As we enter that magical time of year when your underwear glues itself to your butt with the determination of an affectionate barnacle, we’re taking a closer look at sweat. What is it? What does it want? From sweatshops and anxiety to the literal drippy stuff itself, this week is all about the perspiration. Now let’s get sweaty.
When one thinks of “good sex,” the image that probably comes to mind — if not something from your own history, or a slow, sensual scene like Ghost’s gentle, clay-spattered humping — is something loud, wild and sweaty. But is working hard enough to perspire a prerequisite to good sex? Does a romp not count if you don’t soak through your sheets? Here’s what the experts had to say…
Tasha Reign, adult film actress and MEL columnist: Sex is complicated. You could have good sex with somebody in the morning and make it really romantic and kind of quiet — that’s the type of morning sex I like to have, because it’s like you’re not prepared for it, you’re just cuddling and then it leads to that. That kind of sex can be special and romantic and you definitely don’t have to be sweating. Overall, I feel like people should stop trying to find so many different ways to define sex in that it has to meet this success level or that time limit for it to be good.
Irv O. Neil, erotica writer: I think not sweating is physically impossible in person-to-person contact, but it can be kept down if the focus is more on verbal interplay, or some form of restraint is being exercised over one or more of the partners in some way. Like if a woman says to her man, “Lay there and don’t move while I tell you all the dirty thoughts I had today,” the sweat might be minimal, but the heat might be maximal!
Justin Myers, dating blogger at The Guyliner and author of The Last Romeo: Assuming we’ve only had a good time if we’re both knackered and sweaty after sex is a very “pics or it never happened” approach to fun. Like, if you post an amazing photo of your brunch to Instagram, does it mean you had a better time? Was the waiter less of an asshole? Was your cutlery any less filthy? Nope. Assuming good sex comes from exertion is a bad message. Think of those guys jackhammering away with little thought to her (or his) pleasure — it’s perfectly possible to get all hot and bothered from the worst shag of your life. And some of the most passionate, exhausting bangs can happen in rooms with arctic air-conditioning, with barely a drop of sweat between you.
Good sex comes from how you feel inside — whether it’s a case of them hitting the spot, being intuitive or even that emotional connection. Basing a good shag on how bedraggled you look at the end of it seems shortsighted to me. Does your definition of good sex have to be immovable? Just as some days you fancy salad over steak, so too will you eschew your slow, sensual shag for a frenetic, sweltering fuck in a public toilet — while the queue outside politely coughs to let you know they’re there — before you emerge slicked with sweat and the knowledge that, today, yes, that was good sex.
Catherine O Dowd, sex therapist at Creative Sexpression: Of course it can be great sex without breaking a sweat! What about in winter? What about tantric sex? Or breath orgasms? Or sexual connection that isn’t defined by penetration? Quickies can be great fun if they’re not the only thing on the menu. We don’t always have to have sex like a three-course meal, sometimes it can be more like grabbing some fast food without the entree and that’s okay!
Diana and Richard Daffner, married couple and co-authors of Tantric Sex for Busy Couples and owners of Intimacy Retreats:
Diana: One of the practices we teach couples is what we call “peaceful passion,” which is based on an ancient tantric practice called yab-yum.
Richard: That’s when the lady sits on the guy’s penis.
Diana: It’s a form of intercourse without thrusting or creating friction by either of you. There’s no clitoral stimulation or anything like that, but there is intercourse, and once you’re in that position, you share the energy between you and it’s an orgasmic experience, though it isn’t climactic. And though there are many tantric sexual practices, in this particular one, you likely won’t break a sweat, yet it’s extremely joyful and intimate.
Richard: By doing this, a guy can learn to synchronize their orgasm with the woman, which is what many men strive for in life.
Aaron Thompson, adult film actor: It’s all about context. I’m a sweaty dude, so I sweat 99.9 percent of the time. Also I think that, much of the time, good sex means you have to break a sweat. If it’s like an Olympian marathon session all over the house where you’re smacking each other and throwing each other up against the walls and stuff, yeah, you better break a sweat. That said, you don’t always have to; if you’re having a romantic, slow, under-the-covers-while-you’re-watching-Netflix, lazy-bones session, you may not break a sweat and that’s cool. That’s still a good time. Or maybe you’re fucking outside in a blizzard. You might not be breaking a sweat because it’s fucking cold. Context!
Mr. and Mrs. Jones, married couple, swingers and hosts of the We Gotta Thing podcast:
Mrs. Jones: You don’t have to break a sweat for good sex because sometimes it’s just that quick, frantic sex where you don’t even have time to break a sweat, yet it’s really intense. It’s nice to think that you have several hours and you’re going to make an evening out of it, but realistically, most people don’t have time to do that often. Sometimes it’s just down and dirty, and you know, mission accomplished.
Mr. Jones: It depends on the environment you’re in and the situation you’re in. There’s physical sex and sensual sex, and on the sensual side, you can have sex without breaking a sweat with just the two of you, but if there are more people involved — like with a threesome or foursome — you’d definitley want to break a sweat for something like that because it’s a special occasion.
Mrs. Jones: Our goal when we have someone else over or another couple over is to connect with everyone there on some level, and that takes time and energy… and sweat.
Jodi Erin Rabinowitz, certified sex therapist: Breaking a sweat doesn’t indicate pleasure, it indicates that your body is trying to regulate your temperature.
Sean Salazar, certified personal trainer at Anywhere Gym: Contrary to what a lot of people think, sex isn’t that great of a workout. I’ve had a lot of people tell me, ‘I don’t work out all the time, but I do have a lot of sex,’ and they think that sex is a form of exercise, but really it’s not. I’ve even had guys wear these devices, like fitness watches basically, that track their activity throughout the day — including when they have sex — and we review the data afterwards, guys are always surprised by how little they’ve actually done during sex; it’s barely a blip on the graph.
While sex does get your heart rate up a little bit, it’s not all that much. Also, while some people might have marathon sessions, for the most part, the act itself takes about five or ten minutes and it only really involves pelvic thrusting, which doesn’t burn many calories. None of this is enough to call it “exercise” — it’s an activity. Now, don’t get me wrong, activity is great, but that’s not enough.
Helen Meissner, who’s been married and divorced four times: Speaking as someone who, at 52, has been around the block a few times, I prefer to avoid the sweat! As active in that area as I ever was, with four marriages and other shorter relationships under my belt, I’d say that for me, sweaty sex is the least enjoyable. You feel like you have to respond like a porn star if the object of your affection seems to be auditioning for sexual gymnast of the year, and that’s not really my style — it seems rather fake.
I guess for me, sex at its best is an extension of a loving, intimate, trusting bond and making love — as opposed to having sex — is something which, if organic, considerate and heartfelt, personally brings me the most pleasure. You can have great, meaningful sex as part of a one-night stand or as part of a loving relationship. In fact, the one-night stand can be exhilarating and liberating as you’ve got no baggage to consider — and who knows where it might lead?
Exploratory positions and open-minded sex don’t have to bring you out in a sweat, though. Slow and steady often wins the race in my book!
Barney and Betty, a married couple who don’t have a lot of time for sex since their kids were born:
Barney: Honestly, I think for good sex, you’re going to sweat, but I’m a pretty sweaty guy, so I’m probably biased.
Betty: I don’t think so, sweat can get distracting. Like, it’s kind of sexy, but then it’s like, “Enough already!” and it gets gross. Effort is good, but you don’t want too much effort. Sex should be effortless.
Barney: You say that, but I don’t think so — good sex has both people satisfied, and that takes effort, i.e., sweat, at least on the guy’s part.
Betty: But a quickie can be good sex! Like, what about that time in the alley by Grand Central? Or in the parking lot of the raceway? Or on that picnic table when we were camping? Those were all good sex and even you didn’t break a sweat those times.