We all know sex is complicated. Having a unique job of talking with people about their sexual experiences and concerns for over two decades has led me to appreciate sex as even more complicated than most realize. Here are six surprising insights about sex to help guide the exploration of embracing a satisfying sexuality in our everyday lives:
1. Being good in bed is a learned skill: People confuse sex as a strictly bodily function that should innately work with no effort, like a heart beating or lungs breathing. The truth is that we are all born with parts, but making those parts (including our mind) sexually flourish requires education and practice more like a high art. Becoming skilled in bed is closer to training for a sport, becoming a performance artist, or crafting any other talent than having our body sneeze during allergy season.
2. Sex problems are more common than you think: If you have concerns about your sexual function then you are not alone. Several studies have found that up to 44 percent of the population has a persistent sexual dysfunction, such as problematic disinterest in sex or difficulty with erections or orgasm, and almost everyone will have transient experiences of sexual malfunctioning at one time or another.
Sex problems are more common than you think.
3. Sex hurts for many women: One out of every five or six women experience painful sex or are completely unable to engage in sex at all. Many different things can cause a woman to have painful sex, including involuntary vaginal muscle spasms called vaginismus, nerve pain, and change in hormones -- and all are treatable. If sex hurts, get help.
4. A limp penis can suggest more serious disease: The penis is essentially a tube of small blood vessels, and arousal leads to enlargement of these vessels which causes an erect, hard penis. Loss of erections during partner sex, masturbation, and non-sexual morning erections can suggest a hormone imbalance or a developing vascular disease that prevents the penis to properly engorge. A recent study suggests there is a window of opportunity of 3 to 5 years from the onset of ED to subsequent cardiovascular events. ED isn't just embarrassing or frustrating, it's an important medical symptom to talk openly about with a healthcare provider, especially for men at risk for heart disease.
Avoiding bad sex is not a medical condition.
5. Avoiding bad sex is not a medical condition: Not wanting to have sex is one of the main concerns for which people seek sexual medicine treatment. While low libido is almost always multifactorial and can have numerous psychological and medical causes such as diabetes, depression, medication side effects, or menopause and aging, it is important to fundamentally understand that we "desire" awesome sex. If sex is painful, boring, repetitive, or if we are resentful towards our partner but having sex anyway, then sex can become unpleasant. Furthermore, if a sex partner is not supportive of sex being pleasurable for the other person, it is not helpful to tell that the lower libido partner to fix-their-not-wanting-sex-problem on their own. Instead, couples should work together to create a sexual experience that is meaningful for both people. Not wanting to have bad sex isn't a medical disorder. Reinventing a symbiotic relationship of eroticism, intimacy, and adventure in the bedroom are key factors towards improving the drive to have sex.
6. Our mind is our greatest sex organ: Sexual function is a reflection of our physical health, and a wide variety of illness can impair satisfying sex despite provocative stimulus, but being sexually charged is also directly an expression of our level of mental and emotional arousal. If we are not turned on in our mind, it can be difficult to be turned on in our body, yet this is a fundamental key piece that many people overlook when they are unsatisfied with sex. Many common sexual complaints such as dry or painful sex, the inability to get or keep a hard erection, and trouble having an orgasm actually stem from the mind not being sexually engaged. When this is the case, medical treatments such as erection medications or hormone therapy to improve sexual function are likely to be ineffective.
If we are not turned on in our mind, it can be difficult to be turned on in our body.
Many people know how to put a key in the car ignition, but turning the key to engage the entire car into motion requires a live connection between hormones, muscles, and nerves, but most importantly it requires the spark from an erotic mind. Living a life of sexual fulfillment is a process of ongoing exploration, physical health advocacy, a spirit of curiosity and embracing our unique sexual truths. Great sex in ordinary life also requires intentional communication with our partner, and a will backed by action to create a dynamic sexual experience for ourselves and our relationship.
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