The 5 things sex therapists want people to know

Millennials may be dating less, but that doesn’t mean they are any less interested in sex. 

In reality, sex is an important and often integral part of relationships for people of all ages, sexual orientations, and genders. 

However, whether you consider yourself sexually experienced or are exploring sex for the first time, there are certain things that everyone should know when it comes to sex, according to sex therapists.  

Sex therapy is a type of talk therapy intended to help couples resolve a range of sexual issues, from psychological and personal factors to medical hurdles.

Stephen Snyder MD, host of the Relationship Doctor podcast on QDT Network and author of Love Worth Making, told The Independent that the first thing anyone engaging in sex should know is that sex “is about more than just sex.”

1/10 Blue Valentine

Derek Cianfrance dared to portray sex with any sense of realism, both physically and emotionally, only to quickly get slapped with an NC-17 rating for showing Michelle Williams’ character, Cindy, on the receiving end of oral sex. “The sex felt real — it wasn’t sexy or ‘a sex scene’, and that’s why we got into trouble,” co-star Ryan Gosling remarked to The Observer at the time. “You shouldn’t be penalised for doing a good job.” After successfully appealing against the MPAA’s decision, Blue Valentine reached cinemas as an R, thankfully allowing mainstream audiences to see how emotionally complex a matter sex can actually be, especially in a broken down marriage like the one shared by its lead characters.

2/10 Love & Basketball

Gina Prince-Bythewood has masterfully shown Hollywood how cinema can portray realistic sex without any loss of romanticism or intimacy. That’s especially true of her directorial debut, 2000’s Love & Basketball, in which Monica (Sanaa Lathan) loses her virginity to childhood sweetheart, Quincy (Omar Epps). The moment is wonderfully tender, aided by Maxwell’s cover of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work”, while being one of the rare films that actually shows the use of a condom. “The only note that I ever got from the studio during the filmmaking process was that when I shot that scene, they looked at the dailies and they said, they didn’t think she was enjoying it enough,” Prince-Bythewood told The Huffington Post. “And my argument was, it’s the first time and despite what the male fantasy might be, it’s not that great.”

New Line Cinema

3/10 Y Tu Mamá También

Alfonso Cuarón’s raucous classic inverts the American sex comedy: Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are stereotypical, sex-obsessed young men distraught at the concept of their girlfriends leaving the country. Choosing to live as bachelors, they befriend an older woman (Maribel Verdú), who seduces both of them. Yet, the film drives them towards one, real truth: their own bisexuality, finally freed during the film’s famous threesome. Though Y Tu Mamá También’s conclusion is tragic — Julio and Tenoch’s reject their own truth, turn their backs on each other, and suppress their feelings — their threesome still marks a moment of genuine, harmonious sensuality.

20th Century Fox

4/10 God’s Own Country

God’s Own Country star Alec Secareanu admitted he was initially “very afraid” of the kinds of scenes he would be tasked with filming for the gay drama film. “But the way each character has sex tells a lot about them; the way that they develop their relationship,” he told Attitude. The first sexual encounter between Secareanu’s character Gheorghe and Johnny (Josh O’Connor) is quick, aggressive and with little intimacy. As Johnny slowly learns to open up to Gheroghe, their second encounter is far more romantic; intense in a different way to the first. Both actors later told of how they developed a close bond in real life after working together on-screen.

Orion Pictures

5/10 Carol

A film that finds its eroticism in small gestures — in the languid rest of a glove, in a glance, shared across a crowded room — when it comes to director Todd Haynes actually filming the first time Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett) have sex, their chemistry is already so palpable that the moment feels nothing short of explosive. “It’s very much like shooting a musical number,” Haynes told E!News of the scene. “You start the music and basically you just go and the camera finds the moments and the beats. And we had some amazing material with these two women to work with.”

StudioCanal

6/10 Moonlight

Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winner is one of the most tender depictions of yearning in modern cinema. Its protagonist Chiron (played by Ashton Sanders here, at other points by Alex R. Hibbert and Trevante Rhodes) experiences his first sexual encounter with fellow student Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) on a quiet, isolated beach. Their fumbling may pay testament to the awkwardness of a teenager’s first experiences, but Jenkins’ approach also gives the moment a profound grace, and an acknowledgement of how it will come to shape Chiron’s own view of himself. “It’s the first time I filmed a sex scene. It’s the first time these actors had performed a sex scene,” Jenkins told Entertainment Weekly of the scene. “It’s not gratuitous. It’s very delicate in keeping with most of the film, but it kept me up at night. I really wanted to get the feelings of that first sort of sexual expression, and I wanted to get it right… but then, when we got to shoot it, it rolled off like butter.”

A24

7/10 Don’t Look Now

Much like Blue Valentine, Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 classic swiftly faced controversy due to a sex scene so emotionally faithful (while also depicting a female character, Julie Christie’s Laura, receiving oral sex), that it caused clashes with censors. A grieving couple desperately holding onto the shreds of their marriage after the death of their child, Laura and John (Donald Sutherland)’s raw emotions and vulnerability in this moment are famously intercut with post-coital preparations to go to dinner — an attempt, in fact, to satiate censors. Christie herself admitted the film’s innovations made the scene difficult to film since, “There were no available examples, no role models … I just went blank and Nic [Roeg] shouted instructions.»

British Lion Films

8/10 Team America: World Police

Sex is funny, sometimes hilarious. There’s no getting through this list without acknowledging that fact, and there’s no better film to summarise it than Team America: World Police and its infamous puppet intercourse, enthusiastically filing through every sexual position in the book. As puppet creator Stephen Chiodo noted to MovieWeb, it’s the scene’s bracing artifice that’s actually the key to its humour. As he explained, “The more realistic it became, the less funny it was. The more axes of movement, the more lifelike movement we gave the puppets during the sex scene, it just wasn’t funny. But when you had them stiff like dolls, kind of rutting, it just was funny.”

Paramount Pictures

9/10 Mulholland Drive

Trust David Lynch to create a highly-charged sex scene that inevitably only becomes part of the web created to deceive and befuddle us. Rita (Laura Harring) and Betty (Naomi Watts) may consummate their bubbling affections for each other in a sensuous, dreamlike manner — but who is Rita in this moment? Who is Betty? Is this encounter real or imagined? This moment of lush, Hollywood perfection only creates the set up for Mulholland Drive’s earth-shattering twist. Betty is now Diane, and her own sexual experience couldn’t be any more different: a tear-soaked, anguished masturbation scene that seems exemplary of her own broken soul.

10/10 Unfaithful

One of the finest examples of the erotic thriller, director Adrian Lyne depicts the extramarital affair in its full urgency, its entire spectrum of conflicted emotions, as suburban housewife Connie (Diane Lane) becomes enraptured by a handsome young Frenchman (Olivier Martinez). Their initial encounter is at first tenuous, tender, before a hunger seems to consume Connie and her guilt is momentarily forgotten in the throes of extreme passion, only for them to creep slowly back on the train ride home. The memory of its erotic power, the searing regret; those feelings soon become feverishly intertwined.

20th Century Fox

1/10 Blue Valentine

Derek Cianfrance dared to portray sex with any sense of realism, both physically and emotionally, only to quickly get slapped with an NC-17 rating for showing Michelle Williams’ character, Cindy, on the receiving end of oral sex. “The sex felt real — it wasn’t sexy or ‘a sex scene’, and that’s why we got into trouble,” co-star Ryan Gosling remarked to The Observer at the time. “You shouldn’t be penalised for doing a good job.” After successfully appealing against the MPAA’s decision, Blue Valentine reached cinemas as an R, thankfully allowing mainstream audiences to see how emotionally complex a matter sex can actually be, especially in a broken down marriage like the one shared by its lead characters.

2/10 Love & Basketball

Gina Prince-Bythewood has masterfully shown Hollywood how cinema can portray realistic sex without any loss of romanticism or intimacy. That’s especially true of her directorial debut, 2000’s Love & Basketball, in which Monica (Sanaa Lathan) loses her virginity to childhood sweetheart, Quincy (Omar Epps). The moment is wonderfully tender, aided by Maxwell’s cover of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work”, while being one of the rare films that actually shows the use of a condom. “The only note that I ever got from the studio during the filmmaking process was that when I shot that scene, they looked at the dailies and they said, they didn’t think she was enjoying it enough,” Prince-Bythewood told The Huffington Post. “And my argument was, it’s the first time and despite what the male fantasy might be, it’s not that great.”

New Line Cinema

3/10 Y Tu Mamá También

Alfonso Cuarón’s raucous classic inverts the American sex comedy: Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are stereotypical, sex-obsessed young men distraught at the concept of their girlfriends leaving the country. Choosing to live as bachelors, they befriend an older woman (Maribel Verdú), who seduces both of them. Yet, the film drives them towards one, real truth: their own bisexuality, finally freed during the film’s famous threesome. Though Y Tu Mamá También’s conclusion is tragic — Julio and Tenoch’s reject their own truth, turn their backs on each other, and suppress their feelings — their threesome still marks a moment of genuine, harmonious sensuality.

20th Century Fox

4/10 God’s Own Country

God’s Own Country star Alec Secareanu admitted he was initially “very afraid” of the kinds of scenes he would be tasked with filming for the gay drama film. “But the way each character has sex tells a lot about them; the way that they develop their relationship,” he told Attitude. The first sexual encounter between Secareanu’s character Gheorghe and Johnny (Josh O’Connor) is quick, aggressive and with little intimacy. As Johnny slowly learns to open up to Gheroghe, their second encounter is far more romantic; intense in a different way to the first. Both actors later told of how they developed a close bond in real life after working together on-screen.

Orion Pictures

5/10 Carol

A film that finds its eroticism in small gestures — in the languid rest of a glove, in a glance, shared across a crowded room — when it comes to director Todd Haynes actually filming the first time Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett) have sex, their chemistry is already so palpable that the moment feels nothing short of explosive. “It’s very much like shooting a musical number,” Haynes told E!News of the scene. “You start the music and basically you just go and the camera finds the moments and the beats. And we had some amazing material with these two women to work with.”

StudioCanal

6/10 Moonlight

Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winner is one of the most tender depictions of yearning in modern cinema. Its protagonist Chiron (played by Ashton Sanders here, at other points by Alex R. Hibbert and Trevante Rhodes) experiences his first sexual encounter with fellow student Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) on a quiet, isolated beach. Their fumbling may pay testament to the awkwardness of a teenager’s first experiences, but Jenkins’ approach also gives the moment a profound grace, and an acknowledgement of how it will come to shape Chiron’s own view of himself. “It’s the first time I filmed a sex scene. It’s the first time these actors had performed a sex scene,” Jenkins told Entertainment Weekly of the scene. “It’s not gratuitous. It’s very delicate in keeping with most of the film, but it kept me up at night. I really wanted to get the feelings of that first sort of sexual expression, and I wanted to get it right… but then, when we got to shoot it, it rolled off like butter.”

A24

7/10 Don’t Look Now

Much like Blue Valentine, Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 classic swiftly faced controversy due to a sex scene so emotionally faithful (while also depicting a female character, Julie Christie’s Laura, receiving oral sex), that it caused clashes with censors. A grieving couple desperately holding onto the shreds of their marriage after the death of their child, Laura and John (Donald Sutherland)’s raw emotions and vulnerability in this moment are famously intercut with post-coital preparations to go to dinner — an attempt, in fact, to satiate censors. Christie herself admitted the film’s innovations made the scene difficult to film since, “There were no available examples, no role models … I just went blank and Nic [Roeg] shouted instructions.»

British Lion Films

8/10 Team America: World Police

Sex is funny, sometimes hilarious. There’s no getting through this list without acknowledging that fact, and there’s no better film to summarise it than Team America: World Police and its infamous puppet intercourse, enthusiastically filing through every sexual position in the book. As puppet creator Stephen Chiodo noted to MovieWeb, it’s the scene’s bracing artifice that’s actually the key to its humour. As he explained, “The more realistic it became, the less funny it was. The more axes of movement, the more lifelike movement we gave the puppets during the sex scene, it just wasn’t funny. But when you had them stiff like dolls, kind of rutting, it just was funny.”

Paramount Pictures

9/10 Mulholland Drive

Trust David Lynch to create a highly-charged sex scene that inevitably only becomes part of the web created to deceive and befuddle us. Rita (Laura Harring) and Betty (Naomi Watts) may consummate their bubbling affections for each other in a sensuous, dreamlike manner — but who is Rita in this moment? Who is Betty? Is this encounter real or imagined? This moment of lush, Hollywood perfection only creates the set up for Mulholland Drive’s earth-shattering twist. Betty is now Diane, and her own sexual experience couldn’t be any more different: a tear-soaked, anguished masturbation scene that seems exemplary of her own broken soul.

10/10 Unfaithful

One of the finest examples of the erotic thriller, director Adrian Lyne depicts the extramarital affair in its full urgency, its entire spectrum of conflicted emotions, as suburban housewife Connie (Diane Lane) becomes enraptured by a handsome young Frenchman (Olivier Martinez). Their initial encounter is at first tenuous, tender, before a hunger seems to consume Connie and her guilt is momentarily forgotten in the throes of extreme passion, only for them to creep slowly back on the train ride home. The memory of its erotic power, the searing regret; those feelings soon become feverishly intertwined.

20th Century Fox

According to Dr Snyder, couples frequently encounter an issue where they only become aroused together “if sex is on the menu”.

In comparison, the happiest couples, according to Dr Snyder, are actually those who engage in something called “simmering”.

“The happiest couples enjoy feeling excited together even when it’s not going to lead to sex,” Dr Snyder said. “In sex therapy, we call this ‘simmering’. 

Simmering is essentially extended foreplay, “like what most teenage couples do in-between classes. Clothes on but definitely erotic”, Dr Snyder told us. “Simmering tends to keep the fire lit — so when you actually do have sex, you’re not starting off cold.” 

This can mean engaging in foreplay such as kissing or rubbing, without intending for it to lead to sex. 

Foreplay is especially important because it prepares the body both physically and psychologically for when you do have sex.

Dr Snyder also told us that he wants people to know that “not all orgasms are created equal” — and that couples should aim to enjoy sex without focusing solely on reaching orgasm

“Ideally, orgasm should be like dessert: a great way to end a fabulous meal, but hardly the reason you went out to dinner,” he said. 

However, when it does come to orgasms, Sari Cooper, a sex therapist and the director of Centre for Love and Sex, wants women to know that “their pleasure and orgasms are equally as important as their partner’s”.

1/20 The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen (2017)

She covers her breasts with her swimsuit. The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.

2/20 2. Men Like Air by Tom Connolly (2016)

The walkway to the terminal was all carpet, no oxygen. Dilly bundled Finn into the first restroom on offer, locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt. “You’re beautiful,” she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo.

3/20 3. The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca (2016)

She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in. I entered her. Not only my prick, but the whole of me entered her, into her guts, into her darkness, eyes wide open, seeing nothing. My whole body had gone inside her. I went in with her thrusts and stayed still. While I got used to the quiet and the pulsing of my blood in my ears and nose, she pushed me out a little, then in again. She did it again and again, holding me with force and moving me to the rhythm of the surf. She wiggled her breasts beneath my hands and intensified the pushing. I went in up to my groin and came out almost entirely. My body was her gearstick.

4/20 4. List of the Lost by Morrissey (2015)

At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.

5/20 5. Infrared by Nancy Huston (2012)

In a delirium of restrained desire, I weigh, stroke and lick Kamal’s balls, then take his penis in my hands, between my breasts, into my mouth. He sits up, reaches for me and I allow him to explore me in turn. He runs his tongue and lips over my breasts, the back of my neck, my toes, my stomach, the countless treasures between my legs, oh the sheer ecstasy of lips and tongues on genitals, either simultaneously or in alternation, never will I tire of that silvery fluidity, my sex swimming in joy like a fish in water, my self freed of both self and other, the quivering sensation, the carnal pink palpitation that detaches you from all colour and all flesh, making you see only stars, constellations, milky ways, propelling you bodiless and soulless into undulating space where the undulating skies make your non-body undulate.

6/20 6. Ed King by David Guterson (2011)

He freed himself from her nipple after a long attachment so as to kiss her on the mouth at length – as if seeking to set the world record for kiss duration – and she smelled her breast on his breath, which was otherwise piquant with saliva, a little tart, a little bitter, and humid with the churning underworld – the raw metabolism and generative heat – beneath the flawless exterior. Jim Long’s odor had been a little like Naugahyde, and his mouth, lips, and tongue had often tasted metallic (or, just as often, steeped in vermouth), whereas Ed smelled vulnerably digestive, warm-blooded, moist, and, just now, breast-fed.

7/20 7. 11.22.63 by Stephen King (2011)

She said, “Don’t make me wait, I’ve had enough of that,” and so I kissed the sweaty hollow of her temple and moved my hips forward … She gasped, retreated a little, then raised her hips to meet me. “Sadie? All right?” “Ohmygodyes,” she said and I laughed. She opened her eyes and looked up at me with curiosity and hopefulness. “Is it over, or is there more?” “A little more,” I said. “I don’t know how much. I haven’t been with a woman in a long time.” It turned out there was quite a bit more … At the end she began to gasp. “Oh dear, oh my dear, oh my dear dear God, oh sugar!”

8/20 8. The Shape of Her by Rowan Somerville (2010)

The triangle of pubic hair, blond, a thin line bunched darkly, like desert vegetation following an underground stream. He placed his hand on the concave stretch that was her belly, letting two fingers rest in the yawn of her navel. He slipped downwards, grazing the tight skin of her waist with his fingertips. He reached her hair line and the muscles of her belly hardened as she raised herself up onto her elbows. She stayed his hand and drew him, yanked him, into a smothering kiss. She released his hair from her fingers and twisted onto her belly like a fish flipping itself, her movement so brusque his chin bounced off her head… The wet friction of her, tight around him, the sight of her open, stretched around him, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.

9/20 9. The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave (2009)

He slips his hands under her cotton vest and her body spasms and slackens and he cups her small, cold breasts in his hands and feels the hard pearls of her nipples, like tiny secrets, against the barked palms of his hands. He feels the gradual winding down of her dying heart and can see a bluish tinge blossoming on the skin of her skull through her thin, ironed hair. “’Oh, my dear Avril,’ he says. He puts his hands under her knees and manoeuvres her carefully so that her bottom rests on the edge of the settee. He slips his fingers underneath the worn elastic of her panties that are strung across the points of her hips, slips them to her ankles and softly draws apart her knees and feels again a watery ardour in his eyes as he negotiates a button and a zipper. It is exactly as he imagined it – the hair, the lips, the hole – and he slips his hands under her wasted buttocks and enters her like a fucking pile driver.

10/20 10. The Humbling by Philip Roth (2009)

First Pegeen stepped into the contraption, adjusted and secured the leather straps, and affixed the dildo so that it jutted straight out. Then she crouched above Tracy, brushing Tracy’s lips and nipples with her mouth and fondling her breasts, and then she slid down a ways and gently penetrated Tracy with the dildo. Pegeen did not have to force her open… The green cock plunged in and out of the abundant naked body sprawled beneath it, slow at first, then faster and harder, then harder still, and all of Tracy’s curves and hollows moved in unison with it. This was not soft porn. This was no longer two unclothed women caressing and kissing on a bed. There was something primitive about it now, this woman-on-woman violence, as though, in the room filled with shadows, Pegeen were a magical composite of shaman, acrobat, and animal. It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be.

11/20 11. Will by Christopher Rush (2007)

O glorious pubes! The ultimate triangle, whose angles delve to hell but point to paradise. Let me sing the black banner, the blackbird’s wing, the chink, the cleft, the keyhole in the door. The fig, the fanny, the cranny, the quim — I’d come close to it now, this sudden blush, this ancient avenue, the end of all odysseys and epic aim of life, pulling at my prick now, pulling like a lodestone. Anne Hathaway’s cow-milking fingers, cradling my balls in her almond palm, now took pity on the poor anguished erection, and in the infinite agony of her desire, guided it to the quick of the wound. At the same time I searched wildly with the fingers of my left hand, groping blind as Cyclops, found the pulpy furred wetness, parted the old lips of time and slipped my middle finger into the sancta sanctorum. It welcomed me with soft sucking sounds, syllables older than language, solace lovelier than words.

12/20 12. The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer (2007)

Klara turned head to foot, and put her most unmentionable part down on his hard-breathing nose and mouth, and took his old battering ram into her lips. Uncle was now as soft as a coil of excrement. She sucked on him nonetheless with an avidity that could come only from the Evil One — that she knew. From there, the impulse had come. So now they both had their heads at the wrong end, and the Evil One was there. He had never been so close before. The Hound began to come to life. Right in her mouth. It surprised her. Alois had been so limp. But now he was a man again! His mouth lathered with her sap, he turned around and embraced her face with all the passion of his own lips and face, ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety.

13/20 13. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (2006)

If Dawn Madden’s breasts were a pair of Danishes, Debby Crombie’s got two Space Hoppers. Each armed with a gribbly nipple. Tom Yew kissed them in turn and his saliva glistened in the April sun. I know watching was wrong but I couldn’t not. Tom Yew slipped off her red panties and stroked the cressy hair there… Tom Yew got on her and sort of jiggled there and she gasped like he was giving her a Chinese burn and wrapped her legs round him, froggily. Now he moved up and down, Man-from Atlantisly. His silver chain jiggled on his neck. Now her grubby soles met like they were praying. Now his skin was glazed in roast pork sweat. Now she made a noise like a tortured Moomintroll. Now Tom Yew’s body jerkjerked judderily jackknifed and a noise like a ripping cable tore out of him. Once more, like he’d been booted in the balls. Her fingernails’d sunk salmony welts into his arse. Debby Crombie’s mouth made a perfect O.

14/20 14. Winkler by Giles Coren (2005)

And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he’d ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.

15/20 15. Young Turk by Moris Farhi (2004)

I am stretched out on a sofa. My beloved is determined to assess my age. She has an infallible method for doing so: the way they ascertain a tree’s age: by counting the rings in its trunk. Consequently, she has my member in her mouth. Her lips are thick with lipstick. Starting from the base of my penis, her mouth ambles upwards. At each half-centimetre, her lips imprint a red ring around the shaft. She continues until she runs out of length. She counts the rings. On this occasion they add up to thirty-six. (An hour ago, the number had been forty-one.) She cuddles up to me. She coos. “Thirty-odd rings. What a mature oak in one so young!”

16/20 16. I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (2004)

Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns — oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest — no, the hand was cupping her entire right — Now! She must say “No, Hoyt” and talk to him like a dog. The fingers went under the elastic of the panties moan moan moan moan moan went Hoyt as he slithered slithered slithered slithered and caress caress caress caress went the fingers until they must be only eighths of inches from the border of her public hair — what’s that! — Her panties were so wet down. There — the fingers had definitely reached the outer stand of the field of pubic hair and would soon plunge into the wet mess that was waiting right. There-there-

17/20 17. The Crime Tsar by Nichola McAuliffe (2003)

‘It’s all right, I won’t break,’ she whispered. She felt him aware of his size and weight. His care not to hurt her. She moved to accommodate him and felt the blind probings before he slipped inside her. He was bigger than she had remembered. She tilted her hips and felt the weight of his balls on her… what? Small expanse of skin between vagina and anus. Perineum — was that it? Her mind screamed: Shut up, Lucy! You’re not doing the Cosmopolitan crossword now.

18/20 18. The Stranger at the Palazzo d’Oro by Paul Theroux (2003)

The softness of her skin in the dark, far softer-seeming because of the dark, was irresistible. And the aroma of her lily-fragrant perfume mingled with the cat smell of her steaming cunt made me salivate and pant like a lion, my nose tormented by damp fur and hot blood. Still I could not tell where her soft skin ended and her silk began, and the complexity of her vaginal lips was like another elaborate silken garment she had put on for me to stroke. I adored the gleam of her body in the light from the streetlamps and the blistered moon… She knelt and worshipped my cock with her mouth and her gloved hands and she cried out louder than I did when I came, spattering her face as she licked.

19/20 19. Bunker 13 by Aniruddha Bahal (2003)

She’s taking off her blouse. It’s on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She’s taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There’s a design as well. You gasp. ‘What’s that?’ you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator. As your hands roam her back, her breasts, and trace the swastika on her mound you start feeling like an ancient Aryan warlord yourself.

20/20 20. Starcrossed by AA Gill (1999)

His tongue is long and hard and tastes of mint. We don’t say anything, but he pushes me to my knees in the middle of the shop. It’s difficult to undo his flies. I put my hand in. It’s hot and damp, and then, Christ; it’s amazing, huge. It just goes on and on, as thick as… «As a magnum? A jeroboam? A methuselah? A bitter pump?» «A fucking salami. Shut up, John.»

1/20 The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen (2017)

She covers her breasts with her swimsuit. The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.

2/20 2. Men Like Air by Tom Connolly (2016)

The walkway to the terminal was all carpet, no oxygen. Dilly bundled Finn into the first restroom on offer, locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt. “You’re beautiful,” she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo.

3/20 3. The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca (2016)

She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in. I entered her. Not only my prick, but the whole of me entered her, into her guts, into her darkness, eyes wide open, seeing nothing. My whole body had gone inside her. I went in with her thrusts and stayed still. While I got used to the quiet and the pulsing of my blood in my ears and nose, she pushed me out a little, then in again. She did it again and again, holding me with force and moving me to the rhythm of the surf. She wiggled her breasts beneath my hands and intensified the pushing. I went in up to my groin and came out almost entirely. My body was her gearstick.

4/20 4. List of the Lost by Morrissey (2015)

At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.

5/20 5. Infrared by Nancy Huston (2012)

In a delirium of restrained desire, I weigh, stroke and lick Kamal’s balls, then take his penis in my hands, between my breasts, into my mouth. He sits up, reaches for me and I allow him to explore me in turn. He runs his tongue and lips over my breasts, the back of my neck, my toes, my stomach, the countless treasures between my legs, oh the sheer ecstasy of lips and tongues on genitals, either simultaneously or in alternation, never will I tire of that silvery fluidity, my sex swimming in joy like a fish in water, my self freed of both self and other, the quivering sensation, the carnal pink palpitation that detaches you from all colour and all flesh, making you see only stars, constellations, milky ways, propelling you bodiless and soulless into undulating space where the undulating skies make your non-body undulate.

6/20 6. Ed King by David Guterson (2011)

He freed himself from her nipple after a long attachment so as to kiss her on the mouth at length – as if seeking to set the world record for kiss duration – and she smelled her breast on his breath, which was otherwise piquant with saliva, a little tart, a little bitter, and humid with the churning underworld – the raw metabolism and generative heat – beneath the flawless exterior. Jim Long’s odor had been a little like Naugahyde, and his mouth, lips, and tongue had often tasted metallic (or, just as often, steeped in vermouth), whereas Ed smelled vulnerably digestive, warm-blooded, moist, and, just now, breast-fed.

7/20 7. 11.22.63 by Stephen King (2011)

She said, “Don’t make me wait, I’ve had enough of that,” and so I kissed the sweaty hollow of her temple and moved my hips forward … She gasped, retreated a little, then raised her hips to meet me. “Sadie? All right?” “Ohmygodyes,” she said and I laughed. She opened her eyes and looked up at me with curiosity and hopefulness. “Is it over, or is there more?” “A little more,” I said. “I don’t know how much. I haven’t been with a woman in a long time.” It turned out there was quite a bit more … At the end she began to gasp. “Oh dear, oh my dear, oh my dear dear God, oh sugar!”

8/20 8. The Shape of Her by Rowan Somerville (2010)

The triangle of pubic hair, blond, a thin line bunched darkly, like desert vegetation following an underground stream. He placed his hand on the concave stretch that was her belly, letting two fingers rest in the yawn of her navel. He slipped downwards, grazing the tight skin of her waist with his fingertips. He reached her hair line and the muscles of her belly hardened as she raised herself up onto her elbows. She stayed his hand and drew him, yanked him, into a smothering kiss. She released his hair from her fingers and twisted onto her belly like a fish flipping itself, her movement so brusque his chin bounced off her head… The wet friction of her, tight around him, the sight of her open, stretched around him, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.

9/20 9. The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave (2009)

He slips his hands under her cotton vest and her body spasms and slackens and he cups her small, cold breasts in his hands and feels the hard pearls of her nipples, like tiny secrets, against the barked palms of his hands. He feels the gradual winding down of her dying heart and can see a bluish tinge blossoming on the skin of her skull through her thin, ironed hair. “’Oh, my dear Avril,’ he says. He puts his hands under her knees and manoeuvres her carefully so that her bottom rests on the edge of the settee. He slips his fingers underneath the worn elastic of her panties that are strung across the points of her hips, slips them to her ankles and softly draws apart her knees and feels again a watery ardour in his eyes as he negotiates a button and a zipper. It is exactly as he imagined it – the hair, the lips, the hole – and he slips his hands under her wasted buttocks and enters her like a fucking pile driver.

10/20 10. The Humbling by Philip Roth (2009)

First Pegeen stepped into the contraption, adjusted and secured the leather straps, and affixed the dildo so that it jutted straight out. Then she crouched above Tracy, brushing Tracy’s lips and nipples with her mouth and fondling her breasts, and then she slid down a ways and gently penetrated Tracy with the dildo. Pegeen did not have to force her open… The green cock plunged in and out of the abundant naked body sprawled beneath it, slow at first, then faster and harder, then harder still, and all of Tracy’s curves and hollows moved in unison with it. This was not soft porn. This was no longer two unclothed women caressing and kissing on a bed. There was something primitive about it now, this woman-on-woman violence, as though, in the room filled with shadows, Pegeen were a magical composite of shaman, acrobat, and animal. It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be.

11/20 11. Will by Christopher Rush (2007)

O glorious pubes! The ultimate triangle, whose angles delve to hell but point to paradise. Let me sing the black banner, the blackbird’s wing, the chink, the cleft, the keyhole in the door. The fig, the fanny, the cranny, the quim — I’d come close to it now, this sudden blush, this ancient avenue, the end of all odysseys and epic aim of life, pulling at my prick now, pulling like a lodestone. Anne Hathaway’s cow-milking fingers, cradling my balls in her almond palm, now took pity on the poor anguished erection, and in the infinite agony of her desire, guided it to the quick of the wound. At the same time I searched wildly with the fingers of my left hand, groping blind as Cyclops, found the pulpy furred wetness, parted the old lips of time and slipped my middle finger into the sancta sanctorum. It welcomed me with soft sucking sounds, syllables older than language, solace lovelier than words.

12/20 12. The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer (2007)

Klara turned head to foot, and put her most unmentionable part down on his hard-breathing nose and mouth, and took his old battering ram into her lips. Uncle was now as soft as a coil of excrement. She sucked on him nonetheless with an avidity that could come only from the Evil One — that she knew. From there, the impulse had come. So now they both had their heads at the wrong end, and the Evil One was there. He had never been so close before. The Hound began to come to life. Right in her mouth. It surprised her. Alois had been so limp. But now he was a man again! His mouth lathered with her sap, he turned around and embraced her face with all the passion of his own lips and face, ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety.

13/20 13. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (2006)

If Dawn Madden’s breasts were a pair of Danishes, Debby Crombie’s got two Space Hoppers. Each armed with a gribbly nipple. Tom Yew kissed them in turn and his saliva glistened in the April sun. I know watching was wrong but I couldn’t not. Tom Yew slipped off her red panties and stroked the cressy hair there… Tom Yew got on her and sort of jiggled there and she gasped like he was giving her a Chinese burn and wrapped her legs round him, froggily. Now he moved up and down, Man-from Atlantisly. His silver chain jiggled on his neck. Now her grubby soles met like they were praying. Now his skin was glazed in roast pork sweat. Now she made a noise like a tortured Moomintroll. Now Tom Yew’s body jerkjerked judderily jackknifed and a noise like a ripping cable tore out of him. Once more, like he’d been booted in the balls. Her fingernails’d sunk salmony welts into his arse. Debby Crombie’s mouth made a perfect O.

14/20 14. Winkler by Giles Coren (2005)

And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he’d ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.

15/20 15. Young Turk by Moris Farhi (2004)

I am stretched out on a sofa. My beloved is determined to assess my age. She has an infallible method for doing so: the way they ascertain a tree’s age: by counting the rings in its trunk. Consequently, she has my member in her mouth. Her lips are thick with lipstick. Starting from the base of my penis, her mouth ambles upwards. At each half-centimetre, her lips imprint a red ring around the shaft. She continues until she runs out of length. She counts the rings. On this occasion they add up to thirty-six. (An hour ago, the number had been forty-one.) She cuddles up to me. She coos. “Thirty-odd rings. What a mature oak in one so young!”

16/20 16. I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (2004)

Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns — oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest — no, the hand was cupping her entire right — Now! She must say “No, Hoyt” and talk to him like a dog. The fingers went under the elastic of the panties moan moan moan moan moan went Hoyt as he slithered slithered slithered slithered and caress caress caress caress went the fingers until they must be only eighths of inches from the border of her public hair — what’s that! — Her panties were so wet down. There — the fingers had definitely reached the outer stand of the field of pubic hair and would soon plunge into the wet mess that was waiting right. There-there-

17/20 17. The Crime Tsar by Nichola McAuliffe (2003)

‘It’s all right, I won’t break,’ she whispered. She felt him aware of his size and weight. His care not to hurt her. She moved to accommodate him and felt the blind probings before he slipped inside her. He was bigger than she had remembered. She tilted her hips and felt the weight of his balls on her… what? Small expanse of skin between vagina and anus. Perineum — was that it? Her mind screamed: Shut up, Lucy! You’re not doing the Cosmopolitan crossword now.

18/20 18. The Stranger at the Palazzo d’Oro by Paul Theroux (2003)

The softness of her skin in the dark, far softer-seeming because of the dark, was irresistible. And the aroma of her lily-fragrant perfume mingled with the cat smell of her steaming cunt made me salivate and pant like a lion, my nose tormented by damp fur and hot blood. Still I could not tell where her soft skin ended and her silk began, and the complexity of her vaginal lips was like another elaborate silken garment she had put on for me to stroke. I adored the gleam of her body in the light from the streetlamps and the blistered moon… She knelt and worshipped my cock with her mouth and her gloved hands and she cried out louder than I did when I came, spattering her face as she licked.

19/20 19. Bunker 13 by Aniruddha Bahal (2003)

She’s taking off her blouse. It’s on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She’s taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There’s a design as well. You gasp. ‘What’s that?’ you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator. As your hands roam her back, her breasts, and trace the swastika on her mound you start feeling like an ancient Aryan warlord yourself.

20/20 20. Starcrossed by AA Gill (1999)

His tongue is long and hard and tastes of mint. We don’t say anything, but he pushes me to my knees in the middle of the shop. It’s difficult to undo his flies. I put my hand in. It’s hot and damp, and then, Christ; it’s amazing, huge. It just goes on and on, as thick as… «As a magnum? A jeroboam? A methuselah? A bitter pump?» «A fucking salami. Shut up, John.»

According to a 2017 study published in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 37 per cent of American women require clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm, compared with just 18 per cent of women who said that vaginal penetration alone is enough. 

Cooper also told us it is important for women to know that sex should not include pain. While there are various reasons that a woman may be experiencing pain during sex, with dryness the most common cause, that does not mean it is not normal, and those who do experience pain should seek professional help. 

Finally, Cooper wants people to be aware of what she calls “sex esteem” — a term she coined to “articulate a person’s knowledge and acceptance of their desires and skills needed to express these to a partner”. 

To achieve a healthy and fulfilling sex life, it is essential that you are able to discuss what you want from a partner, which starts with first understanding your own body, sexuality and desires.