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As someone who’s had their fair share of both good and bad sex (long overdue apologies to my college self), I now know that “great sex” can mean different things and that there’s no one-size-f*cks-all definition.

“Sex involves our most intimate, personal thoughts and feelings,” says Marianne Brandon, PhD. And those change over time, through experience, and from partner to partner. “Good sex isn’t a cognitive experience; it’s an emotional and sensation-based experience precipitated by some type of intimate connection,” Brandon adds. “It offers us an encounter with our deepest selves via powerful physical and emotional feelings, such as aliveness, vitality, connection, and pleasure.”

That’s why, no matter how long you’ve been knocking boots with your beau, no sexual experience—good or bad—is ever exactly the same.

Truth is, good sex boils down to what is good for you and your partner(s) atm. That said (and as you’ll soon see), there are some general tenets of good sex: honest communication, mutual respect, and fun—across ages, sexual orientations, and relationship statuses.

But don’t just take my word—take it from the 25 real women who know good sex when they feel it. 

“I think there’s this notion that marriage or long-term relationships equal boring vanilla sex, but that hasn’t been my experience.”

“…In general, sex in my long-term relationships has always been far better than my short-term hookups, dating sex, etc. And so far, marriage sex is the best it’s ever been. There is something so out-of-this-world good about having such a deep connection and love for someone else that your bodies sort of act as one during sex. And when you have that level of comfort in your relationship, you can also be open and honest about experimenting with new positions, toys, and techniques, which only adds to the pleasure. Having a partner who is giving and in tune with you is a must for great sex.” —Hillary R.

“To me, good sex means being on the same page as the other person.”

“I’ve always been attracted to older men and just have better sex with them. I’ve been lucky enough to meet men who know what they are doing, don’t rush, and actually appreciate a woman’s body. I can’t resist gentle kisses mixed with a bit of roughness and sensuality. Eye contact, light touches, and taking charge are all also good sex essentials for me.” —Rochelle W.

“I know I’ve had good sex when I don’t have the energy to move afterward.” 

“Which means, ya know, that I’ve orgasmed better than I would be able to by myself. There should be some foreplay and some time spent teasing and exploring each other’s bodies, instead of just going for the home run right off the bat. I also want my partner to walk away—metaphorically because we’re doing it a second time—satisfied with the experience. And in addition to the physical stuff, there has to be some sort of emotional connection there. If I don’t trust the person or feel like they see me as an individual and not just a means to an end, I’m not going to be able to get there.” —Emily B.

“Good sex is when I’m not thinking about anything but what’s happening in me.”

“If I look into his eyes and smile like Beyonce at the end of the ‘Rocket’ music video, that, to me, is good sex.” – Emily C.

“When I first started having sex, all I cared about was making it good for my partner—at the expense of my own pleasure.”

“I didn’t want to seem greedy, so I’d say stuff like, ‘Don’t worry about me!’ (Let’s all shudder together, shall we?) Now, I know that good sex means asking for what I really want and speaking up if something ain’t working. Also, toys.” —Jordan T.

“To me, good sex is lengthy, drawn out and in a daring place. If there’s dirty talk and we both orgasm at the same time, even better.”

“…The best sex I ever had was in my college roommate’s bed—oops—because a friend was in my bed and we were too horny to wait for her to leave. It lasted so long, but neither of us were complaining. My roommate ended up walking in—again, oops—but the sex felt so good, we couldn’t stop. It was unexpected and risky…the best kind.” —Sara S., 33

“Good sex is healthy for your body, passionate for your heart, and stimulating for your mind.”

“The ‘healthy for your body’ part means with a partner with whom you feel comfortable communicating, who respects your boundaries and considers your wishes—both in terms of what you want to do and how you want to use protection when doing it.” Dr. Kate White

“Because I’m taking antidepressants, it can be harder for me to orgasm while having sex with my partner.”

“I’ve learned to reframe my idea of good sex, shifting my focus from ‘needing’ to come to simply being in the moment and enjoying the physical sensations as they happen. Thankfully, I’m in relationship with a partner who’s patient and willing to experiment, which keeps sex fun instead of frustrating.”—Sara L.

“Good sex is about feeling confident in yourself. When you feel gorgeous and sexy, and confident, I think it changes your whole state of mind.”

“Sex is so much more than just the physical act – it’s about arousing you on all levels. And just for the record, I’m having great sex! – Estelle K.

“As someone who has been married for seven-plus years, I think truly good sex is when it happens naturally and neither of you have to ask for or force it.”

“That may sound obvious, but it doesn’t happen as much once you’re married.” —Chelsey B.

“Some of the best sex we’ve ever had is when one of us isn’t really in the mood – yet…”

“…My husband and I established a method that we call the ‘traffic light rule’—when one of us is in the mood and we can’t tell if the other is, we ask what colour they are. Red means, ‘Absolutely not right now. Very sorry, but no.’ Green means, ‘You read my mind—let’s go!’ Yellow means, ‘I’m not really in the mood but willing to have you try and change my mind.’

“I wish I could say that the size and endurance of a male partner doesn’t matter, but the truth is it definitely helps.”

“Good sex is the sex you spend the next day—or hell, two—thinking about.”

“There’s a kind of magic that happens when you feel safe enough with the other person to ask for exactly what you want—and know they’re going to do their absolute best to give it to you. Even if I don’t orgasm that particular time, I still consider the experience ‘good sex’ if my partner and I were able to explore something new and learn more about each other, all the while having fun. And if I can barely breathe by the end of it, well, that’s just an extra perk.” —Lindsay G.

“Good sex means consent.”

“It means toe curling, head scratching, heart pounding, all around goodness rushing through your body in all the right places. It means doing it with someone who is willing to wait for their turn, just so you can get yours (amirite, ladies?!). It means being comfortable enough to tell them what you want and need. And, ultimately, it means having fun.” – Alexis J.

“For me, the best sex is about flexibility—and no, not literally.”

“Though, I mean, I wouldn’t turn that down.It’s about being with someone who can go from intense to giggly to loving to any other emotion they may be feeling. I hate anyone taking themselves too seriously or feeling like they’re ‘performing’ for someone. The ultimate goal of sex is pleasure, so let’s just chill out and have a good time.” —Mackenzie H.

“A willingness to try something new is important to me…”

“…Good sex, for me, can come in many different forms. But a few constants: when someone has confidence in the bedroom, when there’s open and easy communication, and when they’re down to try something new.”—Brittany M., 29

“Good sex starts way before the physical act.”

“For me, it begins by sharing the same flirting style, teasing one another, and having deep, thought-provoking conversations. It’s about feeling safe with the person you’re with, and like you share a connection to each other—even in a room full of other people. That’s the start of good foreplay. As for the physical aspect, good sex requires open-mindedness, confidence, and a passion for giving. It’s also essential that you’ve explored your own body first, so you really know what you want and feel comfortable asking for that. The best partners are turned on by turning you on, make you feel irresistible, and aren’t at all squeamish. They can also multitask—a woman’s body has so much to work with—between our hair, tongue, nipples, clit, vagina, and ass. Some combination of three of those should be getting attention from a mouth, hand, toy, or dick at all times. Ultimately, good sex engages all the senses, feeling playful but intense.You can smile at each other and completely lose your inhibitions. It makes you forget about everything else but each other in that moment.” —Kristin C.

“To me, truly good sex is going on a journey with your partner—one that involves an eagerness to communicate, explore, get vulnerable, experiment, and even laugh at times.”

“It’s about caring enough for the person you’re with that you want them to feel absolutely incredible, and vice-versa. At times, it’s equal parts selfish and selfless. You’ve gotta find that balance between doing what your partner loves and being confident enough to ask for what you want. Ultimately, good sex is about connecting with another human being and sharing a unique experience that only the two of you can create.” —Kristine T.

“As a woman who can’t come through penetration alone, good sex usually involves a sex toy for me…”

“…Some men I’ve encountered are really threatened by that. But some men and women are like, ‘F*ck yeah, if that’s what you need to get off, that’s what I want to do for you.’ An open mind and a willingness to listen to my likes, dislikes, and boundaries is just plain hot.” —Anna Akana, actress.

“I love when I can be my goofball self in the bedroom…”

“…To me, good sex is all about being present in the moment. There’s nothing quite like feeling like you’re 100% there with your partner and they’re 100% there with you. But if I can toss in a few other adjectives, I’d have to go with curiosity and playfulness. Curiosity about exploring new things and being open to what that experience could be like. And playfulness because I think most of us have the tendency to take sex way. Too. Seriously. Sometimes! I love when I can just let loose and be my goofball self in the bedroom.” —Vanessa Marin

“As an abusive relationship and sexual assault survivor, my journey to understanding what ‘good sex’ is for me has required a lot of experimenting and soul-searching.”

“After that abusive relationship, I went through a hyper-sexual phase to prove to myself that I could still have sex. Then, when I realised I wasn’t enjoying it, I went through a very long period of celibacy where I experimented with masturbation—something I’d never been comfortable with before because of society’s stigma against women’s pleasure.

What I’ve realized is that safety and communication are paramount for me. With my current partner, we spent months talking before we actually even had sex. I had never done this before—I was very much like, ‘Let’s do it ASAP’—but talking about my likes and dislikes for a while and trusting my partner means that I’m having the best sex I’ve ever had right now. Even if you don’t wanna wait that long, I feel like waiting a few dates and then talking about what you like in bed before having sex can be really hot.” —Carolina H.

“Sex can be laugh-out-loud bad. Awkward. Weird.”

“Maybe it’s from lack of communication with a partner, or because our bodies are both beautiful and strange at the same time, but normally it’s because I’m unable to let go and give in to the moment. But when it’s good and the sexual stars align, I leave my body while simultaneously feeling every part of it. And what’s better than that? – Keri M. 

“Good sex always surprises me and catches me off-guard.” 

“I can’t pinpoint what exactly makes it so good; it just is. But if I had to try to explain it, I’d say that good sex is more about the emotional connection first, then the physical comes almost automatically. If I feel connected, loved, and comfortable, we can both fully enjoy ourselves.” —Jenny N.

“I like when I can look a guy in the eye during sex – and he doesn’t look away…” 

…Good sex is all about the connection. What happens downtown is important, of course, but for me, the difference between okay sex and good sex is a lot of kissing, touching, and eye contact. If he makes the effort to focus on my facial expressions, too—it just magnifies the whole experience. What makes good sex into great sex? When my partner is just as interested in my orgasm as his own and isn’t afraid to experiment or take charge. Telling me how good everything feels or complimenting my body goes a long way, too, since it gets me out of my head.”—Marissa G., 29

“There has to be more than just physical attraction for me in order to have good sex, since it’s more than just a physical experience.”

“It’s an exchange of energy, so unless we also connect on other levels, I won’t have an enjoyable experience and would much rather masturbate alone. Good sex shouldn’t just be about the physical pleasure we receive, even with the best sex ‘skills’ in the world. If we’re not compatible in other ways, the sex will never feel good. Really good sex happens when I’m attracted to the other person on many levels, and when there’s mutual trust, respect, and passion. It’s not just about how I feel during sex, but also how I’m going to feel afterwards, too.”—Elysia D.

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.

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