Sex Thoughts: What are we really thinking about in the bedroom?

by Lovehoney

on 24 May 2023

We surveyed over 2,000 adults to find out what they actually think about during sex and how sexually satisfied they really feel.


Has your mind ever drifted while you’re having sex? Well don’t worry, you’re not alone. Whether we’re distracted by our ever-growing to-do list, accidentally thinking about an ex-partner, or just anxious or annoyed by the quality of the sex, it’s pretty common for our minds to wander while we’re between the sheets.

But what exactly are people thinking about when they have sex, and how common exactly is it that these thoughts enter our bedrooms? We surveyed over 2,000 adults to ask them just this, and the results revealed a whole host of different things that our minds stray to.

While a few random thoughts during sex definitely aren’t a cause for concern, our survey data also revealed that over a quarter (26%) of UK adults are pretty unsatisfied with their sex lives. In light of this, we’ve enlisted the help of Ness Cooper, clinical sexologist and founder of The Sex Consultant, to share some tips on how best to improve your sex life if you’re not totally satisfied – since, let’s be honest, there’s always room for improvement!

The most common sex thoughts

It’s no secret that a celebrity crush can accidentally creep into our minds when we’re getting down and dirty. But how much of an impact are our day-to-day stressors having on our sex lives?

Our survey revealed that while having sex only 20% of us are ignoring that gnawing question of ‘is this good for you?’ This might be okay if you’re having the best sex of your life, but for the other 80% of us, if you’re not feeling it so much, it can really bring the mood down. The key to having enjoyable sex is being present in the moment, so getting out of your head is a really important part of your pleasure.

We also found that almost two-thirds of us (61%) are concentrating on all the things they want our partner to do that they don’t do already. It’s the second most common thought for both men and women, meaning there’s work to be done when it comes to communicating what they want in the bedroom. Whether you’re hoping it lasts for hours or you’re wanting to get to the good part quickly, we discovered that over half (53%) of us are thinking about how much longer the sex is going to last. Unsurprisingly, how to refrain from finishing too quickly is also on 53% of men’s brains, while 57% of women are focused on when they might get to orgasm.

If you’ve ever felt guilty for thinking about someone else while having sex, you’re definitely not alone. Almost two-in-five (38%) Brits have thought about a person other than their partner during sex, and 36% have actually spent the time fantasising about having sex with someone else entirely. This differs slightly between men and women, with just 27% of women admitting they think about having sex with someone else, compared with 36% of men.

It’s also common for anxious thoughts about ex-partners to sneak their way into the bedroom, with over a third of people worrying about whether their partner had better sex with an ex. It’s hard to get in the mood if you constantly compare yourself to others, so try to let go a little. Confidence is super sexy, so embrace what you bring to the bedroom and let the sex speak for itself!


It seems that our minds are so used to multitasking daily that we can’t stop it from happening in the bedroom too. Over a quarter (29%) of people have admitted they’re often distracted by what household chores need doing, and 27% are even planning their next meal while having sex.

Although it’s quite possibly the biggest turn-off of them all, almost a quarter (24%) of us even find ourselves unable to stop thinking about work while getting intimate. You might feel productive doing two things at once, but it’s going to seriously hinder your sex life if you’re constantly focusing on emails instead of orgasms.

Ness Cooper, clinical sexologist, says: “Our minds generally have a lot going on in them at one time, and it’s not always realistic to expect our thoughts to be completely focused on just one thing at a time, even if it’s something we’re actively engaging in. Various cues and stimulations from our environment and interactions with the person we are with can trigger certain thoughts or even memories. "Intrusive thoughts can occur normally, and aren’t always negative, even if they can be distracting. It’s when they cause distress that it can become a problem for some individuals.

“However, we shouldn’t automatically presume intrusive thoughts are bad or distressing. Sometimes they can just be thoughts that occur at the wrong moment simply because that’s how our brains work.”

How many of us are sexually satisfied?

If your mind has been wandering in the bedroom, it doesn’t necessarily mean the sex is bad. However, our research revealed that over a quarter (26%) of people in the UK are not satisfied with their sex lives.

We found that sexual dissatisfaction actually increases with age. Only 11% of those aged between 18 and 24 are unsatisfied in the bedroom, but this increases to 18% for 25 to 34-year-olds, 23% for 35 to 44-year-olds, and reaches around 33% for those aged 45 and over. While libidos may be affected by age, it’s still important to enjoy a healthy sex life no matter how old you are, so make sure you’re communicating what you want and need from your partner(s) to own your satisfaction.

Sexual satisfaction also seems to differ quite a lot from city to city. If you’re looking for a thriving sex life, look no further than Brighton, which has been crowned the most sexually satisfied city in the UK, with 83% of its residents confirming they are happy with their sex lives. Given the city’s status as the unofficial LGBTQ+ capital of the UK, as well as its generally liberal and inclusive nature, perhaps Brighton’s residents feel more comfortable with sex, and their own sexuality, due to the openness of the city. It is definitely a lot easier to take control of your own satisfaction if everyone else around you is doing it too!

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Northern cities Leeds and Sheffield are also home to some pretty satisfied residents, with an 82% sexual satisfaction rate across both cities. It’s often said that Northerners are more friendly, so could this have something to do with their sexual happiness too?

Sadly, Nottingham has been found to be home to the least satisfied among us, with over a third (36%) of those in the city admitting their bedroom antics are leaving a lot to be desired. Never fear, though, Nottingham, there are lots of different ways you can spice things up in the bedroom - trying new things can be a good place to start.

“If you feel fantasies are occurring due to your sex life not matching your expectations, talking to your partner about your expectations together can help you both understand what your sexual needs are. Focusing on the emotions behind those expectations can be helpful, as well as helping both of you to learn empathy towards each other’s sexual needs, wants, desires, and fantasies,” says Ness.

“Society has helped construct the view that sex should be spontaneous and different. On a sociopsychological level, some may feel that new things are needed for sexual satisfaction. When feeling that the sex you’re having has become too repetitive, it can be helpful to explore why you feel that, as some individuals can feel stuck in this mindset pattern even when exploring new things.

“Exploring new things sexually can be helpful to learn new ways you enjoy being stimulated. Our bodies and experiences are forever changing, and this can mean that we may enjoy things we didn’t before at any point in our lives.

How sex toys can improve your sex life?

Introducing sex toys, such as dildos and handcuffs, into the bedroom can work wonders for your sexual satisfaction. Our research has revealed that over half of all respondents (52%) admitted they think about wanting to include sex toys while having sex.

Ness says: “Sex toys can offer variations to sensations and stimulation. Particular types of sex toys can help inspire certain forms of sexual play too which may not have come to mind before. For example, buying a G-spot sex toy may inspire someone, or a couple, to explore G-spot play for the first time.

“When exploring sex toys for the first time, using a bullet-style sex toy can be a great way to explore different areas of your body or a partner's body. It can be easy to focus on using a sex toy in just one area, but allow yourself to get creative and explore different positions. Whether that’s different erogenous zones to explore or different sex positions to use them in, mix it up and try different ways for the best exploration experience.”

Bringing up the subject of sex toys and kinks isn’t always the easiest thing to do, especially if it’s something new for you and your partner. It doesn’t have to be scary, though, and we’ve got a few top tips for how best to approach the conversation.

1. Consider the timing

No matter how excited you are about trying out a new toy, if you haven’t discussed it with your partner beforehand, try to avoid whipping it out in the middle of a sex session - unless you know they like surprises. Set some time aside to chat with them, and if you’re nervous maybe test the waters by framing it as something you’ve seen on TV or read about in an article.

2. Reassure them

Sex toys are a fantastic addition to your bedroom activity, and they’re in no way a replacement for your partner, so make sure they don’t feel like they are being replaced or that they’re bad in bed. Let them know it’s all about exploring, trying new things, and enhancing your sex life and not because something is wrong in your relationship.

3. Respect their decision and be open

If your partner isn’t keen on the idea, don’t force it. Maybe suggest a different kind of toy or ask them if there’s anything new that they’d like to try. It might be that they’ve never really thought about it, so coming back to the conversation later down the line is also an option.

If they are open to exploring new things, don’t just force your ideas on them. Have open discussions about what you both might want from this, the sensations you both enjoy, and what kind of kinks you both might have. Toy shopping itself can actually be a fun and intimate couple’s activity, so find out where your desires overlap and go from there!

4. Start small

You might be tempted to go in with something super adventurous, but if you and your partner are new to this kind of thing, perhaps start with something small. Whether you want to try out bondage or beads, start simple and find out what works for you both - then you can build from there.

5. Have fun

Most importantly, have fun with it. Don’t take it too seriously and remember to enjoy this time with your partner. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself (or the toy) and try to let yourself go in the moment.

Methodology and sources:

All data was taken from a survey of 2,000 adults (18+) in the UK who have had sex, carried out in April-May 2023.

Expert commentary provided by:

Ness Cooper: Clinical sexologist, therapist and founder of The Sex Consultant.


Written by Lovehoney. For collaborative posts between Lovehoney team members and guest authors
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Originally published on 24 May 2023. Updated on 24 May 2023