Stop worrying about how sex SHOULD be

What I do in my consulting room is rarely about “teaching folks how to do things right”, although that may be what many clients anticipate when they present for sex therapy; more often, it’s about trying to unteach them things they think they know about how sex SHOULD be. So I was very pleased to see this superb quote from Meg Barker over on her “Rewriting The Rules” Blog:

” … we all have different kinds of bodies that work in different ways. Instead of this being a cause for shame and distress as we all try (or pretend) to meet up to some narrow, limiting standard of sex (or avoid sex entirely if we don’t), we could embrace this diversity and make it the starting point for each new sexual conversation. Rather than going in with assumptions about how our body, and our partner’s, ought to work, we could go in assuming that this will be a new and different body and being open to the inevitably new and different experience it will bring.

Our concerns could be not ‘will I get an erection?’, ‘will it last long enough?’, ‘will I be able to be penetrated?’, ‘will I come at the right time?’ but rather ‘how does this person’s body work?’, ‘what do they like having touched?’, ‘what other kinds of stimulation do they enjoy?’, ‘how do I respond to what they do?’, ‘what can I tell them about how I work with my words and with my body?’, ‘what new ways will I discover with them that I haven’t with other people?’. With such questions it ceases to matter whether or not we orgasm from penetration, or at all, or whether we get erections or can be penetrated. We can put down those anxieties and just open up to the conversation as it unfolds”.

Thanks, Meg, for summing it up so perfectly.

Reasons to be sexual: one, two, three

A friend of mine was grumbling recently about what he perceived as the difference between the genders when it comes to enjoyment of sex. “Why can’t women just enjoy sex for its own sake?”, he asked.

It got me wondering what people mean when they talk about enjoying sex for its own sake.  Does that mean for pleasure?  For fun? For release?  Sometimes people talk about “the difference between having sex and making love”.  But why stick at that, as if those were the only two options on offer?  What about making up?  Making friends? Making whoopee? Making sorrow go away for a while?

I think it’s easy to fall into narrow ideas about what sex should be for, when in fact there are many legitimate and positive reasons to choose to be sexual.  Here are some I hear in my practice:

It makes me feel good about myself

It’s a way of playing, having fun

To show my partner I love her/him

It helps me keep in shape

It’s the only thing special that’s just for my partner and I – no one else

To make babies

It helps get me out of my head and into my body

When I want to feel loved and special

It makes my partner feel good about him/herself

It gives us both a lot of pleasure

It’s a way of fulfilling the desire I have for my partner

It makes me feel less stressed – in my body, and in the relationship

When I’m feeling sad, it comforts me

It helps me sleep

It’s a place I can act out aggressive feelings in a safe and healthy way

It makes me and my partner much closer, and helps us work through difficulties

I like feeling fanciable; it gives me more confidence in the rest of my life

It gives us time out from a busy life

For me, it’s the closest I get to exercising my spiritual side, connecting with another dimension

I enjoy power play, sometimes being more dominant, sometimes less

To help us get over an argument

It feels like something that bonds my partner and I, and glues us together

It’s a way I can make myself vulnerable, and trusting, and that feels good to do

It helps me feel connected to my partner, to the world

It makes me feel younger, more vibrant, more alive

It makes me feel happy

To bring us back together when we’ve been apart, physically or emotionally.

I’m sure you can add some reasons of your own.  The main thing is, there needn’t be one “correct” reason to have sex.  It’s good when couples can allow themselves to express many facets of themselves – and their lives together – through the medium of their sexual relationship.