NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Changing Your Sex Script: Part 1: The Beginning Phase: Sexual Arousal

In my prior article, Understanding Your Sex Script I began a discussion about sex scripts based on Dr. Ian Kerner's book, So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex.   

Changing Your Sex Script: The Beginning Phase

As I mentioned, a sex script is a detailed description of a sexual encounter that reveals what happened, what didn't happen, what was pleasurable for each individual and what wasn't.  

Sex scripts are analyzed in terms of their beginning, middle and end phases (see my prior article for details).  The focus of this article will be on problems in the beginning phase of the sex script where couples often struggle.

Stop Approaching Sex as a Performance-Based Activity: Pleasure is the Measure
Many couples approach sex as a goal-oriented or performance-based activity with the goal being orgasm.  

Obviously, orgasms are pleasurable and have many health benefits, including:
  • Good Heart Health: Orgasms lower cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
  • Improved Sleep: When stress is reduced, sleep often improves.  
  • Improved Immune System: A study of college students showed that having an orgasm once or twice a week increased immunoglobulin levels 30 percent higher as opposed to those in the study who weren't having sex.
  • Increased Emotional Intimacy: Orgasms release oxytocin, also known as the "cuddle hormone," which deepens the emotional bond between you and your lover.
  • Improved Pelvic Floor Health: The contraction and release of the muscles in the pelvic area tones the pelvic floor, which improves core strength as well as bladder control. It also helps to intensify orgasms.
  • Post Sex Glow: During an orgasm blood flows throughout the body.  When blood vessels dilate, it produces increased oxygen.  Increased oxygen stimulates collagen, which improves overall skin health and helps to prevent wrinkles.
  • Increased Happiness: Last but not least, in addition to the oxytocin, orgasms feel good and they provide a sense of well-being.
    Pressure to Perform Sexually
Notwithstanding all the benefits of having orgasms, when a couple places too much emphasis on orgasms, it often places too much pressure on each individual.  

Then, rather than sex being enjoyable, it becomes a chore.  And when one or both people don't have an orgasm, it can be a source of humiliation and shame if sex is approached as a performance-based activity.

As I've mentioned in my prior articles, instead of orgasms being the goal of having sex, a better approach is to focus on the pleasure of having sex with someone you care about. 

As sex educator, Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. emphasizes in her book, Come As You Are, "Pleasure is the measure"--not orgasm.

The Beginning Phase of Your Sex Script
Problems often develop for couples right at the beginning phase.

For instance, it's not unusual for two individuals to have very different experiences with regard to sexual arousal.  

One person might experience spontaneous arousal where s/he might be ready to have sex just by thinking about it, whereas the other person might experience responsive arousal and might need more a build up to get sexually aroused (see my article: Spontaneous vs Responsive Sexual Arousal). 

Despite what is often portrayed in pornography, movies and TV programs where both people are ready to have sex at the drop of a hat, these differences in sexual arousal are very common and can lead to misunderstandings in a relationship.  This is especially true if the person who experiences responsive sexual arousal feels pressured and the person who experiences spontaneous arousal feels disappointed and rejected.  

It's important for both individuals to be able to recognize their own sexual arousal pattern and be able to talk about it with their partner because when they can talk about it, they can adjust their dynamic so that sex is pleasurable for both of them.  

So, for instance, the person who experiences spontaneous arousal can recognize that context is very important to the person who experiences responsive desire and s/he can slow down to meet his or her partner where they're at during this beginning phase of their sexual script.

It's also important for each individual to understand his/her partner's "turn ons" and "turn offs" (see my article: Understanding Your Sexual Accelerators and Brakes).  

As Dr. Nagoski says in Come As You Are, "The process of becoming aroused is turning on and ons and turning off the offs." 

But how can you do that unless both of you know what your turn ons and turn offs are?  

If you just assume that your partner wants what you want, you could be seriously mistaken.  And if you don't tell your partner what turns you on and turns you off, your partner might not know.  So, this lack of communication can ruin the beginning phase of any sexual encounter.

Often this lack of communication occurs because each person feels too ashamed to talk about sex (see my article:  How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex).

When a couple has difficulty talking about sex, which can lead to disappointment and frustration, they often avoid having sex because sex has become a source of shame and tension between them.  Even though each of them might want to have sex, they don't know where to begin to have this discussion.  This is often compounded by familial, religious, cultural and other issues.

Without help, a couple can go months, years and even decades without having sex, which can create emotional alienation in the relationship.

See my articles:

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're feeling stuck and unable to resolve your problems on your own, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who can help you to work through your problems.

The first step, contacting a psychotherapist, is often the hardest, but it's often the frost step to leading a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing therapist and Sex Therapist.

I work with individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.