sex -istential crisis?
Sometimes sex is simple. Other times it’s about what’s in your head, not what’s down below. Here’s what to do when sex blows your mind… for all the wrong reasons
Advice from the experts
Interestingly, for something that involves 7,3 minutes of actual contact (yes, 7,3 minutes), sex can create a huge amount of analysis, confusion, and ‘ Seriously, what just happened there’? moments. No biology textbook ever prepared us for the fact that sometimes sex is less ‘ Big 0’ and more ‘Oh No’. Things malfunction, and there’s no repair manual. But just as an orgasm can creep up on you seemingly out of nowhere, so can the solutions. In fact, they’re right here in front of you.
It has been forever
The last time you had sex, One Direction were still at school. Now the thought of getting intimate with anyone scares you. ‘ This is called sexual performance anxiety – you worry about the outcome of a sexual encounter so much that instead of sex being something to look forward to, it has negative anticipation,’ explains sex therapist Desiree Spierings. She likens this (completely normal) sexual dread to the anxiety you feel before an exam, when you feel like you’re either going to pass or fail.
WHAT TO DO ABO UT IT : ‘ The less you think about the result, the more you just do what feels good and the better the sex will be,’ reassures Desiree. Compare it to dancing. ‘ If a couple starts to overthink their steps, it’s likely to be an awful dance. Whereas a couple that just feels the music, laughing off any mistakes, gives a beautiful dance to watch.’ We’re not suggesting you hire an audience – just don’t overthink it.
It has become same-y
When it comes to sex there’s the great and not-so-great – the kind where about 50% of your brain is in the moment, and the other half is thinking about the last GameofThrones episode you watched. The result? The sex, if it happens at all, is just blah.
WHAT TO DO ABO UT IT : ‘ It’s not unusual for the passion to die down in a relationship, and one of the techniques to get it back is through “bridges”,’ explains Desiree. It’s not directly sexual, but is a clever way of ‘bridging’ two areas of your life to generate intimacy, and therefore passion. ‘ Because it feels unnatural to go straight from work or household life to sex, you need to physically introduce things that function as a bridge.’ For example, jump in
the shower together after a run, give each other a massage after a long day, send a flirty message before you head home from the office. It’s also worth trying to sync up your routines – going to bed at the same time will automatically create more sexual opportunities. If all else fails, schedule a sex “date”. If you can schedule a Tweet, you can definitely schedule an orgasm.
It was terrible
A definite design flaw about sex is the injustice that having an obscene amount of chemistry in a bar (or even on Tinder) doesn’t always translate into the same level of chemistry in the bedroom. Put simply, sometimes hooking up can be as disappointing as choosing a bad avocado. Clinical psychologist Dr Janet Hall believes the key isn’t just what happens during sex, but also in grounding our expectations before the clothes come off. ‘ Early-days sex should always be appreciated as a trial run,’ Dr Hall says. ‘ It’s disappointing because the people involved have never had a real bonding experience.’
WHAT TO DO ABO UT IT : ‘ It needs time, practice and above all, communication, because it takes more for a woman to be sexually fulfilled, and no man is a mindreader,’ adds Dr Hall. And that’s true no matter how long you’ve been together. This doesn’t mean doing a buzz-killing impression of your car’s GPS – ‘take a right in 12 seconds’ – but rather, use subtle pointers and appreciative noises that let him know if he’s on track.
You saw his Google history – it’s not what you expected
When we see our significant other’s Googled items, their tastes might come as a shock. There’s no right or wrong way to react to this. Dr Hall agrees that porn can be fine, as long as it isn’t compulsive or detracting from your relationship. It’s an easy, impersonal way to scratch a sexual itch. But she also says you’re well within your rights not to be cool with it.
WHAT TO DO ABO UT IT : ‘Choose a time when both of you are mentally and emotionally fresh and use the XYZ communication approach,’ she advises. X: ‘ When you watch porn’; Y: ‘ I feel cheapened/I worry you might prefer those women to me/I’m scared you want me to be like those women’; Z: ‘ Was that your intention?’. It lets you raise the issue and your discomfort in a non-accusatory way.
He has gone off sex
Yep, it happens. ‘ There’s a myth that men don’t ever stop thinking about sex and are always up for it, but this isn’t the case,’ confirms Desiree. He could be stressed out from crazy work demands or even an unhealthy lifestyle. Self-prescribed stress reducers such as alcohol decrease desire further. He may also worry his penis will let him down – Dr Hall found that 45% of men felt that sex with a sexually confident woman was intimidating. Desiree sees this too. ‘Many men with a low libido tend to be analytical; they really want to do things right, which is why they also feel more pressure.’ But too much pressure kills what’s known as the response desire. ‘ This usually kicks in when you start some physical intimacy (kissing, hugging) and end up having sex, even though you didn’t plan to,’ she explains. ‘ But when there’s awkwardness about sex, response desire never has a chance to kick in.’
WHAT TO DO ABO UT IT : In this case, the solution is to put a temporary ban on sex so other kinds of intimacy start to flow again. ‘ Reassure him that you love back massages and cuddling before falling asleep, and that intercourse really isn’t everything,’ adds Dr Hall.
You feel self-conscious
This isn’t just about sex with the lights on or off – a recent study by an Australian university found that 17% of women aged between 18 and 69 were interested in having surgery to reduce the size of their labia, purely for cosmetic reasons. That’s nearly one in five! Why? Well, it doesn’t help that the average age teens seek out porn is 10 for boys and 14 for girls, so we’re essentially raised on seriously unrealistic body images.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: In her book Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva, sex research scientist Dr Debby Herbenick explains, ‘ People don’t realise how creative nature has been with women’s genitals. Vulvas – just like faces – are incredibly diverse and very rarely symmetrical.’ To sum it all up, your vagina definitely doesn’t need you to worry about it. It needs you to like it – just as it is. Simple, right?