Everyone wants sex, but no one's talking dirty. Dig deep into the sexual psyches of thousands of men and women, as we did, and this little irony stands out. Lack of communication – not lack of interest – is the top bedroom complaint for men. For women, it ranks second, just behind too-short foreplay.
That's why we brought both sides to the table for a sex summit. With the help of Cosmopolitan magazine, we asked 6000 men and women to tell us everything – what they like, what they hate, what they've done, what they're dying to try. The results were as surprising – men and women want sex equally often – as they were enticing: most women want to experiment and are just waiting for you to ask.
But our survey results are more than just a collection of dirty secrets. Combined with tips from our experts, they're an instruction manual for giving both of you what you want. Let the dialogue begin.
Turn Her On Instantly
"Women want sex just as much as – if not more than – men do," says Dr Emily Nagoski, a sex researcher at Indiana University. "But women often feel shy about making the first move." Too shy, say the 66 per cent of men in the survey who wish women would initiate more often.
How to help bring her out of her sexual shell? Coax her. Tempt her. Tease her, advise our experts. Give her a deep, sigh-inducing kiss – then stop. Or pull her close, press tight against her thigh, then move away.
"You're letting her know you're open to her advance but making her bring it to the next level of intimacy," says sexuality educator Amy Levine. Once she's comfortable making the moves, she'll be more likely to pounce when the urge strikes.
Stoke the Home Fires
Unleash your inner Jamie Oliver and you'll nail the top two mood-boosters for women. "When you cook for somebody, it says, 'You're worth my time', and that's the biggest turn-on of all," says Martha Hopkins, author of Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook.
Our advice: whip up an easy starter, not a five-course meal. A simple asparagus-and-prosciutto dish – sauté the stalks in olive oil for three minutes, wrap with prosciutto, sprinkle on goat's cheese and pine nuts – is packed with zinc, a key mineral needed for maintaining erections.
Follow with a chocolate dessert and you'll load up on phenylethylamine, a neurotransmitter that activates the brain's pleasure centre, and caffeine, which can jolt sex drive.
Dance Her Pants Off
Home cooking not cutting it? "Take her ironic dancing," suggests Nicole Beland, the US MH's Girl Next Door. Go somewhere ridiculous: oldies night at a ballroom-dancing club; line dancing, if you both hate country music; a Seventies disco joint; an Eighties club playing a sickening mix of Dee-Lite, Salt-N-Pepa and George Michael. "Dancing really well at any of these places would actually be more embarrassing than if you just did the robot," says Beland. "The two of you will goof around, make fun of everyone else, and end up having an amazing time."
She's a serious dancer? Make merengue your mission. "It's the easiest Latin dance to learn, and it's sensual and energetic," says professional dance instructor Yuri Datsyk.
Go Home Together
"She probably won't be shocked if you suggest she comes back to your place after a first date," says Beland. But will she say yes? Make this your litmus test.
1. Graze her thigh. As you flirt, stand or sit within 15 centimetres of her. If she seems unruffled, move closer. Eventually you want your thigh to be pressed against hers, whether you're standing or sitting. If she's into it, move on to step two, says Beland. If she squirms, back off.
2. Plant one, already. A make-out session is a prerequisite to a sexual proposition, says Beland. Pay attention to how intensely she's kissing back. You want the "I want to eat you alive, starting with your head" kind of kiss, not the demure "Nice to meet you" kind of kiss.
3. Pop the question. Your approach can be either funny ("So, what do you say we go back to my place for milkshakes and Jenga?"); hesitant and humble ("I don't even know how to ask you this, but I would really love to be alone with you"); or straightforward and honest ("Please, God, tell me that we can go home together"). Dial back the sleaze factor and, "chances are, if she's been shoving her tongue down your throat, any one of them could probably end up working", says Beland.
Follow Her Lead
Foreplay is your fact-finding mission. Syncing the way you communicate in bed – verbally and nonverbally – will rev her engines more quickly, says Dr Brian Mustanski, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
He suggests a technique called "sensate focus". "During foreplay, agree that the genitals are off limits. Touch the other parts of her body, using fingers, a feather, a silk scarf, or anything that turns her on, and ask her to describe how it feels," he says. Watch and listen for nonverbal clues too – moans, thrusts, gasps. Engage her hot spots properly and she'll be begging to move to the main event, in which you'll watch for those same signals. The better you're able to read her, the more likely you'll both reach a happy ending.
Score Before Breakfast
The hard sell seldom works. Here's how to heat things up before your waffle pops.
1. Wake up earlier. "A woman won't want sex if she feels hurried," says Nagoski. "Her clitoris won't respond to even the most skilled touch if she's worried about being late for work. And besides, she needs about 20 minutes to reach orgasm, anyway." Set the alarm early or, better yet, wait until the weekend to ensure that she's relaxed and responsive.
2. Whisper, don't poke. Women need aural stimulation to help kill self-consciousness about eye gunk and bed head, says Nagoski. So pull her close and say, "You're so beautiful in the morning" or "I love waking up with you". If you're spooning, deliver some sensual kisses to the back of her neck.
3. Bring her some OJ. Juice masks morning breath, and "the citrus will jumpstart her arousal system", says Dr Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. Bonus: vitamin C boosts your adrenaline, giving you extra stamina. She'll appreciate that.
Find Your Rhythm
Don't sell yourself short. "Every guy I've ever, um, known has confessed that he didn't think his penis size was anything to write home about," says Beland. "But they were all perfectly well hung."
Make the most of what you have by using powerful, deep thrusts at a slow-to-medium pace. "It can be wonderfully intense. Piston-like porno thrusting feels horrible. It can leave a girl dry, sore and bored," Beland says. Add side-to-side movement, or up-and-down pelvic pressure against her clitoris when you're all the way inside, to vary the stimulation.
Kiss Better Below
"Being too rough" is the worst mistake men make during oral sex, the women in the study said. "Guys think they need to thrust and flick," says sex therapist Dr Ian Kerner, the author of She Comes First. "But often what she wants is a firm, still tongue – a point of pressure – so she can set the rhythm and pace."
Another trick: ask her to kiss your earlobe with the same pressure she prefers during oral, then copy her style next time you're south of the border.
Make a Bigger Bang
Thinking about cricket or the weather tends to kill the moment entirely, and the oft-cited stop-start technique can leave her hanging. Instead, try thinking about other ways of pleasuring her, says Mustanski.
When you feel your point of no return approaching – it's technically called "ejaculatory inevitability" – treat it as a cue to start stimulating her in a different way. Massage her clitoris with your fingers. Or, while inside her, press against it with the part of your abdomen just above your penis. Or stop and give her oral for a while.
"If you're smooth, she'll have no idea you're just trying to regulate your ejaculation," says Mustanski. "But all you have to do is let your system settle from its excited point."
Explore Her Experimental Side
Sexual experimentation is earned, not inherited. Unless you're dating a dominatrix, it requires time, tact and trust: 66 per cent of the women we surveyed said they're most willing to experiment later in a relationship.
How can you put yourself on the fast track? "Make her feel like she won't be judged," says Candida Royalle, an erotic-film producer and the author of How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do. Here's a three-step plan for discovering what her wildest desires are.
1. Plant the seed. The best erotic icebreaker? The written word. "Women like the story aspect of porn," says Dr Patti Britton, author of The Art of Sex Coaching. "But sometimes pornography can be too shocking." A softer touch: fuel her imagination by slipping a bookmark into a sexy scene in a classic, classy novel – The Garden of Eden, by Ernest Hemingway, say, or something contemporary like The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger.
2. Feel her out. Introduce the idea indirectly. Add a steamy, woman-friendly film to your Netflix queue – In the Cut, The Thomas Crown Affair (the newer one) – and use the sex scene as a conversation catalyst. Or reference something sexy you saw in a magazine (such as this very article), Royalle suggests. "That way, you can ask your partner, 'Did you ever think of doing that?' without pointedly saying, 'This is what I want'."
3. Start tame. Come to bed in buttless chaps and a ball gag and, chances are, you'll spend the night alone. Try pubic grooming as a starter kit for kink: More than 67 per cent of women we surveyed said they'd be up for a trim, if asked (and 55 per cent have gone completely bare at least once). "It helps pave the way for more playful experimentation," says Royalle, who suggests offering to let her trim you first. (Ninety-five per cent of men said they'd be up for a trim.)
Watch and Learn
Masturbation isn't just her release valve; it's your sex school – if she's happy to let you watch. "It's very intimate, but it is important for her to share what she likes," says Melinda Gallagher, co-founder of the women's sexual empowerment group CAKE and co-author of A Piece of CAKE: Recipes for Female Sexual Pleasure.
Lower the stage-fright factor by encouraging her to guide your hands. Once she's okay with sharing, Gallagher says, she might be willing to start a toy box – or pry open the one she's been hiding from you. No toys? Log on. "Shopping together lets you talk about your fantasies and your limits," says Nagoski. All without hitting a dodgy back-street sex shop.
Fulfil Her Every Fantasy
Role playing means more than her squeezing into that old cheerleader outfit. "A woman's sexual thoughts are kinky and creative," says Gallagher. "Becoming someone else can unlock those desires." Translation: she'll be up for acting out her wildest fantasies. "Some women like the rush of being swept away," says Gallagher. So, what are you waiting for, men? There's a damsel in distress in the next room. Go save her.