In the pursuit of pleasure

Sexual pleasure, defined as the satisfaction and enjoyment derived from solitary or shared erotic experiences, is essential for wellbeing.

Research shows that sexual health, physical health, mental health, and overall well-being are all positively associated with sexual satisfaction, sexual self-esteem, and sexual pleasure.[i] Sexual satisfaction is associated with life satisfaction in men and positive mental health in women.[ii]

Sure, other pleasurable activities may provide similar benefits but the advantages of engaging in sex are numerous. Sex facilitates emotional bonding, relieves stress and improves overall quality of life. Sexual satisfaction is strongly associated with relationship satisfaction.

The emphasis has often been on sexual health and sexual rights, but what we really should be stressing is the importance of sexual pleasure. There are clear links between sexual pleasure, sexual rights and sexual health.[iii] Sexual pleasure is tied to sexual health and dependent on the extent to which sexual rights are respected. Sexual rights ensure that pleasure is a positive experience for all concerned, free of coercion, discrimination or violence.

Unfortunately, when it comes to sex the conversation thus far has been focused on the prevention of harm and not pleasure. Think of “Sex-Ed” which is entirely focused on the prevention of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease.  This method teaches that sex is scary, and that you need to protect yourself. Yet, sexual satisfaction comes from positive sexual experiences and not from the absence of conflict or dysfunction.

A new conversation focused on the positive aspects of sexuality is needed. Especially when it comes to women.

Society has not been kind when it comes to women and sex. Our culture has a long history of disapproving of female sexuality and women’s bodies. Women have been influenced by feelings of shame regarding sex, pride of virginity, and secrecy around sexual arousal.[iv]

Most sexual difficulties are not physical dysfunctions, but problems related to social influences and norms.[v] Beliefs of sexual desire and pleasure as a sin, age-related misconceptions, and emotions such as sadness, disillusion, and hurt are significant predictors of sexual dissatisfaction.[vi]

Women are also more likely to prioritize their partner’s needs.[vii] In studies looking at women’s ideal sexual situations, sexual pleasure on equal term is often emphasised. Unfortunately, influences from social norms and demands are often obstacles to this goal of equality in sexuality.[viii] 

Why boys will be boys isn’t good enough

We should not let our boys learn about sex mainly from other boys and from pornography. Pornographic videos portray aggression and degradation as both consensual (men controlling willing women) and sensual (producing pleasure for both).[ix] This is obviously not a good thing. More emphasis needs to be given to the emotions, ethics and dynamics of sex. Consent needs to be understood as a shifting communication that requires empathy, the capacity to recognize boundaries and others needs and their level of comfort. Boys should be encouraged to express their feelings and listen to the feelings of others. We should teach them to think critically of the power imbalance between men and women created by social attitudes. Men also need to re-evaluate some of the toxic dynamics of the macho male mentality and be better influences on one another.

Young people today are actually having less sex now than previous generations but they are having more casual encounters. These encounters are less intimate which can make it more difficult to talk about what they enjoy.

In large European studies, 15% of men and 34% of women lack interest in sex. This indifference towards sex is associated with age, mental and physical health. Not feeling emotionally close to partner during sex and lack of communication about sex are also major deterrents when it comes to interest in sex. [x]

Among women, lack of interest in sex was higher among those in a relationship of more than a year in duration and those not sharing the same level of interest or preferences with a partner.[xi]  For individuals in a sexual relationship for the past year, 23·4% of men and 27·4% of women reported an imbalance in level of interest in sex between partners.[xii]

The research concludes that a lack of interest in sex in partnered relationships should be addressed in a relationship specific way.

Attitudes towards sex are rapidly changing. A new pleasure seeking sexuality is now evolving.

As already discussed, research results highlight that mutual pleasure is a crucial component of sexual satisfaction. Other important aspects of sexual experiences, such as pleasure, positive feelings, arousal, sexual openness, and orgasm are also important factors when it comes to sexual satisfaction.

Relationship factors also play a critical role in orgasmic pleasure in women. Importance of sex, the frequency of partnered sex, and the relationship quality are all important factors.[xiii] Having sex to improve intimacy with one’s partner is associated with greater sexual satisfaction, while having sex to earn a partner’s approval is associated with sexual dissatisfaction and inhibition.[xiv] Other factors centred on the relationship that are also important for sexual satisfaction include romance, expression of feelings, creativity, acting out desires, and frequency of sexual activity.[xv] Studies in women also show that trust, giving pleasure, and closeness were important elements of partnered pleasure.[xvi]

Research indicates that older adults with active and satisfying sex lives engage more frequently in open sexual communication and setting the mood for sexual activity. Additionally, concurrence in sexual desire and activities leads to highly satisfying sex life in older adulthood. An expansive sexual repertoire and the incorporation of sexual variety, is also associated with greater sex frequency and sexual satisfaction.[xvii] Higher sexual intimacy, higher emotional intimacy, and better mental health are also associated with less distress about some sexual difficulties in older women.[xviii]

As with other aspects of healthy relationship, partners often express their desire to communicate about sexual pleasure but often lack the skills needed to do so.[xix] Results indicate that levels of sexual and nonsexual communication among college-age heterosexual couples affect the link between relationship and sexual satisfaction.[xx] Great sex is similar to great relationships.  It requires emotional engagement, understanding, openness and responsiveness.

Here are some questions you can start with:

What’s something you want more of in our sex life?

Where, and how, can I touch you that will turn you on?” Can we try this intimate sex position Do you have a favorite sexual memory of us

What’s your definition of amazing sex? What’s something non-sexual that turns you on?

[i] Anderson RM. Positive sexuality and its impact on overall well-being. Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz. 2013 Feb;56(2):208-14. 

[ii] Heywood W. Sexual Satisfaction Among Older Australian Heterosexual Men and Women: Findings from the Sex, Age & Me Study. J Sex Marital Ther. 2018 Apr 3;44(3):295-307.

[iii] Gruskin S, Yadav V, Castellanos-Usigli A, Khizanishvili G, Kismödi E.
Sexual health, sexual rights and sexual pleasure: meaningfully engaging the perfect triangle. Sex Reprod Health Matters. 2019 Dec;27(1):1593787.

[iv] Fry A. Sexual Freedom vs Sexual Nemesis: Where Is the New Morality? Psychiatr Danub. 2017 Sep;29(Suppl 3):550-555.

[v] Richters J. Bodies, pleasure and displeasure. Bodies, pleasure and displeasure. Richters J.Cult Health Sex. 2009 Apr;11(3):225-36.

[vi] Abdolmanafi A, Nobre P, Winter S, Tilley PJM, Jahromi RG. Culture and Sexuality: Cognitive-Emotional Determinants of Sexual Dissatisfaction Among Iranian and New Zealand Women. J Sex Med 2018 May;15(5):687-697.

[vii] Carter A, Ford JV, Luetke M, Fu TJ, Townes A, Hensel DJ, Dodge B, Herbenick D. “Fulfilling His Needs, Not Mine”: Reasons for Not Talking About Painful Sex and Associations with Lack of Pleasure in a Nationally Representative Sample of Women in the United States

J Sex Med. 2019 Dec;16(12):1953-1965.

[viii] Elmerstig E, Wijma B, Sandell K, Berterö C.

“Sexual pleasure on equal terms”: young women’s ideal sexual situations. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2012 Sep;33(3):129-34.

[ix] Shor E. Age, Aggression, and Pleasure in Popular Online Pornographic Videos. Violence Against Women. 2019 Jun;25(8):1018-1036.

[x] Graham CA et al. What factors are associated with reporting lacking interest in sex and how do these vary by gender? Findings from the third British national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles. Arch BMJ Open. 2017 Sep 13;7(9):e016942.

[xi] Graham CA et al. What factors are associated with reporting lacking interest in sex and how do these vary by gender? Findings from the third British national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles. Arch BMJ Open. 2017 Sep 13;7(9):e016942.

[xii] Mitchell KR. Sexual function in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Lancet. 2013 Nov 30;382(9907):1817-29.

[xiii] Rowland D, Donarski A, Graves V, Caldwell C, Hevesi B, Hevesi K. The Experience of Orgasmic Pleasure during Partnered and Masturbatory Sex in Women with and without Orgasmic Difficulty. J Sex Marital Ther. 2019;45(6):550-561.

[xiv] Sanchez DT, Moss-Racusin CA, Phelan JE, Crocker J. Relationship contingency and sexual motivation in women: implications for sexual satisfaction. Arch Sex Behav. 2011 Feb;40(1):99-110.

[xv] Pascoal PM, Narciso Ide S, Pereira NM. What is sexual satisfaction? Thematic analysis of lay people’s definitions. J Sex Res. 2014;51(1):22-30.

[xvi] Goldey KL, Posh AR, Bell SN, van Anders SM. Defining Pleasure: A Focus Group Study of Solitary and Partnered Sexual Pleasure in Queer and Heterosexual Women. Arch Sex Behav. 2016 Nov;45(8):2137-2154.

[xvii] Gillespie BJ. Correlates of Sex Frequency and Sexual Satisfaction Among Partnered Older Adults. J Sex Marital Ther. 2017 Jul 4;43(5):441-455.

[xviii] Graham CA. Prevalence and Predictors of Sexual Difficulties and Associated Distress Among Partnered, Sexually Active Older Women in Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and Portugal. Arch Sex Behav. 2020 Nov;49(8):2951-2961.

[xix] Saliares E, Wilkerson JM, Sieving RE, Brady SS. Sexually Experienced Adolescents’ Thoughts About Sexual Pleasure. J Sex Res. 2017 May-Jun;54(4-5):604-618.

[xx] Mark KP, Jozkowski KN. The mediating role of sexual and nonsexual communication between relationship and sexual satisfaction in a sample of college-age heterosexual couples. J Sex Marital Ther. 2013;39(5):410-27.

Dr. Brunel is excited to start your health and wellness journey with you.

You can book an appointment with him at any location below!

Cadence Chiropractic, Sport & Health

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Calgary, AB T2N 0Z6
(403) 521-2278

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Seton Integrative Health Clinic

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Calgary, AB T2R 1J3
(403) 225-3842