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Talking about sex is good for you

Tags: sexual problems, sexual satisfaction, better sex, reaching climax, orgasm, pain during sex, anxiety, sex therapist

Reaching a climax – either too quickly or not at all – is the main concern for young people having sex, according to a new national survey.

The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles [1] showed that 16- to 21-year-olds are commonly facing problems like physical pain and anxiety during sex, as well as finding sex difficult and having problems reaching orgasm.

For young women, the most common sexual problems were:

  • Difficulty reaching a climax (21.3 percent)
  • Not enjoying sex (9.8 percent)
  • Physical pain (9 percent)
  • Uncomfortable dryness (8.5 percent)
  • Feeling anxious (8 percent)
  • No excitement or arousal (8 percent)

For young men, the most common sexual problems were:

  • Reaching a climax too quickly (13.2 percent)
  • Difficulty reaching a climax (8.3 percent)
  • Difficulty getting or keeping an erection (7.8 percent)
  • Not enjoying sex (5.4 percent)
  • Feeling anxious (4.8 percent)

Seeking help for sexual problems

These issues seem to be fairly common among young people, but the numbers of people seeking help are still relatively low. 

Around 36 percent of women and only 24 percent of men said they had sought help from friends, family members, or online sources. But only eight percent of women and four percent of men had been to a medical professional or sexual health practitioner about their sex life [1].

If you’re having sexual problems and don’t know how to resolve them alone, one of the easiest ways to access support is through your GP. They will be able to offer help with physical problems and can refer you to sexual health specialists, where you can get support for emotional and physical problems.

What is sexual satisfaction?

Physiological and emotional issues aside, there are also some things you can do to improve yours and your partner’s sexual satisfaction. The authors of one study [2] have helped to identify the major factors affecting sexual satisfaction:

  1. Getting the mechanics right. That’s to say, touching each other in the right way will lead to sexual pleasure.
  2. Getting to know each other. Practice makes perfect, so the more you have sex with someone, the more you’ll learn about what they do and don’t like.
  3. Developing intimacy. The more committed you and your partner to each other, the more you’ll be able to relax and enjoy sex.

They also noted that gender stereotyping can play a part. There’s an old-fashioned stereotype that women’s sexual pleasure isn’t as important as men’s. This can lead to decreased satisfaction for women, particularly in casual hook-ups.

This study shows that ‘good sex’ can be specific to you and your partner, as it can take time to learn the best ways to satisfy each other. What’s great for one partner may not work for another.

Because of this, sex within a relationship where you feel comfortable and emotionally invested may be more satisfying, and more likely to lead to orgasm [2] [3].

Improving sexual satisfaction

If you and your partner want to have better sex, one of the most important things you can do is talk about it.

There’s a reason communication features in almost every article on this site! Open communication between partners has been shown to increase intimacy and closeness. If you feel close enough to share sexually intimate details with your partner, then it’s likely you’ll feel more relaxed and comfortable during sex, which can lead to both of you enjoying it more [4] [5].

Developing intimacy through openness like this requires a willingness to be vulnerable. But, if you are willing, research shows that it could lead to more enjoyable and satisfying sex for you and your partner. It may even strengthen your relationship bond overall.


[1] National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Sexual attitudes and lifestyles in Britain: Highlights from Natsal-3. London.

[2] Armstrong, E. A., England, P., & Fogarty, A. C. (2012). Accounting for women’s orgasm and sexual enjoyment in college hookups and relationships. American Sociological Review77(3), 435-462.

[3] Christopher, F. S., & Sprecher, S. (2000). Sexuality in marriage, dating, and other relationships: A decade review. Journal of Marriage and Family62(4), 999-1017.

[4] MacNeil, S., & Byers, E. S. (2005). Dyadic assessment of sexual self-disclosure and sexual satisfaction in heterosexual dating couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships22(2), 169-181.

[5] Litzinger, S., & Gordon, K. C. (2005). Exploring relationships among communication, sexual satisfaction, and marital satisfaction. Journal of sex & marital therapy31(5), 409-424.

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