What is your relationship with sex? When you read or hear about people who are sexually active, what do you feel or think about it? Embarrassed? Surprised? Shy? Annoyed? How would you classify yourself sexually? Conservative, liberal, adventurous or something else? Do you believe in monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, polyamory, ethical non-monogamy or some other way of expressing yourself sexually?
How about your beliefs about your sexual orientation? How do you feel about heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or any of the orientations on the rainbow spectrum?
Three paragraphs into this article, how are you feeling seeing all these ways of identifying as people and as sexual beings? Whatever it is, I invite you to hold on to it for the duration of this article because those feelings live inside you and likely hold the key to some of what is manifesting in your sex life – for better and for worse.
Why questions matter
Why do the answers to these questions matter? They matter because we know that one of the key contributors to a lot of sexual dysfunction and dissatisfaction is a person’s belief about sex. These beliefs are ingrained even before one is sexually active from the spoken and unspoken messages with family, friends and even religious teachings and institutions.
If you were taught that it was wrong to have sex before you were married, it would make sense that some of those beliefs will create problems in your sex life if you’re experiencing it before marriage. If you grew up hearing that sex was scary, painful, sinful, dirty or even dangerous, it would stand to reason that you may grow up and experience fear, shame and/or guilt. If you were raised or socialised to believe that sex could only be between one man or one woman, you may find yourself analysing, assessing, weighing and judging those who have chosen to couple differently from what you think is ‘normal’.
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Find your answers
While it is your right to hold firm to your beliefs, it is also your responsibility to hold enough awareness about your past or current beliefs so that you can either continue to use them to fuel your sex life or choose to protect your sex life from that which threatens it. If worrying about what other people are doing is distracting you from what goes on in your own bedroom, then wouldn’t it make sense to stop worrying about others and redirect that wasted energy towards your own sexual satisfaction?
If you think marriage is the key to a happy, healthy sex life, wouldn’t it make sense to explore and investigate this option? If you know you are not sexually attracted to a person of the opposite sex, wouldn’t make sense to cancel that fake marriage and do the necessary work to understand what is going on with you and why? This last statement is directed – without judgment but with firm but kind understanding – to those people who feel/have felt so trapped in one way of living and loving that they have chosen to trap unsuspecting others by choosing the conventional life with someone who actually wants a conventional life.
It is not right or fair to pretend to desire one thing knowing full well that your desires lay elsewhere. That being said, there are real safety concerns for those of you who are considered different.
Understand your world
My suggestion is that you find safety in communities of like-minded people and/or find a queer-friendly therapist so you can explore your internal world and its impact on your sexuality in the same emotional and physical safety that everyone else has access to. This also applies to those who may fall in the ‘normal’ i.e. societally acceptable sexual expressions and yet may still have lingering concerns or questions.
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In a long nutshell, your internal relationship with sex itself will impact your external sexual life. It will positively or negatively impact your thoughts, fears, fantasies, desires, hopes and dreams. This makes understanding your inner world critical to your sexual satisfaction, especially if you are experiencing challenges.
Furthermore, too many people with sexual challenges assume that the problem is external so they find a professional to dispense medication that can quickly ‘fix’ the problem. (Un)fortunately, your internal conditioning cannot be ‘cured’ with medication because it is unlikely that it will be biological. The long but right road home is to follow your private thoughts and beliefs in a non-judgmental way so you can find the understanding that you seek.
In short, do what Kenyans call ‘calling yourself for a small meeting’ and ask yourself this question: how, when and where did I learn what I know/believe? For example, if you’re sexually frustrated because you thought that marriage meant that sex would be available every day but it is only available once per week, ask yourself where you learned that marriage equaled non-stop sex.
Other important questions include, “what kind of sex life do I want?”, “what is getting in the way of the kind of sex I want to be having?” and even “what beliefs about sex are holding me back from enjoying sex?” which brings us right back to the beginning: what is your relationship with sex? More importantly, what do you want it to be, moving forward?
I wish you gentleness and clarity as you ponder these questions. Remember: there is little to be gained by judging yourself harshly. Be kind and allow your inner world to respond to your curiosity. I wish you a happier, healthier, clearer, more vulnerable, more joyful sex life.