P eople are generally more knowledgeable about sex today than ever before. So much so, that many things which were considered undesirable 30 years ago are now seen as quite healthy aspects of sexual experience. Masturbation for example, used to be seen as something dirty and unhealthy. But now it’s regarded as a very normal activity, which helps teach young people to achieve and control orgasm, and a useful way for a highly sexed person to adj ust to a partner with less sexual desire. Similarly, there is now a lot of new information available about women’s sexuality, including such basic facts as the importance of the clitoris in the female orgasm.
It takes time, however, for radical changes in thought to filter through and affect general attitudes. Even though anyone today can read about a wide variety of sexual experience in books and magazines, there are many reasons why people still have inhibitions about experimenting with sex.
Everybody has their own idea about what is normal sexual behaviour. At one end of the scale there’s the relaxed attitude that’anything goes’; at the other there is the easily disgusted individual who thinks sex is a ‘necessary but dirt activity. These two cases encountered by a sex therapist illustrate just how different are people’s views on what is normal. While one of his male patients complained that he could ‘only make love for 45 minutes at a time and three times in any one session, a female patient said she thought it ‘kinky5 when asked to help her husband (who suffered from premature ejaculation) to do some therapy exercises with him at home. These involved taking off her clothes so that he could give her a body massage- she explained that they rarely touched and never allowed themselves to appear naked in front of each other.
Social scientists have always argued about what is normal in any form of human behaviour. Looking at things in terms of statistics doesn’t really help us decide what is natural or right; just because a small number of people enjoy a particular form of sex doesn’t automatically make them weird or perverse, even though statistically they are ‘abnormal’. Most sex therapists would say that any form of sexuality is acceptable if both partners enjoy it, provided it doesn’t cause any real emotional or physical harm.
Just why people grow up with such conflicting views about sex is a fairly complex matter, but it is generally accepted that parents and early home life have a very strong influence. If you are brought up in a relaxed, affectionate atmosphere where people talk quite freely about sex, and nudity is not something shameful, you are likely to feel quite differendy from someone whose parents considered sex to be an embarrassment and the human body something to be hidden. Even if their inhibitions were never mentioned, the conspiracy of silence about sex gets the message across with great force.
When and how someone learns the facts of life may also colour their attitude, as will their first sexual experiences. If these are happy and successful, that person is more likely to have a relaxed and optimistic attitude- and be interested in exploring sex and the sexual needs of their partner.
In growing up, we all meet a lot of different sexual attitudes- from our families, our friends, television, newspapers and other media. At the same time, we’re trying to come to terms with having adult sexual feelings. It’s only natural to have some fear about new experiences – and sex is no different in this respect. Given all the conflicting needs and pressures people encounter, it’s hardly surprising that they end up with some doubts about what’s ‘acceptable’.
Should people feel guilty about experimenting with sex? It’s not uncommon for a person to suspect their partner of being unfaitnful if they suddenly introduce a new sexual technique into their love making. Somehow they think that once the pattern of their sex life has been established, any change in it must indicate that something is wrong in the relationship. But people are naturally inquisitive and imaginative and require a variety of stimulations. Sex is like any other activity- if it becomes repetitive it can become boring, and when people become bored it is better to start looking for new experiences in sex than for a new partner.
It’s all too easy to get into a sexual rut- you find a formula which guarantees successful results and play safe rather than explore other techniques. But in fact sexual boredom is a common cause of infidelity and a major factor in the increasing divorce rate. So, rather than feel guilty about experimenting with sex, you could regard it as a positive part of lovemaking, essential to a developing relationship.
Just how adventurous people want to be is up to them, but even something as simple as making love in a different room, or with the light on if you’re used to a darkened bedroom, can make quite a difference. If one of the partners is shyer or less enterprising, trying to enliven a stale sex life overnight could come as quite a shock, so don’t be too ambitious at first.
The most important tiling about exploring new ways of giving and receiving pleasure is for both partners to be able to communicate what they ao – and don’t- like. Most people have a rich sexual fantasy life which unfortunately they rarely share with their partners, because they think it will be embarrassing, and perhaps shocking. The only way around this is to take direct action and find a way to talk over your needs and feelings. Whatever anyone else says, you’ re not unusual in having sexual fantasies, and when you come to discuss them you may well find that your partner shares them. There’s no reason why the woman shouldn’t take the initiative in this. Tell your partner what you enjoy most, ask him to do different things, or reverse roles and take the lead where he is normally the active partner.
As well as talking about your sex life, you can communicate your needs in other, more subtle ways. Try leaving a book or article about sex around where he will see it; or see what reaction you get to wearing a sexy nightdress or suspender belt and stockings. If nothing else, it should create the opportunity to talk about trying something new in your sex life.
Why do so many sex manualsexperimenting with positions? Making love face to face with the man on top is still the most common position for intercourse.
While in many ways it allows for a lot of intimate and loving contact, it is by no means the most natural or satisfying for everybody. And, like other aspects of sex, if a couple always use the same position if s quite likely to become tedious. The shape and size of the genitals varies from one person to anodier, and the only way to discover which position is most satisfying is to experiment Many women find that in the ‘usual’ position there is not sufficient pressure on the clitoris to achieve an orgasm. Positions with the woman on top can improve this and a variety of positions, such as the man entering from behind, give greater penetration. Occasionally a woman finds a certain position uncomfortable because of the shape of her vagina, but it’s just a matter of experimenting to find out what works lor a particular couple. Trying out something new is simply a way or making lovemaking more exciting and satisfying.
Why do some people think that oral sex is distasteful? Many people still have the feeling that contact between the mouth and genitals is ‘not quite nice’ because it involves kissing parts of the body which urinate. These doubts may be deeply seated if someone was brought up to think of their genitals as something to be ashamed of, but sometimes people simply think it’s rather ‘un-healthy’. Such fears are quite groundless as there are normally fewer germs around the genitals than diere are in the mouth. And providing the couple wash regularly, there needn’t be anything distasteful about the act In fact genital odours produced during sexual arousal can be very stimulating. There is no harm in the woman swallowing semen, although some women prefer to remove the penis just before ejaculation.
It helps if a couple can show each other the positions each other likes most; some men prefer to have all their penis stimulated, some just the tip; some women prefer direct stimulation of the clitoris, others around the edge. Oral sex can be an exciting part of foreplay, or the main sexual activity- it’s interesting that a recent American study has shown that a majority of women have their most intense orgasm during oral stimulation.
Is it wrong to have violent or masochistic feelings during sex? Sex should be fun and, as with many other ‘games’, it’s likely sometimes to involve a certain amount of roughness. For many people playful biting, slapping or scratching is a natural part of j lovemaking. Even if they don’t do it deliberately, it often happens unconsciously in the heat of the moment People vary in the amount of pain they are prepared to inflict and receive but, so long as no one comes to any real harm and both partners are enjoying themselves, some rougnness is perfectly normal.
There’s only need for concern if one partner is making demands which the other finds unacceptable or distressing. There are some individuals who believe they can only enjoy sex ifit involves a strong element of pain; they may become very violent, and inflict severe pain and physical injury. Obviously this is a dangerous situation which shouldn’t be allowed to continue and either one or both of the people involved should seek professional help.
Is there anything wrong in using sex aids?
For many people, sex aids are synonymous with the weird and wonderful array of clothing and gadgets displayed in the windows of sex shops. They tend to be dismissed as objects needed to satisfy the flagging sex lives of lonely people and sexual misfits. Yet we all have our own individual ‘turn ons’ – things which stimulate our sexual desires and enhance our lovemaking – even if they are simple things like the satin sheets or silky underwear that are readily available in department stores.
It is surprising how often couples are not aware of the particular preferences of their partners. Discovering what these are can add enormous pleasure to lovemaking. Some couples find that pictures or prose, ranging from romantic poetry to the harder porn material available in sex shops, can act as a strong sexual stimulus; so can perfume, music, flowers and food. Some people are very susceptible to particular types of clothing, from saucy underwear and nighties to more exotic leather and rubber wear.
More direct sex aids such as vibrators and various attachments for the penis (which are designed to increase physical contact) can be usea to intensify pleasure during sexual intercourse. Many women who have trouble reaching orgasm have found that they can first achieve one using a vibrator and are then able to achieve it during normal sexual intercourse – although if s arguable that this could often be achieved just as well by learning to masturbate.
Sex aids can become a bore if they are used as ‘mechanical’ turn ons, but certainly there is nothing wrong in using them if they increase arousal and add novelty to lovemaking.