Canadian sex therapists studied couples in group therapy to identify key elements of a great sex life.
They said great sex includes 8 elements, including authenticity, profound intimacy, and being present.
They say orgasm isn't an essential element for amazing sex.
Two Canadian therapists say they've identified the eight most important components of good sex.
Sex therapists Peggy Kleinplatz and A. Dana Menard wrote the book "Magnificent Sex: Lessons from Extraordinary Lovers" over a decade after they conducted a small two-part study on the topic, which included eight weeks of group sex therapy for couples who said they had lackluster sex lives.
Kleinplatz, Menard, and five other therapists, interviewed 64 married folks, including 33 men, 30 women, and one transgender man, who said they had great sex. Their average age was 47.8, and all participants were between 23 and 59.
They asked them, "How would you distinguish good sex from very great sex?" and then asked follow-up questions about the best sexual experiences of their lives over a 45-minute to two-hour period. Then, the seven therapists worked together to cluster concepts interviewees mentioned. They came up with eight concepts, and used them in an eight-week program to teach another group how to have better sex lives.
The therapists found the majority of participants reported an increase in sexual satisfaction after the eight week program, suggesting people can learn how to have good sex using the eight elements they identified. The elements focus on empathy, feeling comfortable, and being in the moment.
The 8 elements of good sex
Therapists combed through their interview responses to pinpoint eight qualities that make for a "transcendent" sexual experience.
Orgasm wasn't one of the elements, the researchers said, because only a minority of study participants mentioned it. Those that did mention orgasm said it wasn't as important as the other elements, which are:
1. Being present, or as the researchers described it, "being utterly alive with intensely focused attention"
2. Deep connection, or feeling like you've become "one" with your partner.
3. Profound intimacy, or having mutual trust, respect, and care for your partner.
4. Empathetic communication, or being able to listen to your partner and confide in them. You also take risks together and touch each other in loving ways, according to the researchers.
5. Authenticity, or feeling like you're safe to be who you are and enjoy what you like during sex.
6. Surrender, or the ability to "give" yourself to your partner because you feel comfortable.
7. Exploration, or trying new things with positive, playful, and pleasure-focused mindset.
8. Transcendence, or feeling bliss, ecstasy, peace, and no sense of time.
Though some study participants said "orgasm" and "lust" also contributed to their sexual satisfaction, they weren't requirements.
Therapists gave sex homework that centered on the 8 elements
For the second phase of the study, the researchers brought in 45 couples, which comprised of 38 straight couples, six lesbian couples, and one gay couple, who said they had lackluster sex because of differences in sex drive. None of the couples said they were planning on divorce, nor did they say they had a history of relationship violence.
The 45 couples attended eight two-hour sessions of weekly group sex therapy, where a team of 20 sex therapists used homework assignments and the eight elements of great sex to teach couples how to improve their time in the bedroom.
Assignments included non-sexual exercises that taught couples how to be more playful with each other, gain trust, focus on the present, and communicate about sexual needs. They also learned about ways to have sex that didn't involve vaginal penetration, and a massage therapist demonstrated sensual techniques they could add to their sex lives.
After the course, the researchers tested each participant on 23 markers of desire, like sexual arousal, emotional openness, and surrender to pleasure. The majority of the participants said they noticed improvement in 17 of 23 markers and that their sex lives had improved overall.
"We just had an overnight away together, and things were different. So much less stress and pressure. A wonderful, loving, fun time together that felt easy and special," one participant said at the end of the study.
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