Men's Health Guide to the Best Sex in the World

CHAPTER 6. MAKE HER THE HAPPIEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD

Treat Her to the Consummate Consummation

In our survey, the men of Italy—guys not generally known for their modesty anyway—report making their partners orgasm more often than anyone else. “Italian men have always considered giving pleasure a test of their manhood,” says Laura Rivolta, a psychologist and sexology specialist at the University of Milan. “Whether it's a fine Armani suit, an amazing opera, or a great-looking woman, we are a culture that appreciates and treasures beauty.”

What's the Italian secret? Well, perhaps there's something in the words of Paolo Mantegazza, a prominent Italian neurologist, physiologist, and anthropologist who in 1885 published the book The Sexual Relations of Mankind: “There is more and better love in Italy than in all the rest of the world because ours is the country of beauty and art.”


QUICKIE STATS

Percentage of men who report making their partners climax every single time:

1.

Italy

60 percent

2.

Hungary

58 percent

3.

Philippines

54 percent

4.

Indonesia

53 percent

5.

Netherlands

50 percent

 

United States  

43 percent

 

World average

43 percent


Or perhaps it's because they make it a priority. “Italian men like the idea of satisfying every woman they sleep with,” says Chiara Simonelli, PhD, a professor at the University of Rome. “They spend a lot of time thinking and talking (and boasting) about sex.” She concedes that they do “have a nice attitude about sex—playful, and with a good sense of humor.”

They're also die-hard romantics—and that translates to giving their women a lot of attention in bed. “Italian men need to seduce their women each day,” says Emmanuele A. Jannini, MD, professor of endocrinology and medical sexology in the department of experimental medicine at the University of L'Aquila. Attitude, he says, is everything: “Italian men understand that life is the time for pleasure. The Italian way is to take pleasure from her pleasure.”

But there's juice to back up all these hearts and flowers—Dr. Jannini, for instance, is a world-renowned expert on the G-spot. Which brings us to the topic at hand. We've talked about digital and oral stimulation. What's left? Oh, yes—intercourse. (Don't forget to cross-reference what you find here with the catalog of positions in Chapter 7!) So let's talk about sex, baby, and we'll see what tips and tricks the Italians and their international counterparts have to share. And while we're at it, we'll give you a shopping guide to some sex toys that'll make it easier for the two of you to come together when you come together.

The Ins and Outs of Intercourse

Let her take the lead. A study from Illinois State University found that sexual satisfaction was greater in relationships in which the female regularly initiated sex. Check out Chapter 9 for more information on how to get that particular miracle to take place.

Breathe. “They say that sex is all in your head—I say that's bad sex!” says Charla, a Tantric practitioner who specializes in the art of erotic massage and the author of Erotic Massage: Sensual Touch for Deep Pleasure and Extended Arousal. “We need to get out of our heads and drop into our bodies. . . . That's why the breath is the first fundament of good sex. You can't have ‘high sex’ if you're using what I call computer breathing: short, shallow, autonomic breaths. You can't sustain it. You have to open it up, breathe big and slow, to silence the chatter in your head.” She recommends keeping your belly soft and your breath audible. Also known as hissing breath (or, somewhat less traditionally, “Darth Vader breath”), this is a loud-sounding breath made through the nose, with a closed mouth and a slightly constricted throat. Imagine that you're trying to fog up your glasses in order to clean them, but with your mouth closed. If you're doing it correctly, it should be audible to the person standing next to you.


THE MOTION OF THE OCEAN

British expert Kesta Desmond, author of Pure Kama Sutra, says that the way in which you move your penis inside your lover is an important sex skill, according to the Kama Sutra. There are nine different ways! She says that three of the best are:

Churning. When you're both really aroused, hold your penis in your hand and use the glans to massage her clitoris in a circular churning motion. A sure route to orgasm for many women—and men!

Piercing. Penetrate her vagina at a high angle—so that the shaft of your penis is parallel to her vulva rather than at right angles to it. Now thrust. This provides lots of fantastic clitoral friction.

Giving a blow. After entering her, withdraw your penis completely, wait for a fraction of a second, and then plunge into her again. Great for vigorous sex with an element of surprise!


Ask permission. Before you enter her, ask if it's okay. “Some women find it incredibly endearing,” says Barnaby Barratt, PhD, president of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. “It gives them a sense of respect. It gives them the security to become more sexually relaxed.” And when you're first entering her, kiss her lips or caress her face.

Increase the intimacy. Want to drive her wild with desire? Look her straight in the eye during sex instead of burying your head in the goose down. Add in a little play-by-play of the action and solicit her opinion, too. The combination of eye contact and dialogue—that direct connection during sex—is an incredible turn-on for women.

“Making electrifying eye contact whilst having sex with someone is one of the most amazing experiences ever,” says Maria in Italy. “Looking deep into his eyes while he is inside you is intensely erotic. His eyes say a lot about him too, when he's happy or sad, or turned on as his pupils dilate with wanton lust. . . . For me, being sexually intimate with someone is about connection on a much higher level, and looking at someone and having them look at you really turns me on.”


BE ANAL ABOUT IT

Experimenting with anal sex is something that more and more couples are trying. After all, why not? The anus, the closest neighbor to the genitals, is rich in very sensitive nerve endings, and interconnected to the very same muscles and nerves that make everything else down there feel so damn good.

This may be virgin territory for some of you, so we talked to Em and Lo, authors of Rec Sex, for the basics.

Rule #1: Use lube.

Rule #2: Just in case you skipped the first rule, it's really a good idea to use lube, and lots of it. “Spit just doesn't cut it,” says Em.

Rule #3: Really. Even more lube than you think. Don't be stingy with it, man; you can't take it with you.

Get it? Got it? Good. Here are some other suggestions to help you on your way.

Start in the shower. This eliminates any hygiene issues that either one of you might have. And if any present themselves, you can deal with them right away.

Ease into it. Em strongly warns you away from the “oops” manueuver. “Start slowly and small,” agrees Lo. What does that mean? Rubbing the outside, use lots and lots of lube, and introduce a (small) finger. Gradually.

If you do decide to take it to the next step, as in intercourse, Em begs you to remember that “the anus is much less forgiving than a vagina. It's not self-lubricating, it doesn't grow with arousal, and the tissue is much more delicate.” Even if she loves it when you go gangbusters during vaginal intercourse, you're going to want to take a different approach when you're knocking at her back door.

Be safe. Remember that anal sex is the ne plus ultra of high-risk activity as far as STD and HIV transmission go.

No double-dips. Don't do it. Period. If you're using a condom, use one for back there, another for everything else. If you're going skin-to-skin, carefully wash your hands—and anything else that came in contact. This isn't just an aesthetic consideration. Fecal bacteria in her mouth can make her sick, and in her vagina, it can give her a serious urinary tract infection. Which, we don't need to tell you, substantially reduces the chance of a reprise. (If she's prone to UTIs, suggest that you shower together afterward as well; lube tends to move around and can cause problems even if you were scrupulous.)

Use your other hand. If you make sure you're doing something you know she really likes with your other hand, you're creating a positive association.

Give and ye shall receive. “In our own unscientific poll, the number one thing guys wished women did more often was to put a pinky up there,” says Lo. Of course! Prostate massage isn't just good for you (and it is)—it feels great for a lot of men. Let's face it, it's not like someone having sex with your ear or another unrelated area. As Lo points out, the nerve endings in the pelvic floor are all interconnected, and the prostate is responsible for the manufacture of ejaculate; you might even think of it as the root of the penis.

And yet, the taboo against enjoying this activity prevails. The experts suggest that you put all that behind you and think of it as just another move in your playbook, like another position or tongue trick. “There are no gay sex acts,” says Em. “There's no such thing as a gay nerve ending. If it feels good, why on Earth wouldn't you do it?”

Want to try it? Shower first, and then we'll refer you right back to rules one, two, and three above: Use lube, and lots of it. Ask her to start with a pinky. Relax. And then just enjoy all the fantastic sensations.


Slow down. Have regular sex—but at a snail's pace. Instead of spending 30 seconds licking her nipples, spend 3 minutes. Stretch foreplay out for as long as you possibly can. Once you're actually inside of her, make every single thrust as languorous and slow as you possibly can. When you feel like you're going to come, pull out and take your time with another part of her body. Only speed up when she won't take “slow” for an answer.

Go partway. As we've mentioned before, most of the vagina's nerves are located in its outer third, the area most of us are best equipped to deal with. “The man who learns how to tease a woman at the outset—by putting it partway in and taking it out—will be perceived as a better lover than the man who uses his full length to drill for oil,” says Mark Elliott, director of the Institute for Psychological and Sexual Health in Columbus, Ohio.

An average-size man can better target this sensitive outer third by entering from on top while the woman lies with her legs flat on the bed. This reduces the depth of penetration by preventing your pelvises from coming all the way together. In addition, when her legs are extended, it puts more tension on her vaginal lips, which improves stimulation for both of you.

Change it up. Resist the urge to thrust fast, hard, and deep in a repetitive one-two pattern. Instead, try being more creative: mixing slow, deep thrusts with quick, shallow ones. “My husband will tease me by not going in all the way,” says Judit, an accountant in Hungary. “It feels wonderful when he finally does.”

Start with mostly shallow thrusts that target the first third of the vagina but don't create too much stimulation on the head of your penis. As her arousal builds, add a higher ratio of deep thrusts. Go in slowly and come out quickly; the fast withdrawals will generate even more sensation for her clitoris.

Or try the fast-slow-fast technique: Thrust quickly, slow down for a full minute, and then give her one deep, surprise thrust. Her muscles will relax during the gentle thrusting, and the final thrust will penetrate the deepest area of her vagina, causing spasms and inviting an orgasm.

Use your hands. Use your palms to cup and gently bounce her breasts during sex. Use them to touch her clit or to gently stimulate her anus. Run them all up and down her body. Put your fingers in her mouth. Caress her hair.

The final touch. Kiss her right as she's beginning to come.

Faking It

According to Al Cooper, PhD, the clinical director of the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Center, two-thirds of women in a study admitted to occasional “orgasmo-fibbing.” Why do so many women fake us out? It seems that when we ask, “Was it good for you?” what she hears is, “Tell me how great I was.” Women lie either to nurture our egos or because they feel like they were taking too long, or to avoid analyzing why they didn't climax. If you suspect that your partner is regularly faking for your benefit, then you need to remove the pressure she's evidently feeling to validate you.

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to know whether your partner is being truthful about her pleasure level. Some men believe they can tell if their partner has an orgasm by being aware of her contractions; however, if you want to feel them, you're more likely to do so with a finger, since the penis is not as sensitive to variations in pressure as you might expect. But even an inserted digit isn't foolproof. If she's sexually astute and really intent on fooling you, she can always fake the contractions.


QUICKIE STATS

Top five countries where men report “knowing for sure” that their partners have faked it:

1.

Spain

14 percent

2.

Czech Republic   

11 percent

3.

Mexico

10 percent

4.

China

6 percent

5.

Romania

5 percent

 

United States

5 percent


On the other hand, don't accuse her of faking just because it doesn't “look” like an orgasm to you. For instance, while some women sing Carmen, others are totally silent. And while wetness, muscular contractions, and toe curling are common signs of women's orgasms, they're not incontrovertible evidence.

Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have used scans to show that certain areas of the brain are stimulated during an orgasm but are not activated when a woman fakes it. If you don't have a brain scanner, the best alternative to playing Sherlock Holmes is to ask the direct, but always welcome, question: “Did you come?” And if you have your doubts, you can follow up with a perfectly timed comment like “ . . . because if you haven't yet, there's nothing I'd love more than to keep going.”

“If this is someone you care about, don't let her get away with it,” says Logan Levkoff, PhD, a sex educator in New York City. “Say, ‘I have a feeling you're not enjoying this as much as you could be. Tell me what I can do to make it better.’” By finding out what she wants, you'll help her get there.

Staci Keith, in her book Drive Your Woman Wild in Bed, recommends a technique she calls delayed orgasm, in which you ask your partner to resist climaxing as long as she can while you perform oral sex. By removing the pressure to perform and please you, you remove her reason to put on an act. The result is usually a genuine, resounding climax. Oh, and studies show that it takes 15 to 40 minutes for the average woman to reach orgasm. Going somewhere?

One important point to remember is that you shouldn't overestimate the importance of an orgasm. Since orgasm is the end-all for us, we assume it must be for women. And we unwittingly pressure them toward that conclusion. But women don't necessarily need to climax for them to feel that the sex is terrific.


QUICKIE STATS

Top five countries where men are sure she “never” fakes:

1.

Netherlands

58 percent

2.

Portugal

56 percent

3.

Slovenia

54 percent

4.

Italy

48 percent

5.

Indonesia

45 percent

 

United States   

34 percent


“I don't have to come every time for the sex to be great,” confirms Perla, a Filipino nurse. “Sometimes, I feel like I'm going to die if I don't have one. Other times, I feel very satisfied, even though I haven't had an orgasm. My boyfriend sometimes has hurt feelings if I don't let him keep going, but I mean it when I tell him that I'm perfectly happy to go to sleep.”

“Sometimes sex is over, and I'm perfectly contented—almost post-orgasmic, even if I haven't had an orgasm,” agrees Leonie, a stay-at-home mother in Aix-en-Provence, France. “Other times, he'll stop, and I'll think: ‘What the hell? You're not going to leave me high and dry, are you?’ But even I can see that it's unreasonable to expect him to know the difference. So now I tell him—usually nonverbally, by kissing his neck or moving my hips—that I'm not done.”

No Sex, Please, We're British

Or so says the title of the longest-running show in London's West End. In point of fact, while the Italians claim to hold the record for keeping housewives happy, the Brits turn out to be much more playful and fun-loving than anyone might ever have imagined. And nowhere is that more apparent than in their open-minded embrace of sex toys. Don't believe us? Let us present two exhibits in our defense.

Exhibit A: Good Housekeeping magazine—you know, the one in the supermarket with the creative Christmas craft articles? The organization behind the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, which can be found on Metamucil and reliable irons? In Britain, they review vibrators. That's correct: Right alongside their consumer opinions on patio heaters and juicers, Good Housekeeping Britain reviews sex toys. Categories include Best for Clitoral Stimulation, Best for Vaginal Stimulation, and Best All-Rounder (the much-beloved Rabbit, if you must know).

Still not convinced? Okay, let us unveil Exhibit B: Let's say you're out shopping in a mall with your sweetie in Britain. She drops into The Body Shop to buy some cruelty-free eye cream and body butter, the store adjoining for some shoes, and then into a cheerful, brightly lit Ann Summers store—one of 134—for a vibrator, some lube, and a Saucy Santa outfit to go with it.

Jacqueline Gold, the CEO of Ann Summers, virtually invented the concept of the “naughty” Tupperware party in the 1970s—and with it, revolutionized the sex toy business in Britain. At these women-only parties, women could not only buy lingerie and vibrators in the privacy of their own homes, but talk about how to use them. They did, and do, in record numbers.

You wouldn't be the first American tourist to do a double-take—but clearly this playful attitude to what the British call “sex aids” is something well-worth bringing across the pond. So we turned to a Brit, Sarah Hedley, author of Sex by the Numbers, for some advice about how to get over feeling self-conscious and overwhelmed by the selection, so you can bring home a little of this British magic for her satisfaction.

Feel threatened? Women love toys—which, for you, may be part of the problem. She sees it as a way to keep warm at night when you're away, or a device designed to spark up your love life. You can't help but see it as an interloper—the tall, dark, handsome kind. “My wife has brought this up a couple of times, but I can't get into it,” says Witold, who works for an airline in Poland. “She says, ‘We use lube and lingerie—what's the difference?’ But I draw the line at batteries.”

Embrace a lady's love of toys—they can improve your shared sex life.

You're not alone, Witold. “Many men still do have a deep-seated fear that they'll be replaced,” says Robin Milhausen, PhD, associate professor at Canada's University of Guelph and the host of Sex, Toys, and Chocolate, a no-holds-barred Canadian TV show about sex. “But in my experience, women don't see it that way. Sex toys can do a lot of things, but they're really no substitute for a man! A sex toy is never going to ask you how your day was or give you a backrub.”

Embrace a lady's love of toys—they can improve your shared sex life. “Women who masturbate know their bodies, and they're often able to reach orgasm with a partner more easily than those who don't,” says Diana Wiley, PhD, a Los Angeles–based sexologist. And nothing makes a man a better lover than his dedication to a woman's pleasure, by whatever means necessary. What the heck, maybe she'll let you watch.

If she's not sure: What if you're rarin’ to incorporate one of these bad boys, but your partner isn't quite so sure? Don't just whip it out during sex, says Ann Semans of Good Vibrations, the (forgive the pun) seminal sex-positive sex toy store in San Francisco. Talk about the possibilities first, maybe peruse a catalog or an Internet site together, then purchase it jointly.

You might want to start by giving each other back and body massages if it's a vibrator. “Approach it as an experiment,” says Cathy Winks, coauthor of The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex, “a new avenue of pleasure that you're trying together.”

Another approach: Give her a gift-pack of different kinds of lubricants, some massage oil, and some body paints for use on her own time. (Good Vibrations has a Friday Nite Delight kit with a bath ball, orange-mango body oil, massage lotion, raspberry–chocolate truffle body butter, and a Magic Touch minibullet vibrator; $35, www.goodvibes.com.) Let her play with them, and tell her to bring her new toys along whenever she's ready. Or start slow—some lube and a blindfold, perhaps, and ask if there's anything else she'd like you to have in your bag of tricks next time.

If you can both get over whatever embarrassment you might feel and indulge your curiosity (and you have to admit that you're curious), you're opening the door to a very exciting world. Not long ago, we would have been ashamed to keep batteries in the bedroom. Now, you see more and more AA value packs on the bedside table. “Once they get used to the idea, guys love vibrators,” says Sue Johanson, Canada's foremost sexual educator and counselor and the host of the TV show Talk Sex with Sue Johanson. “If she takes it and rubs it up the shaft of his penis very gently—around the shaft, over and around the head and testicles—that's very stimulating.” Lube helps.

And it's good for spicing up long-term relationships that have fallen into a little bit of a you-do-this-I-do-that rut. “If you're going to be with someone for 20 years, you need variety in your sex life,” says Gina Ogden, PhD, a sex therapist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “It's the same reason you can't serve oatmeal at every meal: Without variety, your system will close down.” Sex toys can add a little three-alarm chili to your lovemaking menu.

Going Shopping

For a first-timer, picking the proper sex accessory can be intimidating, even risky. There is a simply staggering array of sex toys available, and in some ways, the sheer volume of the choices can make the selection process difficult. Some products come with the same cheap battery packs you find on cereal-box toys; others are as complicated as sailors’ knots and powerful enough to rattle your molars.

So here's the Men's Health Guide to Simplifying Sex Toys, an intimately researched look at some of the latest additions to the accessorized sex world.

The basics: There are three basic types of sex toys for her: the kind meant for her clit, the kind meant for either her vagina or anus (though you should never use a single toy in both areas, due to the risks of infection), and the kind meant for both. Within those, there are two different functionalities: the kind that vibrates, and the kind that doesn't. And you can use any or all of them on yourself. Additionally, there are a couple of toys just for you, like prostate massagers and cock rings.

See, wasn't that easy?

What to get: Your girlfriend may already have a toy that she likes to use. A recent survey showed that 20 percent of women masturbate once a week and 60 percent of those women use sexual devices to do so.

If she doesn't, you may want to invite her to join you in a trip to a store like the two Babelands in New York City, Grand Opening in Boston, or Good Vibrations in San Francisco. All of these are a far cry from the sticky, sordid men's-only sex shops of the past. Customers are waited on by good-humored, knowledgeable staff who want you to be happy with what you get. Asking questions and touching the merchandise is not just permitted but expected.

Just going to one of these stores can be an erotic experience in itself. You'll encounter toys and practices you may not have known about—and it certainly gives you an excuse to talk about putting some previously hidden fantasies into practice. “On a trip to New York, I took my husband to a woman-friendly sex store in Soho, and he loved it,” says Marta, a professor in Guatemala. “I think the idea of our sexuality on exhibit like that was a turn-on for him.”

If a public excursion isn't your cup of tea, you'll be happy to know that all of these stores have online and mail-order catalogs as well. Pretty much everything your perverted little heart desires is out there and can be on your doorstep in a discreet brown-paper wrapper within days. Some couples like the waiting game: “We never have a problem with delayed gratification—we always have great sex the night we pick it out and order it,” says Laura, a British postal worker.


THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE

Men in the Philippines and Borneo make a small cut or piercing in the skin of their penises, through which a rod can be inserted before intercourse, says Don Voorhees in his highly entertaining book of sex trivia, Quickies. This rod, about 2 inches long, made of gold or ivory, and featuring a small knob at the top, is said to greatly stimulate the female partner. Southeast Asians also insert small gold or silver balls, called tickling stones, just below the skin of the penis for their partner's pleasure. Burmese men sometimes insert small bells—Burmese bells—which make a faint sound when they walk.


Here's a rundown of the specific types of merchandise you'll have to choose from.

Vibrators

For a beginner, there's no better sex toy than the classic vibrator. More than just a lonely woman's pleasure tool, the vibrator has grown up over the years, and bringing one of these into the bedroom brings that elusive simultaneous orgasm ever closer. “If a woman uses a vibrator that sits on her clitoris, she can climax while he's inside her,” says Candida Royalle, a producer of femme-friendly adult films and a veteran adult-film star.

Dr. Milhausen suggests the Ultraviolet ($9.95 at www.mypleasure.com). And if your partner has ever made you sit and watch Sex and the City with her, you may have heard of the Rabbit ($88, www.babeland.com), a true multitasker featuring a twirling shaft loaded with “pearls” that roll and tumble at her sensitive opening, while the bunny's ears tickle her clit. Tell her to lie back and wait: The bunny cometh.

Okay—so once the three of you are in the bedroom, then what? The opportunities are limitless: You can use it at the beginning, to warm her up; during, to supplement the good work you're doing; or after you've run the bases and need a pinch hitter. Try these moves.


RAW MATERIALS

Sex toys are made out of a bewildering spectrum of materials. We asked British expert Sarah Hedley, author of Sex by the Numbers, to walk us through what it all means.

Rubber (A.K.A. Jelly)

These toys are soft and inexpensive. But they have a strong rubber smell, and some of them have been found to contain health-damaging phthalates, toxic chemical softeners used in PVC to make it soft and flexible. Greenpeace Netherlands asked an independent research organization to test eight different sex toys, including dildos and vibrators, for phthalates. Worryingly, seven out of eight contained them—in fairly dangerous concentrations. Before you buy, make sure that the toy you're interested in doesn't contain them.

Lube: Use water or silicone (not oil-based) lube.

Cleaning: Rubber toys are porous, which means that using a condom with them is the only way to keep them completely germ-free. They can be cleaned with soap and water.

Silicone

A little more expensive than rubber, these toys aren't porous, so they're easy to clean and can actually go through the dishwasher, provided they don't have a battery pack attached. The good thing about silicone is that it warms up quickly and retains heat. If you have a latex allergy, make absolutely sure that the toy is latex-free; sometimes the two materials are combined.

Lube: You should use water-based (not oil or silicone) lube.

Cleaning: Most silicone toys can be cleaned with soap and water. They can be disinfected by running them through the dishwasher (top shelf only, please!) or boiling them for a minute or two.

Hard Stuff

Toys are also available in hard plastic, glass, acrylic, or metal. You should check to make sure that glass is shatterproof.

Lube: Any kind.

Cleaning: Glass and metal toys can be boiled or run through the dishwasher (no battery packs!). With the others, you'll want to check cleaning and disinfection suggestions when you purchase.


Experiment with positions. She can lie on top of it. It can lie on top of her. It can lie between you—you'll get all the vestigial vibrations, and the direct clitoral stimulation strongly increases the likelihood that you'll finish together.

Travel. Don't restrict it to her clit and vagina—the whole pubic area is very sensitive to vibrations. Lay it between her butt cheeks. Run it over her pubic mound. If she likes nipple stimulation—or you do—that can be a very satisfactory use for one of these. You can press it (or have her press it) against your perineum, scrotum, the base of your penis, your anus, your nipples, your armpits. (Just remember that, to avoid spreading germs that can cause infection, you must wash the toy immediately after anal contact, before using it in any other fashion.)

She may also enjoy the feeling of having a vibrator inside her while she's getting clitoral stimulation. But remember, if she can't come from having sex with you, she's not any more likely to come when she's having sex with a vibrator. Try using it inside of her while you find other ways to stimulate her clit.

Create a barrier. It's nice to get a model with varying speeds, but even the least intense can be too much for some people (and at some times, like just after an orgasm). When a more indirect sensation is indicated, create a barrier by using a piece of clothing, a rolled-up sheet, or your hand. “My favorite way to masturbate right now is with my vibrator on top of a pair of tight cotton panties. Yum!” says Emma, a British publicist.

Are you there? Numbing does happen—and it happens faster with a vibrator. No harm, no foul—give her a few minutes to recover, switch to another form of stimulation (a tongue can feel very pleasurably “real” after a good buzzing), or give her a break.

Dildos

The difference between a vibrator and a dildo is that the latter doesn't move (although some are hollow so that you can insert a smallish vibrator inside and get even more bang). The word dildo is probably derived from the Italian word diletto, which means “to delight,” and delight they do. These come in a wide variety of colors, lengths, materials, and thicknesses.

Penis Rings

These toys fasten around the base of your penis, or your penis and balls. There are literally hundreds of variations on this theme; it's a good idea to find one that's adjustable and washable, since lube is a nice add-on. They can be made of pretty much any material under the sun—including leather, metal, and cloth—and they often come with an attachment—sometimes even a vibrating one—“for her pleasure.”

Mike Perring, MD, the medical director of Optimal Health of Harley Street in London, recommends the use of a cock ring if it gets harder to sustain an erection in middle age. A ring doesn't restrict the blood going in, but it does prevent it from going out, which can be a help. Even if maintaining an erection isn't an issue, you may find that your erection feels harder, looks bigger, or lasts longer—a feeling that can be very pleasurable all on its own.

Goodvibes.com offers the disposable Screaming O Vibrating Ring for $8, or an adjustable leather cock ring for $25. No cock ring should be worn for more than 30 minutes—serious damage may result. Obviously, take it off—no matter how long it's been on—if it hurts or feels too tight.

Ben Wa Balls

Usually metal, these balls (which originated in China but also feature prominently in antique Japanese erotic art) can be worn inside her all day for an erotic charge. As an added bonus, these exercise her PC muscles, making her more orgasmic—and better able to grab you. Golden Ben Wa Balls are available for $12.95 at www.mypleasure.com.

Duotone Balls

Weighted pairs of balls within balls on a cord that she (or you) can insert into her vagina. These move as she moves, to her great delight. It's great to take this trick on the road—British expert Sarah Hedley recommends an evening of dancing—but if you stay home, it might be fun to let one of the balls hang down while the two of you make dinner together, so that the ball inside is subject to all that delicious tension and movement. Try the Smartballs, $25, from www.goodvibes.com.

Butt Plugs

Either one of you can wear this during sex or before. They come in a variety of sizes and colors; have fun picking one out. It's important to look for one that has a base that flares out—things can, and do, get sucked up there, necessitating a visit to the emergency room. That's just the truth, folks.

Prostate Massagers

The Aneros Prostate Massager MGX ($48 at www.aneros.com) was originally designed as a medical instrument but got so much off-label usage that it's now marketed as a toy. It's anatomically designed to work with your natural contractions to give a prostate massage you'll never forget. It's a little bit pricey, and it's probably not your best choice for a quickie—lots of time (not to mention lube) required. But it's so hugely popular that it's got a Yahoo group dedicated to it, and the Internet testimonials describe near-religious experiences. Best of all, it's designed to be hands-free—just insert, lie back, and enjoy the ride.

Anal Beads

A string of beads (or a stick with bumps, sometimes graduated) that you can insert into the rectum. For toe-curling results, remove when you're about to have an orgasm. Try Beauty Beads for $25 at www.goodvibes.com.

It Ain't Over ‘Til It's Over

In the Kama Sutra, there is a reminder that it is impolite to sleep too soon after making love. “At the end of the congress, the lovers with modesty, and not looking at each other, should go separately to the washing-room. After this, sitting in their own places, they should eat some betel leaves, and the citizen should apply with his own hand to the body of the woman some pure sandalwood ointment, or ointment of some other kind. He should then embrace her with his left arm, and with agreeable words should cause her to drink from a cup held in his own hand, or he may give her water to drink. They can then eat sweetmeats, or anything else, according to their likings.”

But falling asleep feels so delicious!

There's a biological reason for this, explains Marianne Legato, MD, New York–based author of Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget. “Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes bonding—it's so powerful that researchers actually call it ‘the cuddle hormone.’” Now, both men and women release floods of oxytocin into their bloodstreams after orgasm. But once it encounters the other hormones there, the paths diverge dramatically, and with opposite results. The estrogen in a woman's blood magnifies and intensifies the effects of the oxytocin; her blood pressure drops, and she feels dreamy and relaxed—and an intense desire to continue bonding through cuddling, stroking, and talking.

By contrast, the testosterone in your bloodstream (further elevated by the sexual activity, incidentally) neutralizes the oxytocin—and with it, the impulse to cuddle. In a University of North Carolina study of oxytocin and blood pressure, men showed no increase in oxytocin production after stroking, probably because of the testosterone block.

Dr. Legato suggests a compromise, if she's in full-on cuddle mode and you're finding it hard to even remember your name: “Hang out in bed for 10 minutes before falling asleep. Bring your snack back to bed, or stroke her hair while you're watching television together.”

The Taoists, of course, would say that we're so tired after we come because we've spent our chi. “People always ask when I knew my wife was the one. The true answer? I woke up 2 hours after the best sex of my life, and I was still inside her,” says Angelo, an Italian restaurant supplier. “We had fallen asleep together—in a pile, basically—without a word.”

As Angelo's story proves, the most important thing is that you're together. Whatever you do, it helps to make sure you're in sync.