You probably already know that sex feels incredible! Sex is exciting, fun, and a terrific stress reliever.
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But do you know why sex is so pleasurable? There are actually scientific reasons as well as emotional ones to explain why sex feels good. If you’ve ever wondered why we are so lucky to have something that feels as good as sex does, you’re in luck. We researched the science and polled hundreds of readers about what makes sex feel so good to them.
Why Does Sex Feel Good?
Here are 13 reasons why sex feels so good
1. We’re Naturally Programmed to Seek Sex Out
Why does sex feel so good? From a reproductive perspective, it makes perfect sense for sex to feel good. Sex feeling good ensures the survival of the species. But that isn’t the only reason sex feels good. That’s why we still have sex even when not trying to get pregnant. Sex is also useful as a bonding tool, to relieve stress, as a way to express ourselves and just as a way to have fun.
When people aren’t having sex, they’re often thinking about having sex. Having sex is as natural to our survival as eating is. The part of the brain called the amygdala, as well as the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes, cause us to want sex . When we do have sex, the amygdala becomes less active until it’s time for us to have sex again.
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2. Sex Produces Dopamine
Dopamine is the reward hormone . It is also responsible for feelings of love and lust. More on how men fall in love here. When you first fall in love, dopamine levels are through the roof. You feel the exhilaration. That hit of dopamine, whether it’s from love, lust, or something else, is similar to the feeling of doing cocaine [3, 4].
Dopamine loves newness, and having sex with your new love makes you feel great. Dopamine is an answer to why sex is so enjoyable. You can also keep dopamine levels up by trying new things.
3. Sex Produces Norepinephrine
Dopamine’s close friend is norepinephrine and contributes to the feelings of giddiness and euphoria  and your pounding heart, which may make it difficult to sleep! Norepinephrine is also a neurotransmitter. It also plays a role in blood vessel dilation , which you’ll learn more about shortly.
4. Sex Produces Oxytocin
Oxytocin is the hug hormone, the cuddle hormone , and pulses of oxytocin can be detected during ejaculation ! That’s just one reason why ejaculation feels good. It makes you feel close to your man and want to bond with him . And it makes your man want to stay with you. It can also lend to a feeling of calmness and security , which may be one reason why men fall asleep after sex so easily.
Oxytocin doesn’t often work alone. Vasopressin, which has a similar shape, is released after orgasm and further encourages attachment . Research into prairie voles and rodents indicates that vasopressin may play a stronger role for males while oxytocin is more potent in females for bonding, and these findings may apply to humans [8, 9].
5. Sex Produces Serotonin
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that appears during sexual arousal, makes you feel happy. Serotonin diminishes the excitatory effects of norepinephrine . It plays a role in arousal and orgasm but can make both of those more difficult . Serotonin in the presence of other factors can make blood vessels either dilate or constrict . Dilation may make the genitals more sensitive when touched , which is another answer to the question of why does sex feel so good.
After the large dose of serotonin and its associated high, a depletion of the chemical can lead to depression .
Because of this, antidepressants that increase or mimic serotonin (SSRIs) are used to treat depression . But the irony is that SSRIs can lead to sexual problems, such as low sex drive and erectile dysfunction [15, 16]. Women may also experience vaginal dryness when taking SSRIs .
6. Orgasm Releases Endorphins
Endorphins are substances in your brain that block pain and also appear in some pleasurable instances . They are released at a variety of times, including after strenuous exercise, during laughter and orgasm . It’s endorphins that give you “runner’s high” and is one reason why an orgasm feels great. They also play a role in why so many people feel so emotionally good after sex.
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Over 6% of our survey respondents mentioned an improved mood, thanks to sex. This was often paired with relaxation and stress release. And those positive feelings may not be directed toward only your partner. One man described how
Sex gives me a feeling of deep happiness, reduces stress, helps me feel more positive toward everyone, and helps me tackle “life’s challenges”
Plus, endorphins serve as a sort of analgesic — that is, they relieve pain! So sex might be the perfect way to get rid of that headache!
Psst, are you struggling to orgasm? Learn how to orgasm more consistently.
7. …And Prolactin
Prolactin is the satiation hormone [20, 21]. Prolactin surges immediately after orgasm and gives people that let’s-smoke-a-cigarette feeling of satisfaction. It may also be associated with breast size. Research into monkeys shows that prolactin may be associated with cuddling .
Prolactin may play a role in ovulation, indicating that female orgasm has a reproductive purpose .
8. Arousal Gives Us Higher Pain Thresholds
More intense sexual stimulation can decrease pain sensitivity in women . One study found that by stimulating the vagina, women can tolerate 40 percent more pain . The same study found that after an orgasm, women’s pain detection threshold increased by an amazing 75 percent ! Thanks to this analgesic effect of arousal and orgasm, you may still feel the pain during sex, but you may not feel it as intensely. The pain won’t feel unpleasant.
This may be one reason why sex can hurt without enough foreplay and arousal!
Author Jay Wiseman notes in his beginner’s guide to kink, Sm 101: A Realistic Introduction, that the more erotically aroused somebody is, the more likely they are to be receptive to erotic pain, and the more pain they can accept [26 p 170]. What does this mean in reality? You can dole out more spanks to a partner who is aroused than you can to one who isn’t!
9. Genitals Are Packed With Nerves
When you’re talking about physical pleasure without any mental or emotional component, then look no further than the thousands of nerve endings contained in both the penis and clitoris . The clitoris is actually analog to the penis , which is why the clit becomes erect when aroused. The clitoris appears to contain more nerve endings than a penis [29, 30], however; and it has more nerve endings than the vagina [31, 32].
Nearly half of the men who answered our survey stated that sensation and physical pleasure made sex feel good, and some tried to explain why a vagina feels good; this was the most commonly-mentioned reason by men and mentioned more than twice as often as the next most common response (partner’s pleasure). And those numbers might be low if some people assumed it was a given and didn’t even think to list it!
In fact, more than 11% of men replied that sex always feels good because vagina feels good!
In comparison, 31% of women listed physical pleasure as one of the reasons why sex feels good. And both men and women described the physical release of cumming feels great and plays a significant role in sex feeling good.
10. You Can Lose Your Inhibitions
While the men who took our survey didn’t touch on this, several women did. The ability to completely let go, drop your guard, lose inhibitions, and be fully themselves goes along with sex. Women clearly enjoyed how free they felt during sex when they didn’t have to pretend or censor themselves.
11. Sex Brings Stress Relief
Why does sex feel good? One answer is that it relieves stress. We all know by now that too much stress isn’t good for us. When we are under constant stress with no relief, we are said to be in distress. Being in distress can lead to headaches, anxiety, skin conditions, high blood pressure, upset stomach, problems sleeping, and chest pain. Too much stress can also make you more susceptible to disease.
Some people, in an attempt to alleviate stress, will overeat, smoke, drink, or use drugs. None of those methods will get rid of stress from the body. But there is a way to relieve stress: have sex. The problem is that when you get too stressed, you typically don’t want to have sex. And not having sex for long periods leads to more stress. It’s a vicious cycle.
But if you can break the cycle and start having regular sex again, you should start feeling better physically. You’ll get sick less often, sleep better, be less anxious, and lower your blood pressure.
So try this the next time you’re feeling stressed: have sex, no matter how much you might not want to. Start by cuddling and touching more, even holding hands. That can lead to kissing. And that can lead to sex. The more sex you have, the less stressed you should feel, which should make you want … you guessed it … more sex.
12. Sex Lets You Share Intimacy with Your Man
To have a strong relationship, you need to have intimacy, and sex lets you be intimate with your man. Intimacy is usually reserved for just one person and is what bonds you and your man. Sex, when you’re in a committed relationship, is how people show intimacy.
Many women reported that penis feels great, leaving them feeling both filled and fulfilled.
Even if you’re having a one night stand – more in on one nights stands – you can be intimate with your partner. The difference is that this sort of relationship might not last, even though you opened up and felt vulnerable. If you don’t think you can handle being intimate and having it be only for one night, having casual sex might not be for you.
13. Making Your Partner Feel Good Can Make You Feel Good
Sometimes sex makes you feel good because you are making someone you love feel good. It might be no surprise to our female readers that connection was the #1 thing that makes sex feel good. 45% of women mentioned love, intimacy, bonding, connection, or closeness in their survey responses! A strong sexual connection also included great sexual chemistry.
15% of women cited a lack of or poor connection as a cause of bad sex, while more women mentioned connection as the difference between okay sex and great sex as connection!
Perhaps the best example of this is how women described the differences between sex and masturbation. While many women thought that cumming feels good from masturbation, which more reliably provided orgasms in less time than partnered sex because of how easily they controlled the stimulation, most of them echoed the sentiment that masturbation was “a quick fix” that provided only physical release. They still preferred to have sex with a person and feel a warm body next to them.
Knowing that your partner is experiencing pleasure is one of the driving forces of compersion. Find out more about compersion.
However, it wasn’t just women that found connection important! Nearly one-third of men talked about it, too. It was second place only to physical pleasure! Of course, many women felt good when they knew that their partners were enjoying themselves.
If you want to really make your man feel good in bed, here are some ways:
- Concentrate on the small curve between his lower lip and his chin. Do this by sucking his lower lip into your mouth during a kiss. Use the tip of your tongue to lick that area.
- Lick his neck, but not under his ear—lick him using circular motions just under his Adam’s apple. This is a sensitive spot, according to ancient Chinese medicine.
- Lick his nipples. Guys are sensitive there, too. Circle the outside of his nipple with your tongue, getting closer and closer to the nipple. Then flick his nipple with your tongue and gently bite it — more tips for nipple stimulation in this article.
- Focus on the tip of his penis during oral sex. One way is to hold the base with your fingers and then rub the head of his penis over your wet lips, almost like you’re putting on lipstick. Put the whole head in your mouth, and go back to the lipstick move. Don’t forget the area where the tip connects to the shaft. There are a lot of nerves there. Use the tip of your tongue to give this area some fast flicks, and then go back to licking.
13. And Everything Else
It’s not so easy to neatly list everything that makes sex feel good, especially when hundreds of women and men answer your survey on the subject. For example, 7% of men mentioned that sex felt good simply because it was fun. And 7% of women remarked about feeling desired by their partners as an important element to making sex feel good. No men said the same.
Excitement, fun, and passion were also mentioned by multiple women. And while partner skill and penis size were occasionally mentioned, only a few women thought them important enough to bring up when answering our survey. Of those responses, women were more likely to mention when penises were too big than small. So you may not have to worry if you have a small penis; many women still find that a small penis feels good.
Related: Big Penis Sex
For men, it was important that their partners were into sex and not making it feel like a chore or simply lying there. Men and women were about equally concerned with spending more time on sex, not enjoying sex as much when they’re tired, not being in the mood and struggling to stay in the moment, but men also experience performance anxiety that detracts from the pleasure of sex whereas women were impacted by their menstrual cycle and periods, body image, and feeling pressured to orgasm.
When it comes to having sex that isn’t just good but is great, 25% of men talked about using sex toys (get our recommendations for the best sex toys), kinky activities such as rough sex, role play, or BDSM, or fetishes while only some women answered the same. Dirty talk was often mentioned, too.
Men found exploring their sexuality as important as connection with their partners, and they also want a variety of activities, regardless of what those specific activities might be. One woman agreed when she specified,
It always feels good, it’s better when it’s different in some way, position, lighting, sounds, toys, role play. It keeps things from getting stagnant
For women, just having an orgasm could make sex great, perhaps because a woman’s orgasm is often considered a bonus. Women also felt that sex was amazing if they were able to have multiple orgasms.
Women were less concerned with variety and found it about as important as being relaxed, fully aroused and lubricated, and with a skillful partner. Only women mentioned anal stimulation and sex as capable of elevating sex (they specifically liked anal fingering), and some women also brought up location; although, they didn’t mention what about the location was specifically important.
Interestingly, 2% of male and female respondents named a dominant man and submissive woman as a factor of great sex. It sounds like they’re pretty well matched there!
If Sex Doesn’t Feel Good
Sex doesn’t always feel good. It can sometimes hurt. Once you understand the reason sex hurts, you can usually correct the problem and start enjoying sex. Here are four reasons sex could feel bad:
1. The Wrong Partner
Since connection is so important for so many women (and men!) to ensure that the sex they’re having is good, it’s essential to pick the right partner. What makes a partner right will vary for some people, though. If you know that you have your best sex when you’re in love, you may want to focus on finding a serious partner over casual sex.
Furthermore, you may want to skip one-night-stands if the sex isn’t so great. Numerous women described how beneficial it was to know their partners and to have their partners know them if they wanted sex that was elevated to the level of greatness. This knowledge ensures that couples are in sync and that partners receive the pleasure that they want. Plus, knowing what your partner likes and that you can do it can make you feel sexy and powerful!
At the very least, you should find a partner who respects you and treats you as a person with feelings and desires and not just an object. You should feel safe with your sex partner and know you can trust them. This person should communicate with you about sex, not coerce you to do anything you don’t want to, and make an effort to give you pleasure, among other things.
A giving partner is as important to sex feeling good as was stress release, according to our survey takers, while a selfish partner was the #1 detractor from good sex. A giving partner makes for great sex. In fact, women specifically mentioned attentive partners as necessary for great sex.
Some people will be easier to talk to about sex, and they’ll likely make better partners. Women who took our survey mentioned communication as important to both good and great sex. Speaking of communication, partners who expressed their pleasure and satisfaction with facial expressions, words, and sounds were named by both men and women who took our survey. Sex can be a lot better when you know that your partner can’t help but moan.
2. Not Enough Lubrication
Sometimes you might not produce enough lubrication. If that happens, you can experience a burning or chafing sensation. Not fun. Several things could cause this, such as certain birth control pills, using a tampon, or just during certain times of the month. But it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you if you just don’t get very wet. Some women don’t get as wet as others.
A woman’s body usually responds to arousal and desire by getting wet. So if you’re not wet enough, you might simply not be aroused enough yet.
How do you fix this?
You slow things down and do what you need to get fully aroused before penetration so that penetration feels fantastic.
Most people call these things foreplay, but for many women, things such as oral and manual sex (fingering) are the main event! When we asked readers about what makes sex feel good, foreplay was, expectedly, on the list. For men, oral sex was important (get tips in the blow job bible)
Perhaps more importantly, when we asked readers what makes sex feel bad, 16% of them responded that timing was an issue, with many of those people mentioning rushing or skipping foreplay while others felt that sex was too short in general. 5% of our readers said that lack of vaginal lubrication was an issue while another 8% mentioned some sort of pain, some of which may very well be caused by vaginal dryness and not being aroused enough. Even men for whom vaginal penetration feels good reported dryness as a detriment to the experience.
For 24% of women, foreplay elevated sex from “just okay” to great, ostensibly because it helps with physical as well as mental arousal, and several mentioned clitoral stimulation specifically.
Women specifically made a point to mention kissing, which can be part of foreplay and happen during penetration.
If you find that you aren’t getting lubricated enough, you can solve the problem by using an artificial lubricant. You have a choice of a whole host of silicone- and water-based lubes — more on lube here.
Unfortunately, 8% of our readers let us know that sex didn’t feel good if they weren’t in the mood, but they often did it anyway to please a partner or because their partner wouldn’t take no for an answer. Obviously, you should never feel like you have to have sex if you don’t want to. But if you happen to be one of the many women with responsive desire (learn more about women’s sexual desire), then sexual stimulation (i.e. foreplay) may actually stimulate desire, even if you aren’t in the mood for sex [34, 35, 36]. Skipping it often ruins any chance that you can enjoy yourself.
Don’t just think of foreplay as the physical activities that happen before penetration, though! It can include a sultry kiss and a grope in the morning or sending sexy messages throughout the day. Both of these things build sexual tension.
2. No Clitoral Stimulation
We live in a society that defines penis-in-vagina intercourse as sex; however, most women need or, at least, prefer clitoral stimulation for sexual pleasure and orgasm. But PIV doesn’t provide this unless your clitoris is quite close to your vaginal opening .
So if you or your partner aren’t providing oral or manual stimulation or using a toy to stimulate your clitoris, you might not have a very good time.
And if you don’t know what you like? It’s time to masturbate so that you can find out!
Related: How to Masturbate for Women
That way, you can let your partner know exactly what you want the next time you crawl between the sheets, and you can even try mutual masturbation.
3. A Bad Past Experience
Post-traumatic stress disorder is not reserved only for war veterans, although PTSD is certainly common for anyone who went to war. Anyone in a traumatic situation can experience PTSD, including people who were sexually abused. People can even experience PTSD when they thought they were going to marry or be together forever, and the relationship suddenly ends for any number of reasons, including an affair. Until people suffering get help, they usually find it challenging to be in a successful, loving relationship, and this typically affects their sex life as well.
4. Having a Condition
If sex hurts and using lubrication doesn’t help, you might have a condition causing this pain. Painful sex is known as dyspareunia . Here are a few common culprits.
- Vaginismus – a condition where your vaginal muscles squeeze or spasm up before anything enters it, such as a penis or even a finger or a tampon . With vaginismus, penetration is painful. Vaginismus is often due to fear and anxiety over sex, but it could be caused by an infection. If you think you have vaginismus, you should see a doctor who may recommend physical therapy or dilators as treatment .
- Endometriosis – is a condition when uterine cells spread outside of the uterus [41, 42].
- A microperforate hymen – this is when your hymen covers most of your vagina with just a small hole, which may prevent penetration for fingers, a penis, or a tampon , while an imperforate hymen completely covers your vaginal opening [44, 45, 46].
Aside from these conditions, medical procedures can also lead to sex that feels less than stellar. For example, a procedure known as a LEEP removes pre-cancerous and cancerous cells from the cervix, but it can also result in reduced sexual satisfaction . Desire and orgasm may also be impacted .
Unfortunately, while medicine can help some issues, the side effects may be problematic in other ways. Sexual side effects are not uncommon.
- Decongestants and antihistamines can make you feel drier.
- Drugs that combat high blood pressure can do the same and reduce overall desire.
- Depression medication not only reduces libido but can make sex and orgasm less pleasurable.
Make sure to check those side effects and discuss alternatives with your doctor if sex doesn’t feel good.
6. Your Head Isn’t In the Game
For 9% of women, sex wasn’t so good if they couldn’t get their heads in the games. Distracting thoughts and stresses from outside the bedroom that crept into their brains left little room to think about sex. It’s no wonder why so many women relish being able to let go during sex, and several people wanted the same from their partners.
6. You Were Taught Sex is Shameful
Parents sometimes teach their children that sex is dirty or shameful. They do this so their children won’t have unprotected sex and get pregnant as teens. But this message can cause psychological damage to people. Women who were raised this way often feel ashamed of themselves for having sex and then go into a depression or have low self-esteem. With counseling, women can learn to overcome this warped sense of themselves so they can feel good about themselves and allow themselves to be fulfilled and happy.
This post about slut-shaming may also help you shed those beliefs.
Sex is meant to feel good. Now that you know the reason why sex feels so good, you can gain a deeper appreciation for an activity you already love.
Several male Redditors chime in about what sex feels like for them and why vagina feels great. Here’s a similar article on Metro.
Five men describe amazing sex for the Good Men Project.
In this article, several women describe how really good sex feels.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ #1 – What if sex doesn’t feel good?
Make sure you’re fully aroused. Add lube if necessary. Steer toward activities that stimulate the clitoris, and spend more time on sex.
Fix any issues in your relationship or look for a partner who is more caring and with whom you have a better rapport. Talk to your doctor to eliminate medical causes.
FAQ #2 – Can I make sex feel better?
Sex that’s just okay or good enough can be improved with more foreplay and a partner who is attentive to your needs. Try adding sex toys or kinky activities. Keep exploring with the same partner to ensure that you both know each other’s preferences. Make sure to talk about what you want in the bedroom.
FAQ #3 – Is it normal if sex and masturbation both feel good but in different ways?
Absolutely! The people who took our survey typically thought that masturbation was just great — often with quicker or better orgasms — and allowed them to be freer because they didn’t have to account for a partner’s pleasure or prepare themselves in any way. However, they preferred partner sex across the board.
FAQ #4 – Does sex feel the same for everyone?
Our survey indicated that some people didn’t find sex that pleasurable. Even for those who did, they mentioned different reasons why sex felt good, and people preferred a variety of activities and factors to enhance the sex they had.
Plus, with differences in our bodies and biology, sex may feel different for each person. It would be interesting if we could measure it exactly, but we each only have the option of our own experiences.
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