Everyone wants a great sex life, but not everyone would describe their sex life as great. Here are 9 obstacles to sexual utopia.
Mature written content warning, reader discretion advised.
Sex is a massive part of a person’s life. Whether it’s the sex they have or the sex they don’t, so many of our decisions and much of our life satisfaction is centered around how we’re feeling in this department. You don’t have to look very far to see how pervasive sexual issues and identity are in our world today, especially given the current political climate, the renewed discussions around gender and identity, and the state of the entertainment industry.
It makes up one of the most powerful and influential mechanisms we have for relating to one another. It makes us feel good, it relieves stress, can increase connection between two people, it can help you lose weight, it can allow you to communicate and reveal your deepest feelings, and it is the foundation on which all of society is built – no sex, no human race. You are most likely the product of a sexual encounter, or at the very least a sexual release.
For all the good things about sex, there sure are a lot of obstacles to sexual utopia. We all dream of relationships where the sex is amazing, fulfilling, sufficiently frequent, and only ever a source of joy. The truth is that it’s an area many people are frustrated, confused, confined and isolated about.
I’ve always had a keen interest in the topic, and being a married man, even moreso than ever. But I think that’s true of all of us. No matter what stage of life we’re at – young and old, single and not, contemplating the state and health of our relationships and personal wellbeing – sex is something we are readily open to look at and seek out. I mean, just look at how massive the sex industry is, how intricately “sex sells” is still ingrained in current marketing methodology, or even how quickly you clicked on this link.
I’m no expert, and I have much more to learn, but my current travels have led me to some fascinating and helpful material on the topic that I thought was worth sharing and discussing. I think if anyone were to become a true expert on the topic, they wouldn’t be for long since sexual experience changes as much as two lives do, minute to minute, week to week, decade to decade. So, how do you have that great sex life? Here are 9 obstacles to sexual utopia.
#1: Medical Issues
I would be remiss to write a blog about the obstacles to sexual utopia without first acknowledging just how many medical issues out there impact your sex life. There are multiple conditions which can make sex painful, such as vaginismus in women or phimosis in men. There are multiple drugs that impact libido or sexual performance, such as antidepressents. Periods of illness and mental health difficulties can also influence your ability to have a good time in the bedroom.
Hats off to our GPs out there who are so well versed in helping people deal with issues such as these. I think if you’ve been having any difficulties whatsoever, or even just for a general checkup or questions, your doctor is a good first point of call. I know 10 minutes with a doctor greatly helped me personally.
#2: An obsession with singleness
It’s amazing that our society is so sexualised, while at the same time, having such a preference for singleness. More than ever, concepts such as monogamy are old fashioned and old hat, with so many diverse new forms of sexual expression and experimentation around. You can even be asexual now!
The problem is that it’s very hard to be sexually fulfilled in the right ways without a partner, and yet so many people push the search and openness for a partner far out of their own reach. Career, busyness, and temporary relationships take up the place of something substantial and truly sexually fulfilling. And so, the sexual component of one’s life is often addressed in emotionless, mechanical, and empty ways. A recent peer-reviewed study showed that pornography use is more accurately represented at at least 60% of all people, meaning that a majority of people are trying to feel loved by a screen that could never love them back. In Japan, some experts believe the birth rate is declining due to the increase in use of sex robots over real partners.
The Gottman Institute produces some fantastic material and I would recommend their work to anyone who’s looking to make their marriage relationship better than it already is. I’ve particularly enjoyed their CardDecks phone app which has some really good single line ideas for a whole variety of aspects of your relationship.
They also have a lot of material on sex and have many success stories to back up their content. Dr John Gottman says that great sex can be summed up by doing two things: staying friends (love is friendship on fire after all), and making it a priority. “They don’t leave sex as the last item on a long to-do list of things they need to do”, he words it.
It’s the same as anything in life – if you make it a priority, you’ll get to it, and you don’t make it a priority, you either won’t do it, or you’ll do it with the scraps of energy you have left from your life.
#4: A lack of a definition of “normal”
How often does the average couple have sex? This is a question that has multiple answers. Dr Kevin Leman, author of Sheet Music, says that couples should at least try for two to three times a week. In Wanting Sex Again, sex therapist Laurie Watson cites that their industry thinks about once per week is typical (although not necessarily recommended by her). Others have differing definitions but a common enough defiition of a sexless marriage could be defined as two times a month or less.
So, the jury is kind of out on that one.
Next question, and more relevant to you and your life – how many times should you have sex? Twice a week? More often? Less often? Okay, and is that intercourse, or getting handsy, or just spooning naked for a while?
And what makes your sexual encounter successful? When the man gets off? Or the woman? What if neither does? Or both do?
And how long does that take? If a guy has premature or the rarer delayed ejaculation, it could be two to sixty minutes before he’s calling for recovery time. And what if she never gets there, or gets there first?
The point is, normal and success do not really have a common definition. The only common definition of sexual utopia you’re going to be happy with is the one that you and your partner settle on. And that’s going to change over time, but more on that later.
In the early chapters of Laurie Watson’s book, she points out that half the problem is that only sex therapists like her truly get an accurate sense of what normal may look like, or what the trends may be. In the average relationship, you’re only going off the “sense” you get from other people, or what the media portrays as passionate, hot and heavy, successful sexual encounters and frequency. And so, you may be feeling pressure or naive ignorant self-righteousness based on a feeling that you’re just vibing from out there somehow.
Gotta be careful where you get your view of normal from, because it may suppress or depress one or both of you.
#5: Commitment issues
I think it’s amazing that our “progressive” society has such a negative view of marriage nowadays. We say, “oh there’s commitment there”, “there’s love there”, and there likely is.
But the same people and the same world will spend inordinate amounts of money on fitness trackers and wear them proudly to convey their commitment to their health. They’ll spend thousands on looking after the appearance of their cars to demonstrate their level of commitment to their vehicle and image. There are so many flaming hoops and legal commitments you need to make before a bank will even consider you for a home loan to buy a house.
And yet we’ll get all weird about the idea of committing to someone for life before getting in the bedroom, even though sex is meant to be one of the highest levels of expression a person can make. You wouldn’t get the most out of a home that you didn’t fully commit to. Likewise, I’m a firm believer you’re not going to get the most out of your sex life until you do like Beyonce wants you to do cause if you liked it then you shouldda put a ring on it.
And commitment isn’t a one-off affair. It’s a daily decision. Are you committed every day, or just in convenient times when you want something from your spouse?
#6: Being unready for seasonal changes
Dr Kevin Leman and a number of other sexologists across various podcasts and resources highlight that a lot of sexual frustration can be resolved by simply being ready for the changes that are going to happen over the course of your sexual relationship.
Bodies change. The amount of sexual stimulation required changes. Vaginas stretch and penises need a lot more work to stay strong. The appearance of your partner will change over time as weight is added or lost, wrinkles form up, and life takes its toll, for better or worse.
More than the physical, your partner will change emotionally. She might not have wanted sex as much before, but her drive may increase and you’ll need to factor that in. He might start to want it less. The acrobatics may not be helping your partner feel so loved anymore and they just want to be close. Or further away.
Sexual utopia is definitely a moving target, and I think all of us need to be ready for it. What’s okay today might not be so okay tomorrow. Are you ready for when that happens?
#7: The Ghost of Christmas Past
In the same way Scrooge was haunted by memories of the past, so too our past sexual encounters or even non-sexual encounters may linger around while the two of you are in the bedroom.
It’s hard to be with your husband or wife when your ex is still in your head. Or the lack of support you’ve felt from your friends or family. Or the rejection you felt in that other relationship. Or what she said about the way you look. Or what he did about the way you felt.
I listened to a great podcast listing out all the ghosts that can float in during a sexual encounter, or may even be preventing one. And they said it well that we have a choice what to do when that happens – will we tolerate the ghosts, or will we deal with them before they ruin our sex lives? Only you have the answer.
#8: The pressure to perform and be accepted
Does she want me?
Does he love me?
Am I worthwhile?
Three of the biggest questions in the bedroom. You both want answers, and you’re both under a lot of pressure to find the answers, as well as to convey the answer to your partner with your body.
Whether it causes performance anxiety for men or a lack of libido for women, or vice versa, the challenge of sex is to answer the deepest questions of the heart in amidst all the other voices in life that have had things to say about those areas of your life.
One sex therapist said the trouble with these is that they can cause a snowballing effect in the relationship. As such, they need to be addressed as soon as they appear. You might need to swallow the pride and seek some help on a few of these issues, but it will definitely pay off in the long run.
#9: A spirit of withholding
Sexual rejection can have a profound impact on a person’s wellbeing, especially in a marriage relationship. It can make someone feel like their partner doesn’t want them or value them. You’re telling your partner that their needs aren’t important to you.
Remove the word “sex” from that previous paragraph, and you’ll have exactly what the marriage bed represents in physical form, which is an outworking of the attitudes you may hold towards your partner – negligence for the needs and desires of the one you say you love.
Scripture advises marrieds not to withhold (or deprive their partner) sexual relations, even for the most spiritual reason you can find. It’s not so someone can domineer and take whatever they want (and it shouldn’t be), it’s so that your attitude towards your partner isn’t doing the least you can do, but being generous with your life with the one you love.
And hey, I don’t blame some people. So many men especially but all sorts of people really complain about their partner withholding sex from them, but they in turn withhold love, safety, a listening ear, a coffee in the morning, a sense of value, the protection of their heart from their partner. And then they complain their partner has difficulty giving their body and being compliant when you haven’t considered his or her needs at all.
The power struggle that destroys so many sexual relationships is “what’s the least I can do for you?”. Instead, I love the attitude of the Shulamite woman and King Solomon in the Song of Songs. She says that she’s a garden that’s specially prepared for her husband, and wants the wind to blow through the garden and invite her lover in. She’s not talking what the minimal effort she can exert is, she’s open whenever he needs or wants it, enticing him to take and receive what he needs. He is generous with his words, his time, his body, and all he is. He’s not domineering or crass or demanding of his own rights (he knocks but doesn’t barge down the door), but is completely open to her. He even helps her see herself in a new light and gives her the confidence to stand up for her own sense of value.
I wonder if your husband or wife can say that you’ve done that for them.
You have what your partner needs. Whether it be sex, love, time, emotional support, whatever. The question is, do you have a withholding attitude towards your partner? Are you depriving them of what they need because of some reason that you think is more important? Your husband or wife needs sex to hear that they are valued by you. Your spouse needs your best support. They need your heart. They need your love. They need to see you regularly. They need you to not be behind a closed door all the time. Generously, not begrudgingly, not hesitantly, not “okay I guess if it’s really that bad let’s get it over with”.
You can’t control the generosity of your partner, but you can control your own. And it’s a heart attitude. What can I do for you? How can I serve you? With my body? How about my time? What do you need from me emotionally? The bedroom is just playing out what two hearts are really trying to find.
And then you find it. Sexual utopia. He is loved, and so is she, and they both know it oh so well.
This is obviously a very involved and layered topic. There are so many different opinions and other factors involved. Pornography use can help you get aroused but to someone who isn’t your spouse, so you’ve invited someone else to the bed at the expense of your partner. Sexual abuse can cause flashbacks and severely limit your comfort in the bedroom. Libido can go up and down like a yo-yo if you’re not giving it some proper consideration. Doing it by yourself at a time you could be doing it with your partner robs you of a shared experience.
I think finding sexual utopia is close to the heart of many of us, and hopefully you’ve found something in here that resonates that’s made you think, whether you agree or disagree.
How about you. What are some obstacles to sexual utopia you’ve found in your life or in your journey?