Ask Elizabeth: Scary Sexy Times

Elizabeth Brennan

I am very happy with my partner – we have been together for about twelve years and, most of the time, we get along well and manage to live fairly uncomplicated lives.  We have lots of friends and common interests.  In most aspects of our relationship, I am content.  However, in one aspect I am scared.  I dread sex.  I do lots of things to avoid it.  I thought I was hiding my fear and avoidance strategies well, but evidently I haven’t and it has become an issue.  I don’t know what to do.  I love him – I just can’t perform the way I used to. 

Scary Sam.

For many of us, unfortunately, sex is about success and failure: we ‘hit the mark’ or we expose ourselves as inadequate, hopeless or not ‘sexually competent’ or we make a fool of ourselves. Dr. Marty Klein, a renowned sex therapist for over thirty years, says that ‘performance anxiety’ is the greatest killer of the sexual relationship.  Most of us, he suggests, want to ‘perform’ well during sex; we think it is the best way to realize satisfaction, to avoid disappointing our partner, to avoid catastrophic failure!

We need to remember that every one of us learns about sex when we have the body of a young person.  As we progress down the years, so does our body.  But not only our body: so also does our mind.  Consequently, our needs change, and the way we meet our needs change.  This, to me, is what makes life so fascinating – the inevitability, the challenges, the excitement of change.

When we are young, we concentrate in our sexual experiences about how we are performing, whether we’re coming up to scratch, how long we can keep an erection, how ‘sexy’ our partner finds us.  We believe – quite falsely – that our sexual performance validates us.  In fact, what needs to happen as we mature and grow –  both as an individual and as a partner in a relationship –  is a change in our thinking, a dawning of sexual intelligence, a realisation that I validate my sexuality.

Sex offers us so much: to give the gift of self, to express our inner selves, to enjoy our bodies, to play games, to laugh, to just be. When sex is truly satisfying – when it allows us to validate our sexuality, our true self – orgasm is just a small part of it.  Orgasm is complicated only when we worry about how we perform, how long we can hold an erection, whether we are satisfying our partner, how guilty we feel.  When we approach sex as so much more than just orgasm – when we relish the closeness, the intimacy, the growth in relationship – orgasm, as Klein puts it, is ‘simply a bonus, and quite a brief one at that.’

What can you do to ensure that it is impossible for you to fail at sex?  Create the right environment, make sure you get your basic needs met – closeness, trust, willingness to be you – and enjoy whatever you get.

Ashleigh Brilliant says: ‘To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and then call whatever you hit the target.’

Elizabeth Brennan

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