In the beginning of this book, we spoke about how those first crucial moments of attraction have powerful roots in our primal, evolutionary history. In the beginning, lust, chemistry, and outright attraction play a big role in who we choose to connect with—and knowing how to leverage that information can make us more appealing and magnetic to others.
However, after a relationship is underway, a completely new set of skills comes into play—the spark has been lit, but the fire needs to be maintained.
Connection, communication, vulnerability . . . how many men might roll their eyes at this list and wonder what it has to do with sex? Men who are unsuccessful with women may know in vivid detail what turns them on and simply assume that the woman of their dreams will be one who happily goes along with that, end of story. They make terrible lovers because, on a most fundamental level, they lack imagination and empathy—without imagination, they cannot see the world or the sex act through anyone’s perspective but their own, and without empathy, they don’t care enough to do anything about those differences.
Interested in knowing what turns a woman on? If there’s a woman in your life, that’s simple: ask her.
A study in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, however, has a few key points you might like to consider. After surveying almost seven hundred women about what made them desire their sexual partners more, they found three recurring themes (you’ll notice that none of them refer to a male’s anatomy, his physical appearance, technique in the sack, or bank balance!):
No surprise here! Plenty of closeness, affection, understanding, affirmation, and caring were considered by many women to be prerequisites to sex. This is important. While men may see sex as a way to arrive at more closeness, for women it’s the other way around: sex is an expression of closeness. So, a man may seek out sex because he wants to feel good and close to his partner, but a women will seek out sex only after she feels good and close to her partner . . . and then sex is almost a celebration or expression of that fact.
If you’re straight, a big part of your attraction comes from the tension in the difference between men and women, i.e., the “otherness” between them. A feeling of separateness, of mysterious and unknowable difference, can spur attraction. The differences are celebrated—even though you can get really, really close, there is always still a part of you that is autonomous and unknown. In that space where things are not resolved lies some potential, and that’s sexy. What does this mean for the man who wants to make a woman happy?
It means you acknowledge that she’s a woman, that she’s different from you, and that you love it and want to celebrate it and enjoy it with her rather than try to dissect or control or dominate it. The irony is that if you can acknowledge that you will never completely own or possess her, then you actually allow for more intimacy and passion.
Object of Desire Affirmation
This one is tricky for women to express to men, because they have historically been so bad at understanding what it means. Women never want to be objectified. But they want to feel that they are desired by the people that they desire. They want to feel loved and praised for who they are, and are turned on when they know that they are someone else’s turn on!
This one is easy to put into practice: make the woman you’re with feel like a million bucks. Tell her what you love about her body. Tell her you’ve been fantasizing about her. Compliment her clothing or jewelry. Let her know you think she’s one hot tamale and you don’t care how many times she hears it!
Be careful, though—women want to be seen as beautiful sex-goddesses by the men they love, and they want to know, frankly, that they’re hot. But that’s not all they want to be seen as. Never imply that the only value she has in your eyes is as a sex object.
So, really, the age-old question of “what women want” is not really that mysterious after all. Women want the sense of trust and safety that comes with being emotionally intimate with someone, and this allows them to open up sexually. Men may misunderstand this, because it’s not how they themselves think. A man may consider emotional intimacy a poor substitute for sex, or something that only builds after sex, or simply something irrelevant that gets in the way.
For those who are only concerned with one-night stands, and those who don’t especially care if their partners are satisfied, any number of pick-up tricks and techniques can get a few extra notches on the bed post. These people may love sex, but they don’t necessarily love or even understand women. For those who want deeper, more fulfilling, and more sustainable relationships that include plenty of good sex, they need to understand that for women, sex and emotions are wrapped up closely together.
Make a woman feel safe, understood, and respected, and sex will never be an issue. Make her feel valued for the unique person she is. Play with mystery and discovery. Be genuinely interested in what makes her happy and what her needs are, rather than approaching the relationship primarily with your own needs at the forefront. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to tell her often that she’s hot stuff.