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Sexual Healing

Canadian Living / November 2012

Heating up your sex life is as easy as one, two, ooh!

Here’s some sexy (and not-so-sexy) news: A Durex global survey that questioned more than 29,000 people across 36 countries found that while 69 percent of Canadian women claim sexual satisfaction, only 46 percent report being “fully satisfied.” Our survey of Canadian Living readers reveals that one-third of us have sex a few times a week, another 40 percent are intimate a few times each month, and another 20 percent a handful of times per year. Whatever your number, you can move your between-the-sheets sessions from mediocre to mind-blowing with these expert tips and tricks.

Take a look at your bedroom, says Christine Da Costa, an interior designer in Toronto. “If your room is beige and blah and doesn’t inspire you, it’s time for a makeover,” she says. Think a little more glam, a lot less scattered laundry. Da Costa suggests adding an upholstered velvet headboard or an electric fireplace. Try small upgrades, such as installing a dimmer for mood lighting or painting one wall dark and the others in soothing, serene colours to amp up the drama. “Your bed should be the focal point, so if you’ve got space, get a king bed with room to roll around in.” Invest in piles of soft pillows and high-quality sheets. “No polyester crap. Get 350 thread count and up, and go for nice Egyptian cotton,” Da Costa says. “Really, who doesn’t want to be naked on great sheets?”

Whether it’s the adrenaline, the competition or just seeing your partner bathed in sweat, studies have shown that couples who work out together have a better time in the sack. “Exercise increases circulation as well as body image, while it decreases depression, stress and excess weight,” says Sherry Shaban, a certified athletic therapist at Be Training/CrossFit Westmount in Montreal. Shaban teaches hour-long couples’ classes, which include a warm-up, muscle training and a relaxing 15-minute stretch at the end. “The exercises require a lot of physical contact. For example, to do rows, one person straddles the other, and for pushups, one person lowers their body weight onto their partner.” In addition to the foreplay factor, Shaban says exercise is connected to something deeper. “During the training sessions, I often see couples’ dynamics change and develop. Passion, anger, excitement, happiness, support and love all come out,” she says.

Poke your head into your local sex-toy shop: You won’t find the seedy plastic you imagine. “Quality and variety have vastly improved,” says Atsuko Ohara, owner of Scarlet Lingerie in Vancouver. Expect sleek and chic European designs made with safe and environmentally friendly silicone. German company Fun Factory makes the Lovering, a too-cute unintimidating pastel silicone ring with a “love bud,” which is worn by him but enjoyed by both parties. The much-hyped We-Vibe, a C-shaped Canadian invention, is a number-one seller. “It’s revolutionary because both partners use it at the same time,” says Ohara, who gets glowing feedback from husbands as well as wives. “Finding a new toy can spark sexy conversations and really improve communication,” she adds.

True story: While flipping through the oh-so-titillating erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey at my local Indigo, a gaggle of teens walked by. “Oh my god, what’s that?” says one. “It’s, like, mommy porn for bored housewives,” says another. I awkwardly put it back, but I ordered it online the second I got home. Those mean girls aside, the triology’s immense success (31 million books sold) proves the stigma of erotica is going the way of the VCR. Lorraine Hewitt, codirector of the Feminist Porn Awards and salesperson at Good for Her, a sex shop in Toronto, says, “We see lots of women now saying their partners watch porn and they want to share it with them.” Hewitt’s top pick? “Try Cabaret Desire by Erika Lust. Her movies have a beautiful esthetic and genuine chemistry.”

Toronto naturopath Dr. Natasha Turner, author of The Hormone Diet (Random House, 2009), always asks new patients two questions: “How’s your energy? And how’s your sex drive?” Trouble in these two areas can be a red flag, and problems with them are the symptoms we tend to ignore the longest. “Almost every sexual difficulty, whether it’s sexual interest or the ability to have an orgasm, has some sort of hormonal component,” says Turner. Deficiencies of estrogen (you’ll notice dry skin, sleep disruption and vaginal dryness), testosterone (forgetfulness and anxiety) and dopamine (depression and fatigue) all affect desire. And cortisol, a stress hormone, can deplete the above-mentioned hormones. The good news: All of these issues can be managed through diet, stress management (which includes having sex!), proper sleep and, if necessary, hormone replacement.

Are oysters, chocolate and avocados really aphrodisiacs? “Yes and no,” says Turner. “Oysters are a good source of testosterone-raising zinc; chocolate encourages the release of the same endorphins you get when you’re in love; and avocados have phytosterols which lower stress hormones.” If you’re missing proteins or healthy fats, your body won’t make the hormones you need to maintain your libido, says Turner. “Healthy fats literally make up your sex hormones.” The overall goal should be to eat good foods in the right amounts and combinations to optimize digestion and blood sugar balance. “Lots of sugar or heavy foods make you feel bloated,” she says. That said, there’s one aphrodisiac she recommends (in moderation): “Wine can’t hurt!”

There’s no faster or easier way to mix it up than to wear a different outfit, says Ohara. “A corset, bustier or garter belt instantly changes your routine; it encourages you to try something new,” she says. “But some stores specialize in tacky designs.” Quality lines – we’re talking laces and silks with top-notch cuts (Hanky Panky and Cosabella are both beautiful options with plenty of stretch) – are worth the extra money if they deliver a self-esteem boost. “If you’re not confident, you won’t feel sexy,” Ohara says.

In her Moncton, N.B., practice, clinical sexologist Mylène D’Astous observes, “Frequency is a common complaint with couples. One person often wants it more than the other. But everyone has their own normal, and I’d never say you have to have sex once a week. Some happy couples have sex once a month.” Sexually satisfied people usually have two abilities, she says. The first is flexibility – and not the gymnastics kind. “When initial passion fades, they adjust. When they have a child, they adjust again.” The second skill requires a little tuning out. “They don’t buy into messages from the media,” she says. “Base sex on your own pleasure and connection.”

• According to the Durex survey, 89 percent of Indonesians say they are sexually satisfied; Hong Kong came in last with 56 percent.
• Try spiking your partner’s brownies with a little something: A study of natural aphrodisiacs conducted at the University of Guelph found ginseng and saffron to be proven performance boosters.
• Unlike films, erotic books are written mostly by and for women. Best Women’s Erotica (Cleis Press) is an annual collection from top-notch female sex writers.
• Need a sexy hit of testosterone? Many experts say cuddling gives women the biggest testosterone boost of all. Show your partner this article and snuggle up.