Published October 23, 2007
Reena Liberman is an Ann Arbor sex therapist certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Here, she speaks candidly about the psychology of hanky panky.
1 Inhibitions that limit your sexual pleasure have many origins. They include concerns about privacy, inexperience, belief systems, sex education, misinformation, unrealistic expectations about arousal and orgasm, body image and sexual history. Self-consciousness about one's performance, also known as spectatoring, can be distracting to the point of preventing arousal.
2 There is a lot of diversity in what people find sexually appealing. It is only by communicating with your partner that you can learn his or her preferences as well as his or her limits. If someone else is deciding what's best for you sexually, it probably isn't.
3 Many of the sex and body images you see in magazines, TV shows, movies and on the Internet are unrealistic, atypical and misleading. Women are greatly affected by these cultural stereotypes, believing they are not sexy enough or they have the wrong body type. Men tend to believe they have to meet high performance expectations. All of these factors can lead to inhibition or avoidance.
4 What creates pleasure for people varies widely: women's needs are different from men's; sex is not just intercourse; 'foreplay' is sex, too; and intimacy doesn't have to lead to orgasm to be satisfying. It is really true that penis size does not affect pleasure or the capacity to orgasm. Additionally, most women do not orgasm with intercourse. The clitoris is the more likely path to pleasure.
5 Alcohol and drugs help to overcome initial inhibitions but then lead to poor performance. Mixing alcohol and drugs with intimacy also leads to poor judgment, coerced or bad sex and forgetting protection and/or contraception - too often resulting in sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.
6 Problems or difficulties that may occur during sexual intimacy are not always about sex. Other things may be going on. In addition to medications and medical conditions, poor self-image, anxiety and depression and relationship problems can affect sexual performance. Nowadays there are many sources of information like books, sex guides, the Internet and therapists.
7 Sexual functioning changes with circumstances and age. For example, a woman's sexuality is affected by how she is feeling and by the quality of her relationships. At different stages, pregnancy, children and menopause are other factors for women. One possible outcome of these changes is a discrepancy between the partners' desires.