Written by Sexual Wellness Institute Therapist, Eric Anfinson
As a sex therapist I work with all kinds of sexual concerns. However, the one thing that I see cause more problems than anything else, is the idea that sex is a performance. I see performance anxiety listed as a reason for referral constantly, and it can mean many different symptoms are present. Sometimes it's listed as a cause for erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. Sometimes it's getting in the way of one or both partners reaching orgasm. Performance anxiety can turn into fear, hurt, and shame, and sexual avoidance. So what do we do? The first step in understanding how to move out of this mindset is understanding where it comes from.
The sexual education in our country is often beyond inadequate. I've heard horror stories about the things young men and women are taught about sex. So without a formal education we turn to word of mouth, movies/tv, and porn. Not surprisingly, actors giving performances aren't exactly helping us learn that sex isn't a performance. In fact they're teaching us the exact opposite of what we want to be doing. I've seen this lead to situations where both partners are acting out and performing what they think their partner wants, while one or both of them are actually miserable.
Another place I see this mentality come from quite often is men wanting to prove themselves. For centuries the dominant male culture has viewed the female orgasm as a myth, or completely disregarded women's pleasure when it comes to intimacy. The idea of women enjoying sex and even being able to have stronger orgasms than men is relatively new in this country. I see many young men so eager to prove that they can please their partner that they forget sex is supposed to be pleasurable for them too.
For women, our culture has taught women it is their job to please their man in bed. They aren’t taught to look for ways to increase their own pleasure. So now everyone is performing and no one is enjoying. This has consequences.
Performing is Work
So what are the consequences of the sex is a performance mentality? For both women and men the first cost is the loss of your own pleasure. Sex is supposed to be enjoyable! When your whole focus is on performing you lose access to your own enjoyment. This can lead to women losing lubrication and men losing their erections, or ejaculating prematurely. This happens because we are what we call “spectatoring”. Spectatoring is when you are watching yourself from a third party perspective having sex along with feeling self-conscious and self-critical. When you are focused on performance or “spectatoring” your thought process might sound something like:
Transforming Performance into Pleasure
With everyone stuck at home together due to the COVID 19 quarantine, there's never been a better time to focus on enriching your sex life, but how do we do it? This may sound counter-intuitive but the secret to great sex is to learn to focus on your own pleasure. When I suggest to a client in therapy to focus on their pleasure I often get a dubious response. It’s hard to imagine that focusing on your body and your sensations will decrease any performance issues you may be having. This isn't saying be selfish, it's saying focus on your own experiences and feelings. For all of us to stay turned on and ready for pleasure and connection we need to be focusing on ourselves.
Sounds great. But, HOW do I do this?
To focus on your own pleasure, consider the following questions.
Not Always Easy, But Definitely Worth It
This concept is certainly simple but implementing it can be tricky. We are often working against decades of conditioning and learning bad skills. This is where a therapist can be very helpful. What's holding you back?
Sex Therapy in Minnesota Can Help You Now
At Sexual Wellness Institute, we specialize in sex therapy and are happy and comfortable helping you work through these vulnerable and difficult spaces. We have specific techniques and skills that can help you start to change this mentality quick, and start enjoying sex to the fullest. We even offer free 30 minute consultations to see if sex therapy is right for you. We offer HIPAA compliant Telehealth services so you can get started over video right away and transition into seeing us in person, or just see us online and avoid the commute! You can see us from anywhere in the state! Take the fear and anxiety out of your sex life, and take back your intimacy.
Ready to Start Sex Therapy in Minnesota?
Don’t wait any longer to get the couples counseling or sex therapy you deserve. Our sex therapists want to help you address sexual concerns in your relationship and connect with your partner in new ways. You can begin t0 overcome problematic sexual behaviors, heal, reconnect and thrive in your relationship through these simple steps:
Other Mental Health Services in Minnesota
In addition to sex therapy, our LGBT & polyamory friendly sex therapists provide a wide range of mental health services at our Plymouth, MN counseling office. Other services include couples therapy & marriage counseling, EFT, evidence-based couples therapy, EMDR & sexual trauma therapy, as well as, teen therapy. In order to help serve the mental health needs of all those living in Minnesota, we also offer online counseling & sex therapy . We also provide relationship tips on our mental health blog. Please feel free to reach out if you have questions or if you would like to schedule an appointment to begin working with a skilled sex therapist! Your sex life can be amazing. Sex therapy can be a part of that process for you.