Our society is mostly monogamous which means we spend our lives with one person; which also means that the majority will only experience sexual relations with one partner in their entire life. Women in our culture are raised to believe that the only purpose of sex is procreation- the pleasure part is never acknowledged. In fact all training tends to be towards painting the pleasure part of sex as base, vulgar and inappropriate for ladies.
Women mostly, cannot even realise that their sex life is leaving them dissatisfied and frustrated. The few who can, are even more frustrated because they do not know how to broach the subject with their partners without earning the label of being too forward, shameless and (in our local term) bazaari.
Our readers often approach us with questions that we will try to address in this column. They are very basic and we have no magical solutions, but we are hoping that reading this will at least define normal expectations and cure the anxiety of those who blame themselves for wanting what is a basic human desire- pleasure. Some questions that were put forward to us:
Q: I am fat… I can never give or have pleasure. Does sex have to be bad?
A: Quite possible. Experts say that nothing kills the mood quite like being negative about the way you look. Many women’s bodily concerns get in the way of their pleasure in the bedroom. A lot of us believe that if we lose the extra pounds, that is when we will feel sexy. But feeling sexy has much more to do with your state of mind than your weight. According to Aphrodite Women’s Health, a survey of women aged between 35 and 55 found the cultural emphasis on being young and thin has more influence on sexual functioning than menopause. Penn State researcher, Dr Patricia Barthalow Koch, thinks that our body image could be the culprit. The more a survey participant, perceived herself as less attractive, the more likely she was to report a decline in sexual desire or activity.
According to various surveys, nearly 70 percent of the women reported one or more changes in their sexual response, usually desiring sex less and engaging in sex less often. Dr Terri Orbuch in Huffington Post, added that other research supports a direct connection between body image and sexual feelings. One study found a significant relationship between body image and sexual satisfaction for both males and females. Others show a link between body image self-consciousness and increased sexual anxiety.
Sexual health expert Dr Hilda Hutcherson said on the Rachael Ray Show, “In my experience, a negative body image is the number one cause of bad sex for women. If you do not feel good about yourself, what happens is that your brain kind of leaves your body and you become a spectator. And you say, “Oh don’t touch, don’t look at this, don’t look at that,” and before you know it the sex drive is over.”
Q: Will talking about my sexual needs put off my partner and will he lose respect for me?
A: Absolutely not. It is too easy for women to convince themselves to settle for less. Women are so helpful and accommodating, so eager to please and afraid of rejection that they are quick to give up the things they need, including sexual satisfaction. What these women need to see is that doing this, leaves them chronically frustrated. While it is true that every relationship requires a certain amount of compromise, going without the things that are really needed just does not work. It creates unhappiness in the relationship or makes us resentful toward our partner.
If you cannot ask your partner for what you want in bed, you should not be sleeping with him. Good sex happens when we feel safe and at ease. If we are afraid to ask for something or to tell our partner that we do not like something, sex will never be more than mediocre. It is unfair to expect our partner to be a mind-reader and prove that they care by somehow knowing what we want without our having to tell them. Healthy sex comes out of healthy communication.
Q: Is sex as reward or punishment a bad idea?
A: It is a very bad idea. Some women believe that the way to get a man to toe the line is to offer sex for good behaviour or withhold it when the man has displeased them. This is hateful behaviour and a recipe for disaster. Nobody wants to be controlled or punished, especially around sex. They do not want to be made to feel like little boys. When we are hurt or angry at our partner, we need to share our feelings with him in an adult way. We can even say that we are too upset to have sex, right away. What we must not make him feel like we are deciding when he gets to have sex, based on whether he has been good or bad.
On the other hand, using sex as a reward turns us into sex objects and makes sex into a commodity for our partner to earn. It is no longer two people being intimate or enjoying each other. Commodifying sex makes it into a business transaction and our bodies then become objects for trade.
Q: Will having a sense of humour around sex offend my partner?
A: It should not but depends upon the person. Sex is about connection and intimacy, but also about having fun. It can be mind-blowingly great or occasionally, things can go wrong as well. Having a good sense of humor about sex will keep things in perspective. Being able to laugh at ourselves and at the comical aspects of sex will take the pressure off the whole experience. We might love and adore our partner, but we do not have to be so serious about making love to them. Humour relieves pressure and is a great way to connect.
The best sex is the kind in which each person is trying to please the other. The sharing in sex is one of the things that makes it great. It can be technically amazing, but when one person gets the impression that the other person really isn’t there with them, it can ruin the whole experience. What makes someone a fantastic lover is not their technical ability or their repertoire of moves but their attentiveness and their efforts to make their partner happy. When both people show that they really care about meeting their partner’s needs, sex becomes something wonderful.