What Do Women Want in Bed? 3 Women Discuss Their Sexual Needs

what do women want in bed

The question of what women want in bed (or what anyone wants in bed, for that matter) is not one that allows for a straightforward, predictable answer. Like so much in intimate relationships, it is steeped in subjectivity. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it! 

Part of what can make life exciting is the fact that so very much of it is subjective and open to interpretation. (Of course that same point can make life maddening when you’re looking for the tidiness of objectivity.)

For example, what might be spacious to you might be cramped to someone else; what might signal financial security to you might trigger a state of panic in someone else; what might be extreme weather to you might feel “just right” for someone else.

Matters of the heart are no different.

Relationships are complex, dynamic syntheses, and what works for one individual or couple might not for another. The point isn’t to try to mold your preferences to what’s best for someone else, but to learn more about yourself and the relationship so that you become clear about what you’re needing and are able to talk about it with your partner (and also, so that you can be open to what your partner is needing from you; healthy relationships are built on reciprocity).

But when it comes to talking about relationship issues, it can be difficult to talk about sex, even for the more adventurous among us, and even for those couples actively seeking ways to spice up the bedroom. There are many reasons for that (which I’ll explore in a future article), but for now, suffice it to say that if you find yourself squirming when you try to discuss sex, you are absolutely not alone (and that doesn’t mean that you dislike sex or that you have a problem in that arena!).

Often it’s easier to talk about it with friends than it is your partner. That is the case with Natalie, Sonya, and Beth. They first met at a women’s retreat almost ten years ago, and though none of them truly connected with the “Let Your Inner Goddess Roar” theme (mostly it made them laugh), they are grateful for the retreat since it marked the beginning of a lasting friendship.

Let’s catch up with them as they meet for lunch, something they try to schedule each month. This time their conversation happens to meander to what each is looking for in a lover. I think you’ll see how it illustrates our point about the subjectivity involved in intimate relationships.

What do women want in bed? Three women candidly talk about sex and what they need in a lover

Natalie, 33, is an architect. She’s been living with Giorgio for four years. She describes her relationship as “solid, but prone to fights. But we always make up so spectacularly that I’m not sure we’re motivated to fight less.”

Sonya, 35, is a stay-at-home mom of twin girls, age three. She’s been married to Parker for six years. She describes her marriage as “the meeting of different minds, but like minds, too.”

Beth, 47, is a novelist. She’s been living with Javier for twelve years. When she was asked to summarize her relationship in a few words like the others had done, she scoffed and said, “That’ll be the day. A few words? Not possible! I’ll write you a novel…”

what women want in bedOnce the candid conversation wended its way to sex and stayed there, the women couldn’t help but notice the waiter turning extra-attentive, filling their water glasses more often, and checking if they needed anything else when they had just said they hadn’t. “We can give you a transcript afterwards,” Beth finally told him. He flushed. “She’s just kidding,” Natalie said to him, swatting Beth chidingly on the arm.

“So now that we’re dreaming up ideal lovers,” Beth said, “why don’t we see how our actual men compare.”

Natalie: “I need a lover who takes charge in bed!”

“I know I want Giorgio,” Natalie said, “not some fantasy man out there. But I just want Giorgio to be a little more…” She let her words trail off as her eyes fixed at a point somewhere in the distance.

Natalie works in a male-dominated industry where “lots of the men have very strong egos.” In order to hold her own in that field, she has to be somewhat aggressive. “It’s not just that I have to design the best building I can; I have to believe in myself completely at work. I have to be in charge of myself so that I don’t get walked on.”

Natalie loves her work, however, so these adjustments are well worth it to her. “What Giorgio doesn’t seem to get, though,” she shared with her friends (and perhaps inadvertently with the hovering waiter), “is that I don’t want to take charge in the bedroom, too. I want him to take charge.”

Beth looked around at the other tables. “I hope there aren’t any feminists listening.”

Sonya sat up. “I’d call myself a feminist, and I’m listening.”

“You know what I mean,” Beth said.

Wanting to be submissive in bed doesn’t make me un-feminist,” Natalie said. “But I’m worried G can’t give me that.”

“Have you talked about it?” Sonya asked. “Bluntly? Like we are?”

“I’ve tried, but he seems incredibly uncomfortable every time I bring it up.”

“And therefore,” Beth said, “it becomes difficult for him to, metaphorically speaking, bring it up.”

“Ha,” Sonya said.

“I need to share with him what my day is like, the challenges of my career,” Natalie continued, “but I’m worried that all that talk about me needing to be tough and in-charge at the workplace has made him unilaterally decide what I need in bed.”

Sonya: “I need a lover who lets me take charge in bed!”

“I used to have the opposite problem,” Sonya said, shielding her coffee cup with her hand when the waiter tried to top it off.

“Go on,” Beth said.

“Careful, Sone,” Natalie said, “she might use whatever you say in her next novel.”

“I don’t mind,” Sonya said, “as long as you change the names and identifying characteristics.”

Beth held up her water glass in a mock toast. “Deal.” (The waiter scurried over, thinking she was asking for a refill.)

“Parker used to be dominant in bed,” Beth went on when the waiter had departed. “And that didn’t work for me at all.”

“Really?” Natalie asked.

“Really. I like shyness in a man, and Parker had that. It was one of the first things I was drawn to about him. But maybe he thought he needed to compensate for that in bed. I feel for guys, having to carry the whole macho expectation on their shoulders.”

“So how’d you get him to change his thinking?” Beth asked.

“Well, we talked about it outside of the bedroom, and that was good, but mostly, it was a gradual change in bed. One thing at a time. And some sexy, direct talk in bed.” She paused to smile coyly. “But honestly, I don’t know that it would’ve worked if Parker wasn’t naturally open to the woman being in charge. I mean, I think before we had this seismic shift, he was behaving like he thought guys should behave, not how he wanted to behave at his core. I didn’t change him, I changed his perspective.”

“You gave him permission to explore another aspect of his sexuality,” Beth said, “one that he’d been denying up to that point.”

Natalie sighed. “That’s what I’m worried about, that Giorgio can’t be the kind of lover I want because he’s not a take-charge kind of guy. Not assertive enough to take me.” She fanned herself with the dessert menu.

“Are most of your fights about that issue?” Sonya asked.

“I suppose,” Natalie said, “in disguise, anyway. We don’t announce that as our subject. We nitpick over little stuff. But I suspect at the heart of it, it’s about our power struggle…I want him to have the power and he keeps trying to hand it to me!”

Beth: “I need a lover who…well, it depends on when you ask the question.”

“My first marriage fell apart because of sex,” Beth said.

Her friends gaped at her. “You were married before?”

“I was. When I was in my 20s.”

“You never told us,” Natalie said.

“You never asked.”

“Wow,” Sonya said. “Beth has a marriage in her history.”

“Oh, that old thing,” Beth said dismissively. “I was married twice before, actually. That’s why I decided I’d only co-habitate with Javier, though I’m the first person to admit my ‘onlys’ are subject to change.”

“So what happened?” Natalie asked.

“It took me years to realize I was giving my characters freedoms I wasn’t giving myself. My characters were bold and fearless when it came to emotions. They didn’t shy away from them. They didn’t worry how it would look if they said something or did something as they shaped their lives.”

“Sounds good on paper,” Sonya said.

“I wanted sex all the time during my first marriage. All the time. I was so attracted to my husband. He just didn’t want it. Not often, anyway. When we did have sex, it was great, but it was way too seldom for me. Like once or twice a month, tops!” She covered her face in her hands. “He didn’t see a doctor or anything, but I’m guessing now that maybe he had low-T.”

“What’s that?” Natalie asked.

“Low-Testosterone, and it’s treatable. But I didn’t have that information back then. I felt so undesirable, though. I thought the problem was me. So when someone came along who made me feel desirable…”

“You had an affair?” Sonya squeaked.

Beth nodded. “An affair that led to my second marriage, which, let me tell you, is not an auspicious start for a marriage, at least if you’re expecting fidelity. That was a disaster.”

“I’m sorry,” Natalie said.

“Don’t be,” Beth said. “I deserved it. I hurt my first husband a lot. No matter how justified I might’ve felt in getting my needs met outside the marriage, it was wrong. But I feel like a different person sexually now, and I feel like the important thing is not to be ashamed of our needs. For instance, I used to love kink. Love it. And now, Javvy and I are super-traditional in bed, I’d guess you’d say, and I love that so much that it feels like a different kind of kink.”

“Kink that has gone so far around the circle that it’s looped back to traditional,” Sonya said.

“Yup. And also, if we have sex once or twice a month, we’re good. Yet I’ve never felt more intimately connected to a man. I stopped trying to figure it out.”

“There are more pathways to intimacy than just sex,” Natalie noted.

“Yes,” Beth said, “and our paths can change. I’ve had different sexual needs in each decade of my life since my 20s, and I’m not ruling out the possibility my needs will change when I’m in my 50s. But that’s just me. There’s nothing wrong with having a more fixed set of needs if that’s what works for you!”

The waiter approached their table with another young man in tow. “He’s new,” he told the women, “he’s shadowing me.”

“I’ll bet he is,” Beth said wryly.

“Anything else I can do for you ladies?”

“Do you have girlfriends?” Beth asked the waiters. Sonya quirked a brow and Natalie covered her face with the dessert menu.

“I do,” the shadow waiter said proudly.

“I just broke up with mine,” the other said. He said it with the tone that implied she had been the one to break up with him.

“Well, just remember this,” Beth said. “There’s nothing you and your girlfriends—current or future—should be embarrassed to talk about together. Got it?”

Dumbstruck, they nodded in tandem.

Beth went on: “And there isn’t right and wrong when it comes to romance—as long as there’s not abuse of any kind, mind you!—there are just differences, preferences, and they’re all subjective. Can I count on you to remember that? To talk things out with your women, to give them that respect?” She made a V with her fingers and jabbed it toward her eyes and then toward the dazed waiters.

“Yes, ma’am,” they stammered.

“Good deal,” she said. “Now, if you wouldn’t mind, please put our meals on one check. Lunch is on me today.”

How to spice up your relationship takeaway

You’ve now had a chance to spend some time with women who seek different attributes in lovers. And in Beth’s case, she’s aware that what she’s looking for has changed as she has changed. My hope is that hearing their stories empowers you to talk about your sex life with a trusted friend or confidant, and ultimately, with your partner, when you feel ready, and if it feels safe to do so.

A corollary to that is that I hope you realize that whatever specifics you’re needing in a lover, they aren’t “right” or “wrong”…what might be a turn-on for you might be a turn-off for someone else (as was the case with Natalie’s and Sonya’s polar-opposite preferences).

Often we know intellectually that something as complicated as relationships will involve lots of subjectivity, but it’s harder to apply that to our own situation. I’ve worked with many clients who labor under the misconception that they “should” be doing or feeling something other than what they are. So I hope the ladies’ lunch has loosened the “should” knot for you a bit.

Until next time,

Dr. Rich Nicastro

(Featured image Three young friends having breakfest” by Nenetus/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)