How To Spice Up Your Sex Life When You Don’t Know Where To Start

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You’re bored with your sex life. So you Google “how to spice up your sex life” and you see a torrent of “Top Ten” articles with a laundry list of things you could try. They’re informative enough but the broad array of choices leaves you with analysis paralysis.

Then you go to an online or offline bookstore hoping to find something useful only to be met with a landslide of how-to books on very specific sex practices that either offer a tribal identity you don’t want (“be a dom top!”)  or they scare the hell out of you.

The internet articles are too broad and unfocused while the books are too narrow and tribal. The articles assume you’re open to everything; the books assume you’re committed to something.

But what if you’re not open to everything?   What if you haven’t committed yourself to something?  What if you haven’t identified yourself as an adherent to a particular sexual practice?

How do you discover organic and authentic ways of expanding your sexual horizon?

Should you try rough sex? Voyeurism? Exhibitionism? Leather? Rubber? Role play? Act out fantasies? Cultivate a fetish? Get tied up? Do the tying?

The options are confusing because they answer questions you haven’t thought through. Let me explain. I once asked an interior designer friend what color she thought I should paint my bedroom.  She didn’t pull out a color chart and lay out a buffet of options.

She didn’t recommend any particular colors, either.  Even when I presented her with colors I was considering she brushed them aside.

“You’re in such a rush to come up with the answer you’re going to end up with a bedroom you hate,” she said. “You’re starting with answers when you should be starting with questions.”

“Such as?” I asked.

“What do you want to feel when you enter the room? What is important to you in a bedroom? What experiences do you want to have? Who are you and how does the choice of color express it?”

She was right.  It was only after I answered those questions that I was able to identify the best option.

In your desire to paint your sex life another color you shouldn’t be asking questions like, “what hue should I use?” You should be asking yourself the same question my interior designer friend asked me: What do you want the color to do?

Properly broadening the palette in your bedroom–or what you do in it– must come from understanding what motivates you, what excites you, and what aspects of desire you might have hidden from yourself but, if allowed to surface, could help you experience whatever is lacking right now.

You may be aware of your boredom, your restlessness or even a mismatch between your identities and your actions in bed. But just because you’re dissatisfied does not necessarily mean that you know how to address it. That’s why those articles and books are so dissatisfying. They’re answers in search of a question.

Here’s the central question upon which your journey rests:

“What do I want out of sex other than 

physical pleasure and emotional intimacy?”

If your answer is nothing then you don’t really need to go on a quest to “spice up” your sex life. If all you want is more physical enjoyment out of sex you can do it by improving the skills and techniques of activities you already enjoy (and more pointedly, getting your partner to do the same).

If you are seeking greater emotional intimacy you also don’t need to seek kinkier alternatives as you can achieve your goal by you or your partner changing the style of your lovemaking.  And of course, improving actions outside of the bedroom. For example, being kinder to your partner or doing your share of the housework will do more for your sex life than improving techniques or finding a new “spice”.

Don’t get me wrong, greater pleasure and intimacy are crucial to a satisfying sex life but they’re baseline experiences.  They’re what you expect from sex.

Sex Can Provide More Than Pleasure Or Intimacy

Most sexual dissatisfaction orbits around the person you’re having it with. Or to be more precise, the person you are being with the person you’re having it with. Let me explain.

Have you noticed that the person you are being when you’re having sex is always you? And the person you’re having sex with is always that person? But what if you–or they– weren’t? What if, when you’re having sex, you are not being you at all? And your partner isn’t being who they are either?

You would have a completely different experience of sex.

And this gets at the crux of most alternative sexual options. By temporarily embracing a new identity you can experience what is currently unimaginable to you.

Why Identities And Roles Are So Sexually Powerful

By identifying yourself differently you behave differently. As a confident take-charge person you do different things in bed than a passive submissive person would. A cop behaves differently than the guy he’s arresting. A patient assumes a different position than the doctor who’s examining her.

If you’re a hammer then everything looks like a nail. But what if, for a few hours, you’re not a hammer? What if you weren’t even a nail? I don’t want to tell you what to be, I just want to point out that the key to finding the spice that’s right for you is to understand which identities arouse your curiosity.

The Two Fundamental Identities You Can Experience

Just about every “spicy” sexual practice that you can think of– from exhibitionism to voyeurism to bondage to rough sex  to role playing–  hinges  on your relationship to power. It is this relationship that has driven a good deal of the sexual desire you have had, are having, will have or want to have.

The two fundamental drivers of this relationship to power are, of course, domination and submission. If you can get clarity around what aspects of each you want to experience you will be well on your way to choosing the right “spice.”

You’ve been playing with power all this time, you just never labeled it that way.   If you like to be pinned under your partner, you’ve experienced the thrill of submitting to power.  If you like holding them down you’ve experienced the thrill of wielding it.  It’s not possible to have sex without some kind of power exchange.  At one moment or another you are wielding or yielding.

If you’re the bottom in missionary you are surrendering yourself.  If you’re on top guiding the speed and depth of your partner’s thrusts, you’re controlling them.  If you dig your nails into his back you’ve inflicted pain.  If he does it, you’ve had pain inflicted on you.  If you’ve liked a massage that almost hurts you’ve experienced a pleasurable aspect of pain.  If you’ve given one you’ve experienced the satisfaction of administering it.

Just because you’re not conscious of how you relate to and enjoy power doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing it. Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to be consciously aware of how you relate to power and move intentionally toward some aspects of it you haven’t yet experienced.

The best way to understand your relationship to power is to take your erotic temperature with a diagnostic quiz. The best ones won’t label you; they’ll simply help you start a conversation with yourself.  You can try mine, this one, this one or that one.

As you take these quizzes, don’t worry about contradictory desires–they’re normal. You can prefer to be submissive during a kiss and dominant during intercourse.  And don’t try to slot yourself into a category either. Look for opportunities, not labels.

Remember my interior designer friend, the one who asked, What do you want the color to do?

When I took the time to look inward and answer the question, the color choice became obvious to me.

These diagnostic quizzes are a great way of getting at a modified version of her question: What do you want the spice to do?

When you take the time to look inward and answer the question, your spice choices will become obvious to you.


Sex Advice author Michael Alvear co-hosted HBO’s The Sex Inspectors. His newest book is the 2nd edition of How To Bottom Like A Porn Star. 


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