In our culture, there are two big things that happen with sex: repression and exploitation.
The media uses sex to sell just about everything, from weight loss pills to burgers to perfume. Movies make billions of dollars off their steamy romantic shots while Disney is forever selling their romantic-yet-unrealistic love stories.
On the other hand, women are considered sluts for their enjoyment of sex, shamed in the hallways at school or shunned out of friend groups. Men are praised, admired or ranked higher among their peers for their tallies.
Over time, men feel insignificant if they don’t match up to their peers while women are feeling guilty for their mere exploration. (I’ve seen firsthand the struggles for both genders in different ways; this sexual dysfunction is universal)
Conversations around this topic are hush-hush. I can’t tell you how women I’ve heard say are disgusted by the word “vagina” yet it’s a breeze to mention anything about the male anatomy (I’m guilty of this as well).
Additionally, we cannot forget the aftermath of being raised in an atmosphere or household where these conversations are never brought up or even shamed when they were.
Ever heard stories of females way back in the day who were no longer considered pure after they had slept with someone? (Downton Abbey, anyone?) Or the all-too-common phrase “lost her virginity”?
Were you raised in a household that taught you to live your life in black and white, do everything that is right (and never anything wrong), and to save yourself until marriage? To earn your parents’ love? To be the best daughter?
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with saving yourself until marriage. If that’s what you want to do and you want to do that out of love (not fear) then please do! Those are awesome values, my sister.
But I know for a fact, there are many exceptional women out there that were raised to save themselves and rushed into a marriage too quickly so they could finally give themselves permission to enjoy sex. Or they didn’t wait until marriage and sex was basically and internal nightmare because of how unworthy, disobedient and sinful they were behaving.
When I lived with my last partner, I received a few emails from women telling me not to talk about the fact that I lived with my partner because I was being a terrible example to people.
Wait, what what? I was being a terrible example because I was learning to co-habitat, love and share my time with another human being?
This guilt and shame that was being projected onto me (because this of course was actually about them and their fear- not me) affected me momentarily but breezed away into the land of no f*cks because I simply wasn’t going to waste my time being upset that other people didn’t like me.
I’m done with that.
But here’s the deal: it took me awhile to get here. A long, long while.
I thought sex was shameful for the first 3-5 years of entering this world. I thought sex was for the man’s pleasure. I thought my body wasn’t hot enough. I thought I was going to be punished for my actions in the afterlife. I was obsessing and overthinking throughout the entire process. I was throwing myself into my masculine tendency to create structure, order and rigidity around the whole process. I didn’t want to take up too much time. I felt guilty about receiving. I wanted it to be over with.
I. Felt. Shame.
So much shame.
Instead of feeling through the process, I was trying to think through it. I was hoping I would be able to “succeed” in sex (whatever that means) to make my partner happy, not to make me happy. But even then, I would reflect on the experience until exhaustion, wondering what I should have done differently, if I should even be having sex, or if I was terrible.
So much obsessing, all for nothing.
Living your life in black and white will lead to a black and white sexual experience. Right and wrong, good and bad. And trust me, because of my own lack of enjoyment in sex it typically was pretty underwhelming (think: “Really, this is what it’s all about?!”).
When I started to welcome in more flow in my life, I realized that I needed to start with sex. Sex was created by God, and though some people believe it’s only meant to be within the sanctity of marriage, that isn’t how it worked for me. So I decided that if I was going to do it outside of marriage, I would need to have radical responsibility about it. I would need to be in charge of my actions and do it unapologetically. I would need to learn how to radically accept the fact that I was taking part in this experience of life, and fully take control of the situation by letting go of control.
By letting go of the shame. Letting go of the fear. Letting go of the expectations.
And to learn how to enjoy…pleasure.
Yes, how to fully embrace, accept and even invite in pleasure.
By stepping more into my body and stepping out of my head, I welcomed in a new side of femininity.
The Masculine is strength. It’s the pushing out, the drive, logic, dedication, structure, order and it’s the goal-oriented side of life.
The Feminine is the softness. It’s the pulling in, the magnetism, nourishment, nature, creativity, flow, grace, listening, and the curves of life.
When you’re a perfectionist living life through the lens of masculine energy, you run the risk of cutting off your feminine supply.
If you’re trying to structure your way through sex, you will cut off freedom.
If you spend your time overthinking and shaming yourself, your anxiety will build, leading to you to look for ways to cope with your overwhelming amount of stress (aka disordered eating, sex addictions, alcoholism).
Most of the time, the reason we create these disorders in the first place is to cope with our anxieties; I believe that I have enough evidence to know that sexual shame is a huge one of these anxieties.
So what’s the answer? The answer isn’t to target the coping mechanism. If you have disordered eating, sure it will help to work on your relationship with food…but you need to go deeper. Go into the darkness. You don’t need another educational food course or online coaching certification. You need to enter the place within yourself that needs the most attention and healing. And if you’re reading this, I’m assuming at least one of the roots is going to be your sexual shame. So here are eight ways that perfectionism may be getting in the way of you enjoying sex and what you can do about it:
Raise your hand if you’re susceptible to thoughts such as:
- “What sexy thing should I say?”
- “What face am I making”
- “What is he thinking about me?”
- “Am I taking too long?”
- “Oh gawd, did he just SIGH?”
I’m assuming at least a few of those made you nod your head. And do you know why? Because you’re a perfectionist! You’re wanting to do things RIGHT. CORRECT. BEAUTIFULLY. SEXY. You have an idea in your mind of what it should look like and so you’re trying to think your way through the process.
Sex challenge: Turn off your brain. Relax. In order to get to this place of mental freedom, I want you to indulge in foreplay. What if I told you that I wanted you to build up to the experience for at least 45 minutes of just massage oils, dancing, head rubs and even a little eye-gazing? Additionally, I want you to know: he/she does not care. They are SO in the moment with you that they do not care about your butt cellulite or spazzing body. If anything, seeing you and all of you in your authenticity is going to make them want you even more.
Are you comparing your sensuality to the sensuality you see in movies? I’m totally guilty of this one. I’m guilty of watching a couple on the big screen magically explode in ecstasy together at the same time, and here I am wondering what’s wrong with me if I don’t do that?!
Did you know that 75% of women cannot experience orgasms by penetration alone? Of course, hope is not lost- this can happen and I know there are many healers and guides out there who speak on these topics. But regardless, the media acts like finishing together is the norm.
And so, for a perfectionist who is always looking for ways to be better and do better, of course when they don’t meet these expectations they set up for themselves, they fall right into the shame trap. They feel anxious and guilty for not being able to perform “perfectly”. Perfectionists look for ways to feel guilty naturally. It’s more comfortable for a perfectionist to feel guilty than it is for them to feel content.
Sex challenge: Have conversations with other women about the ridiculousness of all of this. Share your embarrassing stories or frustrations. Realize that you’re not alone and everyone is going through this together. Additionally, stop watching films or listening to music that’s triggering your perfectionism. Take a break knowing you can always go back.
3. Focusing on the climax
Sex isn’t for climaxing, it’s for connecting. It’s for communicating. It’s an expression of who you are and it’s meant to be healing. Sex is a way people can heal their past traumas. It’s a way to connect to your body and to something bigger than you.
The media has exploited sex and degraded it down to be a meaningless act between two people for one hot, passionate night. While those nights might be healing for some, there is a huge part of the puzzle piece that’s missing here.
“Your heart is directly linked to his, as if threads of feeling were connecting the two of you, so your heart soars or sinks with his heart– and so does your trust…your feminine heart is much more sensitive to the flow of energy and emotion than his masculine heart.” -David Deida
Sex is an extremely vulnerable activity that connects two different souls to each other to create something new. And while sex is beautiful experience for both parties, for a woman it’s different. You’re literally being opened and having another person inside of you. It’s so incredibly vulnerable for us, and that’s why we hurt so much when a relationship doesn’t work out the way we hoped. We opened. We shared. We trusted. And then we felt betrayed.
When a perfectionist woman cuts off the beauty of the communication and focuses solely on the climax, she’s going to stay in her head, stay closed off emotionally and focus too much on “getting there” instead of staying connected.
Sex simply isn’t fun if you always have a mission. Sometimes that’s okay. Other times, you need to remember to release expectations and stay in the moment, connected to the communication.
Sex challenge: Have a night where your mission is to not climax. Make the entire thing an experience. Focus on the present moment. Tell yourself that there isn’t an end goal in sight, it’s all about the connection and the feeling.
4. Inability to receive
Ever find yourself feeling guilty for receiving? Do you allow your mental game to get the best of you as obsess over your hygiene? Wonder if he’s going to peace out the minute he sees your inverted nipples or inner thigh mole?
Like I wrote earlier, perfectionists are more comfortable obsessing over a problem than they are with just being content and happy with themselves. You look for a way to feel bad about yourself, so that you can work to get better. This is driven by a worthiness wound, feeling that you’re not deserving of pleasure until you’ve earned it.
One thing I’ve learned in my coaching practice is that in order to truly learn to give you must first learn to receive. The question then becomes, do you work on your worthiness wound first and then practice receiving? Or do you practice receiving in order to heal your worthiness wound? The latter, most definitely.
Sex challenge: Get started on receiving. You’re deserving of pleasure right now, regardless of the mistakes you’ve made in your life (or will make). You are loved and it’s time you feel it.
5. A lack of body acceptance
“Enough with the media, Maddy!” you may be thinking. But nope, not done.
When you’re watching these flicks about a romantic couple in love, I bet your bottom dollar that the starring female lead is society’s ideal standard of perfection. Petite, sexy, big-eyed and big-lipped.
Seeing this same body over and over in magazines, advertisements and movies will cause us to not accept our own body. We are raised as women to be perfect and look perfect. And many times, when we can no longer deal with our perfectionism, and anxiety gets the best of us, we turn to perfectionism with our body. It’s the one thing we can control, so why not?
Ironic thing is, a cellulite free butt won’t give you confidence in bed. I’ve tried it, and it’s doesn’t work. The only thing that will give you that confidence with your partner is to accept your body and focus on other things in life. Focus on your joy, happiness, health, relationships and all of the things that truly make life worth living for.
Sex challenge: Read body positive books, follow podcasters and blogs who are body positive and start to shift your mindset towards gratitude for the body you have right now. I have tons of body image related topics on this blog, so dive in!
6. Holding onto past stories
It’s no shocker than stories of your past might be holding your sexual nature hostage. You may be holding onto a past sexual trauma. You may be holding onto limiting beliefs passed to you from your parents.
These stories require deep healing. In some cases, sex may be a great answer to that healing. In other instances, you may need to seek a counselor, coach or therapist to guide you through this process. There is no linear, fast-track to healing, but I do want to encourage you to start somewhere. For many of us, these stories are deeeeep rooted. They go back to our parent’s parent’s parents. Or maybe, something awful happened to you when you were younger, or last year, and you need to first target your self-love before giving yourself away to anyone romantically. I’m holding space for you sister. I want to help you heal your heart so you can reclaim this part of your life when the time is right.
Sex challenge: If sex is off the table and you want to heal these stories first, I invite you to seek out help. Maybe it will be a coach, a therapist or a counselor, but act on this sooner rather than later. If you are not taking a break from sex but still want to heal these stories, I want you to journal your Old Story and New Story. For the old story, write out all of the limiting beliefs you’ve been holding onto in past tense. This could take five or ten pages. Just freewrite. For the new story, write down how you want to feel now with your new sexual beliefs and tendencies. What’s been healed? Write all of this down in present tense as if you already have it.
7. Doing it “inside of the box”
Perfectionists like to do things right. The struggle is that there really isn’t a right and wrong in sex. It’s all over the place, it’s messy and it’s intuitive. Maybe you’re into something you’ve never shared with anyone before or you want to try something new. Open up a safe space with your partner so you can explore these ideas together. Be sure to return the favor to him/her as well when they open up to you. Make sure they know you are no judging them and you want to be a safe space for them to openly share what may turn them on that y’all haven’t tried before. You never know what you may discover that you like!
Sex challenge: I invite you to break past the beliefs of “normal.” Forget all that you think sex is supposed to be and open yourself up to trying something new. You can start somewhere simple like buying pretty lingerie or maybe you want to dive deep into tantra.
This one I decided to tack on last minute after someone shot me an Instagram message that said, “Do I finally have permission to stop faking orgasms?!” when she heard about this article I was writing. YAS GIRL. I’m so glad she brought this to my attention because this absolutely needs to be covered.
A Canadian study interviewed 14 women asking them if they ever faked an orgasm and 13 said yes for reasons such as:
- Doing it to make him happy
- Doing something nice for your partner
- Wanting it to end
And there are other reasons such as wanting him to like you more, wanting him to feel proud about his abilities and not having the courage to speak up about what you need.
I’ve never been someone to fake (not once in my life have I done so) because it’s never felt authentic to me. I’d rather just not have an orgasm and be okay with it, then fake it and act like I did. Now this, my friends, is the masculine side of me. The direct side. The tell it like it is side. And I love this side of me because there are certain times in my life it really keeps me honest!
I think that every time a woman fakes an orgasm a little baby unicorn cries. Or a part of your soul does, either one. I absolutely admire and love that you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings but you don’t have to! You can phrase things nicely to let your partner know that something differently might work better, or maybe it’s just not the night.
If he doesn’t handle that well, it’s not your fault. It isn’t your job to stroke your partner’s ego in bed and make him feel good all the time because this will only continue to make you feel like sex is about him and not you. My hope for y’all is that he will handle that gracefully and think about YOU, and how to help you get “there” instead of feeling hurt and taking it personal.
Sex challenge: Make a personal vow to yourself to never fake it again (Seriously! Write it in your journal if you want!). Practice what you’d like to say if you’re not getting what may help you get “there” out loud with confidence so that it comes out more easily in the moment. Remind yourself that sex is not the place for inauthenticity or always putting yourself last. Stay true to yourself and honor your body. Faking an orgasm will take you further away from feeling authentic and deserving of an amazing sexual experience and we’re working to get you closer!
I hope this article helped you! I’ve realized recently that I myself want to dive deeper into this conversation publicly to release my own shame and fears around talking about sex, so I hope that in some way this has benefited you.
Question: which one of these points do you relate with the most? What are you going to do to challenge yourself to break through this barrier?