This is the final story in a four-part series on sex hacks for the digital age.
Early on in the process of trying to hack my sex life, I learned that — like most purported “life hacks” — the idea of a one-size-fits-all magic bullet for better sex doesn’t exist. We can’t hack into the mainframe of our genitalia, pound away at a keyboard, then download a fix for whatever firewalls are keeping us from experiencing more pleasure and satisfaction.
But what sex hacks can do is begin to show us what’s behind the programming of our sexuality.
My Maiden Voyage: a journey into the uncharted territories of how modernity is changing sex and intimacy
That’s why, as I embarked on my months-long expedition, I dubbed it my Maiden Voyage: a journey into the uncharted territories of how modernity is changing sex and intimacy.
Sometimes it feels like we’re all stranded, lost in the sea of possibilities of dating apps, sexting, high-tech toys, VR porn, sex robots, or whatever other unthinkable erotic inventions lie on the horizon. And that horizon can feel as lonely and alienating as it is exciting.
Embedded in the idea of a maiden voyage is the presumption of wrong turns, beginner mistakes, happy accidents. The journey to better sex in the digital age isn’t always easily navigable, but it does teach us something invaluable about ourselves.
When exploring places we’ve never been, it’s nice to have a few landmarks to help guide us.
1. We’re in a sexual revolution right now. Help define it for the better
If you ever wondered what it’d be like to be part of a sexual revolution, look around you.
In the ‘60s and ’70s, the advent of birth control combined with cultural shifts like second-wave feminism and pacifist anti-war movements led to an era of sexual exploration, liberation, and the questioning of long-held norms. Free love was far from perfect, sometimes hurting more than it helped people have healthier, more positive sexual experiences. But undeniably, it changed the way society as a whole thought about sex and intimacy.
Sexual revolution looks different in 2019, but we’re seeing similar results. Technology has opened doors for new ways to love and fuck. The Me Too movement has begun dismantling the social dynamics that forced us to accept pervasive toxic, criminal, and painful sex as the norm. Third-wave feminism is asking us to interrogate our assumptions about the boundaries of identity, sexual orientation, and how it all intersects with race and class issues.
We are deciding right now how the rules of our sexual culture will be rewritten.
As a collective, we are deciding right now how the rules of our sexual culture will be rewritten. Don’t take that power and responsibility lightly.
Sexual researchers, advocates, and industry innovators have taken the opportunity to reframe pleasure as a vital aspect of health and wellness. For too long we’ve internalized the notion of sex as a vice that should be avoided rather than an essential part of the human experience that we literally could not exist without.
Setting out on your own Maiden Voyage to discover what pleasure means to you — whether alone, with a partner, or multiple partners — is one way to participate in this radical movement redefining pleasure as a human right.
Making enthusiastic consent the new law of the land starts by us learning how to give ourselves sexual permission, and to embody the thrill of earning someone else’s.
2. The worst sex is competitive and performative
“Optimization” implies that improvements need to be measurable. In the case of sex, though, avoid the temptation to track or measure your sex life against some sort of objective metric for what’s “better” or “best,” because that immediately sets you up for failure.
Sexual satisfaction is subjective and individual. So much so that biofeedback toys like the smart cock ring Lovely — which at first advertised itself as counting the number of times you have sex, length of a session, thrusts, calories burned — nixed that feature in its second iteration.
“We learned that sex is an experience, not a performance, so there’s not much value in knowing how many strokes you scored,” said Lovely founder Jakub Konik (though they still use that data to provide personalized tips).
Meanwhile another popular smart biofeedback sex tracker, the Lioness vibrator, records orgasms but emphasizes that the app’s journaling function is more important than the hard data for determining the quality of your climax. The startup had to fight for this vision against investors who preferred more competitive, gamified features like an orgasm leaderboard.
Inviting tech into your bedroom runs the risk of emphasizing the performance rather than the experience of pleasure. Aside from high-tech toys or tracking apps, virtual sex can have a similar effect. I was so concerned with finding my best angle during video chat sex that it became impossible for me to get off.
One of the worst things you can do to your sex life is add any more pressures to perform, stressful expectations, or preconceived notions about what great sex “should” look like. Instead, focus on hacks that ground you in what great sex feels like in your physical body (like I did with mindful sex).
3. Invest in and prioritize your sexual satisfaction
For some reason, sex is one of the only life experiences we balk at spending any money or time on.
We’re happy to pay for an increasingly pricey and absurd amount of monthly streaming entertainment services. But tube porn sites have made us think all sexual aids should be free. Better quality, more personalized porn (like or audio erotica app ) is more affordable, and has a higher likelihood of improving your quality of life than ad-free Hulu.
That’s also true for sexual wellness websites like or a slew of new apps like or (which I prefer). Paying less than half the price of a yearly Netflix subscription for quality, well-researched sex advice and counseling is worth it. If you’re unsure, many of them offer free trials.
The same goes for toys. There’s plenty of great budget-conscious options perfect for newbies still figuring out what they like best. But often a luxury vibe can be well worth $100-$200 (though choose wisely and do your research). I mean, that’s the same amount you pay for, like, two high-end Sephora bronzers. And those can’t give you a lifetime of better orgasms.
More than money, though, investing in your sex life is about prioritizing it in your busy schedule and setting aside emotional energy from your limited reserves for it.
Everything from Twitter to Netflix is battling to capitalize on your eyeballs staying on their platform for as much of your day as possible. That’s on top of the daily, apocalyptic level of news, economic pressures, countless notifications, non-stop communication, and a general digital culture that pressures us to be always online.
Our sex lives tend to get permanently stuck at the bottom of our massive, constantly regenerating to-do lists.
Deepening and expanding your pleasure possibilities, whatever that looks like for you, shouldn’t be an optional “I’ll get to it later” chore. You’ll never get to it, unless you make a conscious decision to put it first.
Committing to getting the satisfaction you deserve does much more than just improve your sex life.
It can be an avenue for overcoming the many blocks that keep us from putting our well-being first. The quest for more pleasure and satisfaction is a confrontation of the fear of intimacy, requiring you to know yourself more deeply, be fully seen, and face who you are in your most vulnerable moments.
4. Some of the best sex hacks are the simple, cheap, unexpected ones
At the same time, there are a plethora of accessible, cheap, and free tools that can prove even more essential to hacking your sex life.
For one, get woke to the underexplored, underrated world of erotic accessories and sensation play: ice cubes, feathers, silk, massage oil candles, low-temperature body-safe wax, sex pillows, spanking, erotic ASMR, cannabis lube. Before you write any of these off as “not for me,” try a few.
Also, keeping a sex journal was one of the most surprisingly illuminating parts of my Maiden Voyage. After a sexual exploration or even just a particularly great experience, jot down some notes. Certain apps and smart toys have designated journaling functions. Just keeping a Captain’s Log of your journey in a notes app on your phone does the same trick.
Also (and hear me out because this might sound and feel weird at first), audio recordings of my sexual experiments were low key one of the best sex hacks I discovered. Of course, that comes with the caveat of always asking a partner for their consent and also (like sexting and nudes) the concern of protecting sensitive data. But I swear, my new favorite masturbation aid is listening back to particularly hot moments between me and my partner while we had great, exploratory sex.
For experimentation purposes, it also helps to have recordings you can go back to and analyze what about the sex got you off, why it worked, or why it didn’t.
5. Sexual exploration is for everyone, no matter who you think you are
Before beginning my Maiden Voyage, I thought I had this whole sex thing pretty much figured out.
I’ve identified as a loudly, proudly, defiantly sexual woman ever since my grade school math teacher kept giving me detention for “showing too much midriff.” So I decided to start exclusively wearing crop tops. I write about my sex life on the internet. I’m a staunch feminist, goddamnit, completely liberated! Adventurous! Shameless! Perverted! I was way past needing a sexual awakening of any sort.
As I prepared for my Maiden Voyage, though, I took a good, hard look at my sexual stock. And holy shit was I wrong.
Great sex is a right everyone who wants it deserves.
Despite over a decade of dedicated masturbation, I’d only ever owned one basic bullet vibrator my entire life, and never once considered using it during sex. Until my current relationship, I’d faked every single orgasm with a partner — not because getting there was impossible but because it felt too vulnerable and dangerous to give even more of myself to men who always gave back so little in return.
Conversely, some people might feel like sex can be great and all, but exploring it further just isn’t really for them. Why complicate things if the sex is fine and meets basic needs as is? That’s on top of the many who suffer from trauma or cultural programming that makes sex feel like it has bigger risks than rewards.
Whatever your reasons are for not seeking deeper pleasure, just know that your relationship to sex is not fixed. It doesn’t matter if you have high or low libido, lots of experience or no experience: The Maiden Voyage is a journey we can all benefit from. The work of giving ourselves permission to understand more about our sexual selves is never over. And that’s actually kinda awesome.
Great sex is a right everyone who wants it deserves. I promise the challenge of continuously discovering more about your desires is worth it.
Read more from the series: