Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., obstetrician/ gynecologist and author of Pleasure: A Woman’s Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need, and Deserve (Perigee)

Finesse Mitchell, Essence relationship columnist, comedian and author of the forthcoming book Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much! (Simon Spotlight Entertainment)

Rev. Dr. Susan Newman, director of the Balm in Gilead in Washington, D.C., and author of Oh God! A Black Woman’s Guide to Sex and Spirituality (Random House)

Herb Samuels, Ph.D., consulting sexologist for The Better Sex Video Series for Black Couples and professor of human sexuality at LaGuardia Community College in New York

Zane, best-selling author of erotic fiction and headliner for the February 2007 Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles stage productions of The Vagina Monologues

It’s a familiar place, but few want to go there. We’re talking about that sensitive area lovers avoid because, well, who wants to admit to having unfulfilling sex—or no sex at all? That’s why Essence decided to help three couples improve their love lives by ’fessing up to experts about what’s going wrong in the bedroom. After our passion panel weighed in, we asked the couples to try their suggestions and report on how it went. The following is the part where they kiss and tell…



Couple #1: Tasha*, 32, and Darnell, 32, of Detroit

Relationship status: Married for ten years. They have a 10-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son.
Bedroom dilemma: “When it comes to our sex life, I can pretty much predict the day and the position,” says Tasha, who, along with her husband, complains that their sex life has become routine over the past five years. Left unsatisfied by the lack of excitement, she stopped having orgasms altogether. To add some sizzle, Darnell, a social worker, made an effort once by bringing home sex toys: “She looked at me like I was crazy,” he says, laughing. Timing is an issue, too: “Sometimes my husband will want a quickie while the kids are watching television,” says Tasha, a lawyer. “But my body doesn’t move that fast.”

Sex-life rating before taking the challenge: 3 out of 5


Hutcherson: Go shopping—together. Visit a sex shop as a couple so you’re guaranteed to bring home toys that you’ll both be comfortable with in the bedroom.

Finesse: Role-play. Even if it’s with the quickness, it’ll set you both off. Tasha, be the lawyer and let Darnell be Judge Joe Brown. Darnell, tell her to approach the bench so she can grab your gavel and bang it!

Newman: Check into a hotel. Extend one of your children’s playdates into a sleepover so you two can have an evening (or morning after) alone for some nice, slow loving.

Samuels: Mix things up. Get two bowls and two sheets of paper. Tear off seven strips of paper and write the days of the week on them. Then tear off seven more strips and write down fun sex tricks you’d both like to try (like giving your partner a lap dance or initiating sex anywhere in your house other than the bedroom). Each day one of you should reach into the “day” bowl and the other should reach into the “activity” bowl. Zane: Adjust your clocks. Nighttime isn’t the only right time for making love. Try getting it on together over a lunch date at a no-tell motel or going at each other first thing in the morning.

What worked best: Mixing things up…with role-playing

Tasha said: We only had time for one hotel rendezvous—the lunchtime excursion—but a snowstorm blew through and prevented us from checking in.

Another night the kids had a playdate, which gave us time to take Dr. Samuels’s advice to mix things up. Instead of doing it in the bedroom, we did it in the living room. We had to get creative to find the right fit with our furniture, but it was good to try something new and add some variety to our sex life. The freedom of having sex “in the open” reminded me of our life before the children. It was a turn-on seeing Darnell so excited.

Darnell said: Friday night in the living room was great. We took Finesse’s advice and role-played, pretending to be newlyweds. Tasha really got into character, whipping up cocktails and wearing a nice teddy. I could see the fire in her eyes.

Another night when I tried to spice things up by skipping my workout to come home early for sex, it didn’t work out so well. I got the kids bathed and into bed. But even though Tasha said she was coming to bed soon, she ended up staying up late to finish a work assignment in our home office. I waited for her under the covers, wearing nothing but a red pair of rearless underwear that said “Be Free” on the front. The next thing I remember, the alarm was going off. It was the next morning.

The following evening we were getting ready for bed and I noticed that Tasha had laid out my red underwear beside a pair she also purchased—a sweet gesture that eventually made up for the night before.

Sex-life rating after taking the challenge: 4 out of 5



Couple #2: Haley, 34, and Stephan, 27, of Atlanta

Relationship status: Living together for nearly five years with an eight-month breakup along the way. Haley has a 13-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

Bedroom dilemma: When Stephan and Haley get between the sheets, Stephan’s heated rush leaves Haley cold. “I need the date, the talking and walking and feeding each other,” she says. Haley often feels so cheated after a rushed romp that she’d rather fake an orgasm and go to sleep than try again. Stephan, a home-store sales agent, shrugs off the speed complaint, saying there would be more foreplay if there were less arguing. “Haley should bring some fire into the bedroom, wear something new to keep that flame lit,” he says.

One added problem: Haley’s fibroids, which result in longer menstrual periods, turn Stephan off sex. “Some men don’t mind making love when you have your period,” says Haley, a middle school teacher. “But he’s the get-up-and-take-a-shower-afterward type.”

Sex-life rating before the challenge: 2 out of 5


Hutcherson: Try shower sex. Haley should definitely look into getting treatment for her fibroids. With so many minimally invasive treatments available, she needs to sit down with her doctor and go over her options. In the meantime, tub love can help heat things up, since Stephan’s worried about cleanliness. Set the atmosphere with scented candles and music in the bathroom. The easiest position in the bathtub would be for Stephan to sit with Haley perched on top of him.

Finesse: Create more intimacy. Call each other “Baby” as much as you can. Try to watch loads of DVD movies while snuggling together. And over the course of a week have a contest to see who can outdo the other in being thoughtful. You don’t have to break the bank. Try small gifts or simple romantic gestures.

Newman: Stephan, buy Haley lingerie. Instead of waiting for her to get things going with a sexy outfit, you should try surprising her by purchasing one yourself as a spicy gift.

Samuels: Text each other. Foreplay begins long before you hit the bedroom. Try sending each other hot messages throughout the day. Naughty or nice, those messages, and even brief phone calls, will help you both stay in touch better and get revved up for each other.

Zane: Get slick. Cover each other in massage oils and then make slippery love. Not only will it be fun, it’ll slow things down because you’ll have to put in overtime just to hold on to each other.

What worked best: Texting

Haley said: I went to Bath and Body Works and Wal-Mart in search of massage oil. I was with my daughter, so being discreet was quite the challenge, but I managed to pick up a bottle of K-Y. Unfortunately, the night we’d planned to try it, Stephan worked later than usual. By the time he got home I was asleep. Even so, we definitely got more romantic over the course of the week. Stephan started calling me more frequently during the day, saying that he was thinking of me and wanted to plan something special for us. His sexy text messages telling me that he couldn’t wait to taste me had me looking forward to it!

Stephan said: Think I blew it a little. Came home late on the night she most wanted to try some foreplay. Give me a little credit, though, for stepping outside my comfort zone in one area: I tried to be more expressive. Over the course of the week, work made it difficult to be with her. But I phoned Haley a lot more than I usually do, and I even started using the pet names I used to call her long ago. I told her that I missed the Haley I had fallen in love with and wanted us both to be more expressive from here on out. You’ve got to start somewhere.

Sex-life rating after taking the challenge: 3 out of 5

Lost That Lovin’ Feeling

Couple #3: Bobbi, 54, and Richard, 53, of Houston

Relationship status: Married for 30 years. They have four adult children and are helping to raise three grandchildren, ages 4, 5 and 6, who reside in their home.

Bedroom dilemma: “In the beginning it was all peaches and cream, you know what I mean?” says Richard, reflecting on the days when the passionate couple had sex two or three times a day. “Sex used to be so much more fun when it was spontaneous and daring,” he says. Unfortunately, the frequency has dwindled to about six times a year now, and even when it does happen, it’s too methodical and preplanned. What happened? “We got to the point where we spent more time doing other things than looking at each other,” says Richard. “We just don’t pay attention to each other.”

“We used to run off to a motel for the weekend,” says Bobbi, a college career counselor. This was when their children were young, before Richard’s pharmaceutical sales business had him away on the road as many as 35 weeks out of the year and before his high blood pressure medication left him drained. But the two want to somehow get back to the day they met, when he was a clay-covered part-time ceramics artist and chef, she was a civil servant and the two fell in love.

Sex-life rating before the challenge: 2.5 out of 5


Hutcherson: Take notes. Get a tape recorder or a notepad, think about the best sex you’ve ever had, and jot down all the details: how your partner smelled, what your partner wore. Not only will this get you in the mood as you recall that night, it’ll also make things steamy if you turn those details into an erotic story you share with your partner.

Finesse: Go on a road trip, even if it’s a nice drive up the interstate to a Motel 6 with Waffle House room service. ’Cause back in the day it was nothing for you two to hit the ho-tel, mo-tel, Holiday Inn. Just get an overnight bag packed with a Marvin Gaye CD and no grandchildren. One other thing: Ask your doctor about Viagra. A half of the blue pill increases the sex drive, or so I’ve heard.

Newman: Share a hot secret. Reveal something sexy about yourself that your partner doesn’t know or something romantic you would like to do that your partner would be surprised to learn you’re interested in. You’ve been together so long you think you know everything about each other. Watch the sizzling that occurs when you find out that you don’t.

Samuels: Get checked out. Richard’s health may be posing challenges to your relationship. A thorough physical is in order, and perhaps Bobbi should have her hormone levels checked, as well.

Zane: Spin that wheel. Richard was into ceramics when you first met. Go to a pottery class or mill and make a vase or pot together. As the scene in Ghost proved, it can be a turn-on to have your fingers moving together in clay.

What worked best: Sharing hot secrets

Bobbi said: The week we tried this challenge had a small hurdle because I needed to be away for three days at a work conference. Turns out that was a good thing because Richard called me more than usual, and he even sent me an E-mail, which he never does. Once when he called, I heard Teddy Pendergrass playing in the background while he told me what he wanted to do to me when I got home. He was talking dirty, and I loved it!

We were also both writing stories about our early love life. I told him one thing he thought I’d forgotten, and we reflected on why we fell in love. During the week we also both made doctors’ appointments, and when I got back to Houston, we had an evening at a fabulous hotel planned. What happened that evening, though, is one of the best secrets I will ever keep.

Richard said: I stepped up to the plate this week. While Bobbi was away, I got the courage to send an E-mail and talk to her about what attracted me to her in the first place, and I even wrote her a poem. We talked dirty on the phone, something we hadn’t done since before the children were born. I did all of this because I love Bobbi and want her to feel loved.

The day before she was due back, I picked up a prescription of Viagra. When she returned, well, what’s to say? I picked out some Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass CDs for the hotel stay, a bottle of wine, and oh, yes, the Viagra. I am still the Mack Daddy.

Sex-life rating after taking the challenge: 4.5 out of 5

*Names and identifying characteristics have been changed.