Three Ways I Struggle With Sex, Even as a Sex Educator
Facing challenges in the bedroom such as erectile dysfunction (ED), body shame, performance anxiety, difficulty orgasming, pain with penetration and other issues can be isolating. In a culture where sex is largely hush-hush, many people silently struggle under the sheets while assuming everyone else is enjoying mind-blowing sex.
Of course, the reality is often the contrary. Most people struggle with sex in some way at some point in their life. Even the people whose sex life you may idealize have undoubtedly been where you are or in a similar situation.
As a sexuality professional myself, we're no different. Sex educators, coaches and therapists all struggle with sex from time to time, too.
"We share a lot of the same fears and shame about sex because we collectively learned this through society and systems of oppression," explained Luna Matatas, a sex and pleasure educator in Toronto.
Many sex educators experience feelings of inadequacy regarding their sex lives. Here are three ways I struggle with sex, and how I navigate and overcome those challenges.
Asking for what I want
It's not always easy for me to ask for exactly what I want in bed. Even though I spend most of my waking hours learning, talking or writing about sex, I still get tripped up when I try to articulate my own desires. I often stop myself from giving feedback, asking for adjustments or saying I want to switch positions because there's a part of me that believes my partner's pleasure and satisfaction are more important than my own.
While I know this isn't true, years of learning that sex is about satisfying my partner have made it hard for me to move past this core belief.
"I also struggle with asking for what I want," Matatas agreed. "We've been taught to keep our needs small and that feedback will be seen as criticism. It's easy for me to get in my head instead of just communicating what's important to my pleasure."
Judging myself for how often I want sex
My biggest challenge these days is judging myself for how often I want to have sex. My libido is easily impacted by stress and life events—the same as everyone else—and sometimes sex doesn't cross my mind for days. I know this is normal and nothing to be concerned about, but I'm still hard on myself for not wanting sex "enough."
These unfair judgments are remnants of sentiments from old-school sex advice we've all heard. For instance, the idea that a couple needs to have sex a certain number of times per week can make you feel as if not having sex enough means you're a "prude" or you're letting your partner down if you don't want to get it on all the time.
While I know deep down these are just myths, they can still haunt my sex life.
Knowing what I want
Knowing what you want in bed might sound simple, but it has never been easy for me. Sometimes when a partner asks me what I want, I don't know the answer. I'm not sure where I want to be touched, how I want to be touched or what position would feel good.
This issue stems from being very disconnected from what my body wants for the longest time. As a young person, I learned sex was supposed to look a certain way or even be performative. In following these ideas, I ignored what my body really wanted. The sex I had for years wasn't what my body was into, but I did it anyway because I thought I was supposed to do it.
These experiences disconnected me from what my body really wanted, and now it can be hard for me to get in touch with what I want.
How I deal with these challenges
Each of the ways I struggle with sex comes from some false belief or idea about how my body "should" function or what sex "should" look like. A big part of how I manage each of these challenges is by continuously reminding myself that I am comparing myself to an arbitrary, made-up standard that has no bearing on my own sex life. I tell myself, often, that there is nothing wrong with me and I deserve to enjoy sex and honor what my body wants.
While this is easier said than done, a huge help for me is talking with people who have similar experiences and who support me in my goal to have the kind of sex I truly want. This usually involves not letting my emotions bottle up and talking with close friends about what's happening in the bedroom. Once you start a conversation, the embarrassment quickly disappears as you realize your audience knows exactly what you're talking about. They're also challenged with a lot of the same issues. Having conversations with my fellow educators and working with sex educators, coaches and therapists have always been big parts of my support system.