Sex Expectations Lead to Sexual Problems

My client Harry expects his penis to be on demand to fuck whomever he wants because that’s the way all his 20 year old friends say they do it (which is often not what really happens).  Harry’s penis is more selective about who it sleeps with and Harry has found it difficult to depend on his penis to work with anyone any time Harry demands it.  Harry suffers because he thinks there is something wrong with him.  He thinks he should be like his friends.  Harry’s expectations make him suffer.

We expect certain things when it comes to sex.  We develop these expectations by watching movies, listening to music, having conversations with friends about sexual experiences.  The danger in expectations is that they don’t reflect the reality of what typically happens in sex.  A discrepancy in what we expect and what we really experience leads to sexual problems including low sexual desire, erectile problems, rapid ejaculation, and other sexual performance issues.

An important step in a sexual healing journey is to look at your expectations regarding sex.  Think about why you expect these things and whether or not they match your reality.  Many expectations about sex are not based on reality but based on what we see on TV.   Here are some of those:

Sex should be spontaneous

This belief could lead to an eternal feeling of dissatisfaction.  Most of the movies we watch depict sex as something that just happens without thought or planning.  Why is sex the only place where it is not OK to plan?  We plan for dancing, singing, eating, etc.  But yet we expect sex to be spontaneous because that is what we see in movies and TV shows.  Sex sells.  But only a particular type of sex sells.  Sex that is routine and ordinary doesn’t sell as well as sex that is secretive, exciting and spontaneous.  Our real sex lives may not be as spontaneous as what we see in the media, but does not mean that it cannot be as fulfilling or as exciting?  The real problem lies in the fact that we expect it to be spontaneous and not routine and ordinary.  When our expectations do not match our realities, we are disappointed, frustrated, and angry.

Sex should be passionate

Yes, sex can be passionate especially when you are starting to get to know someone.  But what happens when the idealization period ends?  What happens after the newness wears off?  Sex becomes less passionate.  Does this make it bad?  For some yes, for others, sex becomes more about adding complexity and depth.  If we expect that sex should always be passionate, we will be dissatisfied because it isn’t always passionate.  Also, in our quest for passion, we may miss out on other types of sex that are not passionate.

We should orgasm

We all want it.  We all try to get it.  In the quest for the orgasm, we miss the journey that takes us there.  When we focus on having an orgasm, we can miss the pleasures before we orgasm.  But there are so many of us that suffer because we can’t orgasm.  Some of us believe that we should orgasm through penetration without any stimulation.  Many people know that this is not true for a lot of people.  There is a movie called Orgasm Inc. on Netflix that you should watch.  It narrates the story of a woman who goes through surgery and pain in order to orgasm through penetration.  It is distressing to watch her recount how she feels there is something wrong with her because she can’t orgasm through penetration.

There should be penetration

It seems like so many people define sex as penetration.  When they can’t have penetration they feel as if they aren’t having sex.  Defining whether something is sexual by whether or not there is penetration puts a lot of pressure on people to get hard.  Pressure and erections do not mix well.  The more pressure one has to always penetrate will lead to problems with erections.

We should want to have sex

Our cultural messages transmitted through media accentuate sex as the most important thing in life.  We value people by how sexual they are or by how much sex they have.  People who don’t want to have sex (in the way that it is traditionally defined) often feel marginalized as if there is something wrong with them.  We go to great lengths to be sexual and have sex because we place great value on being sexual.  We often engage in sexual experiences even when we don’t really want to.  Not only that, sex has been defined by male centered societies.  What sex should look like or feel like has been defined by men.  So “good” sex is one that is penetrative, active, aggressive, decisive, and goal oriented.  Those people who would prefer other styles of sex or maybe no sex at all are often left feeling like something is wrong with them.  Many sexual issues would disappear if we gave ourselves the permission to not have sex.

Sex should be intuitive

People don’t want to talk about what is going on when they have sex.  We expect sex to need no communication or direction.  We feel as if our partners should just know what to do without having been told.  It seems ludicrous to think of sex as something that we should know how to do without having communication around it.  We feel that communicating during sex ruins the mood and that we can’t get back to a passionate moment if we stop to talk.  Believing that sex should be intuitive sets many people up for failure.  Not only that, communicating before, during and after sex about what happens can be useful (if done in a way that is validating and nurturing) in working through performance and sexual desire issues.

Sex should be frequent

We are inundated with messages and discourses regarding sex.  Within our group of friends, sex is a topic that comes up.  When it comes up, people tell about their awesome sexual experiences and boast about its frequency.  We don’t often hear from those that are struggling with sex.  Not having a lot of sex is not in itself a problem because it is not about the quantity but about the quality.  We judge our sex lives by frequency and not quality.  Probably because we would be disappointed in the quality of it.  If we focused on quality then we would have to face the fact that sex is often isolating, guilt inducing, goal oriented, quick and unsatisfying, and generally something we have to do.  When I ask people why they have sex they say it is because they want to connect, they want to feel wanted, and because it feels good.  Maybe it would be better to focus on how to feel more connected and how to increase our sensual sensations rather than how often we have sex.

Sex should be easy

Our sexual experiences are influenced by so many factors like how we feel about ourselves and our bodies, our past experiences, whether we fear the ending of a relationship, whether we have the option of leaving a relationship, whether we are sick and stressed out, etc… You can find a list of things that influence our sexual experiences here.  The point being is that sex has many things that affect it and it is not as easy as the movies show.   It involves all kinds of beliefs, feelings, thoughts, triggers, power dynamics, and relational dynamics and many times it is difficult to be aware and react to these things.