What motivates you to want to be sexual? Think back over your last few sexual experiences; what did you want to express when you thought that you wanted sex?
Working with my clients has led me to believe that many sexual difficulties arise and are reinforced by us not always understanding what we want when we think we want sex. If sex is repeatedly used to meet other needs, then problems, frustrations and resentment may build up and begin to sap you of your sexual confidence, your self-esteem and your sexual enjoyment.
There are no right or wrong reasons to have sex and the reasons that we decide to be sexual are complex and varied. It is your sexual habits and patterns that are important and how big a burden sex is made to carry in your life and relationships. I have grouped together some of the typical motivations that people give me and what I ask you to do is take a look and see if any seem familiar to you.
Your partner’s desire. Yes someone else’s desire can ignite your own desire. Absolutely, it can. I have a caveat though. If you are always waiting for a partner to initiate sex, it is very common for the other person to begin to feel resentful. They never get to feel desired and you are making someone else responsible for when you have sex. None of these are going to promote great sex and an equal sexual partnership. However, worse than the effects upon your partner are the consequences for your sexual expression. You do need to get used to feeling and responding to your own desire if you are to build up and use your sexual confidence to create a sex life that fulfils and inspires you.
Meeting other emotional needs. Probably sexual desire is always a mixture of differing, possibly conflicting, feelings and needs and no, it is never ‘wrong’ to be want sex because you feel lonely, disconnected or you want to express warmth or affection. There are endless emotional needs that can get confused with sexual needs. The need to express intimacy, affection, warmth, comfort, to feel emotionally connected, to counteract loneliness, stress, to communicate that you are angry, hostile, resentful even. Using sexual expression to mask your emotional needs can be destructive and kill off your desire. Whether you want to express affection or anger, if you have sex when you don’t really want sex, then how good is it going to be? Maybe fine for a while but the fact is that your underlying emotional needs are not being addressed and will have to bubble to the surface eventually unless you find a clearer way to express how you feel.
Trying to prove something. This can involve proving something to yourself and/or to other people. Sex as a way to prove something is a tremendously dangerous strategy, since it presupposes the possibility of ‘failure’ if you fail the test that you have set for yourself. Motivations within this category would include having sex to prove you are desirable, to demonstrate your sexual competence/prowess, to boost your reputation, to be as ‘masculine’ or ‘sexy’ as your mates, to fit in or to prove that you can have an erection/orgasm. There is a lack of honesty here in your sexual expression and a high level of desperation, both of which are likely to leave you unsatisfied even if you ‘pass’. Your underlying insecurities are probably not going to be satisfied for long and you will need to go out and ‘prove’ the same thing over and over again.
Social/peer pressure and expectations are implicated in many unhappy sexual encounters. Clients have told me that they can trace sexual problems back to getting into a pattern of having sex just because they felt they ought to. Both men and women have reported entering into a sexual relationship way before they really wanted to but because they thought that the other person expected them to and / or they lacked the confidence to give an honest and open account of how they were feeling. Couples who are together for a while can get into a habit of being sexual because they believe too long has passed since they last had sex. Sometimes this works and trying to manufacture desire can kickstart a fulfilling sexual experience. Sometimes developing a focus on sex that is dictated by assumptions of what is the appropriate frequency can spiral both of you into lacklustre and mechanical sexual experiences.
Intense physical desire/release. This is all about acting from your own desire. You take the responsibility to recognise and act upon feeling that you want to be sexual. Maybe sexual desire can never be a ‘pure’ physical desire for sexual connection/release. Can you remember times when you felt that you wanted sex for the sake of sex? That seems to be the closest way I could describe this last reason. This covers times when who you had sex with was not as important as getting the opportunity to be sexual and times when the identity of your partner is important and you feel a need to connect with them physically without necessarily making it all about intimacy and affection.
What patterns of motivational confusion did you relate to? I am not suggesting that sex can and should always be about sex for the sake of sex or that you should never have sex to express comfort and warmth to another person. However if you cannot recognise intense desire as a reason that you ever have sex, then it could be time to reconnect to your sexuality and get to explore the part of you that can – and is quite capable, however out of practice – celebrate and enjoy your sexuality.
If sex has to carry the weight of unmet emotional needs, your anxieties and insecurities as well as social/cultural expectations, then you are likely to find that your sex life has ceased to be fun, playful and enjoyable and has become an ordeal and a burden that you no longer wish to carry.