Receiving negative feedback and criticism from sexual partners as an adult is a major source of sexual inhibition for both men and women. Sex therapists have always known that a major key to sexual pleasure, arousal, and orgasm is to lower your sexual inhibition.
Many kinds of negative feedback can harm women’s ability to feel free sexually. A few of the most common I hear about in my consulting room are criticisms of one’s sexual responsiveness, general criticisms of one’s looks, and criticisms of one’s body.
If you want to enjoy sex more, you will need to take a (painful) look at your sexual history and see if your self esteem and feelings of sexual freedom have been harmed by negative comments. If so, assign yourself the task of reprocessing these comments and rehabilitating how you feel about yourself.
And going forward, in the words of #MeToo: Stand up for yourself in the face of sexism and abuse.
Reasons for Sexual Inhibition
I wish that women would stop faking orgasms with partners who are not good, attentive, and generous lovers. They make it difficult for women who are being honest about their sexual needs and wishes to have their desires taken seriously.
For decades, I have heard stories from women whose lovers, boyfriends, and husbands insist that all of their prior partners had achieved orgasms from intercourse alone. In actuality, this is rare among women.
If you as a woman hear criticisms about your ability to reach orgasm and you are not well educated about women’s sexuality, you might feel anxious and inhibited during intercourse. And performance anxiety is the antithesis of pleasure.
If your sexual self-confidence or sexual pleasure has been crushed by comments like this, you will be helped by reading a book entitled “Come As You Are,” which will educate you on the many ways in which you are normal sexually.
Women More Prone to Sexual Inhibition
As a clinician, not a researcher, I can’t prove my suspicion, but I think that women are more often the recipients of criticism that inhibits them and harms their sexual self-esteem. That’s because “lookism” in dating and mating ( judgments made about you on the basis of how well or poorly you meet societal criteria for attractiveness) is much harsher for women.
In heterosexual relationships, men believe (probably correctly) that they gain status by having a beautiful woman on their arm. Among some men, that can lead to criticizing their female partner’s looks, whether it is the shape of their body, their weight, breast size, youthfulness, or other factors.
Body image concerns are a major source of sexual inhibition for women. While making love, if you are worried about some aspect of how you look, you can’t focus on sexual sensations. So you won’t be able to become or stay aroused.
The research demonstraing the link between body image concerns and sexual pleasure is longstanding, beginning with people like Dr. Seymour Fisher and recently reiterated in a 2018 study of 1,000 women published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. In that study the authors showed that women’s sexual inhibition has a major role in orgasmic difficulties. They concluded that sex therapists should be personalizing their treatment of women, and looking at each woman’s idiosyncratic reasons for feeling sexual inhibition.
Creating a Disinhibition Coach
There are many different reasons you might need a disinhibition coach for sexual issues. In this case, to combat harsh feedback from partners about your looks, you need to confront what happened to you.
Write down the negative feedback you received that is haunting you. This is painful, but it is necessary to reprocess it.
Now you need to think about the people who love you and think you are perfect just the way you are.
See if you can get a picture of people who love you, or people who have complimented you, or people who think you deserve to have sexual pleasure just the way you are right now.
Imagine some positive and supportive things that several of these people might say to you about your looks or your body. Write these positive comments down.
These disinhibition coaches don’t even have to be actual people in your life, if you are missing supportive people like this. You can channel people you admire, people you have read about, or people on TV.
The trick — the self-care secret — is to identify and stop absorbing and replaying these negative incidents in your head. Change what you are telling yourself. Honestly, you can do this. It works.
Here is an imagery technique adapted from my book “Sex Talk: Uncensored Exercises for Exploring What Really Turns You On” that can help you get over these harmful memories, thoughts and feelings.
If your sexual pleasure has been affected by negative sexual feedback, I would like you to take control of your sexuality and create these disinhibition coaches as sexual resources for you, as you change and grow.
Let these disinhibition coaches inspire you and cheer. You can have more sexual pleasure. I promise.
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