Jon’s last relationship ended because they just weren’t “sexually compatible.” Her words, not his, although to be honest, he hadn’t been enjoying sex that much either. And he was willing to accept that. Some people just don’t do it for each other.
A year later, though, and he’s starting to worry. Once single, he’d started using all the tricks in his playbook (and Tinder) to get casual hookups. He has had many one-night-stands, and he now believes that the problem is him.
Not only has no girl shown any desire to hook up again after the first time, but he himself has recognized there’s something wrong.
Jon no longer needs anyone to tell him that he’s not good at sex.
Not Quite the Adonis
Now, Jon is not quite the perfect Adonis. He wouldn’t make the cover of any big men’s health magazine. But he’s close enough.
He is attractive in a very conventional sense, with good definition, excellent skin, and strong facial features. He maintains his appearance and hygiene, and dresses well.
Also, he has a relatively big penis. Both in length and girth, it is significantly above average.
This, in addition to having a lot of stamina, is the reason he’d assumed he should be good in bed. Every teenage boy lies awake at night worrying about these two things. Jon had always considered himself blessed in these departments.
Got the moves?
Throughout his relationship and in the year that followed, Jon read up on sexual advice from just about everywhere on the web. He learned just about every position and move “proven” to give women multiple orgasms. He even added stuff to his diet to thicken his cum, and did exercises to make him a “big shot.”
He did it all in the hopes of showing the next girl he would be with (and the next and the next) that he could give them pleasure.
But despite knowing the how to backwards, and shooting his load further than ever, girls were no more satisfied than his “incompatible” girlfriend had been.
It wasn’t a matter of practice, either. In his quest to become good at sex, he was having sex multiple times a week. If he couldn’t find someone to hook up with, he’d practice on his own. Once or twice he took a more illicit approach.
What Jon had yet to learn was that good sex is not just about size and stamina. It’s not even about positions and moves. There are underlying issues at hand, and these need to be dealt with.
The first, more obvious one, is confidence. The second is your internalized attitude to sex.
If you don’t believe you can do something, you won’t be able to do it. No matter how much you’ve studied or prepared or obsessed about it, you will fall short.
In other words, you might have read up on how to master certain positions or techniques. But that will count for nothing if you don’t believe.
Now, that’s easy enough to say. But, as someone who has struggled with confidence issues in the past, I understand that “be confident” is the most pointless advice you can be given. Only people who already have confidence can just decide to be confident.
I’m just going to add a few thoughts that might help you think about confidence differently:
- Borrow confidence from your future self. This is something I heard from the comedian and actor, Eddie Izzard. If you’ve done something once, you know you can do it again. Your future self already knows you can master the sexual arts. Imagine that you’re borrowing some of that confidence and use it now.
- Remember you’re not alone. Since the dawn of time, men have been worrying about their sexual performance. Many men who once saw themselves as completely hopeless have learned how to give the greatest pleasure to women.
- You’re more likely to succeed nowadays. So, while a man 50 years ago who needed sexual advice would have to buy a book or ask an expert, you can get all the answers online. And if a man 50 years ago could become “good” at sex, so can you.
Confidence is crucial, but just like size and stamina and knowing all the right techniques, it’s not everything. Jon, for example, had started out with confidence. He had believed his physical blessings had given him the edge. When he started looking for ways to improve, he assumed he would easily master them.
There is something far deeper that colors all of our sexual interactions. Our internalized attitudes towards sex play a fundamental role in our performance. And they’re not easy to root out.
Sex and its hang ups
Lately, I’ve listened to some talks and sessions by psychotherapist Esther Perel. While she spends a lot of time speaking about sex within relationships and marriages, her insights apply to everyone with a sexual appetite.
Perel hones in on the beliefs and narratives that people associate with sex and eroticism. Because sex is such a huge driving factor in our lives, and is so greatly restricted, dictated, praised, and condemned by those around us and society as a whole, we all have sexual hang ups.
And these hang ups are present every time we have sex.
If we dig a little deeper, Jon becomes the perfect illustration of this. Some more background information is very enlightening.
Jon grew up in a very religious Catholic home. His parents had a typically negative attitude towards sex, seeing it as immoral except in a marital context. Even within a marriage, it was nothing more than a means to have children.
Pleasure was not important. If anything, getting pleasure from sex was a moral failing.
Jon left the Catholic faith when he turned 18 and went to college. However, the attitudes imposed on him by his parents had become internalized. It’s no wonder he struggled to give or receive sexual pleasure, no matter what he tried. That guilt was present, and it made him always hold back a little.
In other words, no matter how hard he tried to “master” sex, he would always be unconsciously sabotaging his efforts. That internal voice told him to neither give or receive pleasure. Every time he had sex, he unwittingly followed his parents’ and old religion’s dictates.
Jon is not alone in this. Everyone has a narrative when it comes to sex.
For some, that narrative is overwhelmingly positive. Sex is a hugely important part of life, and a wonderful way to build intimacy with a partner or even a one-night-stand.
For many others, the opposite is true. Parents, religion, society, or all three may have told you that sex is bad. Even if they just told you that “sex before marriage” is bad, those bad connotations may well follow you into a committed relationship.
This becomes all the more poignant with survivors of sexual assault, for whom sex is an absolute minefield. Members of the LGBT community may also struggle to reconcile the sex they were always told was wrong with the fulfillment it is supposed to bring.
If all of this sounds rather overwhelming, you’re not alone. Sexual hang ups haunt most people and take a tremendous amount of work to overcome.
However, do not despair. Confronting these hang ups is easier than you think, and it will lead not only to better sex, but to better relationships, with yourself, your sexual partners, and others.
Here are some of the steps you’ll need to take:
- Invest in yourself. Firstly, you’ll need to give yourself permission to invest in yourself. This means taking the time to work on every aspect of yourself that may be causing you sexual hang ups.
- Take care of your physical needs first and foremost. That’s the easiest place to start – go to gym, pay a little more for a good haircut, and invest in some sensual scents.
- See a therapist. Yes, you’ll need to do some analysis in order to discover the narratives that are holding you back. This does not need to be a demoralising experience. In fact, it should be liberating, and having someone to guide you through it will help you feel all the more safe and confident.
- Be honest about your sexual preferences. If there are some desires and urges that make you think you’re a “pervert”, be honest with yourself. The word “pervert” was created by those who condemn sexuality, believing that desire is a sin. No desire is in itself harmful. And, unless it involves non-consensual acts or sexual activity with a minor, you should feel free to play out your fantasies.
- Talk about sex (without showboating). If you want to upend your old sexual narrative, you will need to talk about sex a little more freely. Talk about it with friends and partners, expressing what you want out of sex. This way, you’ll start to internalize your new, liberated ideas about sex. But do not boast or show off. That will only put more pressure on yourself to perform when the time comes and will take you further away from an honest narrative.
As Jon had to learn, size and stamina, along with even the most effective tips and techniques, are not the only factors in having good sex. Rather, to get the most out of relationships or hookups, you’ll need to start with confidence. If you don’t believe you can do something, then you won’t be able to do it.
But confidence in and of itself is not enough. Each and every one of us has sexual hang ups. We have narratives that we learned from childhood. Often, these narratives demonize sex. As long as we retain these narratives, we will always be holding something back, no matter how hard we try.
By putting in some self-work, both physical and mental, you can create a new narrative, and liberate yourself from your sexual hang ups. Be honest about what you want in the bedroom, and start talking about it freely with partners, friends, and confidantes.