Why you should care

People need to know it’s OK to just want to do it missionary style.

Berit Brockhausen is an author and psychologist in Berlin, where she’s counseled couples for almost 30 years.

People come to my practice because they have sexual problems. They suffer because things in bed are not as they should be. But often, the problem is that they are not as they should be only because they think it should be different. Erik, for instance, thought it would be a good idea to have sex with Elke on the edge of the bathtub. Elke is a very attractive woman, and as her lover, Erik has to make an effort. After all, she ended her previous relationship because her partner only treated her to a routine Sunday afternoon coitus.

Aging gracefully and in his early 50s, Erik is open to erotic matters. But when I get to know him in my practice, he is nothing but a heap of distress. For the first time in his life, his penis had failed. Now he is seeking counseling to avoid the next meltdown between the sheets.

I ask him to tell me what happened. Then I say: “There is nothing wrong with you. You have a healthy body that you can rely on.” Erik simply had had achy knees, and the draft of the open bathroom window made him shiver. When looking for sexual fulfillment, the body is a reliable compass. As soon as someone like Erik tries to deliver a good performance despite an uncomfortable position, the penis will interrupt the course of action. Fortunately.

Erik is not the only one who is unable to grasp this good fortune and instead doubts himself. There are the young women who cannot understand why they have a painful reaction during intercourse when they disregard their own boundaries. There are the men who ignore their own tension until their body finally interrupts the torture with a too-early ejaculation. And there are the many couples who are asking each other desperately when and how they lost their appetite for one another.

The problems arise out of the discrepancy between that which they feel and that which they believe they should feel. Should? Isn’t this supposed to be the post-sexual-revolutionary era? Aren’t we free to do whatever we like during sex? It would appear so. But the people who come to my practice are under pressure. They want to experience what is supposedly normal when having sex: passion, abandon, lasciviousness, security, adventurousness, multiple orgasms, never-ending erections. They fail because this is impossible to achieve in normal life.

Be selfish; focus on what will give you pleasure, and your partner will reap the benefits.

Unfortunately, the many well-intentioned tips and advice books do not make it better. All the allegedly so-sophisticated thrusting and stimulation techniques often just lead to more tension: “Am I doing it right? Does my partner feel it? Why is she looking so serious? What is wrong with me if even bondage does not get me going?”

I advise my clients to consider themselves gourmets, to be choosy, to let their appetite lead them. Sometimes that might lead to unusual combinations; sometimes they might find they are content with just a few bites. Whoever always consumes the whole set meal, no questions asked, needn’t be surprised if he is never satisfied! It is well worth it to ask yourselves every time what you are in the mood for. A quickie before going out to see a show? Long kisses in the car? Or the usual sequence of foreplay, intercourse and cuddles on a Sunday morning?

Be selfish; focus on what will give you pleasure, and your partner will reap the benefits. Hardly anything is as much an obstacle for good sex as setting for yourself the goal to only make your partner happy. Be brave! Admit that you might not have a clue what might be nice for your beloved today. You do not have to know everything, but you can find out — if you want to, that is.

Good sex is something for adults, adults who take ownership of their desires. It is something for those who stay confident and loving even if they disappoint from time to time, and who, following a disappointment, are willing to explore with their partner what could bring more pleasure to both instead of withdrawing. It is up to you to decide whether sexuality has a place in your life — and if so, where.

And so, perhaps paradoxically considering I’m a sex therapist, I strongly advocate two things: One, the right to not want sex, whether temporarily or forever. And two, yes, I defend a conscious decision to have bad sex. Maybe change holds too high a risk or is too much of an effort. Maybe it’s just not that important to you.

All this is your prerogative. In counseling, I would only work with you with regard to how you own that choice — you should not blame your partner for not “making the grade.” As long as your beloved is also satisfied with the kind of sex you are having, I see no need to change whatsoever. Instead I would applaud coming to this confident choice.

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