Saturday, February 06, 2010

Satisfying the Girl

When things come in threes, I write about them. I think, this can't be an isolated issue, maybe it isn't random, not if it's coming in threes.

A guy tells me that he has found a solution to dating anxiety. I'm interested in the solution, I really am. But first, of course, want to know
Why should a guy have dating anxiety?
After all, there are two single women for every single man, probably three. A man can have six eyes and he'll still be a hot property in certain circles.

Hold constant (control for) any predisposition toward anxiety, anxiety disorders in the past, anxiety disorders in the family, post-traumatic stress disorder, child abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder; hold all that in abeyance, and there's still a likelihood, or so I'm hearing, that dating is scary as hell.

I don't mean to be glib. I understand why people are anxious about dating. It's the rejection that's terrifying. Rejection hurts, and the chances of being rejected after a first date are rather high, actually. This we understand.

What's confusing is not the anxiety, but what men are doing now to resolve it. To resolve dating anxiety, men are taking Viagra. Young guys. We're not talking just the Medicare set.

Apparently they're sure that women expect a really good performance in bed. Nobody's watching Oprah or Dr. Phil, or Dr. Laura or Dr. Ruth, not as much as we once thought. If they did they would know that a good sexual relationship does not depend upon a good performance by anyone.

On television, thankfully, and even in most of the books in the self-help section at the book store, we learn that a woman is supposed to be responsible for her own sexual satisfaction. If she's interested in this, sexual satisfaction, and she should be, since this is great marital glue (don't get me started, I don't know if it works as glue if you're not married)

(a) she should try to connect with her partner while she's alert, not about to fall asleep,

(b) both of them should focus on their sensuality, wake up the brain, stimulate all five senses,

(c) she, especially she, since he's had his sexuality in his hand since he learned how to urinate, but she should get to know her body, understand what makes her happy (I know, I know this is an unpopular suggestion, especially for some people who have religious concerns, one day we'll give it more time) and

(d) if she wants him to feel he's doing something, then she has to tell him what to do to pleasure her.

True story.
Guy calls me for marital sex therapy. He says,

“She’s too small. Maybe we need a pelvic floor therapist, or maybe you. The doctor thinks we probably need a sex therapist like you, but I think a pelvic floor therapist.”

I haven't a clue what this is, a pelvic floor therapist, am hoping this is a sex therapist. This young man has called me many times before, but we've never met. He's never satisfied with my telephone assessment of the situation, yet I still hear from him every six months or so, feel we're old friends. (He could be a she, or maybe an avatar, we're not outing anyone here).

I reply,

“There’s no too big or too small. You need a relationship therapist, one who understands sex therapy, or a sex therapist who understands relationships.”

“No, she’s too small.”

End of conversation. No too big, no too small. At least one of us is clear on this.

That had to be said, that there's no too big, no too small. A couple has to manage with what they have and can, should, try to enjoy the process, try to figure it out. Somehow.

So if size doesn't matter, then what does?
You guessed it:
(1) communication,
(2) discussion of mechanics and myths about sex,
(3) practice at home, and
(4) resolution of emotional interference.

Why would anyone think that you can have all that, and what you don't have can be resolved, all on a first date? Surely it takes a long time to get any one of the four right, let alone all four. Most couples who come to a sex therapist have been working at it a long time and have given up. They've already spent a few years getting to know one another, getting to know one another's likes and dislikes, exploring and talking day after day, year after year, and even then, it just isn't working. They know there's baggage, too, that is in the way, even secondary trauma. We'll never get it right! There's something really, really wrong here!

This isn't second nature, really, a sexual relationship, or any other kind of relationship, to tell the truth. But we'd best focus.

Sexual behavior as a couple is learned, and it is learned in process, from one another, since there are two of you. And you both have baggage, attitudes, histories. It can years to learn to communicate in certain areas, about certain things, without fear, embarrassment, or anxiety, for some of us. And people get so angry at one another! When we communicate anger, intimidation, power, or dominance it can be a huge turn off (I know, I know, the exceptions).

And there are many of us who are depressed, and nothing kills libido like depression, nothing; and past traumas, too, like incest, or other sexual abuse, abortions, not sexy. Really not.

Then there are the mechanics of sex, the how-to's, and these are, perhaps should be, trial and error, too, and there's a lot of room for error, so it can take years, without direct communication, without straight talk, honesty, to develop a mutually satisfying sexual relationship. The joy is in the process, really.

Then there's that whole trust thing. Sex and trust go together. How are you supposed to have that on a first date? A second date? Surely you fool yourself, you say, Oh, this person's had that vasectomy, and then, surprise, he was kidding. Or she says, You're the only one, and she's checking her phone. You get hurt and your trust issues get worse, not better.

This is why people like me don't even feel it should be happening without commitment, sex. Crazy, I know, and so unpopular, so unreasonable, that this is likely not going to catch on. But it's too important, sex, too integral to what makes a healthy couple healthy, content, establishing a good relationship while naked. The reality of sex is that it exposes us. Who wouldn't be terrified, seriously?

Let's draw a parallel to aggression to explain this phenomena, the pressure to satisfy the girl, the pressure to have sex in general, no matter the status of your relationship.

It's compelling that the Saw movies are in their seventh year. Every year there is another one of these very, very violent, horrible, graphic movies. People go to them, we think, to master their fear of violence. If you see the film often, or you see a new one every year, eventually it doesn't upset you, the thought of cutting off your own leg, and well, you're tough. You're strong. You've desensitized to your fear.

Some of us would disagree, however, that this is what makes a person strong. If this is what makes a person tough, seeing violence and not feeling anything, not being affected, then that person's definition of strong is perverted.

The corollary is sex. We can regard this fascination with sex, this insistence upon it, because it is supposed to be a loving act,
the flip side of violence. And we can see the obsession with it in the same way. Have it often, have many partners, do it perfectly, and at some point you will be immune to the anxiety, the embarrassment of taking off your clothes, of someone seeing you for who you really are.

That's pretty sad, isn't it? In a good relationship, one that is trusting, loving, caring, and kind-- taking off your clothes might still be embarrassing, but it's a good kind of embarrassing, a shy kind of embarrassing, even, an intimate one.

You might say, for example, "I've gained five pounds this winter," and your spouse will say, "Don't ever lose them! I love them! I love these pounds!" For he knows that you are responsible for your own weight, too, and he doesn't want to work your program, he just wants to make love. And he loves you.

And in a good relationship, one that is committed, you are staying the night, so staying the night isn't even a question, it happens all the time, it's not a big deal. So theoretically, if you have that, commitment, you can roll over when you're both a little tired of sex play, and say, Goodnight, even if everyone's not completely satisfied, and it's okay.

But not anymore. Oh, no. Committed or not committed,


Where are people learning this?

This dysfunctional pressure to reach orgasm is perhaps a reaction to what could have been the rule, perhaps even as recently as forty years ago, a covert rule that men didn't need to concern themselves with female satisfaction. Nice girls didn't like sex. So slam-bam, thank you ma'am, theoretically ruled. But perhaps that whole thing was a myth, that men who loved their women ever even did the slam-bam, thank you ma'am thing. Yet the reaction formation for sure is alive and well.

Now, men have to perform, their needs are important, but hers are, too, and she's demanding a performance, or so some of the guys feel. The guys are thinking they have to be studs again. THEY have the secrets to female satisfaction, and if they don't, well, no second date. So of course they're anxious, because in their minds, and apparently in hers, too, what makes it great, sex, is that erection.

Zachen v'aitzen Columbus. (Yiddish for, What in the world is wrong with this picture? Don't ask me for a direct translation. Find my mother, ask her.)

This is fantastic news for the makers of Viagra and Cialis. Forget that only one woman in five has orgasm during intercourse, anyway, with or without these drugs. Forget that without an intimate understanding of a partner's arousal, physiology, and how much he or she had to eat, meaning how extended, distended, in other ways one might be, that there's no way one partner can help the other achieve orgasm. Forget that foreplay should take a half an hour, intercourse maybe five minutes, maybe ten, or it's going to hurt, certainly will irritate her. None of this matters. It's all about Mr. P.

It shouldn't baffle us that the importance of sex has taken on such magnitude that a man will take a medication that could be dangerous, just to be sure to please a date. This is horrible and is indicative of a related issue, that we have grown accustomed to instant relationship gratification (hand me my phone, please, I need to read my email NOW). She wants it now. Or so he think. Why waste time?

Nobody's taking the time to nurture the relationship.

And the joke is that people think they can nurture their erection, their arousal, without it.



Isle Dance said...

Such an important post. I'm such a supporter of emotionally connecting, in the moment, being playful and sharing all that deep, important stuff. And I still have to remind myself daily to slowly get to know a friend first. Because...I'd rather spend that first year (or two?) ensuring I'm safely connecting deeply with a great guy...than discover after two years of great sex that he wasn't the great guy for me. 'Cause I just can't handle anymore heartache.

Lou said...

It's sad people have to be told indiscriminate sex does not foster a loving, trusting relationship.

blognut said...

Excellent post. It should be required reading, really.

jss said...

The problem is they CAN nurture their arousal and erection with a pill... or cure their depression with a pill or get stronger and more athletic with a pill. Has us all walking around thinking that everything that ills can be cured with a pill. And of course what's a man if he "can't get it up", or so we think, or so he's told. We women have it all over men in this area because we can fake it when we "can't get it up", assuming this qualifies as 'having it over' men.

This post is so chock-full of topic that lends itself to be talked about forever. Unfortunately this is the internet and so short, concise replies are necessary.

Ah for a pill that would allow us to get it. Whatever 'it' is is.

Anonymous said...

I never for one moment thought that viagra had anything to do with pleasing a woman, it is about a man enabling himself to get an erection so he can have an orgasm. End of story. The commercials make it look like its all about the woman, but come on!

If a woman goes to the doctor and says she has difficulty getting aroused or achieving orgasm, she is referred to a shrink.(no offense) If a man goes in with that problem he is given a magic pill. I think they (men) have way more issues that they need to deal with than we do!
I really liked this post though and I agree with much of what you say. For me the difficulty lies in the intimacy and trust, even after being with the same man for over 20 years. But we love each other and will not give up. Thanks!

TechnoBabe said...

You say "The joy is in the process". Absolutely. How sad for people who think sex means one thing: orgasm. That's all there is to it. In reality sex is intimacy and pleasuring in and out of clothes. I so like that you walk us through some of the things associated with achieving a satisfying sexual relationship. How in the world could someone know the total joy of an intimate and satisfying sexual relationship on a first or second date? I think this post should be part of high school classes everywhere.

therapydoc said...

Thanks all. I really expected, expect--Oh, Doctor. You've really gone off the deep end this time. Which is okay.

April_optimist said...

I wanted to stand up and cheer as I read this post! YES, YES, YES!!!

Maha said...

This post should must be required reading prior and during dating.

Friend of the Bear said...

Hi Doc. Firstly, what happened to the male population in America? In the UK there are significantly more men under 40 than women (due to advances in neonatal care).

Secondly, for the record, I DO demand a really good performance. I expect, if they are to have the privilege, that they're going to work at it and put plenty of effort in. That's their job. So yes, they are responsible for giving me a good time. And of course size matters!

I'm not denying that there is a place for "special needs" sex for people who can't manage it otherwise. And many other sexual practices like BDSM where the erection is not the end all and be all.

But it doesn't count for me if he's not up to the job.

I don't think you should give men false reassurances. Instead point them in the direction of better technique.

I mean if a pastry chef couldn't get his pastries to rise would you tell him to try and sell them flat and doughy? No! You'd tell him to go on a course to learn how to do it better.

And what idiot would have sex on a first date anyway?

Bearfriend xx

CZBZ said...

"In a good relationship, one that is trusting, loving, caring, and kind-- taking off your clothes might still be embarrassing, but it's a good kind of embarrassing, a shy kind of embarrassing, even, an intimate one." ~TherapyDoc

You have touched my heart again! I love this post.


Lily said...

Can't thank you enough for this post. It is honest and direct.

Sex scares me. Big time. I can get on board with every aspect of a relationship until it reaches that point. Right now the biggest part of it is the actual physical connection. My own sexual abuse is playing the role in my fears. 14 months of therapy and I am just now getting to the point of being able to think about those fears. I always knew they were there, but never gave them a deep thought.

I have to remind myself constantly that sex is not just physical but emotional too. With someone you love. With someone you trust. Having the opposite experience has rewired my brain into thinking that sex is only bad, not something that connects you to another person.

I look forward to the day that the process is enjoyable.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
yogatherapy said...

what about sex can be supported by yoga?...

Floral Joy said...

This is a great post. Thank you for putting it out there as it cleared up a few things for me. It's different when you hear it from a therapist than a magazine or your friends.

Shattered said...

I am really backwards when it comes to sex in a good relationship/marriage. I'm going to have to read this post several times to absorb all the information but thank you! You clearly spelled several things out that I never knew. Like I said, I'm pretty backwards but I'm pretty sure that this post needs to be read by most people. ;)

Syd said...

I have found that there are many ways to be intimate without intercourse. Sex and orgasm are awesome, but performing, as in acting, isn't a turn on. I think that the honest stuff that you mention--trust, communication, touching, playfulness--all are heady things. And they leave me wanting to come back for more.

Cheryl said...

This is very similar to my post from November. hmmm...

I have a friend who is 26 I believe who told me that if a woman wouldn't have sex with him after 6mos he'd break up with her. I totally don't jive with that philosophy. Recently I told this to a newer friend who is 24 and doesn't know him who responded that 6mos is a very long time at our age. What???

I'm not one of those no sex before marriage types, but I'm very far from "wam bam thank you mam." The dude has to be committed, and by committed I mean somewhere in the neighborhood of 9mos - a year.

I'm not saying there aren't other things besides "sex" that I wouldn't do before. There are levels, and there is a reason for that. Everything has to come in its own time at it's own pace in the natural order of things.

Went on a date 2.5 weeks ago. The second guy I've ever dated. MUCH more comfortable then the 1st. I hope he jives with my philosophy (I think he does) or I'm kicking him to the curb.

porcini66 said...

I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said that "it's too important, sex, too integral to what makes a healthy couple healthy, content, establishing a good relationship while naked. The reality of sex is that it exposes us. Who wouldn't be terrified, seriously?"

No matter where we learn about sex, whether from our girlfriends or from the guys in the locker room, an online site, or, heavens - a committed relationship, we still have to figure out how to handle the emotions that come with it. The fear, the vulnerability, the joy, the tenderness.

Sex vs. making love comes into play here, too, I think. I mean, raw hungry, passionate sex has its own power and appeal and can sometimes be less scary than the deep, emotional connections that come with time, experience and really "knowing" your partner. Depending on the mood (of both partners, tyvm), each can bring tremendous physical and/or emotional satisfaction. I guess that my main question would be, "How on earth can you know which to go for without really knowing that partner?"

And...knowing yourself. Jumping into a sexual relationship early and often makes it impossible to understand any of it. It can so easily becomes a scary, confusing topic...

Or, maybe that's just me! :)

Anonymous said...

Cool article as for me. I'd like to read something more about this topic. Thanx for giving that information.

Cheryl said...

Anonymous I have a similar post from november, although I am not a professional yet

therapydoc said...

Isle Dance, thanks. The heartache is physical, somehow, so for sure, safety matters.

LOU, no question not everyone even wants that lasting relationship. Quantity not quality is okay for some people. Not judging, just saying.

Blognut, thanks.

JSS, you've got it.

PATTY, that's not how the commercials read. It's all for the two of them. All about Mr. P being the answer to life. I feel so sorry for a guy who has to go through life thinking if that doesn't work, he's really got problems.

Like TECHNOBABE says, The process of getting that to work is the fun part in the relationship.

APRIL, MAHA, CZ and FLORAL JOY, thanks so much.

FRIEND OF THE BEAR, bottle this self-esteem, seriously, and sell it. However. What do you do when the friend of the bear (if the bear is the guy) can't be found? You work with him, is what you do. Sure, when he's a young guy he's virile, we should hope, but men start to wane in their late thirties, just when you're getting really into it. So you want to learn how to reinvigorate him, you know? And it's really not all that hard, either, to get an engine going, assuming he hasn't got circulation problems.

LILY, SHATTERED, thanks for reading. I will probably get more specific at some point. But none of this has to happen overnight :)

SYD, I always appreciate your male point of view

CHERYL, I loved that post of yours in November.

PORCINI, love that big picture you have. Fabulous. Not just you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You are right, it is about the two of them. I have issues where this subject is concerned, that is why I am returning to therapy!

Mr.P and VitaminV said...

1st of all, I'm a huge fan!!!
Let me represent Mr. P and Vitamin V for a moment..
I can tell you that very often by the 3rd date, if the man hasn't made some sort of sexual "move", the woman gets insecure and feels that something is wrong with her..And trust me, talking about how wonderful she is and saying that I like to take things a little slower does not work at all..She wants something to happen!! Granted, I'm not complaining about that, but if something is going to happen, I like to insure that it actually happens..Without Viagra early in the dating process, my anxieties often take control and make things not work properly..And oh my goodness, if it doesn't work, she either feels that she's not attractive OR she thinks something is wrong with me...It's not necessarily about her achieving an orgasm, it's more about showing her that I like her and I'm attracted to her. It doesn't have to be spectacular the 1st, 2nd or 3rd time, etc..It just has to happen...As things progress and I feel more comfortable, I don't need the V..
And your description of the healthy relationship is what I would love to achieve..I guess what I'm trying to say is that early in a relationship, words don't seem to have as much of an impact..They're not believed as much as they should be...Later on, words mean more..And one more thing, Doc!! I don't see 2 women for every man out there.

therapydoc said...

Oh wow, that's amazing. I never looked at it this way. We need some second opinions. Is anyone still reading or should I repost this separately? Anyone out there?

Midwife with a Knife said...

I must be some sort of throwback. I really only find sex truly satisfying in the context of a real relationship. And sometimes, you know, there are days when really good kissing is as satisfying as sex.

The way I've always thought about it is, evolution has designed us to find certain activities/stimulations pleasurable, but there are so many ways to connect with your partner physically, nearly an infinite number of ways.

Don't get me wrong, sex is good... really really good. But for me, it's all about physically confirming that very special connection with another human being... and there are more ways than sex to do that, and without that connection (which I generally take a bit (or a lot) longer than the third date to get to), the physical stuff is sort of empty somehow, and really without that connection, it's just not good enough to be worth the trouble of going after on its own.

Just my opinion, I'm sure a lot of people would disagree.

Anonymous said...

Well, I just found this post now and I want to say that you describe my marriage perfectly, (especially the 5lbs part!)

My husband and I have a very satisfying sex life because we are completely open with each other about what turns each of us on. 9 years in, we still have a lot of "Not there, a little to the right/left/up/down" during sex. We love to try new positions and still rely on our trusty moves. Most of all, we are really really generous with each other. It's not about performing or even always about orgasm. We definitely have many times when either of us don't make it, for various reasons. And it's fine. It's just about completely accepting the other person and trying to make each other satisfied.

Anonymous said...

You give "shoulds" about sex but honestly, the idea of having to try at sex makes me nauseous. I can deal with it and even get something out of it only as long as I can keep it just a bit at bay. I'm so not ready to be all the way present. I'm terrified of sexuality. I feel like my mind would break and I might have to die if I had to try. I can't be assertive within it. Trust me, I know that this attitude isn't healthy but it's what I have to work with. My husband suffers from my lack of interest. I'm in pain and cause pain around me but can't follow your shoulds. There has to be another way.

Anonymous said...

The thing is that I couldn't possibly follow your "shoulds" b through d. The idea of having to get that involve in sex makes me feel panic and like I might have to die. I just cannot, cannot do it. But if I can be passive and keep part of myself aside then I can enjoy sex so there must be another way.

Anna said...

Re-reading this after the newest post, even to my husband.
One thing that I thought of the previous read, and then again this time, is that the birth control pill had a BIG message for the women of America. You can have sex without consequence! You can have sex simply for enjoyment!

So, I think that message has percolated down to the young men of today.

Also, young men are glancing at those terribly shallow magazine covers by the cashier, too. If you go by the magazines, the same message is being broadcast. "Ten ways...." "How to..." blech. Even so far as "THE MOST MIND-BLOWING SEX YOU'VE EVER HAD!!!!"

Anxiety? Yeah. It's just not realistic.

splenda warnings said...

This post is amazing! It brought me back to my high school days, and those terrible sexual encounters...this should be required reading for HS students nationally!

splenda warnings said...

This post is amazing! It brought me back to my high school days, and those terrible sexual encounters...this should be required reading for HS students nationally!

Cat said...

I saw my husband and I in that part about the five pounds and " I love it" and that makes me increadibly happy. Of course it has taken nearly twenty years, but all the stuff we had to work through to get here.

Stacie E. Hebert said...

Very interesting commentary! What I think is the most sad is that I believe men are wanting to put on a performance, by whatever means necessary, but they still misunderstand that women don't consider this arena of performance the most important. Not even one of the most important. I believe it is simply the most important to men, and the buck stops there.