when to be soft or when to be more aggressive, those little playful moments always let me know how they’ll touch me later. —Lisa R., 24
If a man goes out of the way to do something for you, it shows that he's willing to give and not just accept. If he takes time to listen to what you’re saying and understand you, he will be more likely to listen and understand what you want in the bedroom. —Maddy E., 26
What’s a myth most people believe about being good in bed that you wish you could correct?
Having a large penis. Although it helps, correlation does not imply causation. If he knows what he is doing, that’s what matters. —Maddy E., 26
That asking for consent isn’t sexy. I hear so often that it ‘kills the mood’ when someone asks if they can kiss you or touch you. In my experience, when I’m with a partner who asks for consent before doing anything, I feel so safe and comfortable—it’s liberating. I know that nothing will happen without my partner asking me first. Too often someone does something that I don’t like, that crossed a boundary, and then I have to backpeddle and tell them I don’t like that or that it makes me feel uncomfortable, and that actually does kill the mood. —Sophia P., 26
The bigger the dick, the better the sex. Say it louder for the people in the back that it’s all about how you use it. You can tell when a guy knows they have a big dick and thinks that’s all it takes to please you. I’ve had much better experiences with men that are “average” size and it also seems to be more intimate. —Nikki G., 26
That orgasms are the end-all, be-all goal of sex and that you’re lesser than if you can’t make your partner cum. That’s frankly B.S. and I wish more people recognized that. Being good in bed isn’t about being able to make your partner come fast, hard, and intensely every single time. It’s about being willing to savor every moment in sex and explore their body in maybe a way they’ve never explored it themselves. Orgasms are obviously wonderful and amazing and incredible, but I’ve learned that you can have killer sex and not actually come during it. I’d say putting more effort into focusing on your partner and their body and the intricacies of how they respond to your touches can really prove to be so much more sensual and impactful than jackhammering someone’s vagina with your fingers in an effort to make them come quickly and intensely. It’s amazing what some simple breaths on your neck or brushes on your arm or stomach can do to your body and your mind. —Molly S., 23
That practice makes perfect. False! You may have had lots of sex, but quantity doesn’t equal quality. You can have mediocre sex a thousand times if you want to. Having great sex requires the intention to do so. —Leslie C., 26
That penetration is a home run. Oral sex can be just as satisfying––if not more so, sometimes. Though a big myth is that deep throating feels good. It's popular in porn, but in practice, it can be uncomfortable for both the giver and receiver. —Jonathan S., 38
What was one of the best all-around sexual experiences you’ve ever had?
One of the best sexual experiences I’ve had was the first time for me and a guy I dated, which sounds unheard of, but we had had great communication before having sex, so it only made sense that this translated into the bedroom. It stands out to me because it was spontaneous but clear we both knew we wanted it. I think because we waited longer than “normal,” it made the full experience even better. —Maddy E., 26
I was dating an older man a few years ago. It was the first time I had open and candid conversations about the things we wanted to try, what we liked, what our fantasies were. He always asked me for consent before trying something. It made me feel really safe and it was also very exciting. One of the first times we had sex, I had previously mentioned that I loved the scene in the movie ‘Shame’ where Michael Fassbender fucks a woman up against the glass window of the Standard hotel. At the time, I had floor to ceiling glass windows in my apartment that faced another apartment building. My partner asked if I wanted to do it like in the movie, and we did and I loved it. Another time he asked me if he could blindfold me, lay me on my back on the bed with my head hanging over the side while he penetrated my mouth. I don’t know why exactly it excited me so much—I think it was the anticipation and relinquishing control. But ultimately, what made the sex great was we would talk about it. We felt comfortable enough to share fantasies, it was adventurous, and he always asked for consent for everything. —Sophia P., 28
Without a doubt one of the best sexual experiences I’ve had is with my current partner about a month after we started dating. We spent time in nature, cooking together and enjoying the small things. We ended up talking about how great the day had been and then quickly that turned into kissing and then foreplay and then sex, just by the nature of how relaxed and serene we both felt while simultaneously recognizing how horny we felt in that moment. We had a few incredible sex sessions back to back to back and each one was better than the last.
For me, the reason it was so incredible was his willingness to try anything: flipping me around and trying different positions, grabbing toys and lube, and seeing what my reaction to each sensation was. It seemed like his goal wasn’t to make me come, but to see how I responded and how I moved with every vibration or thrust or slap or kiss. We played with switching around dominant and submissive roles, and we played with slow and sensual sex, and with rough and hard sex. The mixture of all of the sensations along with the sense of trust I had with him really made me feel like I was in bliss. I continually tell him he’s incredible in bed, not because of the size of his penis or the way he uses it or even the way he goes down on me with fervor, but his willingness to try new things and keep me on my toes and keep our relationship fresh. —Molly S., 23
I met this guy at a party and we just hit it off right away. We ended up going to the roof for a cigarette. He asked me if he could kiss me. Then he asked me if he could touch my ass. He asked me if I wanted to go back to his apartment. When we got there, he asked me if he could massage me. He just kept asking for permission for every little thing. It became like this hot, kinky game of consent. Until finally, I asked him if he would fuck me. And we had the absolute, hands down, no contest, best sex of my life. —Lisa R., 24
I spend a lot of time over-analysing my body, and more often than not, doing so in a negative way. Sex is an incredibly intimate experience which requires me to be vulnerable with my body and trust that someone else will make me feel safe in doing so. The best sexual encounter/partner I’ve had did this explicitly. I had a partner who actually looked at my body, touched my body piece by piece, and talked about all my body parts in adoration. He allowed & challenged me to actually be in my body and not my head during the experience. It was mind-blowingly fantastic. —Leslie C., 26
I believe people aren’t interested in just having sex; they want a deeply moving, shared experience in an elevated environment that leads to a heightened emotional state. Those factors were at play for me recently as I drove through the wilderness in the mountains at night with my partner, throwing on a playlist from high school. We hopped out of the car like teenagers, jumped into the back seats right over the centre console, and immediately got after it. Before long, the car had steamed up from our bodies and we made our way outside the car into the cool mountain air. Being under the stars wasn't only romantic, but nostalgic and adventurous at the same time. —John S., 29
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.