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Sexual Wellness

Four Experts Weigh In on How to Slow Down Your Sex

| 12/22/2020

water sex Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

There’s nothing like a spontaneous, turbo-charged quickie, but sometimes you just want to draw out the moment as much as possible. A fleeting flash of pleasure turns into stretches of ecstasy. A momentary appreciation of your partner’s body turns into a prolonged worship session. There’s nothing like doing it nice and slow—especially this winter, when we’re going to be staying home even more than normal.

Especially in longterm relationships, we can get used to efficient maintenance sex, which certainly has its time and place. But when you’re in the mood for a long, languid approach, how can we savor the goodness? We asked four of our favorite sex and relationship therapists for their best tips on how to slowwww down your sex.

Shadeen Francis, licensed marriage and family therapist

Make it a challenge

If challenges or goals feel playful to you, pick a time that is about 15 minutes longer than a “typical” session length as the goal for your next sexual experience. If you might usually connect for 20 minutes, aim for 35 minutes; if 45 minutes, aim for an hour. But the trick will be to not keep time—see if you can draw things out by feel. Being encouraged to slow things down without actually using a clock or a timer can invite you to notice your typical rhythms, routine, and attention while inviting you to be more generous with your time.

Choose lo-fi music or ambiguous instrumentals

We aren’t always conscious of it, but music can act as a menacing timekeeper. The transition between songs or noticing your place in the playlist can pull you out of the moment and into questions of, “Am I taking too long? Are they bored?” If your intent is to slow down, try switching to smooth music that doesn’t have a clear delineation between songs or an especially recognizable beat. Lo-fi sounds and soft instrumentals can be great, but customize based on your tastes! (And if you have a curated playlist of songs you feel really committed to, try putting it on shuffle and increase the crossfade so there isn’t an abrupt shift between songs.)

Sensory play

Pick one of five primary senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) and try to maximize each of your pleasure in that domain. Maybe you try new things, like different kinds of touch. Or maybe you lean in full force, like a body buffet of different tastes. Whatever your strategy, prioritize the exploration to and attention of that sense to slow down your sexual experiences.

“The average orgasm is less than a minute long. Why use all of your time chasing 1 minute?”

Stop focusing on the orgasm

Reorient your focus to pleasure, rather than orgasm. Are you feeling good? What parts of this moment feel pleasurable? How can we extend that good feeling? Sex is ultimately about pleasure, rather than the “finishing point.” The average orgasm is less than a minute long. Why use all of your time chasing 1 minute? If you spend the entire experience racing towards the end, not only will you not enjoy it as much, you will undoubtedly miss opportunities to be present to all of the pleasurable possibilities along the way.

Alexandra Solomon, licensed clinical psychologist who teaches a class on relationships at Northwestern University

Slowing down sex starts with the premise that you deserve slow sex. You deserve to step away from your to-do list, your responsibilities, and your productivity in order to prioritize pleasure and presence. Allow yourself to fantasize during the hours leading up to sex. Let your mind wander and notice the images that capture your interest. Cultivating this erotic, imaginative space inside of you can be so permission-giving. 

It can also give you important information about what you might want to ask for later on. Consider also how you and your partner can build tension. Flirt. Send naughty messages. Make out in the kitchen even if it’s not going to lead to anything more. Playing together in this way can help you feel more connected to your sexual self and can help you transition from ordinary time to intimate time.

Erin Chen, trained sex and relationship counselor and founder of Gilly, an intimacy platform for couples with kids

For many who are working from home, one of the challenges we’ve seen is being able to transition from “work mode” (and for parents, “homeschooling / parent mode”) to being present with your partner (aka “adult time mode”). Our brain is our biggest sex organ and with the constant state of stress that many have been in, it’s been difficult to “make the switch” and make space for pleasure.

“Tantric kissing heightens your sense of presence with each other and transitions you into your sacred couple space.”

It helps to signal to our brain and body that we would like to make that switch. So exercises that ground our senses and help us get present to the moment help greatly. Here are two exercises from the Gilly app:

Getting grounded (in a good way)

Sitting facing your partner in a comfortable position, take a deep breath together. Then, take turns to:

  • Name 5 things you see in your environment
  • Name 4 things you hear
  • Name 3 things you feel on your skin
  • Name 2 things you smell 
  • Name 1 thing you taste

Take your time to notice your senses. This, followed by a tantric kiss is a great way to set the space for moving onto slow play, focused on pleasure.

Tantric Kiss

Slowly lean forward from your seated positions and touch your foreheads together. You can close your eyes and hold hands if that feels good. Then, for 1-2 minutes, breathe in and out deeply. If other forms of touch evolve and feel good in the moment, go with it. The intention is to heighten your sense of presence with each other and transition into your sacred couple space.

Moushumi Ghose, licensed marriage and family therapist

Too often, sex is goal-oriented—just about penetration and/or getting to that orgasm. In doing so, we’re missing all the good yummy stuff. This goal-oriented sex also makes sex become monotonous, robotic, like a task rabbit. In fact, when couples present with differences in desire and arousal, one thing I often recommend is taking penetration and orgasm completely off the table (in fact leaving the genitals out of it completely), and replacing them with new and creative activities that build on sensuality rather getting right down to business. 

Some of my favorite suggestions include initiating a five-minute makeout session. Kissing is a huge turn-on and a great way to have foreplay, but try it for an extended period of time. I also love other activities such as practicing dirty talk while keeping your clothes on! Or how about going online and perusing sex toys? The idea is to get your imagination going, and bring your creativity back into sex.

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