Pleasure and luxury go hand in hand at LELO. It’s difficult, then, trying to convince people that pleasure is itself not a luxury. It’s essential.
It’s painful, then, to see the results of the Today show in July which said that 46% of American women consider themselves sexually unsatisfied. It should be no real surprise. Other recent surveys indicate that people are having less sex than ever, in a kind of sexual recession. It’s not just the US, it’s happening across many countries and the trend has been happening for a number of years. Since you need to be having sex to be sexually satisfied, it makes sense that more of us are indicating that we’re not satisfied.
The dwindling of our sex lives is a signpost for a crisis. It indicates that people are less happy in general. Sex is always a good barometer for the health of a nation, and our attitudes to it touch on, and are influenced by, every element of our wider lives. If we’re unhappy in the bedroom, it’s almost certain that we’re unhappy out of it. Nearly a quarter of us haven’t had sex in the last year. That speaks volumes about our health generally.
It’s reflected by the steep increase in the diagnosis of stress-related disorders, as well as anxiety and depression. The World Economic Forum tells us that depression is now the world’s leading cause of illness and disability.
Why? What’s driving our sexual recession?
Partial attention might be to blame. That’s the term that describes how our attention is always divided between a number of distractions, and is rarely focused on any single event or experience. Essentially, we’re constantly plugged into a rolling source of input-output reward systems, like the internet, and we haven’t yet developed enough to process these new systems. We respond to notifications, messages, interactions and other immediate inputs, becoming detached and less present to the slower-burning interactions and relationships which used to dominate our lives. We’re no longer present with the people in the room.
The result is that our emotions are hijacked and our ability to connect with other people in our presence is corrupted. Our constant requirement for interaction, and the chemical rewards it offers, is reducing our ability to interact in the moment, for real. This is contributing to the decline in sex and satisfaction, and impacting every facet of our character.
The result is a higher level of emotional distress. Our defenses are constantly up: we’re tense, disconnected, we experience fear, anger, lethargy, and pain. This takes away our ability to enjoy intimacy. And as we know, healthy relationships are the best natural mood stabilizers currently available, and we’re damaging them.
Part of the problem is that we experience fear and trepidation in discussing these issues with our partners. We fear that highlighting the problem might exacerbate it. We worry that by saying ‘I’m not satisfied,’ we will offend our partners. This drives more fear and disconnection, and the cycle becomes harder to break.
How do we change it?
The most basic and important step is to realize that the fear that’s holding you back is at the root of the wider problem. It needs to be confronted and addressed, and that’s hard to do. Our culture has a difficult relationship with sex, half putting it on a pedestal and half decrying it as immoral. As a society, we’re not very good at dealing with our sexual preoccupations, and this can make complex conversations about sex all the more complex and daunting.
This contradiction is most obvious when it comes to the treatment of women’s sexualities. There is a deep and wide chasm of double standards when it comes to the sexual satisfaction of women in particular, which is what is holding so many of us back from speaking out about our sex issues.
Our ambivalence about sexuality is even more glaring when it comes to women. We have a deep and wide double standard when it comes to women as sexual beings… but pleasure is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.
When we feel that we are entitled to sexual satisfaction, we can begin to approach the subject with the dignity and respect it deserves. The discussions around it become easier and more impactful when there is an understanding that our pleasure is essential to our wellbeing. It is a right, and it contributes to our sense of equality and empowerment.
As always, the key to better sex begins far outside the bedroom.