Is there anything more fascinating than to know what goes on between another person’s sheets? From the adulterous to the inexperienced, four writers share the secrets of their love lives…
What sex feels like when… You’re cheating
Mia Chipperfield*, 29, from Birmingham, has been in a committed relationship for eight years
‘I’d been with my current boyfriend – the best man I’ve ever known – for six years when I did the supposedly unthinkable thing of having sex with someone else.
Jason and I were going through a rough patch – we were struggling financially and all we ever did was bicker about our money problems. Then, one warm night in April, I went out for drinks with colleagues and spotted a blond man across the bar. He gave me a nod and, for what felt like the first time in months, my stomach flipped.
Later that night, when Man Across The Bar asked if I’d like to go back to his to watch a film, I already knew what was in store. As soon as the door of his flat closed, he was in charge. “Take your top off” he told me, in the most aggressive, dismissive way. Without question, I obeyed, beside myself with both longing and self-loathing. Suspended in the moment, my inhibitions vanished, and we had sex twice. One time included a rape fantasy, which he initiated and which went against everything I believe in, but was completely thrilling. But there was no emotional connection, which meant I struggled to orgasm, and he refused to go down on me.
Putting my shoes on two hours later, I allowed myself to remember Jason and my heart sank. I got a taxi home, and climbed into bed beside him. I didn’t shower. It didn’t even cross my mind to. Feeling the warmth of his sleeping body, I’d never been more appalled with myself. But for all the guilt, I didn’t – and still don’t – feel regret. I’m more certain than ever that Jason is The One, and as for our sex life? It’s never been better. I don’t think about it often, but in some ways, my one-night stand was the making of my relationship.’
What sex feels like when… It’s your first time with a woman
Edie Wyatt, 33, lives in New York and has been in a relationship for three years
‘Sleeping with a woman didn’t occur to me until I was 29. I had been married – to a man – for three years (and with him for seven before that), when I fell head over heels for a woman I worked with. Nothing happened, but she awakened something new in me. I wanted, I needed, a sexual relationship with someone like her. Someone like me. Someone female.
My sexuality had shifted, abruptly, completely. Sex with my husband, which had been great in the beginning, suddenly felt stale and, although I hate to say it, was only pleasurable if I took care of myself simultaneously.
At the time it felt crazy, but it also felt right that I left my marriage, my life and started over. For the first time in almost five years, the prospect of sex was exciting again. I did so much research. I read every book I could find on lesbian sex and the female body – how to go down on a girl, how to bring her to orgasm, even the importance of keeping your nails short and everything in between. The way my body responded as I turned every page told me I was doing the right thing.
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And I was right. I met Hanna online, and she took me to bed after our second or third date. She knew that I was well read, but a complete novice. I didn’t feel nervous, just happy and in awe. We left the lights on, and undressed each other slowly, both of us giggling in anticipation. She took the lead, and sex with her felt natural and easy, a glorious validation that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I realized, with a shock, how good it could be, how easily the orgasm could come with the right person. Being with her was softer, sweeter and more beautiful than I had ever experienced before.’
What sex feels like when… You’ve fallen out of love
Holly Palmer*, 31, from Essex, has been with Mark for nine years and living together for three
‘I can’t remember the exact moment when the idea of Mark touching me started to make me feel repulsed. But as soon as I began recoiling at his kisses, or flinching when his hands touched my body, I knew we were in trouble. Whenever we had sex, it felt so uncomfortable – so invasive – that he would have to stop. Understandably upset, he said it felt like he was assaulting me.
Initially, I blamed myself. While I tried to work out where the hell my libido had gone, I’d say anything to get out of sex. I’d spin dramatic tales about my period or complain about recurring thrush. But seeing as we once had sex hours after I’d had an operation, Mark knows I’m not usually the kind of person to turn it down. Still, the truth is harder to face up to: I’m just not in love with him any more, and the guilt is overwhelming.
These days, we rarely have sex, but when we do, it’s because he’s pointed out how long it’s been and I can see how I’m crushing his self-esteem. I’ve tried fantasizing about other people, but I’m usually so distracted by how wrong it all feels that it has little effect. Sometimes I’ll fake an orgasm if I think it’ll make him finish quicker, but usually I just lie there feeling detached, waiting for it to be over, and hoping for his sake that he’s cheating on me so he’s at least feeling wanted and loved by someone – anyone – because I know it can’t be me.
Of course I’d like to walk away and set us both free, but I can’t. Circumstances aren’t in our favour: he’s depressed and has no one else. Ending things would kill him, and nothing is worth that risk.’
What sex feels like when…you’re trying to get pregnant
Sarah Linn*, 34, has been with her partner for 12 years. They have a one-year-old daughter and live in London
‘All my husband noticed to begin with was the lacy underwear I was suddenly bothering to wear again, and my smooth, freshly shaved legs as I waited in our bed, ready for an “early night”. What he didn’t see was the sheer determination in every inch of my body. After ten comfortable years together, I was inwardly brimming with excitement: tonight, for the first time, sex had a purpose. It wasn’t for my own selfish pleasure, or to satisfy my partner. Tonight, I was on a mission. After four years of baby hunger, he’d finally agreed. Well. We would “see what happens” (as he’d said the day before). This was the green light I’d craved, the closest I would get to: “Yes, let’s try for a baby.”
After losing my virginity to a horrible boyfriend at 15, I’d spent the rest of my teens and twenties trying to avoid pregnancy, religiously using the pill, condoms and the morning-after pill to avoid any accidents. Now, here I was at 32 – liberated! I was allowed to have sex; proper, wholesome, loving, natural, missionary (to improve our chances) sex, with no barrier between our bodies. As we started, I realized this was probably the best sex I’d ever have. But still, I kept quiet, terrified that he might change his mind.
Three days later, we tried again. It worked, and I fell pregnant with my daughter. Of course, the timing was no accident. Beneath the sexy façade, I’d been mainlining Zita West books, carefully calculating my fertile times.
Afterwards, I wasn’t going to risk spilling any precious sperm by taking a trip to the bathroom. Instead, I lay on my back, smiling at the ceiling, desperately hoping it had all gone to plan.’