Very few things that happen during sex are a disaster unless you choose to see them that way. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.
The Journal of Marital and Sexual Therapy recently reported that 1 in 4 of us are unhappy with our sex lives. Problems with sex arise out of a combination of factors: for example lack of confidence, communication difficulties, inexperience and lack of skill, unrealistic expectations, refusal to take responsibility for our own sexual pleasure and
What many people are not aware of is that there are a vast amount of beliefs and opinions about sex that we all have and take with us into every sexual encounter. For the most part, we are not aware of out particular biases and expectations yet these unexamined yet rigid convictions have the potential to ruin any sexual experience.
1. SEXUAL FANTASY IS A BARRIER TO INTIMACY
Many people prevent themselves from having the best sexual experiences that they could have because they believe that fantasy should be restricted to masturbation and should not be an aspect of partner sex. This could not be further from the truth. Choosing whether and when to share a private desire with your partner can be exhilarating. Yet sharing is not the point of fantasy. Fantasy is all about learning what turns you on and exploring your potential to express your sexuality. It is not unusual for women to have trouble reaching orgasm with a partner because of insufficient mental arousal. She probably knows how to orgasm through masturbation but feels too guilty to enter the realm of fantasy when with her partner. The ability to be intimate is enhanced by self-knowledge and confidence and the uninhibited expression and communication of fantasy can bring people closer together.
2. PENETRATION IS THE GOAL OF SEX
Concentrating on the destination rather than the journey is responsible for the burden placed upon men to ‘perform’ on demand but is only a part of a vastly wider area of sexual possibilities. Penetration is often made the center of sex, yet oral and manual sexual activity is likely to be at least as – and frequently more – satisfying for a woman. When penetration is seen as the ‘goal’ of sex, then foreplay becomes something that leads to proper sex, rather than being a pleasure in and of itself. When sex is reduced to being a rush towards the man’s ejaculation through penetration, then it is no wonder that so many people find sex to be disinteresting and boring. It is more that the definitions of sex in our culture are shallow and trivialize the majesty and mystery that sex can be.
3 MORE SEX MEANS BETTER SEX
Quality versus quantity of sex is likely to be different at varying times. It is unrealistic to expect that sex is always going to be mind-blowing and require a heavy investment of time and effort. Variety is the key. Getting stuck in a predictable routine that both partners play out means that sometimes both quantity and quality suffer. We are surrounded by misinformation about sex. Surveys that tell us how often everybody is having sex (or more realistically, how often people say they are having sex) become methods of establishing a spurious norm of sexual activity that you may try to replicate.
Quality can suffer if you are too intent upon upping the quantity of your sexual experiences. Many people feel under pressure to have a lot of sex but this does not mean that they are going to be a better lover or have better sex. It merely means that they have more sex. Compulsive sexual behaviour can be detrimental to your sense of who you are, what you have to offer, your work, relationships. It can mask low quality sex. Comparing yourself with your perceptions of other people’s sex lives is always a destructive mode to get into. The only thing that needs matter to you is your own sexual happiness.
4 I AM JUST NOT A VERY SEXUAL PERSON
Loss of sexual desire is a common concern for many people and it is an issue that has no single cause. When you have persistent thoughts about feeling unworthy, unloved, unwanted and of not deserving of great sex, not attractive enough, you may manage to convince yourself that you just are not very sexual. Everybody has sexual energy and the capacity to express and enjoy a fulfilling sex life. What can happen is that your negative thoughts about yourself mean that you lose touch with the sexual part of yourself and start to feel disconnected from your sexuality. Identifying the internal self-talk that is damaging your sexual expression enables you to begin to re-connect with your sexuality and believe that you are no different to anyone else: you deserve and are entitled to sexual happiness. You will need to change the way you think about yourself or your label will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are looking for evidence to back up a belief, you can always find it. It doesn’t make it right or true. It just means you see what you want to see, whatever helps you feel comfortable – even this is only the comfort to be found in what is safe, unchallenging and familiar.
5 BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE HAVE BETTER SEX.
Sex begins in the brain and sexual attraction and energy feed off of factors other than physical appearance. When you make love, you are so much more than your body. This belief feeds off the comparisons you make between yourself and other people. Beautiful people do not have more successful relationships, nor do they have better sex. Sexual fulfillment is about self-acceptance. The way you feel about your body is apparent to other people and can make sex a joy or a disaster. The danger with this belief is that you start to play the game of ‘If only’. If only I was thinner, more attractive, more sexually adventurous, then I can have the sex life that I want. When you make your dreams dependent upon some other change, then you reduce the chances that you will find the courage to make any changes at all. There is nothing to be gained by waiting. You need to start taking action to change now.
Your body image and the things you tell yourself about your sexual desirability are important factors that influence your sexual happiness. Whilst valuing your own desirability makes quality sex more achievable, loving your looks alone is no guarantee of a deeper and more solid sense of self-esteem. You can feel desirable but empty of desire. Self-acceptance and learning to love yourself extends beyond appreciating your attractiveness and incorporates an acknowledgment and respect of who you are, what you stand for and what you contribute to the world and other people.
6 THE CHILDREN MUST COME FIRST.
Many couples experience a decrease in their sexual satisfaction after they have had children. Believing that the child’s needs should always come first can mean that a total lack of privacy, time, energy and commitment makes sex a distant memory. Having children is a stressful time for every couple and the relationship dynamic will change. Balancing affection and attention between your children and your partner is a challenge that needs to be met head on.
Couples with young children need time alone to focus on each other’s needs and desires. They need to listen and respect each other and acknowledge their sexual situation, whatever it is. Being a mother or a father does not mean that you have to give up being yourself. It is important to set boundaries with your young children so that they know and accept that their parents expect privacy sometimes and are not always prepared to rush to fulfill their child’s needs on demand.
7. SEX IS NO LAUGHING MATTER
Playing, being silly and laughing are all great ways to deepen intimacy and enhance sexual pleasure. Some people believe that sex must be, can only be, ‘romantic’ and so attach a great deal of earnestness to the experience. It is possible to learn the benefits of lightening up. When sex cannot incorporate elements of play, it is often an indication of an impoverished emotional connection. Usually, it is not difficult to bring the fun back into sex, even if it feels a little forced at first.
When sex is viewed as about achievement and competition, then lightness and frivolity are likely to be absent. Keep in mind that sex is about whatever works for you and keeping play and foolishness a part of sex can help to prevent sex becoming a stale and predictable.
8. SEX MUST BE A GENEROUS ACT; I WANT TO SATISFY HIS/HER SEXUAL NEEDS
Great sex is both generous and selfish. Most people do get turned on by their partner’s arousal and this is fantastic but if you put all your energy into finding out what she/he wants, what about you? Who is giving you what you need? Being prepared to get your own needs met is an indication that you are willing to take care of yourself, rather than relying upon other people to meet your unmet and perhaps unvoiced desires.
Sexual communication is all about clarity, saying what you think and feel. It is also about setting boundaries, discussing what you do not like and both parties must be able to say no and for this to be accepted. If you find yourself having sex because you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, think about what you are doing. Honour yourself and what you want and share any feelings of ambivalence. This means that intimacy levels can remain high and misunderstandings are not given opportunity to distort your relationship with your partner.
9. PREMATURE EJACULATION IS A SIGN OF A POOR LOVER.
Being unable to control ejaculation is a worry for many men. Most practically, even if you have had an orgasm, don’t leave your partner high and dry. Often feelings of shame, failure and anticipating your partner’s disappointment mean that his orgasm means the end of sex. It comes back to widening your perception of what sex can be and not being enslaved to ideas about sexuality that are widely circulated in our culture.
In terms of his sexual pleasure, learning how to manage his anxiety about performance and being able to talk to a partner are the most effective ways of building sexual confidence. Some of the informal strategies that are popular in our culture do more harm than good. For example, trying to delay ejaculation by distracting yourself with non-sexual thoughts will do little to enhance your sexual pleasure.
This strategy is more likely to create a feeling of disassociation for him from his own body and the situation that he is in. It may help him to delay ejaculation (although this is debatable) but consciously focusing away from your physical pleasure is unlikely to facilitate peak sexual experiences. Being emotionally present during sex is crucial to sexual awareness and intimacy. It is a far more successful strategy for a man to learn about how to control his ejaculation than to continue to consciously create emotional distance from his partner and the sexual experience.
Tantric sex exploration is a great way to learn the capacity to control male ejaculation as it teaches techniques that enable him to distinguish between orgasm and ejaculation. Contrary to popular belief they are not the same thing!
10. AN ERECTION IS ONE AND THE SAME THING AS SEXUAL AROUSAL
This is a difficult idea for many people to get their heads around. Sexual arousal happens within a context that is emotional, physiological and visual. If you think about the nature of desire and attraction, recognise that it is not always a purely physical response; it involves idiosyncratic and sometimes unpredictable preferences. Sexual desire just does not exist without a sexual context. It is confirmed/reduced by the accompanying emotions and thoughts that you focus on at any time. Men have erections of varying hardness according to how they are thinking and feeling at the time. An erection does not necessarily mean that a man is fully, or even a little, aroused. He may become erect without feeling particularly sexy.
For men who are insecure about maintaining their erection, confusing erection with arousal means that they often rush into sex before they are completely ready. If you habitually move from low arousal into sex, desire may well start to decrease. Part of the reason for this is that many men feel that they may lose an erection if they don’t immediately act upon its presence. Having sex in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity is not going to give you the best sexual experiences that you are capable of having.
There are many things that men can do to learn to have more confidence and control over their erections and ejaculatory control instead of ignoring his insecurity and depriving himself of great sexual experiences. Whenever your decisions and actions are motivated by fear and uncertainty, you are selling yourself short in some way or another. Many men are not sure about where their pleasure comes from during sex and experience a lack of understanding about their own bodies that means that they are unaware that their whole body can become aroused. If you are committed to gaining ore control over your ejaculatory response, invest in some of the many interesting and informative guides that enable men to delay ejaculation and become more connected with their sexual potential.
There are many other myths that run people’s sex lives. Whenever you find yourself thinking ‘he / she / I should / must / ought . . . ‘, you are probably listening to the demands of a sex myth that is taking you away from what you want and think and encouraging you to follow what other people want and feel. When are you going to listen to and follow you own rules?
Recognise that the thoughts that you have affect the sex life that you create. Know that you can choose to change the way you think and learn self-acceptance, respect for your sexual self and experience ease, excitement and power in the ways you choose to express yourself sexually.
© Dr Tara Few, The UK Sex Coach