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Our basic lesson on sex is wrong
Sep 10, 2015
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Our basic lesson on sex is wrong

We may talk a lot about sex with our friends and colleagues, but what really matters is how much of it is healthy or even real. Noted American psychologist, sex and couples therapist Dr Barry Mc Carthy's concern over eroticism and a performanceoriented mindset eclipsing our sexuality is a recurring theme in a conversation on sexual behaviour and couples' sexual issues, he had with Mirror on a visit to the city. "It's a serious problem if your chats with friends on sex are about bragging and one-upping the other, or talking ill of the opposite gender," he says.


Down in Mumbai for a workshop on confronting common sexual dysfunctions, Dr Mc Carthy, who teaches human sexual behaviour and relationship skills at the University of Washington, says, India shouldn't adopt America's obsession with eroticism. "In the West, especially in the US, people overemphasise eroticism rather than integrate it into their relationship. This explains the popularity of porn on the Internet, which ends up making people feel inadequate about themselves," he says. Here, Dr Mc Carthy demystifies commonly misplaced ideas about sexuality and simplifies sexual problems.


Sexually speaking

When couples are satisfied with their sex life, it's not a major factor; accounting for 15-20 per cent of how happy they are together. Sex energises your marital or relationship bond, makes you feel desired and desirable. However, when sex is dysfunctional, it can affect about 80 per cent of your relationship happiness.


In the west, when couples get divorced within the first five years of their marriage, sex is always the issue. It's almost always the man's decision to stop sex, and that's usually because he doesn't feel confident enough in bed. For instance, 80 per cent of men believe their penis is smaller than average. While that can't be statistically true, it's a good example of how intimidated people feel about sexual performance.


Most couples have only two gears of connection — affection and intercourse. They get into that self-limiting loop, which can be broken only by including sensual, playful and erotic touch. These elements keep sex alive. The rule is you can't fall into a rut. Just as you need to keep working at being a good professional at work, you need to keep pouring energy into your sexual connection. If things haven't looked up in your bedroom, you need to rekindle desire by turning to the five gears — affection, sensuality, playfulness, eroticism and intercourse.


Couples wisdom

Very few do this but couples must talk about how sex is going to fit into their lives. They must figure how to retain their individual sexual voice and still be an intimate couple. It's important to integrate intimacy and eroticism. In India, traditionally, the emphasis has been on having a stable marriage, and not on a satisfying or sexually healthy one, which are hallmarks of a healthy marriage. The more people are biologically and psychologically aware about sex, the better decisions they will make. It's dangerous for the relationship when the couple doesn't talk about sex.

The talks can't be about performance, but about seeing sex as an intimate, pleasurable and erotic experience. What's to be understood is that the essence of sex is sharing pleasure. It's not about individual performance to prove something to yourself or your partner. When it comes to adult sexuality, there's a growing recognition that there are more similarities than differences between men and women. So couples who understand male-female equity do better, and are happier. In cities, stressed working couples make the mistake of scheduling sex as the last activity of their day — when they are thoroughly exhausted. Sex deserves a higher priority in your agenda than keeping it as the last thing at night, when you know your exhaustion is choking it. Instead, being sexual in the morning or early evening will revive your drive.


Man mentality

The science is clear that you can be sexual till the age of 85. However, one out of three couples stop being sexual at 60-65, and two out of three at around 70. That happens because the man loses confidence in his erection and orgasm. He gives up because he feels embarrassed. When I work with men over 40, I ask them, do you want to be a traditional man who stops being sexual in his 50s and 60s, or do you want to be a wise man, who can be sexual in his 60s, 70s and 80s.


Wise men do two things right — they don't worry about autonomous sexual function, and they think in terms of 'good enough sex'. They essentially turn toward their spouse, rather than perform for their spouse. They work on a notion of giving and receiving. They value the joys of pleasuring the other. As we age, men and women need each other more, and sex becomes more of a team sport. So instead of panicking or apologising when intimacy doesn't lead to intercourse, be happy with sensual cuddling and try having sex another day.


Many men make the mistake of being afraid of losing their erection. So when they get an erection, they jump to intercourse because they fear losing it. This is a very self-defeating pattern because when you try to force erection at low levels of orgasm, you quickly run out of steam. It's not an erection problem then; it's ejaculatory inhibition. If you measure arousal on a 10-point scale, many men often proceed to intercourse at 4 or 5, when they must wait till they are a 7 or 8, and then transition to intercourse.


Young concerns

Most men, in their teens and 20s, learn about sex as easy, reliable and predictable. Our lesson on sex is wrong, which is intercourse or nothing. Ultimately that's what causes men to not feel good enough and give up on sex. It's important to tell the adolescents (13-17) and the young (18-25) that sex must play a healthy role in their lives, not destabilise them. The problem is they are likely to imbibe the prevalent negative message of sex being about performance and eroticism, and somehow believe what they see in porn videos as the real sex. They must know that pornography is erotic fantasy, not real life.


The Indian youth shouldn't emulate the US which is reeling under a very high rate of unwanted pregnancies, but follow Canada and Western Europe. Their model says that couples are not sexual unless they are practising contraception and safe sex. Since much of adolescent sexual experimentation happens without protection, there's a high risk of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Additionally, you should instil in the young that they have to do it together, than perform for the other.


Redefining sexuality

People have been big on arousal and orgasm, which is fine. The most important thing sexually though, is desire. The new mantra in sex is: Desire, pleasure, eroticism and satisfaction. The idea is to feel good about yourself, about your partner and energised as a couple.


As for lifestyle and food, be mindful of the fact that anything that's good for your physical body is good for your sexual body. This means that alcohol, smoking and fatty foods are harmful for your sex life as well. Asians also have to worry about the steep rise in diabetes, which affects sexual drive.


Single problem

Every new relationship has a 'limerence phase', which is marked by romantic love, passionate sex, and an idealisation stage. This phenomenon holds true for both premarital and extra-marital relationships and it lasts from six months to two years. Someone who doesn't wish to get married, but has relationships, can't expect them to go on for a decade. Some people may choose to get married to start a family, but most do it to share a bond of intimacy and security with another person. If an individual doesn't value these experiences, he or she needn't get into an unsuccessful marriage.


Hollywood star George Clooney is the operational definition of this concept. Apparently, all his relationships are great, but not stable. To a great majority of people, it's not a changeable pattern. That's why you can't keep up with that and split after around two years. If one goes through having a one-night stand or hooking up as a transitory phase, it isn't problematic. But it's truly worrisome when it becomes a pattern.


Source : thetimeofindia