NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Sexual Wellness: What is Performative Sex?

Performative sex is goal-oriented sex that follows a script with a predefined role.  When sex is performative, instead of it being natural and enjoyable, it becomes a show or a performance (see my article: Understanding Your Sex Script).

Sexual Wellness: Overcoming the Habit of Performative Sex

Sex often becomes performative when people are anxious, distracted or self conscious during sex.  When this happens, they're not attuned to themselves or their sex partner.  They're too worried about whether they're "doing it right" or if their body looks good, and how their partner sees them.  

Men often worry about their penis being too small and whether their penis will remain erect long enough to satisfy their partner.  

Women often worry about their body image--the size of their breasts and whether they're overweight.  Many women also worry about whether they'll have an orgasm and, if so, if they'll take so long that it will frustrate their partner (see my article: Women's Sexuality: Tips on Sexual Self Discovery).

Unfortunately, so many people get their sex education from pornography where both performers always look sexy, ready and able to achieve simultaneous orgasms with no foreplay.  But this is a performance--it's not real life.  

Performative sex can become a habit--even between two people who are in a long term, committed relationship.  Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this habit, as described below.

Focus on the Here and Now
  • Focus on the present moment--not on the past or the future.
  • Focus on being attuned to yourself and to your partner physically and emotionally.
  • Practice synchronizing your breath to your partner's breath as one way to stay connected.
Communicate With Your Partner
  • Tell your partner what you like. 
  • Make sure you have consent from your partner.  Don't assume you have consent--even if you've done the same things sexually many times before.  If you're not sure, ask.

Don't Feel Rejected If Your Partner Doesn't Like What You Like
  • Recognize that everyone is different when it comes to what they like sexually.
  • Be aware that if your partner doesn't like what you like, your partner isn't rejecting you so don't take it personally.  You might be able to work out a compromise or, if not, find something else that you both enjoy.

Don't Feel Compelled to Do Anything You Don't Want to Do
  • Don't feel you have to do anything sexually that you don't feel comfortable doing.  
  • Don't override your own feelings.  This is often a problem for women, who are socialized to be people pleasers, so they override their feelings to just "get through it" or to "get it over with."
  • Recognize that when you override your feelings to do something you don't want to do, you're damaging your self esteem.

Getting Help in Therapy
Many issues, including a history of abuse or trauma, can get in the way of having a satisfying sex life.

If you're struggling, seek help from a licensed mental health professional.

A licensed psychotherapist can help you to overcome the obstacles that keep you from leading a more fulfilling life.

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

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out 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.