Why is sex so good? Kinda like asking, “why is water wet?” But still, if we understand what makes sex good then maybe we can make it even better!

One of the main questions in life is: Why is sex so good? According to a new review paper, it’s because sex — like dance, yoga, and other body-based pleasures — is rhythmic, and that rhythm has a way of uniting and heightening the senses.

Authored by Northwestern University researcher Adam Safron and published in Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology, the paper argues that intercourse can be such a magical experience because of “entrainment,” which is a fancy way of saying that it gets your brain, sensory, and bodily systems all rowing in the same sexy direction. What happens in the run-up to orgasm, he argues, is what goes on in most ecstatic experiences (consider how a “beat drops” in your favorite new disco anthem). Rhythmic perception and action lead you to attend more to the stimuli that’s turning you on, leading to greater enjoyment, and greater attendance, making for “further enhancing entrainment, thus creating a positive feedback cycle of deepening sexual absorption,” he writes.

It’s not enough to call this increased arousal or pleasure: A better way to understand the way people can lose their sense of selves during the act of sex is with trance, the same way that you might feel a sense of absorption on a particularly good night of dancing, a particularly strenuous yoga session, a particularly deep meditation, or a particularly satisfying run. “Intensely focusing on immediate sensations — such as those produced by rhythmic stimulation — is likely to reduce the amount of mental capacity available for other things,” Safron writes, like ruminative self-narratives, wondering about what could have been, or generally having your mind someplace other than where you currently are. “Such an experience of sensate focusing and altered self-processing may be most appropriately referred to as a kind of trance state,” he writes. “If this trance occurs in the context of another individual who is similarly absorbed, then it could potentially contribute to feelings of connectedness along with the expansion of self-other boundaries.”

bolded the part that jumped out at me, and it matches my experience. Sex is best when you are “intensely focusing on immediate sensations” — which is closely related to our posts about the importance of enthusiasm and responsiveness. There’s a feedback loop: in order to have great sex you need to pull your mind away from the mundane considerations of life, and the act of pulling away is self-reinforcing, leading to enhanced focus and even better sex!

So how can you use this information to improve sex with your spouse? In addition to the posts I’ve linked to above, here are a few ways you can focus more intensely during sex:

  • Sight. Get rid of visual distractions. Unless you’re just playing around you should turn off the television, put away your phones, and lock your door. Focus your eyes and attention on your spouse. You can dim the lights, maintain eye contact, or even wear a blindfold for some power play. Wear something sexy. Do a danceKeep your bedroom orderly and comfortable to avoid seeing your surroundings as a to-do list while you’re having sex.
  • Sound. Put on some sensual music, something with a beat! Like the article says above, a good rhythm helps synchronize your bodies and senses. Turn off the baby monitors, silence your phones. Replace the batteries in the #&%&(#@% smoke detector. In my post about sexual responsiveness I talk about how important it is to use words and sounds during sex, so go read that whole post. Moan and groan, cry out, say your spouse’s name, beg for an orgasm.
  • Smell and taste. Using food in your sexy time can be fun, but it may also be a distraction.  If you want to focus intensely on the sexual experience, engage with the taste and smell of your spouse. Bury your face in your spouse’s hair or neck. Kiss deeply. Lick your spouse all over. Use oral sex not only to stimulate your spouse, but also to engage your own senses! During oral sex the attention is usually on the receiver, but try flipping that around: when you’re giving oral sex, focus on absorbing all the sensations that come from being close to your spouse’s sexuality. (Husbands especially: hygiene is important if you want your wife to enjoy your taste and smell.)
  • Touch. Sex obviously involves a lot of touching, but the touching can often be very goal-oriented: orgasm. However, sex with your spouse isn’t (usually) a race — you can focus your sense of touch more intensely if you just slow down. Revel in touching and being touched all over your bodies. An average human has twenty square feet of skin, so don’t just use your fingers: lips and tongues are obvious, but you can touch anything to anything else. (Check out Body Part Twister for some ideas (automated spinner).) Touch, tickle, massage, tease, and you can learn to build your spouse up to some huge orgasms.
  • Restraint. One of the reasons that light bondage is fun is that the person being restrained (the receiver) is free to focus completely on his or her sensations. While restrained, the receiver doesn’t need to think about giving pleasure, only receiving it. Being tied up is permission to be the center of attention, even your own attention. The receiver doesn’t have to do anything, just be.
  • Trust and vulnerability. In order to really lose yourself in a sexual experience you have to trust your spouse enough to let yourself be vulnerable. Your relationship needs to be past the point where you worry about looking right, acting right, or moving right. If you’re worried about impressing or disappointing your spouse, or being awkward, you’re not going to be able to focus on your senses. You each need to be comfortable with your own bodies and sexuality, and you need to respect and cherish each other.

“Losing yourself” doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but I think we can take some intentional steps to eliminate distractions during sex and really focus on the sensations we’re creating with our spouses. If you have any tips to share, please leave a comment!

We hope your summer is hot and sweaty — under the sheets!

What buttons would you each like? — Brilliant thought experiment.

How would you like a magic button? When you push the button, your husband immediately does what the button says. Not only does he do it, he does it without complaint or acting upset. Now turn it around; what magic button would your husband like? What does he want more of from/with you? If I asked him the top five buttons he would like, how many of them would you guess correctly?

The Duchy has rope bondage tutorials with no nudity or sexual content. If you haven’t yet, check out our post about shibari.

Have you ever been injured during sex? — I’ll be honest: I skipped the post to get straight to the war stories in the comments.

Everybody wants to know about anal sex — Sure, but we get more questions about oral sex.

Pompoir: The Art of Milking the Lingam

Pompoir is the art of “milking” the lingam of your partner with your yoni. (Lingam and yoni are Sanskrit for penis and vagina.)

Create a sex encounter schedule — Also see this 2+2 habit. Helpful communication tools, but less ambitious than than daily sex.

Can I get a hand?

Tease him till he begs — In private, or in public.

… and even more bloggers! — I haven’t read them all yet.

Post some more great links in the comments, have have a hot summer!

If you were intrigued by our bondage for beginners post then you’re in for a treat! Shibari is an artistic, beautiful, and intimate style of rope bondage that spouses can enjoy when they have a significant amount of time available to invest in a sexual encounter. A quick warning, which may be obvious: if you Google many of the terms in this post you’re likely to see images with nudity. However, it is possible to learn about shibari without seeing all that, and I’m going to link to a few resources that I found to be safe.

(Sexy Corte and I debated over whether or not showing nude mannequins and drawings is acceptable, and we decided yes. Educational resources frequently use drawings or icons to convey sexual information while avoiding naked human flesh, and we think it’s approriate. Shibari is a very visual art, and it would be impossible to describe without any images. If the images bother you, we apologize.)

First of all, I should point out that I’m not an expert on shibari. I’m going to attempt to use the correct terminology and give some tips for how Sexy Corte and I got started, but this is all pretty new to us. Second, make sure you read about basic bondage safety — I can’t cover all that here.

So, why would you want to try Japanese rope bondage?

  • Beautiful body art. Creating a work of art on you or your spouse’s body is great fun and very empowering. Your bodies are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God, and shibari gives you a new way to enjoy their beauty and sexuality.
  • Intimate. Performing the ties takes time, close attention to detail, cooperation, communication, and lots of touching. The spouse being tied doesn’t just stand immobile — the whole process requires (naked!) collaboration. A shibari session can hit every love language: plenty of physical touch, an investment of quality time, service through tying and being tied, words affirming beauty and skill, and even giving of gifts in the form of materials. You and your spouse can emphasize whatever aspects best fit your languages.
  • Simple. Ok, some of the art pieces you may see online are not simple, but the basic techniques are easy to learn and build from. The materials you need to get started (see below) are inexpensive and easily available.
  • Power dynamic. As with most bondage, the dynamic of domination and submission can be as big or small an element as you desire, both during the tying and after. The basic shibari ties (see below) don’t necessarily restrain the movement of the spouse being tied, but they can form the foundation for restraining ties if desired.
  • Creative. The image at the top of the post comes from 18Seiben’s Deviant Art gallery, and he has tons of other safe images to inspire you. There’s really no limit to the designs and patterns you can create, even with very simple techniques. Once you grasp the basics, it isn’t hard to look at a single image and consider how you might create something similar.

shibari gallery

The materials required to get started are minimal. First, of course, is rope.

  • “Shibari rope”. You can find “shibari rope” online that’s extremely expensive and unnecessary; don’t buy it. You can get great rope at your local home improvement store for only a few dollars. Shibari purists seem to prefer natural hemp rope, but we’ve gotten along fine with nylon and MFP (cheaper and less scratchy).
  • Default length and thickness. To get started, buy a few pieces of rope that are 1/4-inch thick and 25 feet long. Length and thickness will eventually depend on the ties you plan to do.
  • Longer. We also have a 50-foot rope — longer ropes can be useful for some designs, but are harder to work with because you have to pull all that length through, over and over.
  • Shorter. Shorter ropes can be useful for more advanced techniques like single- or double-column ties.
  • Thicker. Some 3/8-inch thick rope can also be useful for ties that actually bear weight (greater width means the rope doesn’t bite into skin as much), but it’s harder to knot.

Additional supplies:

  • Safety scissors. Just in case you need to cut free immediately. Medical safety scissors have blunt tips that make it easy to cut rope without poking skin.
  • Relaxing music. Unlike most of your sex music, shibari really lends itself to a peaceful soundtrack. Think classical. Maybe Sexy Corte can offer some suggestions later.

Ok, so you’ve got your supplies and you’re ready to get started! Now what? The first tie we did is a simple breast harness called a shinju, which means “binding the pearls”. The term can refer to many different styles of breast bindings, which generally turn out something like this.

shinju manniquin

Here’s a three-minute video that will walk you through a simple shinju.

The shinju is a lot of fun and really highlights the wife’s breasts! Once you’ve completed the tie, we recommend progressing to a face-to-face sexual position with the wife upright so as to best enjoy her breasts, such as cowgirl or sex on a chair. The shinju can also serve as the foundation for a variety of arm restraints, like this.

arm-binding

After the shinju, you can move on to a full body harness called a karada, which means “binding the body”. As with the shinju, there are many ways to create a karada, and 18Seiben’s gallery will give you a taste. Here’s video that shows one simple karada.

And here’s an image of a karada that illustrates the process (click for full-size).

how to tie karada

These two ties are about as far as we’ve gotten ourselves, but we’ve got a million ideas we’d still like to try. For example, both the shinju and karada can be worn secretly under winter clothes! Once you know the basics it’s easy to visualize how to create more intricate ties, and working through the trial-and-error of achieving your vision is extremely intimate. Our next “advanced” project will be a rope corset.

shibari rope corset

Finally, some resources:

  • The Duchy has rope bondage guides that show no skin or sexual content
  • BDSMGeek’s YouTube playlist of safe shibari tutorials, also with no nudity

If you’ve ever done any rope bondage with your spouse, or are interested in trying, leave a comment!

In our bondage for beginners post we first mentioned the under-the-mattress restraint system and we got a few questions about it, so here’s some more information about why it’s great and how to use it. The banner photo doesn’t show how it’s installed, so here’s a diagram:

under mattress diagram

There are a few key features that will make such a system one of your most-used sex toys.

  • Easy to install. You have to lift your mattress and then shuffle the straps into place, but it’s once-and-done. After it’s installed, that’s pretty much it. Unlike many other restraints, you don’t need a headboard or bed posts.
  • Concealed. When you’re not using it, the cuffs can be tucked under the mattress and the system is invisible. You can show off your room to visitors or let your kids play without worrying that they’ll notice anything unusual.
  • Convenient. The system doesn’t need to be set up every time you play, and you don’t have to plan ahead. If the urge strikes you while you’re in the middle of the action, just reach under the mattress and grab a cuff.
  • Adaptable. The diagram shows the straps wrapping over the top and bottom edge of the mattress, but the system works equally well if you pull the straps over the sides. It just depends how you want to stretch and restrain your spouse: more length-wise or more spread-eagle.
  • Adjustable. The lengths of the straps can be easily adjusted to enable a variety of positions. Most systems come with removable cuffs as well.
  • Effective. It does exactly what you’d expect: holds wrists and ankles in place. If you want to hold knees open, make sure your cuffs are big enough.

So what positions you use the straps for? Here are a few ideas.

  • Spread-eagle is the most obvious position, either face-up or face-down. If the husband is restrained face-up the wife can easily have her way with him; if the wife is restrained, face-up is awesome for foreplay and teasing, and face-down is easier for sex.
  • Arms above head. For face-to-face sex with the wife restrained, it’s convenient to set her ankles free after foreplay but keep her arms above her head. This let’s her legs and hips get into a good position while still restricting her movement.
  • Arms out, legs up. The straps are easy to reposition, so with the wife in a face-up position you can pull her arms out straight and then lift her legs up. This position is always amazing for deep penetration, and adding the restraints puts the husband in complete control.
  • Doggy style. Almost the reverse of the position above. Put the wife on her knees and then pull her arms down between her legs and put her face on the mattress. Cuff her ankles and wrists. You can criss-cross the straps to hold her legs together — attach the left wrist to the right strap and the right wrist to the left strap.
  • Pillow under the hips. Pillows can be put under the restrained spouse’s hips, whether it’s the husband or wife, face-up or face-down. The pillow can  can be used to improve access, penetration, and enable angles that are hard to do when laying flat.

And don’t forget your blindfolds, vibrators, and other toys!

Have you ever used an under-mattress restraint system? Got any tips to share with our readers?

It’s been a while since we had a link party, so let’s see what’s up around the marriage-sphere.

Q&A: Will Frequent Yeses Turn My Husband into a Sex Maniac? — No.

Oral Sex: Giving and Receiving the Gift — Intimacy, vulnerability, and submission.

29 Fun, Healthy and Sexy Things to Do with Your Spouse this Summer — Enjoy the warm weather!

Picture dares for couples — A fun print-and-play game, along with links to earlier installments.

3 Things Higher Sex Drive Spouses Wish their Spouse Knew — Don’t play games.

Honor bondage — Bondage without physical restraints.

With Fifty Shades of Grey everywhere you look (including Target, right next to the kids toothbrushes, ew!) there’s a lot of interest in bondage, and a lot of couples are experimenting with stuff they never would have thought of before. However, if you’re like me and have no intention of reading those books or watching the movies, you may be wondering what the big deal is — why would anyone want to be restrained during sex? Well, I know nothing about the BDSM “scene” so I can’t speak very broadly, but I can tell you in one word why Sexy Corte and I periodically enjoy adding some light bondage to our sexy time: vulnerability.

To understand bondage let’s talk first about the goal, then the methods, then why it’s fun. The goal is simple: voluntarily restrain one spouse to enhance his or her vulnerability and submission. It seems most common for the wife to be restrained, but I’ve had Sexy Corte tie me down and tease me and it was lots of fun. Usually though, it’s me restraining her. The purpose of the restraint is to give control of your body to your spouse, not to be painful or uncomfortable. Submitting to bondage is a huge demonstration of trust to your spouse because it puts your naked body into their control and makes you supremely vulnerable. The bondage benefits both the dominant and the submissive spouse by giving the dominant person permission to act, and the submissive person permission to let go. The various toys described below are only used to accent the submission that has already been agreed to.

There are limitless methods of bondage, but they generally share a few common features.

  • Nakedness. The submissive spouse will usually be restrained naked, or at least with her sexy bits exposed. Being naked with your spouse is already a big show of trust, and being restrained kicks it up a notch.
  • Hand restraint. Often the submissive’s hands are restrained to prevent her from “protecting” herself. (I use quotes, because of course nothing should be happening against the submissive’s desires.) Hands can be restrained above the head (for example, tied to the headboard), behind the back, in front (for front-to-back positions), or even attached to the ankles. Hand restraint is probably the most common element of light bondage. Get those hands out of the way!
  • Leg restraint. Legs, ankles, and knees can be restrained to keep the wife’s legs spread or to prevent movement in general. Leg restraint is an important element of position restraint and orgasm control.
  • Head restraint. Head or neck restraint could be uncomfortable or even dangerous. This isn’t something we do.
  • Eye restraint. Covering the submissive’s eyes can add another layer of trust and enhance vulnerability. Using a blindfold can really make extended foreplay exciting.
  • Mouth restraint. Sometimes you just want to hear your spouse moan with pleasure instead of talk. Sometimes talking is distracting. Taking away the option to talk can be liberating for the person who is restrained. Always be sure that anyone whose mouth is covered can breathe freely and can signal a desire to stop.
  • Position restraint. A combination of restraints can be used to hold the submissive spouse in a certain position, say for spanking. This can be critical for orgasm delay and multiple orgasms, which we’ll talk about below.

So what are the actual devices that can be used for bondage play? Almost anything you can imagine can be incorporated, but here are a few ideas. Each of these items probably deserves its own post!

liberator

Wedge pillows. Sexy Corte and I enjoy these a lot for positioning, and they include attachments for…

Hand cuffs. We use some padded strips with velcro for closures and plastic clips that can be attached together or to the wedges. We’ve tried metal cuffs in the past, but they’re quite uncomfortable if you’re laying on them.

under-mattress

Under-the-mattress restraints. Looks complicated, but it’s not. The cuffs can be tucked under the mattress when not in use. These are especially useful if you don’t have a headboard suitable for tying to.

blindfold

Blindfold. If you want to improvise, use a neck tie or panties.

Gags can be similarly improvised, or you can buy one.

swing

Sex swing. We have one that can be quickly hung in a door frame and be used for a ton of positions. It’s easier than it looks.

spreader_bar

Spreader bar. Keeps those legs apart. Can be used in many positions, including standing, but isn’t great for missionary. I made ours with a wooden dowel and some eye screws.

pull-up-bar

Pull-up bar. These can be mounted in a door way and used as a restraint point for securing someone in a standing position. Also great for getting ripped.

an-unassuming-silver-bullet-vibrator-apparently-inspired-some-bawdy-attention-from-a-tsa-agent-who

 

Vibrator. There are many kinds, but we find the egg vibrator to be the most versatile. We buy cheap ones (around $7 from Amazon) and replace them once or twice a year when they wear out. We also keep rechargeable batteries charging in our bedroom. A wand vibrator can also be useful for longer duration games or when you need more reach.

Rope. Check out our intro to shibari for some awesome ideas!

karada

(Let me point out that you don’t actually need any toys! This post is getting long enough, so I won’t go into detail, but look forward to a future post on mental-only bondage.)

Finally, what’s fun about bondage anyway?

  • Intimacy. Like I said at the beginning: the essence of bondage is vulnerability, and vulnerability is the key to intimacy. Bondage will teach you new things about your spouse’s mind and body. Bondage will let you explore new levels of sexual trust. Bondage exposes you to each other in amazing ways.
  • Passion. Let’s face it: there can be something hot about dominating your spouse or submitting to his or her will. Maybe your sex is normally gentle and loving, and bondage lets you get a little rougher and more physically intense.
  • Foreplay. Bondage requires time to execute, and all that time can be used as foreplay focused on the spouse being bound.
  • Orgasm delay. Also known as teasing or edging. When the submissive spouse is free to move she can position her body just the right way to reach orgasm, and bondage can take away that ability and give control to the dominant spouse. It can be extremely difficult for a person to willingly back off from an orgasm when it’s close, but when using bondage the dominant spouse can pull back and keep the submissive spouse right on the edge without going over. This can make the orgasm incredibly powerful when it eventually comes.
  • Multiple orgasms. After a woman orgasms her clitoris may become intensely sensitive, such that further stimulation is uncomfortable. If her hands and legs are free she may push the stimulation away for relief. However, if she is bound such that she can’t “protect” her clitoris her husband can continue with the stimulation and bring her to multiple orgasms. Sexy Corte describes these as an unending plateau of orgasm, rather than the peak and descent of the normal experience. They’re also quite exhausting, so this probably isn’t something you’ll do every day. As a husband, giving my wife multiple orgasms is one of my absolute favorite things.
  • Fantasy. Bondage can be used as an element of fantasy or role-playing. It feels naughty, and once you’re in the naughty mindset you can free yourself to try some things that you normally wouldn’t. He’s the villain and she’s the kidnapped princess? She’s the super-spy and he’s the captured rogue agent who knows where the bomb is hidden?
  • Exploration. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for our sexual desires, even when the marriage has good communication. Bondage can be an avenue for exploring desires that are difficult to speak out loud but perhaps easier to request non-verbally while in the moment. New experiences can break old habits, and you’re already feeling naughty, right?
  • Escapism. Maybe it’s a minor form of dissociation, but bondage be a form of escapism from everyday life into a secret world of sex with your spouse.
  • Novelty. Bondage introduces a myriad of new sexual options, new ways to play, new positions, new toys, and maybe even new desires.

In the end bondage should be fun and promote intimacy and vulnerability in your marriage. As always, enthusiasm and responsiveness will ensure that you get the most from your sexual experience.

Let us know what you think in the comments! What are you experiences? Do you have any suggestions to add?