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

CHAPTER 9. HAVE THE MOST SEX IN THE WORLD

Have Fun Much More Frequently

While Korean men nearly double the world average for weekly sex according to our global sex survey, there's an important caveat to this finding: 42 percent of Korean men we surveyed admitted to paying for sex. In addition, Korean women were the least sexually satisfied group, according to a 2006 international survey done by the drug company Eli Lilly. So we're going to award the default winners: the Greeks.

Want to steal their mythical qualities? Here's what the Greeks know that you could stand to learn.


QUICKIE STATS

Number of times per week the average man has sex:

1.

Korea

4.5

2.

Greece

4.2

3.

Romania

4.0

4.

Philippines

3.9

5.

Russia

3.8

 

United States

2.9

 

World average  

2.8


Get outdoors. “Greece has abundant sunlight, with more than 310 sunny days per year,” says Fedon Alexander Lindberg, MD, specialist in internal medicine and author of The Greek Doctor's Diet. “Sunlight plays an important role in regulating testosterone release in the brain, so it makes sense that this is impacting Greek men's sex lives.” This probably holds up stateside, too: Statistics show that the lowest birth rates in America are in November, December, and January—meaning that the dark and dreary months of February, March, and April are the least productive in the sack.

So get outside and soak up some rays; it's good advice, no matter where you live. “I often recommend that my couples go to a baseball game,” says Howard Markman, PhD, founder of Love Your Relationship couples retreats and a psychologist at the University of Denver. “You sit close together, you're out in the sun, and it gives you time to talk as friends.”

Eat well. The Mediterranean diet isn't just a recipe for a lean body—it's the secret to a rich love life as well!

A diet rich in legumes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids, which is traditional to Greece, is essential to stimulating testosterone release, says Dr. Lindberg. And, as you'll learn in Chapter 11, what's good for your heart—as a Mediterranean diet surely is—is good for your penis.

Atherosclerosis, or the narrowing and hardening of the arteries, is the leading cause of impotence. Keeping your heart and arteries healthy is the best guarantee that you'll stick around to have lots of sex—and be able to do it when you want to. What's more, many staples of the Mediterranean diet, such as pine nuts and honey, are notorious aphrodisiacs.

Exercise. Not for nothing did the Greeks invent the marathon. The fitness culture that we take for granted today—and the cult of the perfect body that it spawns—has its roots in the gymnasia of ancient Athens. “It's a very athletic culture! Both men and women take a lot of pride in staying in shape,” says Gianni, an Athenean Web site designer.

“Quit looking for sexy and look for fun instead—and you'll end up having more sex.”

Have fun. The Greek culture is also notorious for its passionate yet laid-back style. “It's part of our history! Think of the myths: Our gods were always sleeping around and eating and fighting and making up and feasting,” Gianni says. “Ultimately, fun is the best aphrodisiac,” says Paul Joannides, author of The Guide to Getting It On! “Quit looking for sexy and look for fun instead—and you'll end up having more sex.”

So take those tips and use them. But first:

Three Incredibly Responsible Reasons to Have Lots of Sex

What haven't you done in the name of good health? You've burned out your knees on the treadmill, passed on a second helping of bratwurst, choked down wheatgrass shots. As it turns out, the panacea, the all-in-one health elixir promised on late-night television, was right in front of us the whole time. “Sex activates the human body the way it should be activated,” says Valerie Gibson, sex and relationships columnist for the Toronto Sun. “It's good for your skin, your organs, your brain. It's a vital part of the human experience.”

And it's a lot more fun than wheatgrass, we promise.

Here are all the ways that getting lots and lots of sex will enhance your life. Aside from the fact that you'll be getting lots and lots of sex!

1. Sex is a champion stress-buster. “Stress kills brain cells responsible for learning and memory, wrecks the immune system, causes weight gain, elevates blood pressure, and can ruin sleep and sex,” according to Men's Health “Head Check” columnist Daniel Amen, MD. A recent Swedish study found that chronic stress increases a man's risk of developing cardiovascular disease and having a fatal stroke. And an Australian study found that men who had stressful jobs were more likely than others to suffer from anxiety and poor health.

So there's a pretty good argument for doing whatever you can to ease the pressure. And sex is one of the all-time very best stress-busters around. British researchers found that sex slashed anxiety and quelled blood-pressure spikes for people performing public speaking and taking math tests. Maybe that's why the Greeks are so laid back.

How does it work? An orgasm releases beta-endorphins, the body's natural opiate. It's like heroin without the constipation and rehab. And this is true whether you're having sex or taking the matter into your own hands, so to speak.

But having sex is arguably more fun than dancing solo, and scientists in Scotland are happy to provide you with one more argument for tangoing together: A study in the journal Biological Psychology found that orgasms during intercourse are four times more satisfying than those from masturbation. How did researchers determine this, other than asking, “On a scale of one to four, was it good for you?” They drew post-orgasm blood samples from participants in order to measure levels of prolactin, the hormone that infuses us with contentment. Levels were considerably higher after intercourse than after masturbation. “People who had penile-vaginal intercourse did twice as well as people who only masturbated or had no sex at all,” says Stuart Brody, PhD, the study's author. The complete physiological experience of intercourse—and possibly an emotional component as well—may explain the difference, says Dr. Brody. The surge of prolactin may also be evolution's way of “differentiating a potentially reproductive activity from one that is not,” he says.

You and your honey don't have to go as far as making the double-backed beast to get some benefits. A cuddle works too. Research shows that 10 minutes of hand-holding and a 20-second hug from your spouse can significantly lessen the damaging effects of stress. But you don't have to tell her that.

2. Sex is heart healthy! Helping you better withstand the ravages of stress isn't the only benefit of sex. It's actually biologically good for you, especially for your heart.

Researchers at the University of Bristol in England found that men can cut their risk of dying of cardiovascular disease in half by having sex three or four times a week. Sex is just as good an exercise as walking for reducing the risk of stroke, according to a university spokesman.

Men can cut their risk of dying of cardiovascular disease in half by having sex three or four times a week.

But don't cancel your gym membership just yet. Sex might be as good for your heart as the treadmill, but it won't work the same wonders on your waistline: You don't burn a lot of calories doing it—only about 27 during a 15-minute session.

A lack of sex, on the other hand, has been scientifically shown to compromise health—even to the point of shortening life! One study found that 45-to-59-year-old men having sex twice a week had a 50 percent lower death rate than those having sex once a month or less. Another study found that college students having sex at least once a week had enhanced immune systems compared with those who weren't as active.

So get off the couch and start moving toward the bedroom.

3. Sex exercises your manly bits. Many men notice that their erections become less powerful and frequent later in life. Of course, there's always Viagra, but prevention is the best medicine—especially when it's this much fun.

You see, sex provides your privates with lots of nourishing blood and oxygen—precisely what they need to stay healthy. A regularly worked-out penis is the best way to assure optimum sperm production, prostate health, and strong, healthy erections.

This was backed up by a study at the University of California, Berkeley, where psychologist Marc Breedlove, PhD, found that the brain cells that control erection and ejaculation were actually smaller in male rats who enjoyed 4-week-long nonstop sex binges, as compared with their celibate compatriots. In this case, at least, smaller is better. “Smaller nerve cells may be better able to maintain sustained, long-term activity,” says Dr. Breedlove. “My guess is that the neurons of the mating animals were adapting to cope with more sexual activity in the future.” In other words, the more the rats got, the more primed they were for more. And Dr. Breedlove believes that human brains work much the same way.

Next up: the miraculous heart-healing properties of prime rib, plus details on how 7 consecutive hours of Grand Theft Auto can make you a genius. All right, maybe not. But the next time she nags you about your cholesterol count, you have a counterargument. After all, if she really cares about your health. . . .

Foolproof Ways to Have More Sex

Now that you know how good it is for you, you're probably rarin’ to go. Want to have more sex? Here are some ways to make the magic happen—as often as you'd like it to.

Cuddle. It might seem counterintuitive, but a great way to make sure you get laid is not to ask to get laid at all. A survey of 3,300 people for the Berman Center in Chicago found a strong correlation between relationship intimacy and the frequency of nonsexual kissing and cuddling. “If you start kissing and cuddling without the expectation of sex, she's going to want it even more—because she'll feel closer to you, and that's what turns her on,” says therapist Laura Berman, PhD. Cuddling, says Dr. Berman, may trigger the release of oxytocin, “the chemical of attachment,” which leads to a feeling of closeness. With women, intimacy leads to sexuality. “A lot of women come into the clinic complaining of low libido,” she says. “They tell us they've lost the intimacy in their relationship. They want to cuddle with their husband, but the second they do, he thinks it's an invitation for sex. Then the woman has to reject him because she's not in the mood, and the whole process begins again.”


WHAT IS SEX?

One good way to get more sex is to redefine it. Almost every single one of the experts we spoke to complained about a definition of sex as penis in vagina, to the exclusion of everything else. And, as you'll see throughout this book, both the Indians and the Chinese have traditions, thousands of years old, that steer couples away from this rigid, genital-meets-genital definition and toward a more holistic view.

“In ordinary lovemaking, the feelings, attention, and energy are focused mainly in one area: the genitals. The sensations in our genitals are delightful; however, when we're focused ‘down there,’ there is a goal and when that goal is realized, this particular sexual episode is over,” say Stephen and Lokita Carter, experts in the ancient Indian tradition of Tantra and the authors of Tantric Massage for Lovers. “Instead, you can consciously decide to distribute your energy throughout the whole body, thus increasing the body's capacity for more energy and more pleasure.”

As a start, it might be a good idea to take your eye off your—and even her—orgasm as the end-all and be-all, and see whether you're not getting more sex once you expand the definition.


One solution is to address her need for intimacy without tying it to sex. Give her lots of affection—hugs, cuddles, a massage—and make no demands in return. If she feels that the two of you can touch one another without it automatically turning into sex, she'll be more likely to engage in it. Of course, physical intimacy and closeness through touch usually does give way to sexual feelings. Just be patient; it might not happen right away.

Touch yourself. “The more often people masturbate, the more often they have sex—it's a surprising correlation,” says Helen Fisher, PhD, research professor in the anthropology department at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the author of Why We Love. “It's probably because sexual arousal elevates testosterone and dopamine, and that can lead to more sex.”

Don't stop just because you're in a relationship. A woman who's cool with your self-pleasure—and who also masturbates—is likely to be a better lover because she knows what pleases her most, says sex therapist Gloria Brame, PhD, the author of Come Hither. Try it together!

Exercise. A University of California study shows that men who exercise 3 days a week have three times more sex—and better sex—than those who don't. If you're a couch potato, don't despair—just get your jockstrap and get moving. Sedentary men who began an exercise program reported making love 30 percent more often and masturbating 50 percent more often during a 9-month period.

Exercise not only makes the body more fit for sex but also stimulates the mind by making you feel sexier. “I think working out is an aphrodisiac,” says Marina from Brazil. “It gets all those endorphins pumping, and then you feel good, and when you feel good, you don't mind dressing a little sexy. It works for Brazilian men too—it's very hot when you can tell that someone feels good about themselves.”


WORKING OUT TOGETHER

In keeping with our Greek friends’ advice both to exercise and to get outside—not to mention the evidence that both of these things will increase her libido as well as your own—we asked our experts for some advice on outdoor activity. The consensus seems to be that it's a good idea to start something new: There's likely to be tension and bad feelings if you try to recruit one partner into an activity that the other is already good at. Instead, take up something that's new for both of you. “Learning something together is a bonding experience,” says Howard Markman, PhD, founder of Love Your Relationship couples retreats.

Here are some of our favorites:

Rock climbing: You've got scenery, a good workout, and teamwork. Plus the thrill of danger, a natural lubricant. The only challenge might be finding a place comfortable enough to get busy; your best strategy might be to wait for the post-rappelling shower.

Kayaking: Rent a double, learn to paddle in sync, and laugh when you inevitably flip over. Enjoy the motion of the ocean and the feel of the sun on your skin. When it all gets too much, you can find a cove of your own and lick the salt off one another. See Chapter 12 for up-to-date information on beach sex from the Australians, who specialize in it.

Mountain biking: “You don't have to be at the same skill level to enjoy it,” Dr. Markman says. It's speedier than running or hiking, but just as easy. Plus, she'll wear bike shorts.


Marina's right: The gym is an equal opportunity aphrodisiac. One study by the University of British Columbia found that 20 minutes of exercise spurred greater sexual response in the women participants compared with no exercise at all.

“Research has shown that the closeness, sweating, and improved self-image all help increase her sexual desire, and ultimately facilitate orgasm,” says Maria Urso, an exercise physiologist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Which is, of course, the happy ending we're all looking for.

Move in together. Single guys have sex an average of once a week, while their married counterparts get it twice a week. The big winner is the single guy who lives with his girlfriend, at an average of three times weekly.

Turn off the television. A recent Italian study tells us that couples with no television in the bedroom had sex twice as often as those with screens to stare at. Violent films were most likely to kill the mood; respondents weren't asked specifically about Triumph the Insult Dog.

Intend to have more sex! Annie Payne, a feng shui consultant and the author of The Dance of Balance—Feng Shui for Body, Mind, and Spirit, says that one of the old feng shui ways to get more sex was to put a red sheet between the mattress and the box spring. How does it work? Well, not because there's something magical about having a red sheet between the mattress and the box spring, but because of the way you behave as a result of it. Putting the sheet there is an action that signals an intent to have more sex—which means that you'll also do all the other things you need to do to attract sex. Intention is a very powerful thing; harness it to work for you.

In the same vein, Payne recommends that single people have the makings of a whole evening's seduction waiting for them at all times—including protection, some chocolates, and something nice to drink in the fridge. Plan for it, she advises, like you would plan for a Superbowl party. You'd never show up to tailgate without all the accoutrements, would you?

Getting Her in the Mood

That handles your side of the equation. But it takes two to tango, and many men tell us that it's not a lack of interest on their part that's keeping them down. One out of every three couples struggles with problems associated with low sexual desire, according to Australian-British expert Tracey Cox. One study she cites found that 20 percent of married couples have sex fewer than 10 times a year. An estimated 20 million American men are stuck in no-sex or low-sex relationships. When we posted a call on the Men's Health Web site for first-person experiences, we got hundreds of responses, many of them heartbreaking. “My wife and I rarely have sex,” says Nathan, a 38-year-old history teacher in Toronto. “She's committed to me and the kids, but she has no time for romance and little interest in sex. I've asked her why, but she's uneasy talking about it. So imagine my surprise when I came home from work on my birthday and the kids were spending the night with relatives. After a romantic dinner, she suggested we go to bed early. As I slipped beneath the sheets, she handed me a card that read: ‘Your birthday gift is Channel 454, the Playboy Channel.’ With that she rolled over and said, ‘I'm tired. You can do whatever.’”


WHAT EVERY MAN WANTS

There are very few things in life that have the same impact the five thousandth time they happen as they did the first, and oral sex is right at the top of that short list.

There's nothing quite like it, is there? But there isn't a guy alive who's getting as much oral as he'd like, and most of us feel like we'd like quite a bit more. So here are some ways to encourage your lover to increase the frequency with which she blows your, uh, mind.

One good strategy is to find out if there's something she doesn't like, and fix it. Here are some of women's common complaints, and some strategies for doing an end-run around them.

Be courteous. It should go without saying, but nothing less than scrupulous cleanliness will do, and girls being girls, a shower a couple of hours ago might not count. If she claims she doesn't even like the taste of Irish Spring, experiment with flavored lubes—or a generous dollop of chocolate fudge sauce.

Overcome a gag order. Some women have a hypersensitive gag reflex that can make oral sex extremely uncomfortable for them. The cure for this vexing problem comes not from an MD but from a DMD. Dentists deal with the gag reflex too, and a recent study brings some pretty interesting news for men and the women who want to orally love them. In the study, the tooth-torturers gathered the most “orally sensitive” (read: “hurrallagggh!”) patients and, using acupuncture or acupressure, stimulated their P-6 regions while simultaneously poking around in their mouths. In the majority of patients, the gag reflex diminished considerably.

Okay, you ask, where's the P-6 region? No place too exciting: To find it, put the first three fingers of your hand together and place them on the inside of her wrist. You press there while she pleasures you, and everybody ought to be happy.

Don't be insulted by a spit take. “After 9 years of marriage, my wife told me she loved going down on me, but she hated swallowing; it made her feel sick,” says Singh, a computer programmer in India. “I was mad for a minute, and then I thought, who cares? If she'll go down on me more if she doesn't have to [swallow], then forget about it.” Singh has the right attitude.

Give and ye shall receive. The more you go down, the more she will too. Flip back to Chapter 5 for tips on making it a more than even exchange.


“Despite all the allusions to sex, there just isn't as much of it going on as people think,” says Daniel Stein, MD, medical director of the Foundation for Intimacy in Tampa. “Studies show that 45 percent of married couples have sex one to three times per month. Thirty-three percent have sex zero to three times per year. And only 8 percent have sex four or more times per week.”


QUICKIE STATS

We asked 8,000 visitors to MensHealth.com and Cosmopolitan.com why they turned down sex. Here's what they said:

 

He Said  

She Said

I never turn it down

54%

29%

I'm not in the mood

19

26

I'm too stressed out

13

12

Not enough foreplay

4

16

No emotional bon d

2

8

The sex isn't worth it

4

3

She/he wants too much

   1

3


A mismatched interest in sex happens to every couple at some point in the relationship, especially if you're together for a long time. (And it seems to get worse the longer you're together: Studies have shown that when it comes to how much sex is happening between two people, the length of the relationship is more important than their ages. In other words, a 40-year-old who has been married for 20 years is probably having less sex than a 60-year-old widower who met a 60-year-old divorcée a week ago.) These temporary desire discrepancies generally work themselves out. The thing to watch out for is a negative feedback cycle: She doesn't want to have sex, you get angry and resentful, she's angry and resentful of you for making demands, and suddenly a period of difficulty turns into a real problem in your marriage.

Most couples need regular sex not only to remain intimate, but also to stay civil to one other. “A relationship is a living thing that needs nourishment to grow. And that nourishment is sex,” Dr. Stein says. Valerie Gibson, sex and relationships columnist for the Toronto Sun, agrees: “Sex is the glue in a relationship,” she says. “Without sex, the whole thing comes undone because you're no longer communicating in this vital and intimate way.”

“My wife's lack of desire has created tension between us,” says Aaron, a 32-year-old architect in Santa Fe. “If I press the issue and she still doesn't want to have sex, then she feels bad for saying no, and I feel bad for forcing the issue. So over time you quit touching as much because it might lead to that awkward moment. It wears on you. You miss the contact, question your manhood, and wonder if you're still attractive. You consider having an affair, but you know that's just a temporary fix that brings larger problems. So you learn to live with it and watch this wall being built, brick by brick, between you.”

But, according to Dr. Stein, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Living like this will hurt you emotionally and physically. “Sex is just as health-promoting as vitamins, exercise, and a balanced diet,” says Dr. Stein. Sex therapists Masters and Johnson found that if women don't have sex for long periods, it gets harder for them to orgasm. Similarly, men who go without for a long time can often develop arousal problems or performance anxiety.

You can't have the best sex in the world if you're not having any sex. Here's some advice from around the globe to get your love life back on track so that the two of you can put the advice in the rest of this book to good use.

Talk about it. “So often I hear that men want more sex, women want more intimacy,” says Dr. Patricia Weerakoon, a popular Australian sexologist and the coordinator of the graduate program in sexual health at the University of Sydney. There are no easy answers, she says. “Somewhere along the line, these two people will have to come to a compromise, the solution that's best for them, and the only way to do that is to talk about it.”

Is it really sex you want? British expert Phillip Hodson, author of How Perfect Is Your Mate?, notes that sometimes a high sex drive is really a high anxiety drive. “Unless there's frequent sex, the person feels that the relationship is failing or falling apart. Sometimes a person just needs reassurance that they're not going to be thrown in the trash heap.” If it's actually reassurance you want, just ask for it—and don't be stingy with giving it, either.

Check the calendar. “It can be very useful for a man to know when his wife's best time of the month is,” says Christine Wheeler, a British psychotherapist and sex columnist for Netdoctor UK. Scientists have conclusive evidence that women tend to have more sex when they're most fertile. A new study in the journal Human Reproduction shows that frequency of intercourse goes up 26 percent during the 6 most fertile days of her cycle—the day of ovulation and the 5 days beforehand. Women in the study submitted daily urine samples and kept a sex diary, giving scientific proof to a long-suspected theory.

Compromise. “As humans, we want to get what we want to get,” says British sex therapist Lorraine Landau. “But I often tell the couples I work with, ‘You look at this person and you think: I love you. What can I do that will make you happy? How can I give you pleasure?’ Sometimes the answer is there.”

“Sometimes when I want to and she doesn't, my wife will give me a hand job,” says Jarek, who owns a security company in Warsaw. “I get the orgasm I was looking for, she gets to cuddle and be close to me without feeling any pressure to have sex. Sometimes she gets turned on and it turns into sex; other times we just go to sleep afterward. It's been a nice compromise for us.”

View it as a “couple problem.” This isn't her fault, nor is it your fault—it's a mutual problem, and you're going to work together to figure it out, points out Barry W. McCarthy, PhD, a certified sex therapist and a professor at American University. “Making this better has got to be something the two of you are doing together,” says Landau.

“When I want to and she doesn't, my wife will give me a hand job. . . . It's been a nice compromise.”

One option might be to take the pressure off by letting the lower-desire partner be the only one who initiates. “We were in a bad pattern: I wanted sex, she'd say no, then she'd feel guilty and I'd feel rejected and frustrated,” says Raul, a woodworker in Portugal. “And if she did want sex, she'd be afraid to say anything—let sleeping bears lie! She said she felt I was pressuring her all the time. So we made a deal: I'd stop asking for a while, and wait for her to ask. Of course, I was worried that she never would! But it worked out great, and nobody felt bad.”

Look at the relationship. “When I encounter a no- or low-sex relationship in my private practice, 99 times out of 100, it's not a sex problem at all but a relationship problem,” says Wheeler. “So my first tip to anybody wanting more sex is to look after the relationship. Do things you enjoy together, talk to one another, treat one another with respect and courtesy.”

Cook for her. Unleash your inner Emeril and you'll nail the top two mood-boosters for women. “When you cook for somebody, it says, ‘You're worth my time,’ and that's the biggest turn-on of all,” says Martha Hopkins, author of Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook.

Pick up your own damn socks. “Women in Brazil have more time for taking care of themselves. They have more time, to be honest, to think about sex, to feel sexy, to get ready for it. I don't understand how American women ever feel like making love,” says Marina.

Numerous studies—not to mention the anecdotal evidence all around us—suggest that women are still in charge of the lion's share of domestic duties, despite the fact that many of them work outside the home. Furthermore, even in households where the split is a little more even, women tend to end up with more time-sensitive chores, like feeding the kids. These can't be blown off until the weekend, the way mowing the lawn can; they have to be attended to right away, even if she's feeling tapped out. By the end of a long day of work, childrearing, and household chores, making love can feel like yet another bullet on the list of things to do. Helping her to carry the burden will increase your chances that she'll be in the mood—or will at least make you as tired as she is, so you can empathize.

Be a better partner! In a University of New Orleans study, nearly 70 percent of men reported that when they initiate sex, they overestimate their partners’ desire to get it on. Alex Caroline Robboy, the founder of howtohavegoodsex.com, says that the best way to get her to want sex is to improve your sexual technique. “You want it to be amazing so that she's thinking about it, anticipating it the way she would a delicious dessert at a restaurant.” If the sex isn't that good, Robboy points out, eventually you're going to lose out to a more enjoyable activity: “Given the choice between a leisurely bath which she knows she's going to love, or mediocre sex, what do you think she's going to choose?” Refer to Part I for more tips on developing the skills that will have her begging for more.

Eliminate possible physical and emotional causes of low desire. There may be a straightforward reason your partner is uninterested in sex. Here are some of the most common.

image And then there were three. Becoming a mother can dramatically affect a woman's sexuality. Breastfeeding, for instance, produces a hormone called prolactin that can suppress sexual desire. And your partner may be feeling “touched out” from having an infant cling to her all day and therefore less interested in being touched by you, says Robboy. “I nursed for about 15 months,” says Andrea from Argentina. “And although I'd always loved it when my husband paid attention to my nipples; after the baby came, it was ‘Enough already!’ Thankfully, a couple of months after I stopped breastfeeding, my nipples were sexual again.”

There's not much you can do about a reduction in her sex drive due to hormones; often, simply knowing that it's temporary can help. The best plan, if you want to be sexual, is to switch into caretaker mode, Robboy says, taking care of her so that she can take care of the baby. In most relationships—even the most liberated ones—the woman shoulders the majority of the childcare burden. Babies keep erratic hours and create an enormous amount of work, so new mothers are often very tired. What can you do to help? You feed her so that she can feed the baby; you clean up so that she can have some downtime. You babysit so that she can get back to the gym and feel happier about her body. “I always encourage men to give their partners lots of time and space for rest, rejuvenation, beauty rituals—anything that makes her feel like an independent person. That's more likely to lead to great sex than any special finger manipulation he can learn,” 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.

Sex may have to become more scheduled, arranged to suit a nap schedule rather than the dictates of passion. But you need to make the time to reconnect on an adult level and to rekindle feelings that may have been tamped down by the new arrival—and that falls to you if she doesn't have the energy to do it. (For help, flip back to Chapter 8 and read “Making the Time for Love” on page 138.)

Of course, women aren't the only ones who find new parenthood disruptive. You may feel overwhelmed by your new responsibilities, which can detract from sex drive. Or you may see your wife differently now that she's a mom. A counselor can help you work through these feelings together.

image “Do I look fat?” Has she gained weight? If she's feeling self-conscious about her body, she's going to feel much less enthusiastic about having you touch it. And if she has gained weight, you may be feeling less enthusiastic about her as a result. The best thing to do is to clean up your own act, and take her along with you. If you feel that you can talk about it with her, suggest that the two of you try to take off 10 pounds together. If you think she'd be hurt by the suggestion, start introducing healthier options at home—bring home some sorbet along with the full-fat stuff she asked you to pick up—and tell her it's your new fave. Or ask her if she'd join you in a walk after dinner—if you hold hands, you won't even notice it's exercise!


WHEN YOU DON'T WANT MORE

You say you don't know what the big deal is—you just don't feel the urge that often? If you and your significant other are both okay with that, cool. But if one, or both, of you want you to want her more frequently, you might consider getting your hormone levels checked. “Androgen (also known as testosterone) appears to be directly responsible for sexual thoughts in both men and women,” says Victoria Zdrok, PhD—a.k.a. “Dr. Z,” a dating coach, relationship advisor, and Penthouse columnist. “People with low testosterone have far fewer sexual fantasies.”

Men who are born with underdeveloped testicles (the so-called hypogonadal men) underproduce testosterone and, as a result, suffer from lack of sexual thought or desire. When such males are injected with testosterone, they begin experiencing sexual thoughts and fantasies (frequently, before they experience erections).

If you think you might have low testosterone, talk to your doctor; a simple battery of blood tests will let you know whether your concerns are well-founded, and testosterone can be taken by injection or skin patch.


image The sex-killer: stress. Whether it's a heavy-duty deadline at work, a teenager in trouble, or an elderly parent who is beginning to require more care, stress takes a heavy toll on people, and sex often suffers as a result. It's not always possible, but do try to prioritize the relationship as much as possible. One night away from the turbulence of your life can make a big difference to both of you.

image Is there anything else? Has she had surgery recently? Is she going through menopause? Are your testosterone levels decreasing because of age? Are either of you taking medications, such as certain antidepressants, which can decrease your interest in sex?

Get help. If an easy solution to a desire discrepancy isn't forthcoming, it's time to see a therapist. Consult the yellow pages for a certified sex therapist in your area, or visit the Web site of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (www.aasect.org) for a directory.

If one of you is too self-conscious to meet with anyone in person, Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, runs the Divorce Busting Center (www.divorcebusting.com), which offers phone consultations with trained relationship coaches.

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Hopefully, these tips will help. But what we heard over and over from the experts and the real women we talked to was that a happy woman is a willing one. “The best aphrodisiac for me is the feeling that I'm the only woman in the world for my man,” says Agata, a 26-year-old Brazilian who works in television. “I want him to make me feel like he thinks I'm special, the most attractive, sexy woman in the world.”