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Common sexual misconceptions - which of these do you buy into?

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

If sex does not happen easily or naturally, you might believe that something is wrong with you, or your partner, or your relationship. Sometimes sexual misconceptions get in the way and create unrealistic expectations. Author and sex therapist, Jessa Zimmerman explore some of these in her book: Sex without stress - a couple's guide to overcoming disappointment, avoidance and pressure. (This is a great book - I highly recommend it for couples experiencing sexual issues).

These myths and misconceptions are summarised from the book:

  1. You and your partner should want to have the same amount of sex - you are two different people and sexual discrepancy is completely normal. It can become a problem if you don't deal with it well, but you should dispose of the notion that something is wrong because one of you want sex more/less often.

  2. Men want sex more than women do, and they're always ready to go - there is nothing about gender which determines what your sexual interest should be. Men can feel more pressure to be the sexual driver which can be stressful, and women who want sex more are often judged for that - and in heterosexual relationships can judge their partner for wanting less.

  3. You should feel spontaneous desire for sex - you should feel 'horny' - Jessa describes two types of sexual desire - proactive (which people normally think of as libido or sex drive) and reactive desire (a desire that needs to be evoked). People with reactive desire may rarely or not at all get spontaneously aroused. But if they enter a sexual situation, get kissed, touched or stimulated their bodies often respond - the engine turns on and then you want sex. She notes that in her experience about half of the population experience reactive desire - and it's not all women. Reactive desire is a completely normal way of experiencing sexual desire - but it does require opportunity to arise and willingness to engage with the encounter to see what happens - no promises, no expectations, but be willing and open to getting turned on. If you experience no desire you and your partner will have to adapt to that, discovering ways to be sexual that work for you and ways you can find pleasure in physical touch.

  4. Sex is natural and shouldn't take work - the ability to have collaborative, creative sex with another person is a learned set of skills. The added stresses and complications of life - kids, jobs, illness - means that it makes sense that your sex life is going to take work. It doesn't mean you are with the wrong person if it doesn't come easy or automatically. Even if it seemed easy early on when your new relationship energy was high, over time everyone's sex life will need attention.

  5. You and your partner should know what the other wants - you shouldn't have to communicate - this myth assumes that if you meet your 'soulmate' you should be perfectly attuned and everything will be easy and natural. It is often perpetuated by pop culture, TV and movies. Here is the truth - if you want something you need to make that known. Yes, you can read each other's body language and have some ideas about what the other wants, but sometimes you need to get specific using your words.

  6. Women should orgasm through vaginal penetration alone. Somewhere between 4-30% of women can orgasm through penetrative sex. So, if you expect a vaginal orgasm you've set yourself up to feel like a failure. In fact, most women will require additional clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm - this is completely natural.

  7. Men should last a long time. This myth is portrayed in the media and in pornography which would have us believe that men should be able to have sex indefinitely. The reality is that most men will reach orgasm in two minutes or less of thrusting.

  8. If you are in a good sexual relationship, neither of you should masturbate. Apples and oranges. A lot of people with great sexual relationships still masturbate. This can be useful if one of you has more of an interest in sex and solo sex is a great outlet for sexual energy. Solo sex is also a different experience. Its less complicated than sex with a partner which involves teamwork. There is nothing wrong with wanting a sexual experience for yourself whether its a quick release or extended session of self-pleasure. It becomes problematic if you are masturbating to avoid dealing with sexual issues in your relationship.

What have you discovered about your sexual expectations? Are some of these holding you back or setting you up for disappointment? Recognising that these myths are present and deciding to let them go can take the pressure off - setting you on a path to success rather than failure.

The most important thing you can do to have a great sex life is to welcome your sexuality as it is, right now - even if it's not what you wanted or expected it to be. - Emily Nagoski - Come as you are

Disclaimer: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as counselling/therapy advice or used as a substitute for such. You should always speak to your own counsellor.



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