While everyone's different (and, TBH, a good partner likely won’t care), it’s hard not to wonder things like, 'do guys care about what a vag looks like?' Here, the truth about turn-offs, according to experts.

By Laura Tedesco
Updated August 17, 2020

You're naked, they're naked, and you're both aroused. The smells, sweat, and sounds can suddenly seem erotically charged—to you, that is. In an Archives of Sexual Behavior study, women who were aroused felt significantly less grossed out by things they normally might be freaked out by. As for penis-havers (people typically assigned male at birth)? Well, their level of disgust stayed exactly the same, even in the heat of the moment.

The good news: Men tend to have pretty low levels of "icky" feelings about sex to start with, according to the scientists. But what actually turns them off in bed? And can someone finally tell me: do guys care what a vag looks like? Both are fair questions, no judgment here, but it's important to remember that the right person—or even just a genuine human being—probably won't care just as you probably don't care about your partner's down-under aesthetics, smell or, taste during sex. Oh and the only thing that really matters is how you feel about your body—and you should feel damn good about it.

So back to those questions: do guys care what a vag looks like, yada, yada. Of course, everyone likes and dislikes different things in bed, but science says that the following things may be more likely to bother your partner—regardless of what gender they might be. (There's a good chance they'll love anything in these male erogenous zones, though.)

You Hit the Sack Post-Workout

In an Evolution and Human Behavior study, men said an unpleasant body odor influences their sexual attraction more than the sound of a woman's voice, the feel of her skin, or her life ambitions. What's the big deal about a little B.O.? Body odor can convey that you aren't taking care of yourself (even if you are), says DeAnna Lorraine, a dating and relationships coach in Los Angeles. But let's be real: You don't love his stink post-gym session either, right?

The good news is sweating together can turn you both on. (Try strength training specifically, which is the best workout to boost your sex drive.) Instead of climbing into bed immediately after a workout, though, hop in the shower together.

Your Breath Is Rough

If you just downed a plate of garlic bread with your guy or it's first thing in the a.m. (morning sex, anyone?), your S.O. will probably be forgiving if you're not exactly minty fresh. (Although, a 2016 Appetite study found that women don't mind—maybe even like—when bae downs garlic bread on a date, as they like the smell of their sweat afterward.) The problem comes when bad breath (aka halitosis) is chronic (and not just from the keto diet)—in that case, it may actually act as a barrier to intimacy. So, what do guys hate in bed? Hate's a strong word, but bad breath is up there. Just take it from Lorraine: When you're suffering from a serious case of bad breath, this can definitely act as a roadblock to sex.

A Lack of Confidence

Acting skittish about stripping down, pushing them away when they go down on you, or being totally silent in bed are all signs of sexual insecurity—and big-time buzzkills for your parter too, says Lorraine. Why is bedroom bravado so critical? "Confidence indicates that you know yourself well and know what you like," explains Justin Sitron, Ph.D., a professor of human sexuality at Widener University. "Letting him take charge can be fun, but you need to show him that you're equally into it," adds Lorraine. A worthy partner will enjoy making you feel pleasure, so don't feel shy about telling him (or her! or them!) what you like and don't like. (Related: How to Ask Your Partner for More Sex—Without Offending Them)

Okay, but what do guys like during sex? Stop right there, girlfriend. This isn't all about what they prefer sexually; embracing your body and sexual confidence both in the bedroom and elsewhere in your life can only bring good things. Start with positive self-talk and learn what you like with some solo masturbation sessions. Promise, a good partner will enjoy all the ~fruits~ of that labor just much as, say, good oral technique.

You're On Your Period—But Don't Give a Head's Up

If you’re wondering, 'do guys get grossed out by discharge?,' then you likely also want to know, 'do guys get grossed out by period blood?' 

Before even discussing the answer, let’s get one thing straight: At the end of the day, it is your body that's bleeding and your body that's more sensitive. So your comfort level with getting it on while menstruating is just as important (if not more in this circumstance) as your partner's preferences. Not feeling sexy while Flo’s in town? You’re not alone: A 2018 survey conducted by Clue (one of these best period tracking apps) found that just 15 percent of menstruating women maintain the same sex routine during their period days that they follow the rest of the month.

If you're chill with it? Amazing—just make sure your partner is on board too. "Most mature men are understanding," says Lorraine, but you should still give your partner (of any gender) a head's up. Your line: "Just to let you know, it's that time of the month. We can hold off or we can go for it." (Then use this guide on how to have period sex and try these best sex positions for period sex, and use this period sex blanket if you don't want to make a mess.)

You Talk Really Dirty

Dirty talk is practically the norm: 80 percent of people admit to incorporating aural arousal into sex, according to a survey by sex toy company Adam & Eve. Twelve percent even said dirty talk is always part of sex. (And that's a great thing: Open communication about sex has been linked to more satisfaction.)

But just because it's normal doesn't mean your partner is prepared to push the envelope. Going overboard without warning can be a turn-off. In fact, a recent survey by Superdrug Online Doctor found that nearly 20 percent of people have stopped sex after being turned off by their partner's dirty talk. And 41 percent of those folks did so because it made them uncomfortable.

That doesn't mean that super-charged sexual talk is a definite answer to the question, 'what do guys hate in bed?'. Just be sure to chat about what works for both of you in bed before things start to get steamy. (See also: How I Learned to Ask for What I Want In Bed)

Your Vagina Smells a Little Off

There's no one answer to the question 'what do guys like during sex' but here's some good news: Your partner likely wants to go down on you. (Yes, really!!) You might still be wondering: But do guys care what my vag looks like? What about the smell? And do guys get grossed out by discharge? All valid questions, but let's pause for a hot sec. Remember: it doesn't matter what your partner thinks about your down-under region's aesthetics or smell. The cliché "every vagina is different" is true, and there's no real "normal" to compare yourself against. Your vagina is a glorious, pleasure-inducing organ that creates human life, and it's all yours and perfect exactly how it is. Of course, embodying this might be easier said than done, thanks to society's abysmal sexual education practices and unfortunately continual critique of women's bodies—but a worthy S.O. (and you too, for that matter) should celebrate your body and treat it with the respect it deserves. All this is to say that, no, a partner likely doesn't notice how your vagina looks or smells—besides being really excited about getting it on in the first place.

It's only when things seem a little funky that a gross factor can set in. It's not just in the name of vanity, though: Men may be wired to be turned off since a smelly vagina can signal an infection. If your vagina smells more or differently than normal, it may be one of these health issues. Otherwise, know that a little odor is normal and that you don't need to clean your vulva and vagina with special soaps or other products. Most guys will find your natural scent to be a turn on—and if they don't, it's likely a them problem, not a you problem. (Related: People Think 'Keto Crotch' Might Be a Not-So-Pleasant Side Effect of the High-Fat Diet)

You Pee with the Door Open

One of the best parts of getting intimate is that you're, well, intimate with someone else. However, there's a line between comfortable and too comfortable. 

Truth: That glorious post-coital glow can be hampered by the sound of urine tinkling in the toilet (for either party, that is!). Men can be weird about the fact that the vaginal area serves several purposes, the same way it might not be a turn-on to think about the other uses of your guy's penis, says Lorraine. As Sitron explains, during sex, you tend to separate yourself from reality—and when you're still getting to know each other, you rely heavily on that fantasyland for intimacy. That's not to say you shouldn't hit the bathroom after sex —because you should (hi, UTIs)—just give yourself some privacy.

You Kiss Them Right After Going Down On Them

For some people, this is no biggie—but for others, not so much. (Ditto for women!) "Some people see vaginal fluids and cum as separate kinds of bodily fluids that are sensual or sexy," says Sitron. But some people find them to be a little gross. Like so many things during sex, it's all about personal preference.

While you should not feel shame about your body's natural processes, you (and your partner) are certainly entitled to a preference about post-oral kisses. It's worth a convo before swooping in for one. (As for what do guys like during sex? These tips from sex therapists can help.)