Some of us have become locked into the practice of navigating our relationship strictly on our own terms. As a result, we have literally taken the “relate” out of the figurative “ship”, and what we are left with is a lopsided union which is quickly sinking. Relationships, by the very word, should be built on the concept of mutuality. This suggests a need for communication, dialogue and compromise. It means thinking in terms of a union or partnership to ensure that both individual’s needs are met or fulfilled. While selfishness in a relationship can be experienced in all quarters, it is perhaps nowhere as glaring or troublesome, as in the sexual department.
Sexuality in our postmodern age has most decidedly taken on an assertive have-my-needs-met-at-all-costs bent which screams at us from the covers of most magazines. While in some respects this may be great and should guard against things like sexual abuse in relationships, as with any new movement, too far east, is usually west. Yes, I am most definitely all for personal empowerment and the like but as a counselor and observer of human behavior, I am seeing a quality which for the purposes of our discussion I will name “sexual terrorism” (thanks to Danielle Norris for coining the term).
Now the sexual terrorist doesn’t actually hold a weapon to your head to have sex; at least not a physical one. Through the use of “emotional weapons” like overt demands, manipulations, angry complaints, put downs, threats, and the withdrawal of attention/affection; sexual terrorists attempt to control the sexual relationship so as to ensure that their every sexual demand is met. In an extreme scenario, violence could also be used. The sexual terrorist is more obsessed with his/her own needs than with a relationship which focusses on meeting the needs of their partner. Now before you accuse me of being a backward thinker, I have no problem with sexual assertiveness or with the celebration of individual sexuality. I am not suggesting that it is not important to desire sexual pleasure and fulfillment but if sex is all that defines a relationship what will happen if or when that desire starts to wane? Moreover, if sex is going to be all about one individual’s needs at the expense of another’s happiness, why don’t people just masturbate and call it a day?
Without having to fully dissect the topic of masturbation, some of us know intuitively that as instructive as some may tout masturbation to be, it could never be enough. The experience of sexual release does not take care of the problem of relational loneliness and the desire for meaningful human connection. So why don’t the sexual terrorists among us get this? To be fair, some of us may just have been born with a selfish streak, which turns up, guns blazing, in our intimate relationships. Others may have had failed sexual encounters in the past which sort of “spoiled” them and made them intent never to be left wanting again. Others, through poor modeling, may just believe that being sexually assertive means catering to “numero uno”. Some with deeper emotional issues may even use sex as a form of escapism, resulting in obsessive/compulsive/addictive sexual behaviour. This can take its toll on the other partner who may lack sleep or adequate rest, as a result of these seemingly unquenchable demands.
There is a peculiar phenomenon among women today, who while grasping their sexual liberation with both hands, seem not to care what is lost in the process. So what was once categorized as shallow, selfish, “male behavior” is now being embraced by some women in a case of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. As a consequence, far more women are hooking up for what they term “meaningless sex”. Even in relationships, they have become more obsessed with their multi-orgasmic potential or with their ability to “shejaculate”, in an attempt to match the national average. While I am not discrediting a search for more passionate ways to enjoy sex, we must not forget that a sexual relationship is also about giving; not just taking.
We were created as relational beings that derive social and emotional satisfaction from connecting with others. The concept of searching for and finding “the one” and then of “living happily ever after” exists in the fairy-tales and chick-flicks for a reason. It reflects an eternal, instinctive desire at the heart of the human being for meaning in life and relationships. Brain hormones like Oxytocin, which are released at birth and through the nursing of infants, are in fact also released through hugging, kissing and sexual intimacy. So from birth to adulthood, our hormones are directing us to connect or bond; not to pursue our own gratification selfishly.
So what happens when we go against this natural grain? What occurs when we become so obsessed with sexual pleasure, that the search for it ignores this human need and supersedes basic common sense, reason, good-judgment or values? What happens when we attempt to substitute the orgasm for a basic human need called love? What in fact happens is that people become reduced to genitals. What happens is that we objectify body parts and begin to reference sex in immature ways like “it”, “piece”, or ‘some”. Every woman becomes a walking vagina and every man a potential penis (never mind those who claim to like this) and then we wonder why we hop from relationship to relationship in a vicious cycle of dissatisfaction!
Could it be that we’re aiming for the wrong thing in search of a basic human need? Even the age old relationship question has changed from “are you the one I want to spend the rest of my life with?” to “are you the one I want to have sex with for the rest of my life?” This question suggests that if the sex isn’t good, then there’s little hope for the relationship. Men have even taken to sexting their genitals to women as a point of introduction. The underlying idea, flawed though it may be, seems to be that if a woman likes the look of the penis, she will likely give the man the time of day. Which man’s character can be accurately judged by the look of his penis? And for those who say such relationships are just about the sex and nothing more, try telling that to the press. Unfortunately, our character can never be dislodged from our sexual escapades; just ask Bill Clinton or Tiger Woods!
If you’ve evidenced any of this behavior first hand, chances are you are all too aware of the person of whom I speak. Maybe you’ve been sexually self-obsessed and are tired of the lack of relationship satisfaction you have been experiencing. Maybe the following can assist you in re-evaluating your current relationship philosophy. Most times it takes reflection, evaluation and even counseling intervention, to help us become more sexually whole or balanced individuals:
- Sex, as great as it is, can never be a substitute for feelings of value and self-worth. Your sexual identity is critical but you are not your vagina or penis.
- Relationships exist for mutual sharing not for bullying, coercing or dominating the will of another.
- It is important to respect your partner’s sexual choices and preferences.
- Catering to your partner’s sexual needs, as well as having your own needs met, is critical to a balanced relationship.
- A difference in sex drive is not an excuse for infidelity; relationships must be built on compromise and trust from both individuals.
- Your partner is not responsible for “giving you an orgasm”. Your sexual climax is primarily dependent upon your own thinking and feelings about sex, as well as on the understanding of how your body responds.
- Withholding displays of love and affection in an attempt to punish your partner is insensitive and immature.
- Withholding sex or using it as a reward or promise for “good behavior” demeans the significance of the act to you and your spouse.
- Expecting ‘sex-on-demand’ at all costs and fuming or pouting if is not had, is childish behavior which is completely unattractive and is likely to negatively impact your marriage.
- An addictive/compulsive dependence on sex, may signal a need for counselling or therapy.
- Kindness and thoughtfulness, as genuine displays of affection, can be the most powerful precursors to a sexually satisfying relationship.