Sex education is all sorts for messed up! The best we offer kids is showing them how to put a condom on a banana. To quote Dr. Sprankle:
Sex ed that focuses only on STIs is like a cooking class which only teaches about food poisoning.
One of the biggest failings we have in sex ed is teaching folks how to figure out what they want. We have plenty of cultural influences which teach us about what we should want. We lack conversations talking about how to figure out what we actually want.
Untangling Shoulds from Do's
Let's start by looking at the messaging about what we SHOULD want.
We are told "Good sex" takes a long time. Just look at these prominent articles:
And there are literally millions more on the exact same theme. Ugh
When I searched "How to decrease sexual stamina" Google asks, "Did you mean to search 'How to increase sexual stamina'" and when the option for the original search is selected, the only articles presented are on how to INCREASE stamina. The primary search engine in the world cannot fathom that people may want to get to orgasm MORE quickly.
We are also taught that good sex invloves lots of different positions. I must confess, I am guilty of contributing to a bit of this. I have over a dozen citations in Cosmopolitain magazine on sex positions alone.
But the reality is, most of us don't want marathon love making which involves positions only achievable by professional contortionists. In 2005, the Journal of Sexual Health published an oft-cited article where the authors surveyed a representative sample of heterosexual women (there is very little academic interest on how long us girls like to play with each other) about the "right amount" of sex. Most women said their ideal length for penetrative sex (again, a very narrow definition of 'sex') is 7-13 minutes. The vast majority said penetrative sex lasting longer than 10-30 minutes was too long and not desired.
Although we have known for nearly 20 years longer does not equal better, people keep writing about all the ways to engage in marathon penetrative sex. People of all genders are inundated with the thought that they are somehow sexually inadequate because they are done with a sexual encounter in less time than it takes John Oliver to break down the politics of some depressing political issue.
We are also encouraged to try dozens of different sexual positions. Everything from holding up a partner against a wall to assuming what can only be called military stress torture positions for all but the most bendy of us.
Unlearning BS About Sex
The first step in trying to figure out what you want is often unlearning the messaging about what you should want. This is a lifetime long process, by the way. I still catch myself thinking that my sex life may be inadequate because I am not doing it like I should be. And if this kinky, queer, slut struggles with not doing it long enough or in weird enough positions, I know most of you are struggling with those occasional thoughts as well.
To start unlearning you have to consciously recognize what you believe about sex. Take some time and write down what you believe you should want. Here are some questions to guide you through your personal exploration.
I believe good sex includes...
I believe that good sex is defined by...
Good sex lasts...
Good sex must include...
I believe orgasms must...
I believe I deserve sex when...
I believe I should not have sex when...
When you are answering those questions try and be honest with yourself. We like to try and look good, even when it is just for us by us. Try to silence your internal editor who tells you that some things should not be said aloud or written down. Be honest with what your thoughts are about these questions.
Next, sit with your answers. Read them over. Do they feel right? When you think about the best time you have had with someone in an intimate way, do your answers reflect those encounters?
For many folks the answers to the above seven questions will not align with the times you have had the most fun in bed.
Creating Your Understanding of What You Want
The next step is figuring out what you actually want from intimate encounters. This is part deconstructing prior encounters, part fantasy, and part learning what your desires are about.
Start by deconstructing prior experiences. Have you had enjoyable sex? The reality is, many of us have a lot of average sex. Its okay. It makes us momentarily happy or distracted but it isi not great sex. Some of us have NEVER had the sex we want. This step is not about that sex.
What encounters have made you happy? What encounters are in your spank bank? The answers to these questions will help you narrow in on what you actually want.
Answer the questions with the good sex encounters in mind:
Are there things the good encounters have in common?
What emotions were involved in the good encounters?
What actually happened in those encounters?
What happened before and after the encounters?
Are there other commonalities?
Second, examine your fantasies. When you fantasize about sex, what activities are involved? What people? What emotions?
Finally, spend more time naked. Take time to touch yourself. What body parts like to be touched? What parts do you avoid? What parts get your motor running? What thoughts help you get into the right space to feel sexy? What makes you climax?
Not a One Night Stand
Figuring out your needs and desires will not be a one-night-stand with yourself. This is an ongoing learning project. As you get more comfortable with yourself and spend more time touching yourself, you will discover new ways to become aroused. When you change partners your desires may change. Aging and health issues will change your desires. That is the fun part about intimacy! You are not stuck in the same routine as when you were 18 or 30 or 66. There is always something new to learn and try!