Sex on the Beach—or Not

Explore fresh horizons, explore each other and the sex will follow.

I believe that immediately upon arrival someplace new, you must dive or jump or somehow dunk your head under water, be it lake, ocean or hotel pool.

This is a ritual of renewal I swiped from an old friend, the experiential art curator Natalie Kovacs, a woman who wears the word kook with great aplomb. Natko, who quite romantically spends her life wandering the world in search of truth and beauty, wears her birthday suit to wash off the old and welcome the new and the next. Nudity is optional: the important bit is the commitment to starting fresh.

Vacations are a way to stop the merry-go-round and reflect, to carve markers into time as it tumbles past. That said, it is a lot of weight for a getaway to bear, especially when you add in expectations about sex.

Yes, wearing fewer items of clothing (none of them with collar stays or Spanx) can lead to honeymoon-style enthusiasms. You are off the clock, hopefully off the smartphones, there are no chores in the job jar, there has likely been close attention paid to waxes and pedicures and such and you are somewhere in paradise conducive to romance.

Context matters when it comes to sex and the adventuresome factor: what happens in Muskoka stays in Muskoka. A–Ipsos-Reid survey of 1,000 Canadian women found that nine out of 10 agreed that being on vacation was a good way to “rekindle the spark” in a relationship. (Also in the survey, 53 per cent of respondents felt the sex on vacation was qualitatively better than workaday sex.)

Except that leaves 47 per cent who know that things can go so very wrong. Beyond vertigo from trying to balance acrobatics in a canoe, there is sand in your wet bathing suit. If you like each other, these things are funny. If you don’t, it is going to be a long, awkward vacation. Most of us probably remember the agony of the last-ditch vacation, trying to salvage a dead relationship with piña coladas.

“If you have better sex on a vacation than at home, I think it is a sign that there are good things in the relationship and you just haven’t been prioritizing sex enough at home,” says Bianca Rucker, a sex and relationship therapist who practises in Vancouver.

“If you don’t have better sex on vacation, it might point to more serious issues in the relationship. For example, if a couple is not emotionally connected enough or there are resentments, then sex may be a ‘No’ on vacation.”

If you are one half of an unconnected couple, all is not lost, says Rucker, who recommends starting the vacation early. “A couple can talk about what they are looking forward to in a sexual way before they leave. This will help with getting on the same page in terms of what each is imagining. I suggest that couples use the phrase, ‘I would like …’ as a positive way to each express themselves.” Many of the reasons for being stuck may be changeable with attention and effort (whether it be personal growth or addressing medical or hormonal issues).

Getting out of town can be a tonic for an out-of-synch relationship, says Dr. David McKenzie, also a Vancouver-based sex therapist. He cites New York-based Belgian writer Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, and her concept of using a change of physical context to rejuvenate passion.

“Nobody should be going on vacation and thinking ‘Oh, wow, we’re gonna have sex every night,” says McKenzie. “It is important in a long-term relationship that you schedule sex,” especially on vacation. “Spontaneity still happens but it’s an illusion if you think it will be as often as when you first met.”

From his experience travelling across Canada on a Cialis-sponsored speaking tour around the pharmaceutical company’s study of baby boomers’ sex lives, McKenzie concludes, “You can have more satisfying, deeply moving sex lives after 60 than at 30. It is a matter of actually trying to enjoy each other’s bodies. You have to change the way you have sex, focus on outercourse as opposed to the intercourse” mandated by our procreative years.

So, it is a simple formula: explore fresh horizons, explore each other and the sex will follow. The first step is to hold your partner’s hand when you jump in that lake together.