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How Being Sex-Positive Can Lead To More Pleasure & Better Sex

In my previous article Doing the Nasty, we talked about how sex-negative culture (SNC) has seeped into our psyche through practically everything we consume, from tv shows to our cereal, and how those messages make their way into our bed. We briefly discussed a few scientifically proven strategies that can help us unlearn these “no” messages and train ourselves to accept our bodies.

What we want to examine in this post is how this SNC– which makes us believe our bodies are wrong and our sexuality abnormal or dysfunctional– takes such an enormous toll on our capacity to give in to arousal, experience desire, enjoy sex… and even orgasm!

Our first true obstacle is our inability to realize that the problem is not us – or our bodies– it is our culture.

This culture of body shaming, sex stigma and “no” messages has taught us that we should be self-critical about our bodies and our sexualities because that makes us strive to be better (i.e. have healthier habits, workout, have certain kind of sex, etc.). Sadly, in reality things work out in the opposite way:

A review of fifty-seven studies, spanning two decades of research, found that:

“Women who feel worse about their bodies have less satisfying, riskier sex, with less pleasure, more unwanted consequences, and more pain.” [1]

Basically: there’s a direct trade-off between sexual well-being and self-critical thoughts about your body; all the years of “no” messages create deep patterns of thinking and feeling that are constantly reinforced and reiterated by the same culture.

The Sex-Geeky explanation

“Current models of sexual behavior, such as the dual control model [2], propose that sexual responses involve an interaction between sexual excitatory and sexual inhibitory processes. From such a perspective, the generation of sexual responses may be compromised when sexual inhibition outweighs sexual excitation [3]”

An easier way of understating this is that we all have a sexual accelerator and sexual brakes; each responding to different kinds of stimulus. However, as we have already explained in a previous article, there’s no innate sexual stimulus or threat, our brains have simply learned to associate particular stimuli with arousal or inhibition.

Sexual accelerator & sexual brakes

• Sexual Accelerator = what turns you on

• Sexual Brakes = what turns you off

Our accelerators and brakes learn how to respond through experience, and everyone’s learning process is different. It’s also important to emphasize that each person is unique when it comes to how sensitive our brakes and accelerators are (in the next post we will help you find out how sensitive yours are). Furthermore, whether we are “turned on” or “turned off” depends enormously on context. By context, I mean the combination of external circumstances and the internal brain state.

Research tells us that there are certain factors that tend to activate the brakes[4], for women especially, such as (but not limited to)

  • Negative body image,

  • Worries about sexual performance,

  • Potential (or perceived) damage to your social status,

  • Fear of STIs,

  • Lack of trust or emotional connection with one’s partner,

  • Other life circumstances (that are stress-inducing),

  • Mental state (stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, etc.)

Our accelerator and brakes, therefore, react to our context and thus influence our sexual responsiveness.

The factors mentioned above usually activate the brakes, and most of them can be attributed to all the “no” messages we receive day-to-day; as I noted in a previous article, these negative messages can be broken down to 3 types: the Moral message (i.e. “you are a slut”), the Medical message (i.e. “you are abnormal”) and the Media message (i.e. “your body is not desirable as it is” or “you are doing it wrong”).

Science has consistently shown[5] that unlearning these sex-negative messages and training ourselves to be at peace with, and perhaps even love, our bodies will result in more intense arousal, desire, and orgasms. YAY!

The road to reversing the damage this self-hate epidemic has caused is to first bring the issue to light, and then we can perhaps begin to heal.

A good first step you can take today is to cleanse your social media of bullshit beauty norms; anything that makes you feel not _____ enough (Fill in the blank).•


[1] Source: Come as you are by Emily Nagoski

[2] Peter J. de Jong , Mark van Overveld & Charmaine Borg (2013): Giving In to Arousal or Staying Stuck inDisgust? Disgust-Based Mechanisms in Sex and Sexual Dysfunction, Journal of Sex Research, 50:3-4, 247-262.

[3] Bancroft, Graham, Janssen, & Sanders, 2009

[4] the "activation of the brakes" (or accelerator) is not at all a conscious decision, there's no deliberate intention or even awareness accompanying this process.

[5] Woertman and van den Brink, “Body Image”. Pazmany el al., “Body Image and Genital Self-Image.”


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