How Can We Put The Joy Back Into SEX?

Guest blog by Susan Quilliam
Author of The Joy of Sex: The Timeless Guide to Lovemaking, Ultimate Revised Edition
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

It was a great day for me when I was first asked to reinvent the seminal sex book "Joy of Sex". The original - written by Dr Alex Comfort - was a groundbreaking work, coming as it did at the start of the sexual revolution of the 1970s; now I was being asked to revisit the work, update, rewrite and bring it into the twenty-first century.

And indeed, the years of work and the launch of the book have been absolutely rewarding. But it's dawned on me, gradually, that much has changed since the original publication 37 years ago. Sure, in those decades, we've become more liberated, more uninhibited, more able to have sex with who we want, when we want and in the ways we want.

But... but... I kept reading the original, with its energy and enthusiasm for lovemaking, its bright eyed optimism about a world where sex would be wonderful all the time.... And I kept looking around at the world of the Noughties, and realizing that optimism wasn't well-founded.

For many of us don't feel the joy of sex that we want to feel. Perhaps because we're more aware of the dangers - how easily sex can be misused, how easily it can be abused. Perhaps because there is more pressure to have sex, great sex, 24/7. Perhaps because in our lives, in our relationships, the pleasure has died... as my work on the book continued, and my understanding of the issues involved developed, I started to feel, strongly, that we need to reintroduce the joyfulness, the enthusiasm, the optimism, that - naively perhaps - was there, forty years ago, when Joy of Sex was first written.

Let's be sex positive

There are in our society so many warnings against sex - often for good reason. But let's also remember that in its essence, between two loving and responsible adults, sex is a wonderful thing. It builds physical health, improves mental health, boosts self esteem, possibly lowers the risk of some kinds of cancer; it even helps you live longer. 

Let's make sex anxiety free

One of the most practical and straightforward things we can do to have joyful sex is to remove all the anxiety from it. Reliable contraception reliably used, reliable protection reliably used; then we can relax and enjoy what follows. Being well-informed about safe sex, getting - and giving - the support we need to have sex safely. 

Let's make sex central

We live time-poor lives, where we have to work long hours to make ends meet, and then rush from one demanding commitment to another. Let's take time out for ourselves, to make love with a partner. The most recent research suggests that carving out a weekend every few months can reignite our desire for each other. No more excuses; we need to do it.

Let's make sex meaningful

What we now know - where perhaps in the 'sexual revolution' they didn't - is just how powerful sexual contact is. It binds you to a partner, creates a link between you that always remains even if the two of you don't stay together - when you make love, you do just that. Let's take sex seriously, and treat it with respect.

Let's make sex varied

We can fall into the trap of thinking that we know what we like sexually - and what our partners like. But tastes change, and routines normalize. So why not keep checking in with ourselves and with each other whether what 'always works' still does. And why not introduce new options, new moves, new possibilities; the Japanese kept a 'pillow book' of ideas by the bed to inform and inspire, and we can do the same.

Let's make sex fulfilling

It can be - particularly for her - that climax gets put to one side. Over time, perhaps it becomes acceptable that she doesn't orgasm every single time. The ideal is that both of us should do so most times we make love - if that's not happening, no wonder the joy is seeping away. Learn how to make that happen...

Let's troubleshoot if we need to

Sexual problems of some sort hit most couples - it's no shame if you are struggling. Age is no bar to good sex (recent research suggests sex gets better with the years) but can create physical or emotional blocks. So let's not be ashamed to go to a health practitioner if desire, or performance drops away. We have a right to lifelong sexual pleasure.

As for me, I've been commissioned to write more books in the Joy of Sex series, and to lecture on sex-positive programs in education and health contexts. In short, I feel that as my writing of Joy of Sex has come to an end, my campaign to reintroduce the joy to people's sex lives has only just begun.