As I said yesterday, sexual things make deep associations, and these associations can limit our sex lives a great deal. The tricky part here is that two different people will react very differently to the same situation. Additionally, since we are rather private about our sexuality, we have less comparative data about sex than we do with most other areas of life. This means we are even less likely to see the associations in sexuality than in other areas. Beyond this, some of the problematic sexual associations we make are not tied to what seem to be negative things – something we found enjoyable when it occurred might have created associations that now trouble us – or our spouse. A variety of examples:
- A teenage girl feels she must be at least somewhat sexual to be popular, and/or to get dates. She avoids intercourse, instead performing some other act on her boyfriend(s). This can produce a mixture guilt, shame, fear, aversion and feeling used. After this woman marries, she may feel those same things when she engages in the same sex act with her husband. She may be able to do anything else, but loses all desire and pleasure when that one act occurs – or even if he asks for it. Apparently, this is starting to happen with guys too – society so “expects” teens to have sex that guys are also feeling pressured.
- An unmarried woman may engage in a sex act she does not enjoy or finds offensive. This can be as above to avoid “going all the way” or it can be that she knows she should not be having sex and feels that she can’t say no to anything a boyfriend wants because she is in sin anyway. If she does “that act” with the man she eventually marries, she will want to stop doing it after marriage, which will cause problems. Alternatively, she does not have sex with the guy she marries, or does not engage in “that act”, but later when he finds out she has done it with others he is upset she won’t do it with him.
- Premarital sex can cause a mixture of guilt and pleasure for a woman. When she marries, the guilt is gone, but because she has associated sexual pleasure with guilt, she may find it difficult or impossible to want or enjoy sex. This one can lead to doing things to bring the guilt back – view porn, have sex in a semi-public place, seek out a threesome, and so on. Men also do this, although often with a bit different flavour.
- Similar to the above, some folks form an association between sexual pleasure and thrills or danger. This might arise from a history of having sex or masturbating when there is a chance of being caught. If a person needs thrills or danger to enjoy sex, problems will arise.
- An individual who moves from partner to partner, rarely having sex with the same person twice in a row (hooking up for example) may form an association between sex and new partners. Rather than experiencing increasing pleasure as they grow to know another person sexually, they rely on always having something new. This does not set a person up to enjoy sex in marriage. One way some try to get the need for “new” without adultery is constantly trying new things with their spouse. However, if you need new every time, you will eventually run out of things to do, and long before that, you will probably run out of things your spouse is willing to try.
- Some individuals will subconsciously prevent themselves from feeling sexual desire, or from climaxing as a punishment for past wrongs. More common in women, but not unheard of in men (retarded or delayed ejaculation).
- A man or woman who stops short of intercourse before marriage may associate some other act with sexual pleasure to the point that they don’t desire or can’t enjoy intercourse.
- Women may “learn” from premarital sex that sex is just for the guy, or is used to appease a guy or make him happy. Such a woman is unlikely to desire or enjoy sex.
- If a woman was molested or raped, the act(s) that occurred then can become deeply tied to fear and other negative feelings and reactions. For example, a woman we know was forced to perform oral sex. A few months after she and her husband married, she was lying on the bed when he came out of from the shower. He was talking to her as he dried off, and in the process his genitals ended up at her eye level a couple of feet away. She felt a wave of fear and panic.
The reality is we make strong sexual associations easily. Many (most?) of our sexual preferences could probably be to something that occurred long before we married (and this is true even for those who did not have sex before marriage). In and of its self, this is not bad or a problem. For many the associations and resulting preferences are not a problem. For others they are only a problem because the couple has conflicting preferences (if, for example, one only enjoys sex in the dark while the other only wants it with the light on). For some these preferences are in and of themselves a problem.
Sexual preferences can be modified, but it’s slow going. It’s often easier to expand one’s preferences – try something new to both of you rather than trying to get one to “like” what the other wants. Much as you would learn to enjoy new foods, this is a process of trial and error. In addition, just like with new foods, some things are an acquired taste – don’t reject something based on a single try. If trying new things is difficult for one of you, don’t do it all the time. Set up certain days, once or twice a month maybe, when you will try a few new things.
If you and your bride can communicate about sex, or can learn to, that will help. Discuss your sexual pasts – not just what you did with who, but your feelings and thoughts about sex as you grew up. The more you talk and share, the better you know each other, and the better you can avoid the difficult areas and touch on the good areas.
Finally, think about it. What do you want, and why? Are your desires and preferences fair to your bride? Are you loving and giving in the marriage bed, or are you selfish and childish?