Sex, like love, has a tough job. People put a lot of pressure on poor old sex, saying it – or the lack of it – is responsible for the success or failure of their marriage or relationship. Millions of magazine articles and online advice columns (just like this one) tell readers how to re-energize their relationship with “mind-blowing sex,” or how to “reignite passion in the bedroom,” or how to achieve “true intimacy through sex.”
Sex is a good thing, and an important part of any romantic relationship, but it’s important to remember that it is just a part, not the entire thing. Sex is one ingredient in a healthy, happy, intimate relationship, but sex isn’t intimacy, and it isn’t a magic bullet that will eliminate all the other problems in a marriage.
One reason people have problems with sex is that they expect too much from it. This is also true of “love,” however you define it. We load down both love and sex with so much baggage, so many expectations, that both experiences are bound to disappoint us. So, do yourself and your partner a favour and take some of the pressure off. If you expect less from sex, you are more likely to be happy with what you get. That doesn’t mean giving up on sex altogether, or not having any. It just means having a more realistic attitude towards it.
Here are a few simple ways you can start improving your sex life right away.
Stop watching porn
It is hardly news that ubiquitous, unavoidable pornography has ruined many people’s sex lives. The performers in porn are not “ordinary people” in any sense at all. They are “sexual athletes” and they have the same relationship to what you do in your bedroom as Usain Bolt has to you jogging around the block for exercise.
John Holmes, one of the first porn superstars, used that phrase “sexual athlete” to describe his work. By comparing what he did on camera to a sports event aired on TV for entertainment, he pointed out an important but uncomfortable truth. We all need to think about what he meant.
A huge problem with porn is that it distorts our ideas of what sex is. There’s absolutely nothing new in me saying this, as people have been saying it for a long, long, long time. But it needs to be said often, or everyone forgets it.
If you haven’t run more than 50 meters to catch the bus in decades, but you see sprinters exploding down the track at the Olympics and decide to go out and start sprinting yourself, I’d call you a bit foolish. If you were then upset with yourself after trying to sprint because you couldn’t go as fast as the sprinters you saw on television, I’d say you were an idiot.
Yet plenty of people watch pornography and see pneumatically inflated men and women with enormous, impossible penises and breasts and unbelievable sexual appetites having all kinds of crazy sex using gymnastic positions that look more likely to break a hip, tear a knee ligament or wrench your spine out of joint than give you an orgasm, and then they somehow expect to be able to do this sort of thing themselves. A steady diet of hardcore pornography leads them to expect their own partners to look like the people they’ve seen on screen, and also to be constantly ready for and interested in acrobatic, athletic, marathon sex with multiple climaxes.
A whole lot of pornography is much more like a circus freak show than anything that goes on in an ordinary person’s bedroom. It’s more of a “can you believe that?” kind of thing than a guide to what sex really is.
So do yourself a big favor and ditch the porn. That’s the first and most helpful step you can take.
Start watching porn
What? Didn’t I just say the opposite? Well, yes, I did. What I should be saying here, since I don’t really expect too many people to be able to give up completely on any exposure to porn (even if you don’t use porn yourself, some, if not most, of your partners are likely to), is start watching porn differently. That’s important – see porn as what it is and look at it for information about what turns you on and what turns your partner on.
Used this way, porn can be a helpful part of sex. Watching it together, in limited doses, can help a couple connect and get over some of the barriers in being honest with each other about what they like, and don’t like, in bed. After all, people still watch elite level sports, and they still go to circus freak shows (sometimes). But as long as they don’t confuse those things with reality and try to achieve the same results themselves, it’s OK.
Have an open, honest, realistic conversation about porn with your partner. Perhaps look at some together, or show each other what kinds of porn you like. This will help you learn a few things about each other, and perhaps give you some ideas to try, carefully, with each other.
Change your idea about what ‘sex’ is
As I said above, people tend to burden sex with far too much responsibility. “Good sex” (whatever that may be) we are told is the magic, essential ingredient for any relationship. If you don’t have “good sex,” you are doomed. Eventually you’ll end up sleeping in two separate beds, like the sexless couples in those 1950s sitcoms.
One way to avoid this problem is to rethink what your idea of “good sex” is. The lazy idea – pushed by the pornography industry – is that the number of orgasms you and your partner have determines how “good” sex is. That’s it, a numbers game. No orgasm? Then it wasn’t “good” sex, and maybe, by that definition, it wasn’t even sex at all!
But there’s a better way to look at sex – as a spectrum of activity from gentle cuddling and touching at one end to full intercourse and climax at the other end. In between are a whole range of activities, from sensual massage and foreplay to sexual teasing and games. Can you have “sex” even if you can’t get an erection today? Of course you can! Don’t reduce “sex” to penetration and orgasms, or to any narrow definition. Broaden your ideas and you will be happier, and, by definition, you’ll be having more sex.