Sex and foreplay lessons with sex therapist Tanya Koens
From schoolyard sex banter, to the sex ‘talk’ you did or didn't have with your parents, to subliminal sex messages, sex is all around. I mean, you're probably all clued up about it by now, right? Wrong. Meet sex therapist Tanya Koens. Running Surry Hills Therapy centre, Tanya's day job is what most people would find thumb-twiddlingly squeamish. Teaming her clinical counselling background with extensive studies in sexual health, Tanya assists couples and individuals in their search for what is healthy and what works best – both relationally and sexually.
In the lead up to her The Physiology of Pleasure + Kink workshop at the University of Sydney's inaugural Radical Sex and Consent Day, we chewed over the A to Z's of foreplay with her, milking out some sexpertise, tips and tricks that – let's be real – you are probably already considering relocating to read. Tanya is quick to explain why. “I think it’s awkward because people feel a lot of shame around the topic of sex. It’s used as a religious tool, a political thing, for agenda purposes and power play. It’s the one thing that every single person on the planet has in common.”
Embrace your sexuality
There is no such thing as ‘normal’ sex. “I have six words,” says Tanya, “Any sexual act between consenting adults – if it works for you, and your partner is OK, why would there be a problem?” Embrace what you like doing.
Tanya also reckons that sex therapy can help us communicate our desires, and it’s not just for the weird and wacky. “[It's for] everybody, my goodness,” she says. “We don’t really get taught how to do good relationships and how to communicate well – we just get it modelled to us. And sometimes we don’t have the best models.”
Know how your body works
Knowing first how your body works, Tanya says, is vital, with research revealing that it's harder for women without “their tackle” on the outside. “Eighty-five per cent of women don't know when their body is in full arousal mode.” This 'arousal mode' begins with the emotional side of foreplay. “For women in particular,” she says, “our libido and arousal is 75 per cent subjective, which means that it has to do with what’s going on around her.”
Flirtation vs foreplay
So, how do you know when an innocent flirt becomes a fledged-out foreplay? Tanya says it's all in your head. “It’s the point where the brain makes a decision that sex could happen. It could be ‘you look really hot in that’.” Foreplay, she insists, is not simply beating around the bush. “Most people think that a vagina is just a hole that is waiting for a penis to drop into. [But] it’s like a squashed up balloon. The first thing that needs to happen is the switch going on in the brain – that tells the central nervous system to send things down to the genitals, blowing things up and moving things around, so that sex can actually become possible. It takes women 45 minutes to one hour to be fully aroused.” This, Tanya says, means at least 15 to 20 minutes of foreplay.
Relationships, particularly longer ones, can sometimes lose their steam. Spontaneity is the key to overcoming this, our sex guru tells us. “You get this honeymoon period called limerence when you get a new lover – your skin is their skin. [But] the chemicals that are in the body that make you nice and horny for lots of spontaneous sex disappear sometime between 6 and 24 months. [Keep] periods in your week or month where you guys get to hang out with each other and there are possibilities to be sexy.”
The game of dares
If you don't know the other person well enough (yet), Tanya has a quick-fix solution, because games are definitely a thing. “The game of dares. You take it in turns giving each other a choice of two things to do. The first turn can be you can kiss me, or you can go down to the shop and buy beer. You can take off an item of my clothing, or I can take off an item of your clothing. You can put your hands down my pants, or I can put my hands down your pants. If one person is going really fast, the other person can slow it down. It’s a fun and playful game, and it gets you saying what you really like.”
Keep it up!
But you're not off the hook yet. Tanya stresses the importance of continuing to ask questions, inviting and encouraging us to actively engage in sex conversations. “It doesn't get boring, ever.”
Mina Kitsos is a Sydney-based arts and culture journalist currently studying at UTS. In between being a serial cat lady and studying German (Guten Tag!), she enjoys pumping out puns, drinking tea and A$AP Rocky.
More on The University of Sydney's Radical Sex and Consent Day here.