The last blog post addressed some sexual myths that mainly concerned women, although everyone should be aware of these cultural prejudices. This week will focus on some of the cultural messages that target men. Though men are generally believed to have a louder voice, sexually, the loudest voice is not within the couple. Society has validated many harmful beliefs that ultimately harm men and injure the relationship.
Perhaps the most pervasive and far from true belief is regarding a man's sexual understanding.
"Men are the experts...or sexperts."
Culture has put unrealistic expectations on men. This may seem obvious, but really consider everything you've seen in popular media. Boys, starting at a young age, will brag about their sexual knowledge, making dirty jokes and throwing out sexual vocabulary in the locker room, usually without actually knowing what they're talking about. Social pressures inform young men that they must know it all.
Additionally, it has become permissible for women to measure the sexual competency of a man by his ability to bring her to climax, without any kind of verbal coaching. Have you noticed anyone talking to one another in the sex scenes of movies? She may also be a more passive participant in the sexual encounter, giving him the physical responsibility to “make it happen.” The pressure here can be overwhelming and may contribute to certain performance-anxiety-induced-sexual-dysfunction.
Gentlemen, you have the privilege and the challenge to LEARN about what makes your lady tick. She will change, depending on the time of the month, her mood, the stresses she is currently undergoing, and her age and stage. This will be a continual learning process that she should readily and willingly engage in. By experimenting and listening to her coaching, the two of you will enjoy a deep satisfying sexual experience.
As for frequency, much like women, it will vary as much as there are men. Assuming a man will want sex at least daily will plant seeds of concern when he in reality doesn’t.
A couple sits in my office, at opposite ends of the couch, describing their sex life as “disappointing” and “frustrating”. After inquiring further, I learn that sexual pain has prevented intercourse and they now choose to avoid sexual interaction all together. That, along with comparisons to previous sexual partners, has left both feeling either broken, undesired, disappointed, and hurt. They both want to connect with one another sexually, but fear entices them to avoid those encounters, as if to avoid further rejection or discouragement.
The interaction between this couple, though heartbreaking, represents a common belief system about sex and intimacy; that is, the definition of [heterosexual] sex is vaginal penetration which leads to orgasm. This extremely limited definition will lead many couples to disappointment about their sex life and their own sexual capabilities. In fact, this narrow expectation of sex may actually drive people away from intimacy.
One of the biggest issues with this narrow perspective is it limits our sexual experiences and minimizes any other sexual expression. A couple that is not able to have vaginal penetration, due to medical complications, sexual dysfunctions, etc, are left to believe that what they have left to express their love physically is missing the mark or not as intimate as intercourse, when in fact, the array of other sexual activities may prove to be more physically enjoyable and intimate than intercourse.
More importantly, however, this belief emphasizes that the apex of the sexual experience is the orgasm rather than the intimate connection. If sex is all about achieving orgasm, then it becomes a performance with a physical end-goal in mind. When that is not achieved, for whatever reason, a couple will experience disappointment and withdrawal. Whereas, if the intent of becoming sexual with a spouse is to express love in a physical form, then whatever is done within that interaction, which edifies both people, will achieve its end. With or without the orgasm, with or without the vaginal penetration, the couple has the opportunity to make love and connect with each other in a very deep, profound, and intimate way.
A healthy sex life for a couple is deeply profound and has the power to draw them closer together or put a rift between them. Sex and intimacy can be challenging during certain seasons of our lives. Therefore, I urge couples to be proactive about that aspect of their lives. Nurture your sex lives with time, energy, love, and compassion. And if it is hurting or unhealthy, seek some help to get you back on track. It will be worth it.
When Sex Hurts, by Andrew Goldstein, MD, Caroline Pukall, PhD, and Irwin Goldstein, MD, is a fantastic resource to women who are experiencing sexual pelvic pain. Perhaps most admiring about this work is how affirming the authors are about this extremely personal topic. Where many women who are experiencing challenging pelvic pain are met with criticism and disbelief, Drs. Goldstein, Pukall, and Goldstein offer unending understanding and validation. They quite consisely describe the various types of sexual pain disorders and offer encouragement for correlating treatment.
Anyone who has experienced unrelenting sexual pain knows frustration and hopelessness. This book will offer hope in the midst of confusion and empower readers to seek the treatment they require. Though it is written with a largely medical perspective and lacks a sufficient overview of psychological aspects of sexual pain disorders, I highly recommend this book to anyone navigating these extremely difficult waters.
Portland based Counselor sharing latest book reviews and emotional health tips.