Do you ever feel like sex is overrated?

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When I was a teenager, one of the hottest sex scenes I’d ever seen was in the film Desperados with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. It spoke to every single fantasy I had about what sex was supposed to be – raw, sweaty, primal, wet, romantic, mind-blowing, perfect, effortless, hot, surrounded by candles, with flawless bodies, and ending in sweet laughter.

This was what real sex was supposed to be.

It’s what Cosmo was telling me. My mom’s romance novels. The other movies I’d seen. My friends.

Real sex wasn’t about conversations or awkwardness. It magically happened (specifically, if you had the “right” partner and a perfect body).

When I finally did have sex for the first time, the condom got stuck inside of me, and we spent 20 minutes trying to fish it out as he got soft and I wanted to die of embarrassment.

Sex, compared to the fantasy, was pretty disappointing. There was a feeling that sex is overrated.

Then, I had a few lovers who had some pretty amazing skills. Why amazing? Because I still hadn’t figured out how to ask for what I wanted, so we were both flying blind and lucky me, they happened to get it right a lot of the time.

As relationships came and went, I started noticing that sometimes sex was absolutely incredible. Other times sex was decent, enjoyable, awkward, and occasionally, down right blah or disappointing.

Where was the effortlessness? Where was the undying passion? Why was I having to try so much and why was my desire so hit or miss?

As I dug deeper, as I learned more about sex, bodies, biology, chemistry, and relationships, I had a realization.

We have been sold a lie, and we continue to buy it over and over and over again.

Which is why so many of us feel like something is missing.

We feel like we aren’t good enough. We worry that we should be doing something differently, or more frequently, or with more meaning. We hear about this incredible sex in magazines, movies, books, and from friends, but sometimes it seems like that kind of sex will never happen for us.

It’s a lie that sex needs to be mind-blowing, effortless, and soul-connecting every single time.

The truth is that sex is as complicated and messy as you are. And you are constantly changing – every single day, every single minute – your moods, your feelings, your cravings, your surroundings, and your perceptions are always changing.

Sex (or rather, your experience of it) is in constant flux, too.

You aren’t doing it wrong if you don’t have an orgasm.

Your body isn’t broken if you can’t stay hard or if you rarely get wet.

You don’t need to worry that you’re on the verge of a break-up if sex only happens every once in a while.

All of that is normal. And the more you get to know yourself, the easier it becomes to find things that work for you. But most of us operate off blind faith that sex is something we all innately know how to do well.

Too often we see sex as one huge experience that needs to be amazing from start to finish.

Think about how often you’ve thought that sex has “been ruined” by the need to pee or an erection that’s gone soft or by the baby screaming or when the dog jumped on the bed and knocked a lamp over?

How often have you treated a sexual encounter as an all-or-nothing transaction? If things get off to a bumpy or awkward start, do you usually throw in the towel or pause, pivot, and find a new way?

Most folks throw in the towel.

Because if it’s not effortless, magical, and perfect, then the mood has been ruined, right?

How much more fun would it be if instead of a single, all-or-nothing event, sex was a series of moments offering countless opportunities with ebbs, flows, ups, downs, highs, and lows?

Then, you could take a step back and say of all the moments that just happened in your sexual encounter, most of them were pretty good (you felt connected and present), a few were frustrating or disappointing, and a handful of moments were really awesome in some way – a new sensation, a giggle that felt really good to share, a few moments of intense pleasure, etc.

Keeping score isn’t the point, but the basic idea is that if you’re curious about discovering your pleasure, if you stay curious about each moment and its potential, and you know how to regroup or pivot when things take a turn you aren’t enjoying, you can still end up having an enjoyable, bonding experience where otherwise you may have given up and ended things feeling frustrated or disappointed.

Cory Silverberg recently proposed the idea of good enough sex, and it’s a brilliant concept that helps turn the idea that sex needs to be “perfect” all of the time on its head.

Good enough sex is fun, it feels good, it teaches you something, it brings you together in some way.

Life can’t be spectacular, amazing, joyous, and on high every single moment of the day. It has ups and downs. The downs teach us something, the ups allow us to enjoy what we’ve learned and to reconnect.

The more you’re open to learning from the tough stuff and letting it go, the happier and more joyous your life becomes, right?

Sex is the same way.

Sex is an experience. It’s a journey.

Let’s take the pressure off the need for sex to be amazing all of the time, and instead embrace each moment the best you can and see what happens.

But what can you do if sex keeps falling short of what you’d hoped it would be?

First, let go of your expectations of what sex is supposed to be and start learning what sex is – to you. In your body.

Get curious. Let things be great and also let things be failures.

Venture into the unknown. If you don’t know your body, and continue getting to know your body as it changes, then it’s going to be difficult to articulate and understand what feels good. Start there.

Second, find your voice. Ask for what you want. If you ask and you don’t like what you get, change your mind. Ask for something else.

Stay present. Give completely to your partner and receive completely when you’re being touched. Be patient with yourself and with your partner.

Pretend like you’re adventurers each and every time. Try new things – whether it’s a new stroke of your labia, a new toy, or hanging from the chandelier.

Third, give yourself permission to feel pleasure. Give yourself permission to deserve being touched and savored. Then, ask for it.

If your partner isn’t giving you what you want, take matters into your own hands (literally – touch yourself).

Finally, realize that sex, like life, has many different roles and stories throughout your life. There may be long periods of time when sex isn’t high on your priority list. There may be long periods of time when you can’t get enough.

If you’re routinely checking out, feeling resentment or pressured, or feeling like you aren’t good enough, then your partner is going to pick up on that and check out, too. It’s pretty difficult to make erotic energy nice and juicy if you’re both just going through the motions.

So instead, take the pressure off yourself to conform to a certain cultural standard and invite yourself (and your partner or partners) to prioritize pleasure.

Pleasure might be foot rubs or feeding each other bits of chocolate as you watch a movie.

Pleasure might be showering together or a bubble bath alone.

Pleasure might be making out and dry humping in the car or it might be getting a hotel and role playing that you’re strangers who met in the bar.

Pleasure might be taking tantra classes and learning how to breathe your way to an orgasm or taking a tango class and enjoying your bodies pressed together as you fumble the steps.

Let pleasure be your guide, rather than sex, and you’ll find that when sex does happen, you’re more connected and having more fun.

This isn’t about immediate gratification or a quick fix. This is about tuning into what you most want or need, and savoring that moment for what it is.

What does pleasure mean to you?

What kind of expectations around sex are you ready to let go of so that you can go on your own adventure of feeling yummy and good in your body?

[callout title=”Let’s work together” link=”” class=”hb-aligncenter”]If you’re ready to discover and explore sex on your own terms, I’m here for you. [/callout]
  • Gina L.

    This was beautiful and everything I needed to hear today.

    My partner and I are weeks away from our wedding, and I’ve been scared that we don’t have enough sex. Mostly, I’ve been scared that because we have sex about once a week, that he’s unsatisfied with me.

    But I actually just read this article aloud to him, and we both realized that we engaged in a lot of “pleasure” throughout the week — foot rubs, I brush his hair, shower together, etc.. And we realized that we should stop trying to hold ourselves to difficult standards, and instead, just be happy as we are!

    Thank you so much for this!

    • I love it when the message you need is the one you find. The fact that you read this with your partner and found some ease makes my heart so happy. YAY!

      And congrats on your wedding. That is so exciting.

      Thanks for stopping by, Gina. Best wishes!

  • Jamie

    Love the idea of “good enough sex” as I start my 30s I’ve noticed that it’s more about a closeness and connection then the wild fantasy I chased in my 20s.

    • I agree, Jamie! I like that it takes the pressure off to do something mindblowing every single time. Sometimes a quick, short roll in the sheets is exactly what you need. Sometimes you want to try something without it being a big, huge ordeal or scene. Allowing yourself to enjoy it and have fun without striving for perfection feels so much more…enjoyable!

      Thanks for stopping by. Yay.

  • I love this post, Dawn! I realized reading this that when I was younger (and single!) what made sex so exciting was being with different partners and experiencing different takes on it. So once the newness of sex with my now-husband wore off, we definitely had moments where it felt blah but we’ve learned together a lot of what you’ve expressed here and it’s made our sex lives — and our relationship — all the better for it. Thanks for the real talk!

    • Hi Jackie! I love your comment. So many times, people don’t realize that when the newness wears off, you have to start making decisions and changes so that you can keep connecting to each other. There’s this myth that it should be effortless if you really “in love”. Which is bullocks.

      Learning together is seriously one of the best bonding exercises you can do. I’m so happy you and your husband did that work together. YAY! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Such a great post. You are so bang on in every paragraph and sentence. We are the “gatekeeper” to our own pleasure and it’s up to us to enjoy it. The interesting thing is that the longer you are together the more open you could be to trying new stuff but in reality it’s the opposite. I think that in some cases, we forget / or have no clue that it’s not all about the highs. It’s the lows that make the highs so damn mind blowing. This has opened my eyes.

    • I love your comment, Amanda!!! Thank you for the compliments. And yes, when we start owning our pleasure and sharing that with our partners, we can elevate sex to something so much more enjoyable.

      You couldn’t be more right about how much more difficult it is to try new things sex the longer you’re together. YES!