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

Essentials (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

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?

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