Wanting “X” from Sex, but Doing “Y”

Most people say they want pleasure and closeness from sex. But they don’t act like it.

Instead, they’re preoccupied with how they look, what their partner is thinking, how they’re performing, and what is “normal”

That’s what Dr. Marty Klein, a Certified Sex Therapist and sociologist, says in his book, “Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want From Sex and How to Get It.”

Perhaps because of fashion magazines, or porn, or because we see “good sex” as the sex of our 20s, we conclude that great sex is looking like 20-year-old “perfectly” built porn stars, and doing what 20-year-old “perfectly” built porn stars do.

And that leaves most women feeling insecure about their bodies (since most women are insecure about their bodies): “Am I too fat? Are my breasts too small, too lopsided, too droopy? Do I have cellulite?” instead of having close, pleasurable sex.

Which naturally leads to: “Is my partner thinking I’m too big, too small…? Is he thinking about someone else?” Again, worries — not good sex.

Most men don’t yet expect to look like Ryan Reynolds. But they may worry about penis size. And they may notice that neither they nor their partners look like porn stars. Or, they may worry about performance or wish their bodies would do what they did years ago. And wish their ladies would act like porn stars. Or they may imagine porn stars instead of really being with their ladies. Distractions. Not good sex.

Too often, new positions or techniques are prescribed to perk things up. But Klein says the key is mind, not matter. Who can have great sex with all the distractions? You’ve got to clear out the baggage first.

A bit of advice:

First, embrace your body as it is – how it looks, what it can do. That frees you up to be present. As Klein points out, “You’d be foolish to craft a definition of sexy or manly or womanly that excludes you” (or your partner). He adds:

It is possible to detach how you look from how you feel and see that sexiness is not a product of what your body looks like from the outside, that sexiness is a product of how you feel on the inside… From there it’s a question of a person tuning into what do I have to offer somebody else sexually, and what do I have to offer myself sexually?

And let go of worries about what’s ‘normal,’ he says, because that takes us out of authenticity. Move “from ‘sex has to validate me’ to ‘I validate my sexuality.’”

The focus, according to Klein, should be on creating lasting physical and emotional connection with your partner. Don’t overburden genitalia with too much responsibility for making sex enjoyable. Media portray orgasm as the most important thing, he says, “But focusing on those few seconds misses most of what sex offers.” Instead, feeling good with your partner is the big payoff.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on March 12, 2012, in body image, psychology, sex, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. This posting really hit the nail on the head. I totally agree that media portrayals of sexuality often create hurdles for couples. Since most of what people do is learned, it is easy to rely on these outlets to dictate what is normal and what we should be doing. This topic also lead me to question why popular magazines, porn and media haven’t or can’t sell Klein’s concept of “What to Get From Sex.” How different would these outlets look if we were taught to embrace ourselves and create intimacy with our partners? Would magazines still fly off the shelves if articles that were titled, “how to please your man” or “how to look hot in bed” were no longer available?

  2. I agree with this article completely, how can we enjoy ourselves and our parterners durning sex when we feel the pressure of these “High-Standards” we are placed under. I believe sex should be a pleasurable experience, a bonding between two lovers. I don’t feel that we should feel the need to perform a certain way, and in saying that, we should be totally comfortable with our partners before even having sex with on another. “Good Sex” in the magazine might not be “Good Sex” to everyone else and what may be “sexy” to one person might not be “sexy” to another. Everyone is entitled to there own opinion on sex.

  3. Liliya Baranova

    I completely relate to this post because since porn came out all people care about is “am I good looking enough? Will she/ he like my body or the new tricks I learned from porn?” instead we should worry about who we are and what our partner thinks of our personality; which is the most important thing in a relationship. Of course if it is just a one night stand then people should care about the looks.

  4. I think that because magazines like Cosmo tell women how they should look and what they should be doing, that women who don’t look like that and women who don’t like that type of sex or who aren’t willing to do those things that these magazines tell us that they end up feeling insecure and unsure about who they are. I’ve noticed that whenever a woman finds out that there are other women like her somewhere out there in the world, then she feels more comfortable about herself, myself included. I like to know that other women look like me and other women act like me. It makes me feel better, and all in all, normal. The same thing goes for sex. Most women do not look like supermodels, they don’t all have gleaming blonde hair, and they don’t always have tiny waists and big breasts. But you don’t normally see women like these in fashion magazines, or on tv, or even on billboards. So it’s no wonder that women feel insecure when they are having sex, whether it is with a long time partner or a one night stand. Every woman wants to feel as if they are perfect on the inside and out. Unfortunately we are not always told that we are. The same goes for men. I feel like most men have accepted the fact that they are not going to look like the men in the magazines, but they do always concern themselves with penis size. And when forced with the knowledge that they may be smaller (or sometimes even bigger) than most other men, they feel like outcasts and as if women won’t want to have sex with them, or if they are currently having sex, they may wonder if the woman is enjoying it, or if she is simply faking it. Societal pressures have a great effect on us, even within our own private bedrooms.

  5. I agree with the article in that we do put too much emphasis on what we think we should do during sex or leading up to it, rather than what feels natural to us. And sadly this distraction can even lead to men not being able to “perform”. Sex isn’t about loving just someones body but the entire package, and if you need to replace parts of them with other people to enjoy the sex, you aren’t with the right person. Attraction isn’t purely physical and should be treated as such, sex doesn’t need to break a bed or pull a muscle. Its about expressing your attraction towards someone as a whole and not just their presentation.

    • Thanks for your comments.

      re: if you need to replace parts of them with other people to enjoy the sex, you aren’t with the right person

      I’ll add that few women do match the unnatural ideal that is inserted into most men’s minds. Leaving a lot of lonely women and men if body parts must look a particualr way. (I’m guessing that’s not really what you meant.) And there is another way. Men actually can learn to see what’s beautiful about the women that they’re with.

      Most men say they find most women at least somewhat sexually attractive, despite the ideals, anyway. It’s just about appreciating real, natural beauty. Men are hard-wired to be able to do that. But false cultural constructions can be a distraction.

  6. Megan Aldridge

    This blog post is very relevant to how our society views sex. I hear all the time, whether from the media or from friends, that “they want pleasure and closeness from sex.” But just as the article states people are preoccupied with how they look, or whether what they are doing is normal, or if their partner is enjoying themselves. All of these extra distractions do take away from what sex should truly be, just as this post emphasizes. Honestly, I think that this affects women much more than it affects men. It seems as though it is the woman’s responsibility to “turn the man on.” For instance, if there is a lack of attraction between the two, it is certainly the woman’s fault. This is just something I have come to notice in our society. This is in some ways similar to how some Muslim societies perceive sexual assault. If a woman is raped, it is obviously her fault for being too sexy.

  7. After reading this article, I could see the reason behind it that explains about how the media portrayals of sexuality that creates many problems for couples. Might it be that people learn these types of skills from friends or even adult films? People all have their own sense of idea of how to perform certain actions. The idea that everyone always questions their body is always a problem that I believe many people would ask themselves. The media image of an ideal person with a perfect body or a girl with the sexiest body is what makes us think in such a way. In the end, we have different thoughts about building a connection with our partners, might it be sex or any other forms. Media will always give us a picture that makes us feel less special about ourselves in the end.

  8. I completely agree with Dr. Klein when he says to get what you want in the bedroom, you have to disregard what is considered normal and be okay with your mind and body. Once you’re past the distractions of appearance and questioning what your lover is thinking, the sex will get much better. I recently experienced this in my relationship after four years of being together. I gained about 20 pounds, going from the weight of 120 to 140 lbs. While never being afraid or self-conscious about my body before, after this weight gain, I became terribly nervous every time we were intimate because I questioned if he was still attracted to me. I ended up talking with him about it and was reassured that no matter what, I will always be the love of his life. Once I was back in tune with my body, the sex was much more pleasurable and I had my confidence back.

  9. Marcus Coleman

    This article is so true, I don’t even know how you can enjoy sex if you are constantly worried about how you look or what he or she thinks of your body. Nobody is perfect and we all have flaws so if the person you are about to have sex with doesn’t accept that then that is not the right person for you. Especially people who are in relationships, one of my friends dumped his girlfriend because “she gained weight and let go of herself.” Sex is a great thing so don’t ruin the experience.

  10. I agree with this posting. I think when it comes to intimate relations these days, more than not; we are worried about what our partners are thinking about us. Thinking about what the other is thinking bars us from actually getting that closeness. Like Jessica mentioned, once we do pass the distraction, we can learn about the other person. Communicating how you are feeling to your partner will get all the doubts about how you feel about yourself hopefully to rest. It is unreasonable to hope that your partner looks like porn star, but just because they don’t it doesn’t mean that they can’t give you that pleasure you seek. I think the closeness you get from your partner will satisfy more of your need than dating a porn star.

  11. Avinash Ananth

    It is indeed hard to look past the imperfections one posses, and when it comes to sex and the body this combination is subject to that much more scrutiny. The mind is the human’s largest and most effective sex organ, but it is the mind that also sows the seeds that disrupts the pleasures that we rightfully expect.
    I feel sex should be treated as a strictly personal affair – unlike porn. The scrutiny is just between the persons engaging in the intimate activity, not like porn where the act is a performance that is meant for entertainment (if that can be said). While one can certainly work towards a more impressive physique, the expectations should be reasonable and logical. Satisfaction of physical appearance is just the requisite in order to achieve the satisfaction of mind, body and soul through sex, which are immensely greater pleasures

  12. To think that sex has developed a series of events and opinions towards people is very pressuring among people. Sex has its own construction upon people, meaning that the way we feel about it isn’t as enjoyable nor exciting due to what we see in the media and how its portrayed through music, porn, and entertainment. In my opinion I think that sex makes men and women insecure, and with that makes it more complicating for people to have a sex life. I also believe that there is a huge difference between having sex and making love, but making love or having sex is not as rewarding towards people because of the insecurities that they get from what people see on t.v or how the media explains on how sex should be or look like. Most people can’t enjoy sex due to the lack of acceptance towards one another, also not having any acceptance for themselves. People might have the idea that changing the way they look may be a way of expressing self love? Men and women have the choice to change or act and even look a certain way, but lets not forget about inner beauty! I know that a certain amount of people around you think that inner beauty is bullshit, however getting to really know someone and being patient towards one another can have an impact on someones sex life. Having a sex life may be important to others some not, but how you express your sex life towards the people that you have sex with is a choice that your accountable for, and what I mean is that you shouldn’t have to feel insecure about yourself when having sex, and also shouldn’t have to change yourself for the person that you love nor be insecure to have sex with that person. Remember that you were born this way, just like what the queen of self love says:) (Lady Gaga).

  13. I totally agree with this article. Nowadays more and more people start worrying about too many things whey they have sex. Men are worrying about how they doing during sex, and women’s reaction is the most important signals to men. Women, on the other hand, are worrying about how they look, and whether their bodies are beautiful enough for men. As the article and Dr. Marty Klein claim that these distractions will prevent people having good sex. Their feelings are too distractive to focus on their real feeling during sex. Like Klein expresses that we should get rid of these baggage and create the emotional connection with the partner because what we get from sex is not the good acting in the porn; what we really want from sex is our real feeling with the partner, the one you really love.

  14. I was actually surprise about this article. I thought people just went and enjoyed sex. I didn’t think that they were preoccupied about other unneeded thoughts and just focused on satisfying their partner (and themselves). This article opened up my eyes and told me it isn’t as simple. People are always self-aware of their image and hope it’s living up to their partner’s expectation. They’re too preoccupied on figuring out if what they’re doing is right or if their partner is into the same actions as them.

    It seems that media once again has put standards into something as simple as sex.

  15. If my boyfriend asks me to act like his favorite porn star during sex, I would get confused and feel uncomfortable about sex with him, because that sounds like he wants to have sex not with me but with that porn star! Regardless of gender, people care about their bodies and seem to be never satisfied with “what they have.” But even though they have a perfect body, it does not mean that they can have a good sex with their partner. Let’s say, most men care about their penis size and think that big is better than small in order to give women sexual pleasure, but sex is not just about how big his penis is. It is important for a couple to talk about what they think about their bodies with each other because that will help them to share their thoughts about their bodies and know what they want to do during sex.

  16. I definitely agree with this article. The media, whether it be porn, TV, or magazines, makes it seem like good sex has one face. That is the problem, great sex should actually never have one face, ever! Whether you are staying with the same person or having sex with multiple partners, the event of “great sex” should look and feel slightly different every single time because there will undoubtedly be differences in the situation every single time. And if you are being natural with your partner, and thus, giving the best performance possible, then things are always going to be “spiced up” in one way or another, because naturally you will not always do the same exact thing. Sometimes the males penis will be rock hard, other times not so much, but the feeling of togetherness and bliss brought on by feeling naturally one with your partner is what should bring joy, not trying to emulate what you saw on the computer. The problem with this society in general is too many people get used to the “regurgitation” thought process brought on by contemporary schooling. People cannot copy what someone else does and expect the same result, because what is natural for each individual is different! In fact, what is natural for one individual is going to be different in different situations in itself, so why even try copying someone elses performance??! People need to realize that doing what comes naturally is best. Period. And their lives will see an improvement in all areas.

  17. I found this article to speak to a lot of truths in sexual experiences in our society today. So often are we concerned about our body image that we forget to enjoy the simple pleasure of being with someone you care about, someone you are willing to share yourself with. Sex has become a routine, something that is required rather then enjoyed, and has become so focused on the physical aspect that we have forgotten the emotional side. Sex is most beneficial when it allows both partners to express themselves and grow closer together as a result, not when they are so busy trying to impress one another that they forget the purpose of the act. Bottom line, we need to remember that sex is as emotional as it is physical, and sex without an emotional connection is simply lacking in both pleasure and fufillment.

  18. It’s funny to read this now because just last week I was having a conversation with my best friend about this topic. She described that when she has sex with her boyfriend she is posing her body in angles that look appealing. I don’t understand the fun in that. Sex I feel has become less spiritually connected and we are trained to worry about physical features. Isn’t sex suppose to be an act where you are free with your partner? If being worried about how your stomach looks at the moment then perhaps you shouldn’t be having sex with her/him. I have yet to “lose my virginity” but when I do I wouldn’t want my main focus to be about my body but the excitement of sharing that moment with a guy worth seeing my love handles! Sex should be fun and stress free!

  19. This article really opended my eyes about a lot of things. There are a lot of girls that I know at the moment that really try to make themselves appealing to their boyfriends or someone that their going to have sex with. I don’t see the importance in that because you dont have to make yourself look “sexy” for someone that is just wanting one thing from you. I feel like as women we need to respect ourselves and our bodies and not let these men just use us and then get rid of us the next day. People mistake sex for love and a think that when having sex with someone they automatically are in love. Not everybody could just go around sleeping with other people. Sex is a very specail thing conncected with two people.It should honestly be fun and stress free when its in a serious realtionship.

  20. Being in my early 20’s and being used to what the media portrays nowadays, I find this article to be very refreshing and reliable. It actually comes to she’d light on what might actually be important in a relationship, especially one that deals with sex. I have always been the type of person who exercises and has a relatively nice body. But even in times of sex, I find certain “distractions” that make my mind wander and see if there are things that need improvement on my part. However, this articles helps remind me that in order to satisfy my needs I must start with my mind and look at things differently.

  21. I think that this article makes a lot of really good points and that this has been my experience. The best sex started with the partner that not only cared, but also communicated well and was completely accepting of my body. One important aspect pointed out in this article is that self-esteem and confidence has to come from within, not be fulfilled by a partner. That way, if the partner does not provide a safe, accepting, pleasurable experience, the person knows that it is the partner’s issue and not a personal flaw. When I was younger I did fall pray to the experience of worrying more about what I was doing or how I looked than how I felt and what my partner was experiencing. Luckily, although I can totally relate to this article, I have been able to experience the more intimate connection and present mindset that is far more rare in western culture than I feel it should be.

  22. I definitely agree with the contents of this article; and think it has applications beyond the bedroom. I’m going to focus more on how we view our body and positioning for the moment. Media such as pornography gives us a ‘correct’ way to portray ourselves in even the most intimate situations; situations which should be only about one’s self and his or her partner. The emphasis instead, however, is how enjoyable the act would appear to a third party. While you do mention a couple times the silliness of comparing your body to that of a young adult, it’s important for even young adults in their prime not to judge themselves against the bodies of actors and models that appear in the media. These images we compare ourselves to are idolized for being slightly more symmetrical than most people; and even the most attractive among us are not good enough: It’s common knowledge that both men and women always have make up applied. multi-thousand dollar lighting apparatuses focused on them, and Photoshop touchups and editing for photographs. It’s odd how most college students can acknowledge that actors (pornographic or otherwise) are not accurate representations of even their own bodies, much less the population as a whole, but still rate themselves and compare themselves to these unrealistic images.

    • Thanks. I know that young people have a lot of body issues,too, having experienced them myself, but research says I was not alone. In fact, I’ve written about it in several other posts.

  23. I totally agree with this article. As mentioned, I think “sexiness is a product of how you feel on the inside.” The media is giving people too much pressure on how sex “should” be when it has to be something created naturally and unconsciously by couples on their own. I am simply so surprised that the media is controlling our mentality even with our way of having sex. Looking back at my own experience I once had a partner who wanted to turn the lights off every single time we did it. I was not able to understand what her intention was on this at that time, but now I can believe that she was trying to produce some kind of a pleasure not from her what she sees but by what she feels.

  24. I found this article interesting. I know that if I have alot running through my head im not able to get an orgasm. Its true many women do feel insecure about their bodies and most men about their penis size. However if we put that negativity away sexually we could all be happier and less stressed including more secure. When I was younger I was more insecure about my body but the more I educate my self and honest I am with my partners the better the sex. We should embrace our bodies and think of how unique they are. More women need to take control and feel secure about their image! :)

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