SEX OVER­LOAD?

24 Hours Vancouver - - LIFESTYLE - SI­MONE PAGET

Last month I was at a party, im­mersed in con­ver­sa­tion with a small group of peo­ple I’d just met.

When I told them what I do for a liv­ing, I knew what was com­ing next.

“Oh, you write about sex and re­la­tion­ships? That must be so much fun!” said one of the women.

Eyes wide, she was beam­ing with ex­cite­ment like she’d just met Car­rie Brad­shaw in the flesh. I couldn’t dis­ap­point her, so I gave my stock re­sponse. “Yes, yes it is.” Don’t get me wrong — my job is pretty amaz­ing. But it isn’t al­ways fun.

What I didn’t want to tell her is that writ­ing about sex is a bit like watch­ing the sausage get made. When you see all of the in­gre­di­ents up close and per­sonal, day af­ter day, some­times the final prod­uct loses a bit of its ap­peal. Knowl­edge is power, but there’s also a fine line be­tween be­ing in­formed about sex and hav­ing it lose all of its mys­tery — to the point where you feel dis­con­nected from the act it­self.

(A prime ex­am­ple is when your part­ner grabs a bottle of lu­bri­cant from the night­stand and in­stead of think­ing, “this is go­ing to feel great!” the first thing that pops into your mind is, “the vis­cos­ity of this prod­uct is mid­dling and I’m not sure how I feel about non­sus­tain­ably sourced seaweed ex­tract as an in­gre­di­ent.” True story. I’m re­ally good at killing my own mojo.)

Bet­ter blowjobs. Longer last­ing erec­tions. More in­tense or­gasms. Be­tween the thou­sands of ar­ti­cles promis­ing you all of the above and the fact that sex is lit­er­ally ev­ery­where (ad­ver­tis­ing, movies, tele­vi­sion), be­ing a sex­ual be­ing in 2017 feels a bit like you’re stuck in a non­stop loop of Daft Punk’s 2001 mega-hit which urged us to “Work it. Make it. Do it. Make us. Harder. Bet­ter. Faster. Stronger.” It’s im­pos­si­ble to feel like you’re not fall­ing be­hind — even if you’re a sex writer.

Ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists, it’s this dis­con­nect from sex that could be hurt­ing us the most. In a re­cent study, Cana­dian psy­chol­o­gists Frédérick Philippe and Robert Vallerand looked at what they re­fer to as “har­mo­nious sex­ual pas­sion.” Through sev­eral tests, they found that peo­ple whose sex­ual de­sires were har­mo­nious with other as­pects of their lives were able to en­joy sex in an open, spon­ta­neous, and non-de­fen­sive man­ner.

On the other side of the spec­trum, there’s “ob­ses­sive sex­ual pas­sion.” When in­di­vid­u­als found it hard to in­te­grate their sex­u­al­ity into other parts of their lives, and viewed sex as a goal, rather than some­thing that could be fully en­joyed, it lead to neg­a­tive emo­tions, in­tru­sive thoughts about sex and at­ten­tion to al­ter­na­tive part­ners.

Clin­i­cal sex­ol­o­gist, Dr. Anne Ri­d­ley has wit­nessed this phe­nom­e­non in her prac­tice. “When feel­ings of shame and guilt are con­nected to one’s sex­u­al­ity, of­ten it is com­part­men­tal­ized, be­comes a com­plex, or kept sep­a­rate from their part­ner.” This leads to the afore­men­tioned ob­ses­sive be­hav­iours, she says.

Ri­d­ley says the goal is to find a way to in­te­grate and ac­cept your de­sires so that they can be shared with a part­ner. When you’re able to do this, Ri­d­ley says, “in­ti­macy deep­ens as each can be seen in their totality of de­sires and acts of plea­sure.” But this is eas­ier said than done in a cul­ture that’s ob­sessed with sex, but also teaches us to be ashamed of it from a very young age.

I pro­pose we start by ac­knowl­edg­ing that none of us are per­fect and that sex isn’t a com­pe­ti­tion. We’re all do­ing the best we can. Next, we give our­selves per­mis­sion to bring our fan­tasies into the light while sup­port­ing our part­ners in do­ing the same.

In her ex­pe­ri­ence, Ri­d­ley says a will­ing­ness to un­der­stand and par­tic­i­pate in your part­ner’s fan­tasies can go a long way. “Even if their sex­ual tastes do not line up ex­actly, the ef­fort is at­trac­tive and new doors opened to sex­ual pos­si­bil­i­ties,” she says.

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