The Sexpert: When sex gets stale
December 23rd, 2010
11:03 AM ET

The Sexpert: When sex gets stale

After you’ve had sex with the same person at least a thousand times it’s easy to fall into a routine. For many of us, the most exciting part of a relationship is at the beginning, when we’re falling in love. It’s a time filled with newness and possibility, hot and heavy flirtation, and even hotter and heavier sex.

But, after being with someone for a while, things can understandably get boring. You stop trying as hard. You’d sooner reach for that remote and a pint of Chunky Monkey than your partner. Quite simply, the thrill is gone. At Good in Bed we believe that when sex gets stale it’s time “take a walk on a shaky bridge.”

In 1974, two well-known psychologists, Arthur Aron and Donald Dutton, set out to explore the mysterious nature of sexual attraction, using two bridges in Canada as the setting for an ingenious experiment.  One of the bridges— Capilano Suspension bridge—was constructed solely of plank and cable and swayed perilously in the wind some 250 feet above a turbulent river.  The other was a solidly built anchored bridge that sat a mere 10 feet above sea level. The two-part experiment went like this:

On Day One, whenever an unaccompanied man ventured across the shaky bridge, he would find himself stopped midway by an attractive young woman. She would introduce herself as a psychology student and then proceed to ask if he would mind participating in a brief survey. On Day Two, the same woman followed an identical routine on the sturdy bridge.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But there was a little twist: When each of the men completed the survey, the young woman would hand him her phone number and tell him that he was free to call her later that evening for the results.

Unbeknownst to the subjects, the real study was not the answers the men gave on the survey, but what happened afterward. Which set of men would be more likely to give the woman a call? Would the excitement and exhilaration of being on the shaky bridge, versus the more mundane experience of being on the solid bridge, promote romantic attraction? Does adrenaline makes the heart grow fonder?

Not only did Aron and Dutton find that the men on the shaky bridge were more likely than their stable-bridge counterparts to call the woman later for results of the survey, but they were also far more likely to ask her for a date!

When it comes to desire and attraction, a little unpredictability goes a long way. It spikes the brain's natural amphetamines, dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a big role in sexual arousal. In technical terms, Aron and Dutton were testing a concept called “misattribution,” also known as excitation transfer theory. That’s the idea that lingering excitement from one situation—say, walking across a shaky bridge versus a stable one—can intensify a subsequent emotional state.

Beneath our beds, there lies a shaky bridge, ready and waiting for high-stakes action. Yet most of us spend our sex-lives on the stable one, often without realizing it.  Luckily, you don’t have to literally cross a shaky bridge, or go bungee-jumping, in order to shake things up, (unless of course you want to), but you do have to work as a couple to be creative and adventurous—both out of the bedroom and in.

The brain is our biggest sex organ, so start with sharing a fantasy.  Research shows that people with active fantasy lives are more sexually satisfied, more sexually responsive and more adventurous about sex in general. Remember, there's a difference between sharing a fantasy and actually acting one out, and lots of points along the way to enjoy. A little novelty goes a long way, and if you need some more ideas, check out my new book 52 Weeks of Amazing Sex, which includes lots of sexy scenarios and ideas to expand your horizons.

Remember, it takes two. For every woman who’s willing to stand at the center of that shaky bridge, there needs to be a man who will meet her halfway.

Ian Kerner is a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

soundoff (833 Responses)
  1. DNICE


    December 23, 2010 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Robert

    This is just an Ad for the authors book.

    December 23, 2010 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. SuperCore

    No one reads the comments this far down.

    December 23, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Asimov

      I agree. I don't read comments this far down, neither do you, and that's your right.

      December 24, 2010 at 00:21 | Report abuse |
  4. SuperCore


    December 23, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. DNICE

    Attraction is why I would call her back. I could care less what was going on with the bridge.

    December 23, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. toke

    My wife just signed me up for a bridge club.......I jump off next week

    December 23, 2010 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. tooty

    Bridge experiment: Timid and anxious men may have been less willing to even walk across the shaky bridge in the first place. So, maybe some built-in variance in the survey sample of men on each bridge.

    December 23, 2010 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. FThat

    I would have said screw calling you later, I know a hotel around the corner . . . : )

    December 23, 2010 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. joe317

    This isn't an article about a study. It's an ad for a book. It'd be awesome if CNN went back to journalism.

    December 23, 2010 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. yamon

    I have my dress up as a animal on mondays ...a maid on Tuesday...cheerleader Wed-Thur..birthday suit Friday....secretary Sat..a nun onSsunday.........keeps the fire burning.

    December 23, 2010 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. isitluck?

    Did anyone get lucky? THAT's the burning question in my mind.

    December 23, 2010 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. tim

    They should try with an average looking woman. Heck any normal guy is going to call a good looking woman who ask them to.

    December 23, 2010 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. wow

    Dnice? Y did u pick that name?

    December 23, 2010 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. EZsolver

    Just move to the big rabbit and cowboy costumes, and you'll be okay.

    December 23, 2010 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. V Saxena

    I was getting very bored with having hex (how can they block the s word on an article about the S WORD), but then I fractured my right hand. Since then I've been reduced to masturbating with just my left hand, and I gotta tell you... the change in routine has propelled my self-hex life to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL!

    December 23, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Pointless1

    This isn't an article about a study. It's an ad for a book. It'd be awesome if CNN went back to journalism."

    When did CNN ever start with journalism?

    December 23, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. JustPlainJoe

    Then again, perhaps single men who happen to chose to walk over a shaky bridge are somehow different from those that would walk over a solid bridge. The risk taking men would more likely ask the women out that those with some possible anxiety.

    Correlation does not imply causation.

    Perhaps risk taking men get more bored with predictable intimacy? Perhaps alot. The study is fun but not as telling as would seem.

    December 23, 2010 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. MaysonNSS

    This is a VERY good article. I work as a professional dating instructor and the author hit the nail on the head when he said.

    "When it comes to desire and attraction, a little unpredictability goes a long way."

    This is why so many marriages struggle overtime because things become to predictable and to routine. Relationships tend to have an expiration date to them now a days for many of these reasons. We often tell our clients that there are 3 components to a relationship, you, the other person and the relationship itself, all of which exist and need work. Amazing article!

    December 23, 2010 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Asimov

      You say that relationships tend to have an expiration date if there's no unpredictability. Maybe so, for relationships that are still evolving. But unpredictability is irrelevant if a relationship is long term. Those that are forever are immune, because while unpredictability is terrific, it is not a requirement. The long term relationship would go on without it, and its absence would not, of itself, end it. It's a bonus.

      December 24, 2010 at 01:03 | Report abuse |
  19. Willie Wombat

    I'd like to post a simple obsevation. Not vulgar or obscene, but it is blocked. Haven't got a clue.
    But I do think it would be of interest. Sorry folks.

    December 23, 2010 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Dean

    Most people are assuming that the bridges are side by side and one could take either bridge to the same destination. If this is true then it proves that the adventurous are more forward when approaching women. If the bridges are not close together, it probably proves the same because people living in an underdeveloped area of Canada are probably also more adventurous than those living in more a more civilized area.
    I hope this study was financed by Canada and not the U.S.

    December 23, 2010 at 18:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. CH Jones23

    How does crossing a bridge with someone you've never met before relate to a long-term marriage or relationship? The whole concept is nonsense, unless maybe you're a psychologist.

    December 23, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • emmy

      omg. please shut up. u clearly know nothing about the topic my dear.

      December 23, 2010 at 19:05 | Report abuse |
  22. Jon Garvey

    Or... The men who took the "shaky" bridge were more daring to begin with and therefore more likely to call the girl.

    My guess is if a cute girl gives a skydiver her number, and also gives a manger at ChuckECheeze her number, the skydiver is more likely to call.

    December 23, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. emmy

    This study makes perfect sense b/c there have been many other studies, it has been proven, that when people overcome challenges together, it brings them closer. So the shaky bridge can also be seen as a tough situation they were in, therefore creating a tighter bond and a more memorable impression. That's why they say on a first date you should do something adventurous instead of a boring dinner, the excitement of the experience will make you bond with the person. This is not really new at all, its basic human psychology and attachment theory.

    December 23, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • emmy

      And it's also why women like bad boys!!!! 😀

      December 23, 2010 at 19:04 | Report abuse |
  24. dj

    I disagree with your comment that men need to meet a woman halfway across the bridge...in my experience you have to coax most worthy women out to the bridge regardless of its structure...comments?

    December 23, 2010 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jimmie Monaghan

    Men are simply not wired for monogamy. Period.
    Fidelity goes against the basic male primal urges.
    Women like to "nest". Men require variety.
    Get over it.

    December 23, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Quizzle

      That's why women rarely stray and cheat. Oh, wait... they do that just as much as men. It sounds like you're just trying to use your gender to excuse your douchbagerie.

      December 23, 2010 at 20:55 | Report abuse |
  26. vancouverite

    First of all, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a tourist attraction in Vancouver. So it would be weird to be in the middle of the bridge looking at the scenery and have someone ask you to do a survey. It would be comparable to someone asking you to do a survey when you are walking across the skywalk in the Grand Canyon. As opposed to someone just stopping you on a normal place on the street. The whole 'experiment' was stupid.

    December 23, 2010 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. phil

    total BS!

    December 23, 2010 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. gaybilly

    OK so I am Gay, yes the guy in the pic is HOT, and this is the worst excuse of self promotion i have seen on cnn.com..............the "study" is just plain STUPID. and the article exists to try to drum up interest the the authors website and book.....

    December 23, 2010 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. jayjay

    what would Dr. Ruth say?

    December 23, 2010 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Kelly

    You guys are all missing the point. Just tongue her ass a little and she'll never leave you.

    December 23, 2010 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gaybilly

      LMAO!!!!!! wow, i thought that only worked on gay/bi/bi-curious guys!!!!!!

      December 23, 2010 at 20:41 | Report abuse |
  31. Justina

    It's always all about the joy of being one with the only and unique one you love and for whom you made lifetime committment. As long as one gets concerned about his or her own satisfaction in the act itself, the satisfaction never comes.

    December 23, 2010 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Dave R.

    So, what happens with the relationship of 43 years when one has to compete with the other's time for affection?

    December 23, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Tracy

    This experiment is so flawed. your avg 10th grader can make it more credible

    December 23, 2010 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. anonymous


    December 23, 2010 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Jeff

    A blatant promotion.

    December 23, 2010 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Todd

    Dear CNN,
    I have a book of my own I want to promote. What are your rates for BS news articles?


    December 23, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. marc

    I've actually been on the Capilano suspension bridge and no woman would stop to give me her phone number. Most just try and get over the bridge as quickly as possible.

    December 23, 2010 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Shane

    I think it's a good study- it points out some insights about risk aversion, sense of adventure, safety, and being TOO safe. I looked at my own past and I'm pretty risk adverse- I guess I need to shake things up a bit!

    December 23, 2010 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. kofybean

    This study proves nothing.

    1) What happens when women take the shakey bridge and an attractive man stops them and gives her his number?
    Will she call?

    2) This article is about sects, but there was no sects in the study. So it does not translate.
    If a man had sects with an attractive woman on a sturdy bridge, OR shaky bridge... will he get bored or will he call the next day? I doubt you will find a correlation to either bridge.

    3) This study only looked at if he would call. That says nothing about sects. What happens on the phone says nothing about what happens in the bed.

    ***4) No blood test were taken to measure to be sure that the amphetamines, dopamine and norepinephrine level were indeed higher or increased, or there was a difference. If bother sets of men had the same levels of hormones than the calling back BECAUSE of excitment on the bridge is moot.

    5) Did the same interviewer do both bridges so the level of "attractiveness" was the same?

    6) What is attractive? Whose standards were used?


    7)Did the interviewer KNOW the study she was conducting, if so the girl on the shaky bridge could have FLIRTED more than the girl on the steady bridge and gave more indication of being called back, whereas if the girl on the sturdy bridge would have skewed the results if calmly handing her number "yea, call me. bye"

    December 23, 2010 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LouieD

      I agree, Kofybean. There was no sects in the study. Neither was there cults, secret societies, or casual Bible study groups.

      December 24, 2010 at 04:11 | Report abuse |
  40. Zyde

    I wonder how this would differ (or be the same) with gay men?

    December 24, 2010 at 00:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Glenn

    In summary. I wanna do it in the butt.

    December 24, 2010 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Ben Danner

    Choking your partner and spitting on them will always livens things up.

    December 24, 2010 at 00:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Jeff

    You know life in America is good when people are having a "crisis" because their intimacy has become a bit routine.

    I think half of our population would dodge a draft in the event of a new world war, for fear they may break a nail or ruin their complexion.

    December 24, 2010 at 03:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Saffi

    When I was reading the article, I was computed how many times was. 13 years is long enough for a thousand times.

    December 24, 2010 at 03:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Gerry

    13 years for a thousand times? 200 times a year for 5 years is a thousand times as well.

    Anyway I know where Capilano bridge is, so for me I think this article is telling me I need to hit on girls walking across Capilano brdige.

    December 24, 2010 at 05:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Sriram

    Hi Everyone, One more example of promoting excitement, shakiness, taking risks, infidelity and so on. Quite in contrast to all that we have been taught to avoid. For a long time now, some people have been at this game of promoting temporary pleasures, excitement, physical and emotional highs, instead of stability and peace.....but are we any happier for this? Aren't people today more and more miserable than ever before, in spite of so many comforts?!

    December 24, 2010 at 05:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. JennyTX

    CNN, EXCUSE ME?? Don't you know middle schoolers read your website looking for articles to write about? Would you want your 12-year-old reading this??

    December 24, 2010 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. noogie

    Really? Really?!?!?! this was the biggest waste of bits I've ever been swindled into reading. So the big answer to boredom in bed is using your imagination? Thanks so much! It's the holy grail!

    Useless. Send us all your paycheck, right now, for enduring this crap.

    December 24, 2010 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. GFreas

    This "study" proves what has been know forever:that a friendly conversation with a woman makes a guy more likely to call her? Duh! It's the conversation, numbskulls; the proverbial "ice-breaker" that overcomes the fear-of-rejection that most men have with women. It's not the excitement factor, idiots. Psychology majors and sociiology majors are always the dimmest bulbs on the string.

    I'm with the commenter who posted that he hope this study wasn't paid for with my tax dollars.

    December 24, 2010 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Jack Howitzer


    December 25, 2010 at 23:08 | Report abuse | Reply
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