Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
We all want something from sex otherwise it wouldn’t be such an issue for so many people. When asked what it is people want from sex, in his book “Sexual Intelligence” Dr. Marty Klein, who is a marriage, family and certified sex therapist for more than thirty years, says that people talk about a long list of things they want.
Most people want things like excitement, orgasm, intimacy, feeling desired, being a good lover, passion, connected kissing – and the list goes on. He believes that most answers about what you want from sex actually boil down to this: you want some combination of pleasure and closeness.
Interestingly, during sex most people focus on everything but pleasure and closeness. Klein reports that you, and most people, focus on the following: how you look, smell, sound, how you can avoid unwanted activity (like being tickled), “… ignoring (or preventing) pain; hurrying to climax; trying not to climax too quickly; maintaining an erection or lubrication; suppressing emotions; trying to function the “right way”; silently and indirectly urging their partner to do a certain activity…” etc, etc.
Does this sound familiar to you? No wonder sex is so fraught for many people!
Your focus during sexual intimacy
Most people focus on things that distract from pleasure and closeness. Sex is far more satisfying if you focus only on two things during the activity – pleasure & closeness. That focus helps you develop sexual intelligence.
Even though you may say you want pleasure and closeness from sex, if you stay focused on anything other than that, it’s no wonder you’re dissatisfied and frustrated. In a search for sexual satisfaction, most people focus on how their genitals are working, or how they look & sound. This is called “spectatoring” which is the opposite of being “in the moment” during sex. You are so busy analysing the situation and judging yourself that you can’t fully enjoy the sexual experience. Often, spectatoring can cause anxiety or even sexual dysfunction.
Many people have thoughts like these: “I hope I’ll stay hard enough to make them happy”, or, “If I’m taking too long to climax, I fake it or try to hurry it up.” Klein says that “Focusing on how your penis or vulva is working is an enormous distraction from pursuing pleasure and intimacy”. He advises that even though many people think this is how to make sex better, it’s actually the wrong approach.
Trying to “be sexy” leads to performance anxiety
Dr. Klein says there are many reasons you focus on these other things during sex. One inappropriate reason is that you think “being sexy” – like you see in the media, is necessary for satisfaction. It’s not! Focusing on things other than pleasure and closeness, totally complicates matters. It actually causes performance anxiety in women, men and in non-binary people.
If you get tangled up in wanting to feel sexually desirable, feeling sexually competent, having your masculinity, femininity or gender validated, seeking reassurance that you’re “normal”, and wanting relief from performance anxiety, you’ll definitely be frustrated. These needs cannot be met though sex. And if all this isn’t enough to distract you from being present in your body, many of you believe the multiple myths about sex which the media encourages.
Success or failure seems to be what sex is about for many people. They think it’s a pass-fail test. This takes the form of worrying whether you disappoint, hurt or irritate your partner, appear inadequate or inexperienced, or make a fool of yourself. For millions of people, says Klein “I didn’t mess up too badly” is as good as sex gets. His book gives you the hope that sex can be transformed into a place where “…mistakes are simply not possible, and where virtually nothing can go wrong – not because we become sexually perfect, but because we radically redefine sexual “success” and change our sexual vision”.
Many people want to “perform” well during sex, thinking that this is the way to ensure satisfaction and avoid “failure”. But because you can’t use willpower to bring about an erection, lubrication, desire or pleasure, so much of sexual “performance” is beyond your control. This means that the pressure to “perform” leads to anxiety. Inevitably, performance anxiety adds to sexual difficulty because focusing on sexual performance often makes sex worse. “You can’t have amazing sex when you’re focused on other emotional needs”, says Klein, especially if you’re not even conscious of what they are.
Mistaken strategies to meet your desires
Generally the strategies you & others use to get your desires met are not successful. But sadly you persist in using them, again and again. Altough this is human, it’s self-defeating. Because of this, Klein argues that “…we’re putting a lot of pressure on sex to address these essentially non-sexual needs…we have emotional needs that we try to address with sex, but sex is not the best way to satisfy them”.
This explains why we don’t focus on pleasure and closeness during sex. It’s because we’re looking for something else. And we may not even be aware of it. If you’re not conscious of where your focus is, it leads you away from sexual intelligence and being less in touch with your own and your parnter’s pleasure. This may also clarify why so many people are sexually dissatisfied. Sex, in fact, can’t deliver emotional & psychological satisfaction.
Because of this psychological agenda, it’s very easy to feel alone during sex. And naturally it’s harder to create the sex you want, especially if you don’t talk directly with your partner. Klein suggests that we need to learn to talk about sex with our partners. It’s worthwhile practicing telling your partner that you want more from sex than orgasms. Tell them that you want pleasure and closeness and that you want to learn to develop sexual intelligence together. But be very clear to say that you’re not expecting your partner to provide a good emotional experience for you. Tell them that you’d like your sex life to be more of a team effort, and that you realise you need to change too so you can create “good enough sex” (GES) for both of you.
Learn to discuss what you want
So, what is it that people really want from sex? Talking about this accurately and honestly is difficult for many of us – either because we don’t have the vocabulary or because we’re embarrassed or scared to do so. Learning to talk about what you want from sex, instead of talking about what your body might do, means you’re learning to talk about how you’d like to feel. This requires mindfulness.
And how do people want to feel about sex? According to Klein, people want to feel: “unselfconscious; passionate; like they have all the time in the world; attractive; competent; special; like they’re inventing sex; youthful; graceful; unintimidated”. Doesn’t this sound wonderful? Your challenge, he says is to create such experiences while you relax. That’s what makes sex fun.
Changing your sexual vision
Many people say that what they want to feel during sex is how they felt when they were young adults, when they were beginning to explore their sexual identities. They say they want to just “do it”, not communicate about it, they want spontaneity, they want sex to be “natural”; and that thinking about sex takes all the romance away. Klein talks about how these decisions about sex, which are usually based on myths about sex, have major and long-reaching impacts on you. They were being made when you were young – from the perspective of a youthful body and lifestyle.
As your body and lifestyle changes, it’s logical that what Klein calls your “sexual vision” needs to change too. Not changing and updating your sexual vision over the years often creates difficulties. He says that many people have a sexual vision that’s “10, 20 or 30 years out of date with a body and lifestyle that can’t support that vision comfortably”. This naturally undermines your sexual intelligence.
Sex is not going to be like it was when you were young. This is a major disappointment for many people. Instead of challenging and reshaping their sexual vision, many people believe there’s something wrong with them or their partner. And they want a therapist to fix both. Klein asserts this is a “…culturally and psychologically driven mistake”. The good news is that sex can be much better than when you were young, especially if you learn about good enough sex and become a good sexual team.
In a nutshell sexual intelligence means becoming conscious of:
1. what you think, feel & desire around sex
2. talking to your partner about what you think, feel & desire and listening to their thoughts, feelings and desires about sex, especially when they’re different from yours
3) learning to manage the normal anxiety to accommodate your differences. That’s how you both work as a good enough sexual team with a focus on pleasure and closeness.
Get help from qualified people
I recommend this book to anyone who is dissatisfied with their sex life. It will help dispel many of the myths surrounding sex and provides useful tools to help you develop sexual intelligence. It also shows how counselling from a certified sex therapist can help you see that gender stereotypes; myths about sex, intercourse and orgasm; the assumption that loneliness and anxiety about sex are inevitable; all belong to a sexual vision that is out of date.
Counselling can help you craft a new sexual vision using the tools of sexual intelligence, combined with couples coaching skills. It can teach you what you can do about sexual disappointment. It also will address the frustration, grief, or sadness about letting go of old sexual ideals so you can create new, more realistic notions based on your own, your partner’s and your combined circumstances today.
You deserve the best trained relationship coaches if you’re planning to invest time and money in your relationship. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call us on 0421 961 687 to book a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you.