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Sexual Intelligence

It's not important to be sexually "normal"... in fact, pursuing "normal" sex is often destructive." Tweet This Quote
Here’s what’s “normal”: adults have sex primarily when they’re tired. This shapes the quality, content, and frequency of the experience. Most adults save their “prime time” for things that are either more important (raising their kids, working after hours, maintaining their health, handling crises) or more reliably satisfying (watching TV, going out, sharing hobbies, playing around on Facebook).

Not having much energy is one aspect of “normal sex” that most people don’t want. But many adults seem to believe that most sex will inevitably take place when they’re not at their best, without considering the consequences of this kind of sex life -- that it may become routine, not involve much time, lose its playfulness, and that using contraception or a lubricant may seem like too much trouble.

If we think of “normal” as common, typical, and accepted as “the way things are,” this is what “normal sex” actually looks like:

• Awkwardness and self-consciousness are common.
• Communication is limited.
• Neither partner laughs or smiles much.
• One or both partners are obsessively concerned about performance.
• One or both are unsure what their partner likes.
• One or both tolerate what they dislike, hoping that it will stop soon.
• Masturbation is kept secret.
• There’s difficulty using birth control without embarrassment or conflict.
• Desire requires a perfect environment.
• Sex is sometimes physically painful.
• He believes that “her orgasm problem reflects on me.”
• She believes that “his erection problem reflects on me.”
Also, whether young or old, gay or straight, male or female, when people have sex, they frequently:
• Are self-conscious or self-critical about their body
 • Don’t feel as close to their partner as they’d like
 • Don’t feel confident that they’re going to have a good time (which is why they don’t do it more frequently)
• Are concerned about performance -- either their own or their partner’s
• Feel inhibited about communicating what they want, don’t want, feel, or don’t feel

Health problems are also frequently part of “normal” sex -- because normal people have health problems.

So, are you starting to look pretty “normal”? Are you starting to realise this might not be the right goal?

I want to change things for you -- and not by improving your “sexual function.” This book isn’t literary Viagra. It’s more like literary brain surgery (sorry, no tummy tuck, boob job, or hair implants, just brain surgery).

The awkwardness and emotional isolation described above are what most people get when they try to have “normal” sex. And that’s why your vision of sex matters. So let’s spend the rest of the chapter exploring why it’s not important to be sexually “normal” and why, in fact, pursuing “normal” sex is often destructive.

Of course, by “normal” sex most people don’t mean the reality I’ve just described, but a romanticised vision of perfect performance, perfect environment, and nothing too novel or psychologically challenging. The only thing normal about that kind of sex is the fact that so many people aspire to it, and so few people have it. (And here’s a secret every sex therapist knows: even when people get this kind of sex, they’re not necessarily satisfied with it.)

So if, like so many other people, you’ve been pursuing the wrong thing (“normal” sex), you need a new way to think about sex. Although most people assume it’s logical to have a performance orientation (how many times per week, how many minutes before orgasm), that’s only one way to look at sex. And it’s exactly the wrong way.

Excerpted from SEXUAL INTELLIGENCE: What We Really Want from Sex and How to Get It by Marty Klein, reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Read more:
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