THE media right now is full of tales of bad sex. Sex that's unpleasant, sex that's boring, sex that's just plain rubbish, sex that is just excruciatingly bad on every level - like the type described in the viral New Yorker short story, Cat Person. Many think sex is so bad in 2018 that we are now living in a age of New Puritanism, in an era that is anti-sex. We're also bombarded with stories that people are having less sex than ever before.

To all of the above we say - nonsense. People are people and the truth is that what most of us actually want is more sex, better sex.

What we need to do is to have a proper, adult conversation about what 'good sex' means - once we've worked that out we just need to go and put it into practice. We need to talk about how to have great sex in such a way that doesn’t reduce it down to silky lingerie, surreal sex toys, oysters, absurd porn culture, Fifty Shades Of Grey, and gymnastic positions that would baffle a contortionist. We need it to be based in good research and an honest, stereotype-free, discussion of how we feel about the way our bodies work. But we also need to acknowledge that it isn't always as vanilla as some might like. Let's think about it as a sort of adventure for two.

To start this off, we’ve brought together some of the best current advice from sex therapists and researchers, in our primer for having great sex in bad-sex-times.

Work on your erotic intelligence

Be sex smart. Sexologist Mal Harrison, founder of the Centre for Erotic Intelligence, coined this term to describe the combining of knowledge of sexuality and pleasure with emotional intelligence. “Believe it or not,” she writes, “erotic intelligence is less about knowing 50 positions from the Kama Sutra, and more about knowing who you are.” Exploring it, she says, involves looking at how we deal with rejection, or when things don’t go as planned and even how we deal with shame or failure.

Be vulnerable

American sex therapist Stephen Snyder believes that the best kind of sex looks very close to exceptionally intimate bonding – and that we should really not fear going to our most vulnerable, most real, level. “As sex therapists,” he writes, “we do our best to help people get aroused, have good orgasms and so on. But what we really want is for them to laugh, giggle, be silly and selfish and vulnerable, and to enjoy the kind of total freedom that as an adult you only really get when you’re having sex.”

Don’t worry, in other words, if it’s embarrassing – it’s almost meant to be. As British sexpert, Tracey Cox has put it: “Sex is smelly, noisy, sweaty and unflattering. If you’ve never done anything in bed that’s caused you the slightest bit of embarrassment, you win the award for The World’s Most Boring Lover.”

Banish your control freak

Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel observes: “In the US, sexuality is looked at through a moral, puritanical lens – America is at war with the concept of pleasure in general. All our pleasures are time-fraught, with overlays of discipline and work. Everything is about control. But sexuality is in many ways a negotiation with your surrendering – it’s about loss of control.”

Be mindful

Yes, everything in life is better with a bit of mindfulness. And sex too is also like that. It’s better when your head is not in a hundred other places, including whether you should have answered that urgent email. Sex researcher, Sarah Hunter Murray, who interviewed women who self-identified as having higher levels of sexual desire, describes this as something they shared. “Most of these women indicated that simply being “mentally present” during sex was one of the most important components of their ability to experience higher levels of passion and desire.

Love under the influence

Apparently a little midnight toke is recommended by sex experts - however, marijuana being a class-B drug in this country, you may have to migrate, or go on holiday, to pursue this sex enhancement legally. According to a study from New York University, the drug leads to “magnified” orgasms. The research compared the impact of booze with that of the cannabis, and found that participants in the study said that the latter resulted in increased sensitivity. Those who drank alcohol were also more likely than the smokers to experience regret.

Leave the lights on

Tempting as it may be to switch the lights off, in order to deflect attention from your beer belly or wobbly bits, the truth is that we are visual creatures, and getting a proper eyeful is more than a bit of a turn on.

Slow it down

One of the biggest movements changing how we have sex now is slow sex. Like slow food, slow fashion, and all the other slowing downs, what it tells us is that giving time, a lot of it, to sex, gives us more pleasure. The movement’s pioneer is Nicole Daedone, author of Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm. She also teaches a technique called Orgasmic Meditation. But, if that sounds all too New Age for you, don’t worry. One step at a time. Just slow down. Make time for sex, hours of it. There’s nothing wrong with pencilling a date in to your calendar.

Pay your lover more attention

It may sound obvious, but too often this simple fact is neglected. A study by a team of Israeli sex experts showed that it’s all about being responsive. When people felt more closely cared for by their partner, they were more amorous toward them. And there are countless other pieces of research that suggest something similar.’s recent Singles In America report, for instance, found that eighty-three percent of singles, regardless of sexual orientation, ranked a caring and enthusiastic partner as the top two indicators of good sex. After that, other factors for good sex included communication, being a good kisser and someone who helps them achieve orgasm. “We have focused too much on sexual novelty, but you should never abandon the basics," said Helen Fisher, chief scientific adviser to Match.

Learn about female orgasms

Forgive the pun, but we’ve come a long way, as a culture, in recent decades, in terms of our acknowledgement of the workings of the female orgasm, yet, nevertheless, many men, and some women, still think that intercourse is the best way for women to orgasm. Given that the truth is that only 35% of heterosexual women always or usually orgasm during vaginal sex alone – 44% of women said they rarely did – this is a long way from the truth. What also is not well enough known is that what really is almost guaranteed to work for women is a combination of genital stimulation, deep kissing and oral sex. Researchers have found that 80% of heterosexual women and 91% of lesbians can orgasm that way. For those who want the full lowdown on the wonders of the female climax, the website OMGYes, is an informative starting point, combining as it does the wisdom of 2000 women and the latest science.

Delay your gratification

Try 'edging', or in other words learning to control your orgasm so that you and your partner stay very nearly on the edge of orgasm together, without tipping over, for as long as you can. According to research by the Journal of Sex Research, men and women alike achieve the most satisfying climax when they do this.

Do it like you’re sixty something

According to's recently published Singles in America report, single women have the best sex of their lives at age 66, and men at age 64. Why might that be? Sexpert, Emily deAyala, in our American sister paper USA Today, speculated that, partly this is because people this age feel more comfortable with their bodies. “Older individuals also are more likely to speak up about what they like and dislike, which is a skill that is crucial for great sex."