Human Sexuality, Part 4
Copyright © Dorian Scott Cole, 2002
This article series explores:
Part 4 - Satisfaction and myths - a twisted road?
Part 4 - Satisfaction and myths - a twisted road?
What about very kinky sex?
Yesterday's embarrassing and kinky sex practices tend to become today's accepted practice. In my youth, things like oral sex and different positions were only whispered about and were illegal in many states. Practice them and you risked humiliation and arrest. Today they are the norm. Familiarity and wide acceptance eventually brings understanding and makes harmless things commonplace.
For example, vibrators, long used as a sex toy, are now the preferred approach by sex therapists to helping women learn to achieve orgasm, and are recommended by many therapists as an aid for vaginal stimulation, considering that women respond much more slowly than men when stimulated vaginally.
Vacuum pumps have been approved by the FDA as a medical device to cause blood to engorge the female clitoris, mimicking sexual excitement, as well as the common use of vacuum pumps to help men with erection problems (erectile dysfunction caused by reduced blood flow).
Some couples are watching soft-porn together (which may be a turn-off or a turn-on), some are piercing their tongues, with a belief that pierced tongues can be erotic, and piercing other areas of their bodies, not the least of which is their genitals. Some experts view these practices as "sex with objects" and believe the person needs psychological treatment. A more likely view is that there are a number of reasons why people look to sex toys and practices that might be viewed by many as weird. People are discovering a multitude of sex practices every day on the Web, or through shows devoted to sexual topics on the radio and TV. (This is not to deny that some people do need help, not so much because of their choices, but what is emotionally driving those choices.)
Some people want even higher stimulation. They join groups which specialize in exploring or acting out (role play) certain types of erotic fantasy. In reviewing one group devoted to a particular sexual issue, at length (virtually, not observing or participating), it appeared that it was largely the erotic thrill of the fantasy that was the end goal for most, not the action advocated. Groups help people act out their sexual fantasy through role play games. Sometimes it is erotic in intention. Sometimes it is not sexual, but a reality they want to experience to some degree. Sometimes it is both. These groups typically feature people who are experienced in this type of sexual activity, which cuts the incidence rate of injuries.
There are always thrill seekers and experimenters who go into dangerous territory. Individual and group sexual practices include a lot of physically harmless practices, and some which may be injurious. Some sexual practices can easily harm you. Part of the reason some practices may harm you is that sex is an analgesic - that is, sensitivity to pain is reduced, especially under intense arousal - so damage to the body may not be apparent until after the practice has been endured. The injurious practices are, objects may be inserted into the urethra and anus, use of electricity, genital piercing, and clamping and pressure may be applied to the testes, blood vessels, and other organs.
Many do these practices with no physical harm. However, these practices, even if done with medical caution, can cause electrocution, serious infections, ruptures of veins and organs, and can cause tissue, organ, and nerve destruction. Many of these practices necessarily involve the urethra. Even though the urethra and internal organs and fluids are sterile in both sexes (generally no germs are in them), the urethral opening and the first 1/2 inch of the urethra generally contain "good" germs which protect the urinary tract from other germs. Any variety of bacteria can be present in this area. Inserting an object, even a catheter in a hospital, will drag both kinds of germs into the urethra, to the prostate (males) and bladder, causing serious infections and potentially invading other organs like the testes and kidneys. Not the least of these infections is the yeast type infection caused by the "good" bacteria, which can be very serious.
The danger here is worth some caution. Urinary tract infections can be difficult to treat in both males and females, and sometimes can lead to chronic infections, bleeding, and can spread to other organs, such as the testes and kidneys, with the power to cause severe pain and even tissue destruction. Infections are commonly caused by medical professionals, under ideal conditions in hospitals, by the introduction of catheters into the urethra. These infections are much easier to cause by untrained personnel, or through frequent use.
Urinary tract infections can be difficult to treat for a number of reasons. One reason is because the prostate tissue is difficult to penetrate by many antibiotics (some antibiotics work better than others for this, but physicians may not prescribe them because they are unaware or the insurance company won't cover them). Another reason is that objects that stretch the urethra make the tissue more easily and deeply infected. Additionally, bacteria that is not a common cause of infection is sometimes introduced, and these are difficult to recognize and treat (most physicians and even specialists seldom do cultures to identify the specific bacteria in urinary tract infections). Failure to get rid of all of the bacteria sometimes allows to develop chronic (frequently recurring, or continuing) disease, and patients often fail to complete the course of treatment, thinking that since the symptoms are gone, the disease must be gone. Other bacteria, such as E-coli (commonly found on your skin) and staph, are very difficult to treat. Infections are also caused by common chlamydia, fungus, viruses, and many bacteria. A person with chronic urinary tract infection is usually miserable for years. There are other dangers which are not listed in this article - consult with a physician for accurate medical information. (These precautionary notes are not intended as a source of medical information, and this information is commonly available at medically related sites on the Web.)
These kinds of sexual practices always involve serious dangers, but they are easily found on the Web, and the curious are likely to try them, not realizing the dangers involved. My opinion is that they should be avoided, and not promoted.
I think the important thing to keep in mind is that for most people fantasy may be better than reality, and actually experiencing the reality by acting it out may not be necessary. This view of fantasy is generally confirmed by psychologists - fantasy can be as satisfying as doing. None of these sexual practices are inevitable. For most people they are a choice. Even which fantasy to indulge in may be a choice. People with an obsession that compels them to take risks should seek advice from a sex therapist who is accustomed to dealing with these issues. Those who are simply risk takers know the risks and are unlikely to change course.
The question for most is, do you want the intrusion of these practices in your sex life? They are invasive in the sense that once established as a part of your sex life, like an opiate their potency may fade, demanding even higher erotic thrills, or they may displace more gentle forms of sex - not that you can't ever get back - but the path may be very difficult to find. On the other hand, some people who practice these things have perfectly typical sex lives but occasionally include these "tart" practices, accepting the risks and occasionally making embarrassing trips to the hospital, or putting up with distorted muscles and canals that won't empty properly, infections, and pain for life. Is the risk worth it?
Any sexual practice can be "bad" when it is injurious or disruptive to relationships or to life. Disruptions can be provoked by habits that can't be broken and are intrusive in the relationship. Such practices may lead to the inability to get aroused by your partner because some sex practice has become a preference (sex desire token).
Where to go now? Recognize that fantasy is not welcome as a reality. Life itself is a rush. Get high on life. It will improve your sex life, and your improved sex life will in turn improve your life.
What about Myths?
Sexual myths, I think, have much more to do with fantasy and expectations than reality. It helps to keep in mind that a person who becomes sexually satisfied, is satisfied regardless of the "toys" or practices that might not have been there. In the end, the toys, although they may have been fantasized about, are unimportant. If the person is not satisfied, then there is most likely either a problem in the relationship, a physical or environmental problem, the person needs some "spice" in his sex life (which might be satisfied through indulging in fantasy or myths), or there is a problem with technique.
Myth 1: The big penis myth. I must receive about three unsolicited e-mails a day about penis enlargement, and it isn't because I gave my name out, or... well never mind. My e-mail address is unfortunately publicly available in too many places. Obviously penis enlargement is big business. Do the techniques work? Some of them actually do. Are they dangerous? There are cautionary notes on some medical Web sites that should be reviewed by anyone considering these. There are also tales of woe.
Does penis enlargement help satisfy some women? Yes, it has to be acknowledged that a few benefit. Studies in the 1970s indicated that there is an increase in female stimulation in some women from a wider (girth) penis. However, the chief claim of the ads seems to be about penis length, which generally is of no value at all. Only the first couple of inches of the vagina have many nerve endings to stimulate, including the "G" spot, so going in further is a futile exercise for female satisfaction. If the penis becomes longer, during intercourse it bumps the cervix (opening to the uterus), which can be painful and disruptive. Thinking about a large penis may be erotic to both men and women, but the fantasy is probably more sexually stimulating that the reality.
The real impact of a wider penis is generally not considered to be that much, except for some women. The vagina is a "potential space." It is closed, and expands just enough to allow entry of the size of the object penetrating it. It is never larger than it needs to be. The muscles surrounding the vaginal opening keep the opening tight around the penis. The physical assistance that might improve stimulation for women is simply kegel exercises, which tone and strengthen the muscles in that area, which improves sexual stimulation. You can find information about kegel exercises on the Internet, the public library, or often from your physician.
Myth 2: Vaginal sex is the only real sex.Is vaginal sex the procreative imperative, with simultaneous orgasms a sign of sexual compatibility and success? Ho, hum. Such beliefs lead people in an endless quest for ways to make the woman orgasm during the man's five minute lurch for bliss. A woman's bliss isn't necessarily there. Hint: look for the clitoris.
Some cultures on the African continent and Near East eliminate the female's clitoris through the custom of cutting off the end of it (the rest is well hidden deep under the skin, reaching back to the vagina). Some men in Western culture eliminate the clitoris simply by ignoring it. Biologically, removing the clitoris is similar to removing the penis. Hmmm. Thinking about sex without a penis puts the clitoris and vagina in a different perspective.
Despite 70 to 80% of women having difficulty achieving an orgasm through vaginal intercourse, some men hurriedly rush to the vagina, thinking the woman will either orgasm or she has a problem, or that he has a problem with premature ejaculation, all the while ignoring the clitoris. The vagina has little to do with sexual satisfaction in many women. Human beings are sexual creatures who can do sexual acts and find satisfaction without vaginal (procreative) penetration, or they may use it as the mid-point, or the culminating point of sexual activity. Sex has a much fuller role in the lives of humans than it does in animals.
Sex is better thought of not as a single act, but as a series of acts that may produce one or more orgasms in women. Vaginal sex may be the beginning and culmination for the physical release for many men, but for women, sexual activity starts with closeness that progressively gets more intimate and physical. (See the cycle in Master's and Johnson - look up Master's and Johnson on the Web, or see the Kinsey Report.) The path proceeds to the clitoris where stimulation typically leads to orgasm, or at least to heightened sexual arousal. During vaginal penetration, the man may manually stimulate the clitoris to achieve simultaneous climaxes, if desired, or after the man ejaculates, he may even then proceed to stimulate the clitoris to orgasm with a finger or partially flaccid penis, continuing the sexual act for both.
Men can learn to slow down the process of sex, and gain better control, through techniques taught in Tantric sex. Women can learn more about becoming more responsive. Both of these can provide a better sexual experience for the female, and therefore for the male. (Do a search on "tantric sex" on the Web to find information.)
Myth 3: The time for sex has to be spontaneous to be good. No it doesn't. But, but, but.... No, it doesn't. Plan time to be together, and sex is likely to happen. Don't plan sex. Plan enjoyable time together, and leave room for sex.
Myth 4: Sexual excitement can cause pain in men if not released. This myth, if it has any truth at all, is largely regarded among specialists as a gimmick used by men to get sex. While you can't say with absolute certainty that no man ever experiences some degree of sexually related pain (some swear they do), for most it isn't very likely.
What if a man believes he is subject to pain? There are two answers. 1. So what? If he can't endure a little pain for his loved one, and instead wants to coerce her into sex, what kind of person is he? She might feel more loving just knowing of his sacrifice. 2. Masturbation is always an option, either before he goes out, or when he is aroused to the point of pain.
Myth 5: Women "need" sex, and it takes care of general irritability. This idea, although controversial, and which enrages other types of passions, has been around for years and is based on anecdotal evidence and some studies, but can't be readily dismissed. Semen does contain hormones that are known to elevate mood. Ugh! I'm in deep doo doo here.
There are more recent serious studies (reference: Gordon Gallup, Ph.D.) that indicate that sex with and without the introduction of semen into the vagina, makes a difference in women's mood. Depression is positively affected by the presence of semen, and affected negatively by withdrawal of sex, including the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms. (Caution, life may be hazardous to your health.) Note that correlational studies, which simply look at a specific element and correlate it with another specific effect, don't identify cause, and often don't control for many other factors that may also be directly or indirectly influential.
Probably more important is simply the fact that sexual activity has a proven, very mood elevating, and irritability reducing, effect on members of both sexes - it isn't one-sided. And since sex is always a choice, the independent woman can't be said to "need" sex, or even need men. However, men who live with women sometimes have a different take on this from experience. OK, my sense of humor is getting in the way again.
Myth 6: Supplements and pills will improve your sex life. They might, if there is a real medically treatable physical problem that is preventing sexual response, and the pill or supplement can actually treat that condition. They also might work simply because they become a fantasy. However they are unlikely to increase stimulation if the idea is to increase hormone levels above normal levels, or increase blood flow when it is already sufficient, neither of which will significantly improve sexual response when real medical conditions are not present.
What about Sexual satisfaction?
A number of things can improve sexual stimulation and satisfaction. These include the following ten things:
Good relationship. Nothing blocks sex better than relationship problems. But sex is a natural outcome of a good relationship, especially if the couple is sensitive to each other's sexual wants and are willing to find ways to satisfy them. Resolve relationship problems, and your sex life is very likely to improve.
Similarly, personal feelings of guilt and poor self-image can suppress sexual feelings. Couples can do much to alleviate these problems in their partners by talking about things, and by reassuring each of the other's attractiveness and desirability. On the other hand, mentioning the other person's attractiveness in a critical way has long-term negative consequences. Want to forget about sex? Criticize. But having sex and being reassuring has the very positive effect of encouraging people to control things like eating and exercising.
Moderate daily exercise. Exercise keeps the various systems in the body stimulated, responsive, in balance, and the muscles toned. Too much exercise can repress sexual feelings and cause detrimental changes to sexual organs (as noted in Olympic training). Too little exercise can also repress sexual feelings. Exercise eliminates tiredness, raises energy level, and elevates mood. Physical exercise improves sexual response in about 30% of women (as well as in men).
Time. Spend time together being happy and focusing on each other. Set aside part of a day with no kids, no business calls, no household responsibilities, no thoughts about the problems of the week, or even of the relationship - nothing to interfere with enjoying each other, even if it is just locking yourself in the bedroom and turning off the phone. Play. Laugh. Do things you both enjoy. Let each other know that you care enough to do this. Good sex is a likely outcome.
Explore. Learn about your body and what it responds to. Share the information with your partner. For example, the woman should show her partner where the clitoris is, not just assume he knows, and warn him that it is easily irritated - touch very gently (not in his usual enthusiastic way) and get it lubricated. Be willing to try something new, and say, "no," if you truly find something objectionable. Keep in mind that sex isn't found in a pill or a sex toy. But pills and sex toys aren't bad if they are helpful. While a body may be a garden of sensual delights, even a garden sometimes takes a little fertilizer, watering, and a few tools. Gardens always need cultivating - that is, frequent stirring of the ground.
Patience and loving. Men are ready to go at the drop of a hat. Their sexual responsiveness makes the desire always urgent for release, and some men don't learn or use the more satisfying foreplay approach. Women respond more slowly and need "warming up." Focus really needs to be on the woman and the experience, not the quickly excitable man, or the act is going to result in a one-sided reward. Companionship often sparks romantic interest, so enjoy each other's company, and then think of sex.
Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises are highly recommended by the medical community as a way to strengthen muscles on the "pelvic floor" in order to increase sexual response.
Diet. Many people feel sluggish all day because of their eating habits, and feel especially sluggish after a meal. Meals that are heavy on carbohydrates can make you feel sluggish all day, which inhibits sexual urges. People especially feel sluggish after a heavy meal because one third of the blood that was going to the head, is diverted to the stomach, and it is pumping nutrition into your blood stream. Both the lack of blood in your head, and the requirements of converting nutrition, steal away oxygen, making you feel sluggish and inhibiting sexual urges. Want sex? Eat lightly.
Rest. Most people are chronically tired because of the pace of their lives and lack of rest. Tiredness suppresses sexual urges. Get adequate rest, and don't wait until you are falling asleep (after the late show) to think about sex. TV is a wonderful birth control pill. Turn off the TV early. Have sex and get your rest.
Have sex regularly. Sex is a "use it or lose it" response. You can let the passion die simply by not having sex. Having sex makes you want more. Sexual activity enriches the relationship, making all kinds of problems and nagging irritations much less important. Sex is much more effective at reducing tension than aspirin, a sleeping pill, or an argument.
Enjoy the totality of sex. Why spend your life being miserable? Life is full of difficulties and frustrations, but those are not the things that make us real or things we celebrate. Those things should be set aside if we want sexual enjoyment. We celebrate relationships with each other. Put away the difficulties and frustrations and then remember those things about your partner that you enjoy.
The fantasy of dissatisfaction: The grass is always greener with another person. Whether it's the seven-year-itch, midlife crisis, or just the continuing feeling that some other person might be better in bed, there is the urge to graze elsewhere. That is the fantasy story that we sometimes tell ourselves.
Sometimes dissatisfaction in life turns into dissatisfaction with your sex life or your mate. They inherit the blame for everything that is wrong. In the fantasy, your dissatisfaction is projected onto your mate, who comes to symbolize everything that is wrong, and then that other person, the untainted one, becomes a symbol for the answer.
What happens? The person destroys his relationship with his family, and may throw away his old life entirely, while trying a new life. But typically (really) a marriage with the new person doesn't happen, since the person discovers this new person wasn't the solution either. Whatever problems the person has from unresolved needs are now compounded by a wrecked life.
Every moment with that other person is sexual, and the physiological differences between you create sexual tension. Let yourself enjoy the moments. Let the experience engulf you, fill all of your senses, stimulate your nervous system, fill your mind, and even your fantasies. That person is the one who can do all of these things to you, if you let the magic happen by celebrating the joy and excitement of each other.
Sex is strongly and continuously advocated by every communications medium that can reach us, from advertising to entertainment. The messages are to make your appearance alluring for sex, let sex govern your every behavior, and make sex happen very frequently. Despite the often questionable motives of those sending these messages to sell product, sex actually is good for people. It improves physical condition and health, improves relationships, and extends life. It is an important part of life from the age that sexual influence and activity begins, to well into the retirement years.
Unfortunately there are many who are saddled with sexual dysfunction, erroneous expectations of performance, and sexual myths. A high percentage of these difficulties can be fixed through taking the first step of simply providing accurate information.
Fantasy, role playing, and sex toys can be healthy choices, or they can lead the person using them down a back alley of dangerous practices and obsessions that can be physically injurious and intrusive in relationships. Providing accurate information about causes and consequences is an essential key to promoting healthy relationships.
Questions worth thinking and writing about:
Is "anything goes" a good idea? While we can't control other's behavior, should we discourage sexual practices that can be harmful? People are capable of sexual activity that is with other consenting adults in group situations. Are sexual role playing fantasies in groups a healthy thing? Are groups such as BDSM groups harmful in any way? Would encouraging the fantasy and discouraging the behavior be effective, or should even the fantasy be discouraged? Do these different sexual practices lead to sexual difficulties later? What do we know about the real consequences of these choices?
1. The facts about the benefits of sex in the three paragraphs notated were based on the magazine article Sexual Healing, by Kristin Von Kreisler, Redbook, April 1993.
2. Mental models.
Our brain (which is a different concept than a "mind"), has various ways of representing things. Objects and mapping are two of them. I commonly write about "objects," which to me are structures in the mind that reflect what we know about some outside reality. A chair is both an object and a category. We have some notion of what chairs are all about, and include everything that looks like a chair in that category. A specific chair, an object, has attributes that we use to flesh out our picture of a chair. An object might be a mystery, or question, represented by an empty space that we fill in. An object might be a word, and the word's experiential attributes, such as experiences and emotions, and definition by other words, flesh out the mental picture that we have of the word.
Mapping is another thing that I often write about. Our minds map things to create mental models of our world (See: http://www.ted.ie/psychology/neuro_cog/index.html. We map spaces, we might map the interface elements of software, a group of words, a picture, a narrative... I think that a mental map shows the relationships between things, allowing us to project thoughts, feelings, and meaning into it. I think of maps as coming from basic patterns, a locus of connectivity and continuity. When we map objects in a space, our brain automatically defines the relationship as position and distance. When we map other things, we determine what the relationship is.
We purposefully manipulate mental models of things in the theoritician's laboratory, in scientific and creative thinking. (See: http://www.cc.gatech.edu/aimosaic/faculty/neressian/papers/in-the-theoreticians-laboratory.pdf We take what is known, and ask, "What if?" How would changing this or that change our model?
I think that sexual desire is a mental model, and fantasy is the creative "what if?" that modifies the map of our sexual experience.
Notice and disclaimer:
I'm not a sexologist or other qualified professional; I don't represent the medical community; and no advice is intended in this article. While references are given for some things, and some things are very accurately reported, some (such as fantasy) is my opinion based on the study that I do, and should be taken with skepticism. This is a platform to encourage further research and discovery.
Other distribution restrictions:
This article has been placed in a restricted folder to restrict access. It may be age appropriate for some young adults above age 14, especially those at risk for sexual activity, but given the nature of the audience of this site, this article has been given restricted access to ensure adult review and supervision. There is reference to sexual organs (genitalia), and sexual practices. This article does not contain erotic material. There is no eroticism on this page or site. See the distribution note at the end.
Distribution is restricted to those eligible to receive content that talks about sexual themes. Anyone creating copies of this material assumes the responsibility for determining the need for adult review and supervision. You are free to give this article to others (small groups, under 100) as long as the copyright with my name (Dorian Scott Cole) is included. This material is not public domain and may not be sold, mass distributed, or published without permission from Dorian Scott Cole. Complementary distribution (unpaid - no charge) will not be charged for.
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