If the anticipation of sex is half the fun, then prepping for what is sure to be a sexy time can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. Whether you are in a brand spanking new relationship, a long-term partnership, or a casual fling, getting your body and mind ready for a racy romp is par for the (inter)course.
A survey of 2,000 American adults cited by the New York Post found that a whopping 56 percent of people admitted to awkward or "terrible" sex with a new partner. Of course, some level of awkwardness is to be expected — and that can be true whether you’re in a new or established relationship — but there are some ways to make your time between the sheets better.
Yes, there are many things you can and should consider doing before you hop into bed with your chosen plus-one — and there are also plenty of activities you should avoid. Trying to make an upcoming sex sesh a little more special and, well, climactic? Read on to learn the best and worst things you can do before having sex.
Best: Eat healthy foods to put you in the mood
There’s food porn, and then there’s food that makes you feel like a sexy adult star. If you’re hoping that your date night will end in a titillating fashion, you’ll want to up your menu game and prepare (or order) items that are proven aphrodisiac foods.
You can sprinkle flax seeds on your salad; their antioxidants help promote blood flow to the genitals, as explained by Healthline. While you’re at it, make sure there’s a hearty portion of spinach in that crunchy vegetable-heavy first course. The magnesium in greens reduces inflammation which also moves the needle. Sex expert Dr. Tammy Nelson told Eat This, Not That, "Increased blood flow drives blood to the extremities, which, like Viagra, can increase arousal and make sex more pleasurable." She continued, saying, "Women will find it is easier to have an orgasm, and men will find that erections come more naturally." A win-win.
Ordering oysters on the half shell? Go ahead and shuck before you, um, have sex. Don’t expect immediate results, though. While they’re loaded with zinc, a mineral that’s critical to sexual function, it takes time for this delicacy to work its magic — contrary to popular belief (via Healthline).
Worst: Eat spicy food or an overly heavy meal
If you know things are going to get heated in the bedroom, make sure they’re not quite as spicy at the dinner table. You may be burning with desire, but heartburn is a wholly unpleasant issue. What’s more, there are several specific foods you may want to avoid altogether before sex. As suggested by Eat This, Not That, you should probably take a hard pass on beans or cruciferous vegetables (think: cabbage, kale, and cauliflower). They could leave you with abdominal distress and, yes, gas (not exactly a turn on).
Of course, alliums (like onions and garlic) could alter your body odor — and breath — resulting in some not so sweet foreplay. Packaged desserts are another no-no. Chock full of trans fats and sugars, these items can increase your insulin and lower the testosterone level that drives your sexual desire. Beyond that, just use some common sense in your pre-passion meal choices. Anything heavy that sits like lead in the belly is not going to motivate your mojo.
Best: Spend some quality time with your partner
We give our full support to the occasional quickie. Wee are all very busy after all. Sometimes you just have to squeeze in a brief snuggle (plus) session. Of course, on other occasions, it’s important to devote the time and energy to emotional foreplay — you know, before you start getting physical.
Sex therapist Vanessa Marin told Insider that sex should not be considered an obligatory item to check off your to-do list. One-on-one time is not overrated, and it can help enhance the mood and the sex. And, no, that doesn’t mean sitting on the couch scrolling through your respective phones or binge-watching a TV show season in silence after a long day apart.
Sex therapist Isiah McKimmie explained in the aforementioned article that this time together is be especially pertinent to couples who have been together for a long time. "One partner will often complain, like, ‘We haven’t seen each other all day, we’re like ships passing in the night,’" he explained. Of course, you don’t have to commit to a full-blown date night affair every time you want to get frisky. No, it’s more about sharing a moment together and reconnecting after being apart.
Worst: Shave or wax right before sex
You surely want to prep and primp for the marathon night ahead. But one thing you should consider skipping: shaving or waxing your pubic hair. As explained by Verywell Health, shaving in particular can be risky before sex as even the tiniest nick or cut could make you more susceptible to getting a sexually transmitted disease. So what’s a hairy person to do?
First, try grooming a day or so before a sexual encounter so that your skin will have ample opportunity to heal from any cuts. Secondly, avoid any body hair removal techniques if you have an active STD outbreak because this can cause further spread to you and your potential partner. And, if possible, try to avoid razors altogether and opt to carefully, delicately trim the area with a pair of personal scissors. Another option? Confidently embrace the au naturel look.
Best: Have "the talk"
Let’s talk about sex, baby. It may initially feel embarrassing or uncomfortable, but before you get down and dirty you need to buck up and come clean. There is a lot to chat about in anticipation of doing the deed — particularly if this is your first time copulating with a new partner.
First, make sure you are both totally on board. Emily L. Depasse, a sexologist, told Bustle, "It doesn’t have to be awkward, but you should make space to ask for and reaffirm consent from your partners so that you’re clear about next steps." Next, address your sexual health status. It’s important to be completely transparent about sexually transmitted infections and if you or your plus-one haven’t been tested, you should prioritize that appointment before you make one for the bedroom.
One more thing to confirm or deny: exclusivity. Certified relationship counselor Stephanie Wijkstrom told Bustle, "You can never assume that because you are having sex with someone that they aren’t having sex with other people." Be proactive about establishing your expectations, boundaries, and concerns — you’re both adults after all. Deep breath, you can do this!
Worst: Take antihistamines just before sex
There’s nothing particularly sexy about sneezing or coughing, but if you have seasonal allergies, you know that those fresh flowers your honey brings you at every visit will be a trigger for your runny nose or itchy eyes. But before you run to the medicine cabinet and take an antihistamine, think twice. Just as your go-to allergy pill dries out those leaky mucus membranes of yours, it could also be sucking moisture from the mucus-producing cells of your nether regions. Physician Lauren Streicher explained to Shape that this could make it harder for you to get naturally lubricated. Furthermore, some antihistamines have a sedative effect.
Don’t worry, you can quell your immune system’s reaction without squashing your opportunity for a good time. As recommended by Shape, get some lube, try a different medication for your allergies, or give a natural allergy-fighting supplement, such as Butterbur, a spin.
Best: Think sexy thoughts and get yourself in the mood
It’s hard enough to schedule sexy time with your boo, so carving out a quiet moment to get yourself in the right frame of mind may sound unrealistic. But it’s important to transition from work to play — challenging as that may sound. Even a few minutes of mood-boosting me-time before pairing up to do the deed can help make sex feel hotter, better, and more passionate.
Embrace some mini activities to get you feeling cool, confident, and ready. Dr. Leah Millheiser, OB-GYN, told Women’s Health, "This can be as easy as taking a shower, changing one’s clothes, or lighting a certain candle." She elaborated that reading a risqué romance novel never hurts either: "This can be a really great way to kickstart your libido, especially at the end of a stressful work day."
You can also take a subtler approach. Sex therapist Vanessa Marin told Insider that it’s helpful to simply "take five minutes to … do something that doesn’t involve any sort of electronics." In other words, unplug and let go of all the thoughts clogging up your brain so you can truly be present in the moment — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Worst: Drink too much alcohol
Hoping for a wild night in bed? Consider making it a tame night at the bar. Drinking too much alcohol can impede your desire and your performance. As noted by Healthline, consumption of excessive booze can diminish on a woman’s libido, make orgasm more elusive, and cause a reduction in vaginal lubrication. For men, it can make it challenging to get or keep an erection and impede ejaculation. What’s more, studies, like one published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, have shown that getting drunk can lead to a potentially dangerous loss of inhibitions resulting in greater risk taking.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t start the night with a glass or two of red wine. In fact, sipping may actually benefit you and your beloved. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who drink a small to moderate amount of red vino have enhanced "sexual desire, lubrication, and overall sexual function."
Best: Stretch and meditate
Envisioning bedroom contortions in your near future? Maybe try stretching a bit before you get Cirque du so laid. You do not want to pull a hamstring. Sex works a whole lot of muscle groups, and you should to get limber and loose before you bend and twist. Even if you do not plan on going to tantric yogi extremes, you can still benefit from a good stretch sesh, as advised by Chelsea Streifeneder, a pilates teacher, in Prevention.
You can also try a little pre-sexy time mediation to mellow the mind and body. As Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation, explained in an article for Mind Body Green, meditation can decrease stress and anxiety, two major impediments to good sex. What’s more, meditation can promote the production of the two happy hormones, dopamine and serotonin, which, in tandem, can enhance sexual desire and improve the "intensity of orgasm."
Worst: Engage in intense exercise
If you have been pushing super hard at the gym, your at-home, in-bed workouts may be suffering as a consequence. Research performed at the University of North Carolina found that an intense and excessive workout routine can cause a man’s libido to plummet (via Women’s Health). Lead study author Anthony Hackney said that it stands to reason that women would experience this same diminished drive.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should sell your treadmill and abandon your free weights; a healthy amount of movement is always important. Fitness educator Pete McCall recommends setting a standard. "To protect the libido, limit high intensity exercise to 40-45 minutes, two to three times a week," he told Women’s Health. And yes, you can sweat during a run and sweat with naked fun. Research has shown that regular, moderate exercise can improve sexual wellness. Moderation is the key to health, happiness, and, apparently, sexual prowess.
Best: Put away your cell phone
Disconnect to reconnect — physically and emotionally. A survey of 2,000 people by technology company Asurion found that people have unhealthy relationships with their phones (via NY Post). No big shocker there. What’s more, this mobile dependence is hurting IRL relationships, too. Fifty-five percent of questioned participants said they were worried that they were neglecting important one-on-one time with their partner because of their bedtime scrolling habits, and 35 percent directly admitted that their sex life was negatively affected by their partner’s late-evening phone use.
So how can you break this unproductive pattern? Put your cell phone out of reach at bedtime, or turn it off completely. You don’t want the ding of a text message to hinder a more important sex message. Sex and relationship expert Elisabeth Mandel put it into perspective, telling StyleCaster, "What’s really going to happen if you take a break for an hour? The world won’t end." What’s more, you may get lucky!
Worst: Brush and floss your teeth
You might consider brushing your teeth and rinsing before things get hot and heavy, but you might want to refrain from using an electric toothbrush. Just as shaving your nether regions can cause tiny cuts and leave you more vulnerable to the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease, an aggressively fast and rough toothbrush can chop up your mouth and cause sensitivity and susceptibility. Dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse told Women’s Health that "spinning bristles can cause tiny tears in the gums, and harsh, alcohol-based mouthwashes can dry out and irritate your mucosa, making it prone to sores and contracting STDs."
Additionally, Dr. Erika Schwartz, an internist specializing in disease prevention, told Well+Good, "When it comes to oral sex, STIs are easily transmitted if you have mouth sores or your gums bleed when you brush your teeth." You should consider skipping the floss, too, because any mouth wound — no matter how big or small — poses a risk.
Furthermore, you may want to wait a while to brush after being intimate. Dentist Vanessa Creaven told the site that the potential of "creating any trauma … to the gum tissue … could promote the spread of any potential STI."
Best: Have protection at the ready
Before you get swept up in the moment, prepare your bedside drawer with all the essentials. First and foremost, that means lining up your preferred form of birth control. Evaluate your needs to make the best decision for your situation. Are you in an exclusive relationship? Do either or both of you have multiple partners? Are you trying to prevent pregnancy with a committed partner or perhaps trying to steer clear of STIs with a new one? Depending on your circumstances, be sure to keep condoms at the ready for impromptu encounters (via Healthline).
You may also want to have lube on hand, as well. It’s not a requirement, but it can be helpful and enjoyable. Sex educator Dr. Sari Locker told Self that "some women use a store-bought lubricant because they have issues with vaginal dryness, but many other women use lubrication simply for a new sensation during sex."
Worst: Douche just before sex (or ever)
Want to feel extra clean down there before a big date? Take a shower or have a soak, but resist douching before sex. In fact, don’t do it — ever. As explained by Everyday Health, "the vagina is a self-cleaning organ" that plays host to specific bacteria that keep harmful microbes out. What’s more, since the vagina is acidic, it actively works to reduce some infection risk. Unfortunately, as explained by registered nurse and professor Beverly Whipple on the wellness site: "Douching flushes out the normal bacteria in the vagina that are there to fight vaginal infections."
Furthermore, the common belief that douching can prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases is patently false. In fact, as noted by Everyday Health, douching has been linked to higher rates of infertility and ectopic pregnancies. Additionally, early research cited by the site notes that it can increase the likelihood of getting an STD.