If I had a dollar for every time a patient has expressed a simple sexual wish that he or she never spoke aloud, I would be quite wealthy.
In order to have pleasurable sex, it is critical to be able to ask for what you want. In fact, one of the things that can make sex so satisfying and so very intimate in an ongoing relationship is the ability to ask for things for yourself when you are naked and wrapped up in the arms of another human being.
Why is it, then, that so few people are able to be vulnerable and brave enough to ask for what they want sexually?
There are many kinds of sexual favors, of course. Some are certainly more challenging to request. Here, I will just be talking about seemingly easy asks.
When I ask what makes it so challenging for them to ask for sexual favors, they are often puzzled by their own reactions. It could be something like asking for a particular kind of caress, or for kissing to last way longer. These are simple favors, after all. My patients are often baffled by their own hesitancy.
My job is to unpack their uncertainty. Here is a common thread I find.
Your ability and willingness to voice your sexual wishes during a romantic interlude may well have developed from your experiences in your family-of-origin, and not necessarily because of anything specifically sexual that you were shamed about. It may have come from the general messages that you got about whether you deserved to get good things, to take up space in the world, or to depend on others for good things.
Here are some of the messages that patients have received that turn out to be relevant to their silencing their own sexual voices:
“Don’t dream. It’s much too risky.”
“Don’t be too loud.”
“Don’t expect too much.”
“Never waste someone else’s time.”
“Clean up after yourself.”
“What makes you think you’re so great?”
“When you are asked to help, do it; but don’t ever ask to be taken care of yourself.”
“Do what is expected of you.”
“Don’t impose. Be ever vigilant for signs you are imposing.”
Can you see how these non-sexual messages may make it risky to ask a partner for sexual favors? Some of them might seem practical or matter-of-fact — maybe even harmless.
Some of these messages are okay. I have told my children to be adaptable, or to pick up after themselves.
However, if you got a steady diet of these kinds of words without any loving and flattering messages about who you are, what your good qualities are, or how proud your parents are of you, or how pleased they were to give you something you wanted or needed, you may need to do some work on your sexual self-esteem.
Try to do some journaling about parental messages that diminished you, and see if you can make the link to your issue of asking to be attended to sexually.
If this topic makes a light bulb go off in your head, you can read more about other people who had similar experiences in my book SexSmart.
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