Have you ever felt tongue-tied talking about the state of your sex life with your partner? Do you ever wrestle with your own discomfort when thinking about sexual fantasies, eroticism, or porn?
The truth is many of us haven’t developed the capacity to talk about sex in a way that opens up new possibilities and challenges the sense of shame and secrecy in which it’s often shrouded.
In my work with individuals and couples, I've come to realize just how many are uncomfortable and struggle with these conversations. So imagine for a moment how wonderful it could be to shift the emphasis from sex as a thing to do, to a place that serves as a source of creativity, renewal and personal growth. An experience to vitalize your connection and bond with each other.
The following excerpt is reprinted, with permission from Sexual Intelligence™ by Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexualIntelligence.org)." Marty Klein is a California based therapist & MD who sheds such refreshing light on the topic of sex and has had a profound impact on me and how I have these conversations with clients.
Each of these thoughts deserves a post of its own, but today a few words about each feels just right.
Real sex doesn’t feel like porn looks.
It’s usually less intense, less gravity-defying, less taboo-breaking, and more about the people trying to connect. Therefore real sex often has a lot of kissing, hugging, and, well, non-“sex” in it.
And because it isn’t scripted or edited, real sex often has moments of frustration, awkwardness, disappointment, clumsiness, and misunderstanding. It’s best to laugh together at these moments—another thing you don’t see in porn.
Couples, never say “We’re fighting about something silly.”
If you’re really fighting, it’s never silly–you just don’t know what the serious thing is. Of course, it’s almost never about the thing you’re fighting about (socks on the floor, hair in the drain, forgotten birthday card, dent in the car, oral sex).
More likely subjects include power, feeling disrespected, power, loneliness, power, fear of getting old, power, self-doubt, power, shame, and, um, power.
I understand trying to conceive, and I understand trying to not conceive.
I don’t understand “we’re not trying to make it happen, but we’re not trying to prevent it.” This is how you approach the single most profound decision of your entire life?
When someone says “of course you think that, you’re a man,” that’s a big insult.
And the more you respect the man you say that to, the bigger the insult.
Sometimes a man has such-and-such an opinion because he’s a fool, not because he’s a man. And sometimes a man has such-and-such an opinion because he thought about it carefully, not because he’s a man. If you don’t want to be told you think “just like a woman,” don’t tell someone else he thinks “just like a man.”
And if you don’t mind, you still shouldn’t disrespect someone (of any gender) in this way.
Of course teens get wrong ideas about sex from looking at porn.
So exactly what are parents doing to help kids deal with these ideas, and with their uncomfortable or upsetting experiences of looking at porn?
Haven’t we learned that “just say no” doesn’t work? And then parents blame porn for influencing their kids. That’s like blaming the rain for soaking your kids when you can’t be bothered to look out the window, hand them an umbrella, or teach them how to use it.
A therapist came to me for a consultation, about a 15-year-old patient who says he masturbates as much as 9 times a day.
He asked if I thought the kid might be a sex addict. I asked what the kid means by “masturbate.” He didn’t know, which may help to explain the “9 times a day.” I asked if the patient uses lube, gets sore, or uses his hand (some guys masturbate by lying face down and rocking on the bed or floor). He didn’t know. I asked if he ejaculates when he ‘masturbates’.
“OK, OK,” said the therapist sheepishly. “I need to ask way more questions before I can diagnose this kid or the situation.” Yes.
Let’s change the sexual expression “penetration” to either “insertion” or “envelopment.”
If you enjoy it, isn’t that a more accurate description?
Is watching porn a form of infidelity?
If two people agree that it is, it is. If two people agree that it isn’t, it isn’t.
If two people disagree about this, why don’t they handle it the same way they handle all their other agreements? If two people disagree about whether or not 10 minutes is “late” or “mostly on time,” they may get frustrated—but they rarely end the relationship over it.
When couples ask me to adjudicate this I rarely take sides, preferring to help them talk it through. But sometimes I look at a patient and silently wonder—do you actually believe that if you walked in on your husband having sex with another woman, you’d feel “yes, this is just the same wound as him looking at porn”?
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence™ Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexualIntelligence.org)."
Note from Martin Frith
If you would like a safe place to have these or other conversations about your relationship consider marriage preparation or visit my dedicated counselling site at www.martinfrith.ca.