Inexperienced

Friday, September 10, 2010

Question

Is there any way to change your sexual fantasies? I am spending too much time on-line reading about bondage and rape fantasies. This material is frightening and disgusting to me, but I keep going back to it. I don't even know if a woman can be a sex addict. But I am masturbating so much I am sore all of the time, which makes me conscious of my cunt, and makes me want to masturbate again. I wish I had never seen these photos or heard about this activity. I want a loving, equal relationship with normal sex. But I have been afraid to have sex again for fear that it won't be enough for me now. I know that I don't want to be held down or treated roughly or verbally abused. I only like sex that is gentle and loving. But what if these fantasies have ruined normal sex for me?

I started looking at pornography on-line because my previous boyfriend accused me of being narrow-minded and boring in bed. That was very hurtful to me. He never suggested that we do anything specific for the sake of variety. So how does he know I would have rejected him? But he rejected me, and now I feel doubtful about trusting someone else again.

Can you help me to get off of the Internet and start dating again? Is there any way to "switch channels" so that the kinky and violent fantasies will go away? Do men enjoy the kind of sex that I like, or do they all want something that is more forceful?

Answer

Your letter raises a bunch of different issues. Let me try to divide my answer up into a few different sections.

Let's talk first about sex addiction. A lot of different definitions of this term are floating around, and some people (including therapists) don't believe in using it. There is a political continuum of people who talk about sex addition. On one extreme, you have people whose definitions of normal or morally acceptable sex are pretty narrow. Some of these specialists think that masturbation is a symptom of sex addiction, and any use of pornography is pathological. I can't go along with that. I think that any useful definition of addiction has to be connected to harm. If a sexual behavior is hurting the individual and is beyond their control (in other words, when they try to stop, they can't), then I think we should explore whether defining this as an addiction would be useful and lead to healthy change.

Alcoholism was originally seen as a man's problem. But it wasn't long after Alcoholics Anonymous was founded, and treatment was taken out of the hands of "experts," that women started turning up at meetings with all the same symptoms that the guys had. Of course women can be sex addicts. Our society has different standards for male and female sexuality, so I think more shame is attached to being a woman who has compulsive, harmful sexual patterns. This can make it harder to admit you have a problem or find help.

When you wake up in the morning, make a list of the things you ought to get done that day. Pick the top three and schedule them on a calendar. Then start to work. If you find that you can't distract yourself from the Internet porn, and you are making a good-faith effort to cut it out and refocus on more productive things, then you need some help. I would suggest checking the Internet or phone book for one of the many helpful twelve-step meetings that can give you tools for change. Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous are two of the largest ones. You can find a safe place to tell your story anonymously, listen to how other people cope with similar problems, and get ideas for new things to try. The watchword of recovery is "Take what you need and leave the rest," so don't feel that you have to agree to anything that contradicts your own values or common sense. And don't get involved sexually or romantically with anybody in the program. Give yourself at least a year before you consider such a thing. There are also many therapists who assist with sex addiction issues.

Second, you ask if you can stop having BDSM fantasies and masturbating so often that you hurt yourself. It may not make sense, but the first thing I suggest is to stop feeling so guilty about responding to these scenarios. We don't have any conscious control over what arouses us. The fact that you get turned on by this material doesn't mean that you want to do it. But when you beat yourself up and scold yourself, it just increases the forbidden fascination of it all. The worst you feel about yourself, the more you are going to punish yourself with images that upset you.

My theory is that most people could enjoy a wide variety of sexual behavior. But they don't. There are many reasons why. Maybe there are moral objections, or there's a lack of opportunity, or fear of social consequences. We shape our sexual repertoires based on a combination of desire and inhibition. But in the meantime, that potential is in the background. And most of us get aroused by just about any sexually explicit material. Even if we consciously find it disgusting and upsetting, our bodies still react to descriptions or images of sexuality. We underestimate the power of Eros. It is awesome and far-reaching.

There is another factor that tends to fan the flames of extreme sexual fantasies. When you are thinking about or imagining sex, you are not being stimulated by a partner. You can stimulate yourself, but you can't offer yourself the kind of surprise or intimacy that a partner provides. So if you are going to get more aroused, there is only one place to find it, and that is in turning up the volume on the fantasy. So over time, they tend to get more kinky and more heavy.

You would like to move in the opposite direction. What was your old sexual pattern? Did you look at any erotica? How often (if ever) did you masturbate? I don't think you can abstain from making yourself come. You have an adult body with complex physical needs. Try to locate some material that is more about tenderness and romance. If you can get aroused by this material, don't look at the heavier stuff. You are going to have to get creative here and be specific about what kinds of fantasies are okay with you. It also sounds like you need to calm down when you masturbate, and cut down on the frequency and the harshness of the stimulation. What did you once do instead of masturbate? Bake brownies, read fashion magazines, go to movies, take your dog for a walk? Make a list of alternatives and schedule them.

A sexual urge is a feeling like being sad or wanting to buy a candy bar. If you can tolerate it for about 20 minutes (or less), it will go away. It is the nature of feelings or urges to pass by and change into something else. But you have to learn how to put up with the uncomfortable feeling of wanting something and not letting yourself have it. Practice makes this easier. Don't be hard on yourself if you can't change all at once. You are trying to learn new behavior, and that is not easy, especially when a primal urge like sex is involved.

There is a possibility that, now the cat is out of the bag, it won't go back in. You may always find BDSM material arousing. If this turns out to be true, you may need to make some compromises. You can stop making such harsh judgments about this sexual style. If you stop hating the people who do kinky sex, you can stop hating yourself and being so afraid. Real BDSM bears little resemblance to kinky porn. There is a strong emphasis on consent, mutual pleasure, and safety. A good BDSM scene is like a magic trick or a roller-coaster ride. It is an illusion that provides a lot of thrills with little real danger or risk. Learning more about real-life BDSM might help you to adjust to having these fantasies.

It might also make you feel better to just have a greater range of erotica that you enjoy. Knowing that you can still respond to vanilla material or sex can be a big help. It would be surprising if you had lost this capacity. Usually when we add a new form of sexual enjoyment, it doesn't erase or do away with any of our old favorites. I know many BDSM practitioners, and all of them still enjoy vanilla sex as well.

Finally, we come to the problem of your breakup. You feel betrayed because your boyfriend criticized your worth as a sex partner without giving you a fair chance to please him. Your own pleasure doesn't seem to have come up, however, which makes me think he is a selfish pig. When you start to attack yourself because of the breakup, remind yourself how badly he behaved. Maybe you can actually start to feel lucky that he left you. If he had stayed, what kind of future did you have? Not much of one. Seems to me that you dodged a bullet.

Building trust after a breakup is not easy. You have to be patient with yourself (and find somebody who can be patient with you as well). A good man will understand how much you were hurt. He will want to comfort and reassure you. Don't date men unless you believe they are essentially kind and nurturing, respectful and honest. Take it slow when it comes to resuming sexual activity. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be sure you really know the other person and can rely on them before you take your clothes off. There's also nothing wrong with gradually becoming sexual. Why rush to have intercourse? Pretend to be teenagers and enjoy all the intermediate steps.

It doesn't sound to me as if you are doomed to be boring in bed. Maybe you are inexperienced. I don't really know. Maybe you didn't want to take initiative and ask for techniques you hadn't tried before. Most women do expect their male partners to take the initiative. Instead of worrying so much about pleasing him, put equal focus on your own pleasure. Do you know what kind of sex will turn you on or give you a better orgasm? Do some thinking, reading, and exploration of this question. A good lover wants to know as much as possible about this topic. He or she will be aroused by knowing what you like or what you are curious about.

Some people fear that if they ask to try a certain technique, they will have to do it forever. Don't think about it that way. It's okay to try something and drop it from your options if you hate it. But also be aware that it can sometimes take more than one try to learn how to enjoy a new experience. Sometimes a slight adjustment (like a different position or more attention to hygiene) can turn a downer into a hot time.

Good luck to you in sorting all of this out. Thanks for writing!

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