“Revolution in Love’. Can you tell me what you mean by that? Do you want free love as against bourgeois marriage, or monogamy as against bourgeois promiscuity?” ~ Milan Kundera
A, somewhat delayed, return to our #haveyouhadanorgasm series then.
In the first post we mentioned that there is a of pressure surrounding sex in our culture. We’re faced with a lot of often competing expectations of what we should or shouldn’t be doing and who we should or shouldn’t be doing it with.
Everybody wants to be thought ‘good’ at sex.
Even though that’s not really how it works.
Leaving aside the questions we discussed last time around how we define what sex actually is it’s not like there’s a universally accepted gold standard of sexual performance that anybody can study and practice the syllabus for, take an exam, and then receive a certificate confirming that they’re up to the mark at the end.
Sex means different things to different people. Good sex is different things to different people.
You don’t need to be good at sex for your partner, what you need is to be compatible with your partner.
This is something that you can often learn, through good communication and experimentation, but not always. Sometimes the things that you need to feel fulfilled in your sex life just won’t gel with the person who’s currently a part of it.
This can be a sad, hurtful, and frustrating experience.
To a certain extent there’s no getting away from that, especially where partners are romantically as well as sexually involved. However, it isn’t a situation where anyone is usually actually to blame, and it could be navigated more easily if we didn’t have these narrow misconceptions of how things are supposed to be swirling around in the mix.
There’s also pressure, which can vary in direction depending on how liberal or traditional your circles are, to fit in with everyone else. To have the same attitudes, enjoy the same things, and to be having either as much or as little sexual contact as the next person.
If we don’t and our peers find out we run the risk of negative judgement or even ostracism from the group – despite the fact that it has no practical impact on anyone else whatsoever.
If you come from a traditional background you may be pressured to refrain from sexual activity and experimentation, and to make sure that you keep the number of partners that you have low – whatever that means, because if you’re not allowed to be open and talk about it where are you going to find a reliable yard stick to measure your number with?
If you tend to keep more liberal company you may feel more pressured to ‘perform’ your sexuality; to be expressive and adventurous, and to experience sex with more partners than you would otherwise have chosen.
This is the draw back of the ‘sex-positive’ notion that everybody should be liberated and in touch with their desires. Not everybody wants that, and not everyone who does knows how to get there, so instead they go through the motions of what they think they’re supposed to be doing.
Then we have the concept of sexual disorders.
Men worry about erectile dysfunction, they don’t want to be embarrassed because ‘they can’t it up’ or they orgasm ‘too quickly’. Women worry if they don’t get aroused ‘enough’ or take ‘too long’ to reach orgasm, or end up faking it.
And then, because they don’t want their partner’s to be upset and think there’s anything wrong with them they end up faking it.
Now, I’m not suggesting that sexual disorders shouldn’t be discussed, far from it. The problem comes when we have valuable awareness raising campaigns for such things but then we only half talk about them – because talking about sex still makes people embarrassed or uncomfortable – and so only half understand them.
Some people do suffer from medical conditions that mean that their sexual organs don’t function the way they might expect them to under conditions of arousal.
It’s important that those people are made aware that such conditions exist and are made to feel comfortable in approaching health services to discuss them and receive appropriate treatment.
However, there are also a great many people who don’t have health problems but nevertheless suffer from what we tend to call erectile, arousal, or orgasmic dysfunction.
These people aren’t actually suffering from anything that can appropriately described as a dysfunction at all – I mean, I think medical and colloquially it still is, but it would be helpful if we could find a different term for it.
They’re experiencing a perfectly normal physical manifestation of psychological pressure, which is increased by all these anxieties and expectations that we’ve built up around sex, which means that they can’t simply relax and enjoy the experience. (If this describes your current situation I highly recommend that you grab a copy of Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski which really well describes this phenomenon and how to approach it.)
Or they’re trying too hard to enjoy sexual activity with someone with whom they are incompatible or don’t feel enough attraction towards; because they either don’t understand that there’s no one ‘right’ way or for fear of how it will look to other people if they move on to someone to whom they’re better suited.
Either way they come away from the experience feeling as though they have somehow failed, which only compounds the pressure for the next time.
Except that you can only fail at something if there’s a correct way of doing it and a clearly defined goal that is the end result.
There is no right way to conduct a sexual relationship so long as all parties are of age and freely consenting.
And orgasm strikes me as a pretty unimaginative goal compared to any of the other things that you could be aiming towards.
Of course sexual satisfaction is important, and orgasms are a big part of that, but they are not the be all and end all of sexual activity. Sometimes, for whatever reason, they just ain’t going to happen. On those occasions there are plenty of other great things that you could be getting out of your sexy time.
And as we have already seen, if you take that targeted pressure to achieve orgasm away you’re more likely to end up there anyway.
But we can talk about that in the next instalment.
In the meantime, lets talk about you. Have felt any of these pressures and do you feel that they had a significant impact on your sex life? What do you think we can do to move away from some of these unhelpful ideas that are lurking around the cultural mainstream?