Do you have great sex? Or do you just wish you did?
Living in an age when Ann Summers' accessories are nearly as ubiquitous in the household as broadband, and offers for Viagra inundate our email inboxes, it's easy to feel like we're missing out on something great.
And as a 2006 Zestra UK National Relationships Survey found, maybe we are - seven million women in the UK said that they wished they enjoyed sex more.
But attempting to spice up your sex life can often end up being more stressful than scintillating, as 'having great sex' has replaced the notion of, quite simply, being satisfied in bed. So how do we solve the problem?
A MODERN DAY LOOK AT SEX
"If you Google 'great sex', you get lists of sites promising 'sensational sex', 'hot sex', or 'how to boost your libido'," says Dr Sandra Pertot, whose new no-nonsense book 'When Your Sex Drives Don't Match', delves into the subject of not just boosting one's sex drive but actually finding sexual happiness. "That's what people want the answers to."
But those answers, she says, are not that straightforward.
In her 30 years of work as a clinical psychologist and sex therapist, Pertot's found that identifying certain libido 'types' helps solve problems between couples more than one generic answer - or pill - ever could.
"The old shame in sex was about doing dirty sexual things," she explains. "But today it's, 'you're not as good as you should be', or, 'you don't perform well'. The focus now is on 'normality'."
Instead of appreciating people for their quirks and differences, she says, we've blurred individuality to "allow for arbitrary judgements to be made about who is normal".
And today that means that one should have "a regular and persistent sex drive, easy arousal, strong erections and powerful orgasms".
But people these days are just as dissatisfied with their sex lives as they were in the middle of last century, she says.
"We've got a situation today that I call sexual dysmorphia," explains Pertot. "You're performing normally but you're worried something is wrong."
Starting work as a therapist in the 1970s, she watched as her clients' sexual ignorance was replaced with the stress of having to fit in to a certain mould, to perform in a certain way.
"I've been fascinated with the issue of difference rather than sameness ever since," she explains.
"It led me to develop my theory that the sexual issues that couples struggle to deal with are usually not evidence of individual pathology or relationship problems, but reflect the fact that just as there are different personality types, there are different sexual types."
LOOKING AT THE LIBIDO
"Libido typing allows you to understand what's important to you in sex and how that might be the same or different to your partner's priorities," Pertot explains.
Discovering that you're an 'addictive', 'compulsive', 'dependent', 'erotic' or any of the other five types might seem a bit difficult or embarrassing at first, but being open to understanding yourself and what you like will help you in the long run, Pertot says.
The point is to recognise and appreciate the diversity in human sexuality.
"The secrets to sexual happiness aren't about what you do, but about trusting who you are and what you want, about discovering your own sex life," she explains.
Self-discovery plays a prominent role in Pertot's practical, easy-to-read guide. Quizzes and exercises, coupled with case studies, help you discover which of the 10 libido types you and your partner are, with recommendations to help you create a "mutually satisfying sexual relationship".
"I can't guarantee we can all have hot sex," she concedes. "But this isn't about settling for second best. It's not about boosting your libido. You live with your libido the way that it is. The answer is in enjoying sexual stimulation of a certain kind."
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR SEX LIFE
Pertot recommends taking a look at yourself and what you like as a first step in dealing with a problem between couples. How important is sex to you? What do you hope to get from it?
"This is the most basic question of all," she says "You and your partner might have been at cross-purposes from the outset of your relationship if you differ in this core aspect of your sexuality."
Once you've thought this through, ask your partner to do the same, and then try talking about it.
"The first essential ingredient for effective communication is knowledge," Pertot says. "Knowing that people are different and have different needs sets an equal base for the two of you to operate from."
The second is confidence - in yourself and your partner. Feeling that you're inadequate sexually will undermine your ability to communicate effectively, Pertot says, and make you feel guilty, apologetic or submissive.
"Stopping judgment of yourself and your partner, and knowing you're both doing the best you can, is important," she adds.
And the communication between a couple needs to be positive. Instead of saying, "I've told you a hundred times I don't like that", try,
"Touching me this way makes sex better for me". Withdrawing, sulking, getting agitated, or being hostile, critical or abusive, are all unhelpful and unproductive ways of resolving mismatched libidos.
The final essential key in attaining sexual satisfaction is being prepared to listen.
"Communication based on point-scoring, or being determined to have your partner give in to your point of view, is a complete waste of time," Pertot says. Try to be respectful of the other's point of view and give them time to express it, and to work together towards solutions that are good enough for both of you.
"The pathway to a mutually satisfying sex life isn't always smooth," Pertot reminds us. "Some couples won't get everything they want, but if you focus on what you don't have, you'll be bitter and twisted. I think you have to be aware and take the time to appreciate what's good about the relationship and to make a point of commenting on that.
"We compromise in every other area of our relationships, so why not in sex?"
:: When Your Sex Drives Don't Match, by Dr Sandra Pertot, is published by Fusion Press, priced £10.99. Available now.
By Kate Hodal