Beyond Fear and Shame of Sexual Performance
Fear and shame around sexual performance is the most common issue clients come to me seeking help with. I often see a mismatch between how people think pleasure should be and how it actually is.
Cultural cues, peer pressure, belittling banter… all can suggest there is a ‘right’ way to feel and to behave in sex. If we don’t fit into the box we receive a strong message that it’s not ok to be ourselves, and this leaves so many people feeling awkward and inadequate. Many of us respond by trying to adopt a perceived “right way” to have sex… setting ourselves up for a lifetime of performance problems.
“Every time we make our bodies perform according to a mental construct of what we think sex should be, we limit our possibilities for pleasure.”
Unfortunately every time we make our bodies perform according to a mental construct of what we think sex should be, we limit our possibilities for pleasure. Over time, this can become really chronic. We reduce our willingness to explore authentic intimacy with another, preferring to stick to what we already know to be ‘good sex’ or what ‘works’. The time we spend in arousal reduces, as performance is difficult to sustain for long.
It’s so saddening when I hear people say they must fantasise about something or someone other than their partner to maintain arousal and/or generate an orgasm. At this point true intimacy is lost and disconnection sets in, and sex becomes as functional as paying the bills or doing the food shop.
Giving time and space to the adventure of sexuality, in an environment where no one’s body can be wrong, is an absolute game-changer. Instead of performance, there is exploration. And the more space we give to that, the more mutual pleasure arises, and sex becomes easy, liberating and joyful.
Letting Go of Sexual Inhibition
I often hear clients (particularly men) say: “She’ll let me..” or, “I was allowed to..” as if being sexual is a kindness granted or a treat allowed by their partner. I suspect this persists from a time of distortion around sex: when sex was seen as pleasureable for men but only ‘put up with’ by women; a marital duty. That time is long gone and it’s recognised that all parties have the capability and right to immense pleasure.
The key is finding a way to dance together so everyone can enjoy eroticism. Really good sexuality is about freedom of expression; allowing ourselves to be unhindered by convention. To do this, we need to let go of our inhibitions and become unafraid of how we look or sound when we are in our pleasure.
“The more we cast off how we ‘should’ be, the more we can express our true-selves and shine.”
It’s this last area of shame that is often hardest for people to access and change. Our minds so strongly tell how we ‘should’ behave. The conditioning comes early in life as we learn what behaviour is and isn’t allowed. We learn to copy what everyone else is doing, and of course we do this with sex too, copying movies and porn films.
It takes bravery to step out on a different path, to learn to listen to the clues in your own body and experiences: where is your true pleasure?
In beautiful, connected and intimate sexuality we allow our true selves to show, uncensored and unashamed. In these states, I often find people become much simpler and lighter with their desires. Fulfilment becomes easier and joy can overflow.
As the African proverb says: “The more you are you, the more I can be me.”
Lifting the shame
I’ve had the honour to work with so many people and my greatest joy is watching the shame lift around sexuality. I take my clients through a process of learning about themselves so that they can become performance free, and find their unique ways to greater pleasure.
Each time this happens it provides so much breathing space for healthy learning, personal expansion and growing compassion towards self and others. All of this makes people much better lovers inside and outside the bedroom.
When we feel sexually liberated it affects our whole lives. We move much more freely in the world, with more confidence and energy to create the life we really want. Rather than feeling desperate for someone else to meet our needs, we become open to exploring and experimenting with pleasure in a heartful and loving way. Simply put, sexuality without shame becomes a whole lot more fun!