Am I normal?
Everyone has “Sexpectations”
This is the most common question that I hear as a sex educator and coach. We have lots of expectations for our sexual selves impressed upon us by the media and many pressures for performance based on what we have heard and sometimes what we have seen. These, combined with our lack of sex education and much misinformation that abounds about sex, can lead to many insecurities about our sex lives. People wonder whether they orgasm the right way or the best way, whether the number of times they have sex is the right amount, whether their libido is too high or too low, whether their desires are ok or not, whether what turns them on is appropriate or not. Add in a difficulty in talking about sex and most people either suffer or wonder in silence.
The Bottom Line: Consent
Consent is a paramount consideration when it comes to sex. Our society has determined that people under 18 cannot consent to sex with adults. Animals cannot consent. Beyond that, the rules are really for each person to determine for themselves. For example, some people like to play the game of “no doesn’t mean no” and choose a different word to mean “no”. As long as the rules are clearly laid out, everyone understands and freely chooses how the situation unfolds and can stop or change their minds at any time, then there are as many options out there as there are people.
There are those who seem insatiable in terms of desire and those who feel like they have no libido at all. As long as neither extreme is an escape from reality, they are both healthy and normal states. They may not be desired states, but in general the more one can accept one’s own libido as is, the better, and the easier to work with. In particular, many of us have a responsive desire: that is that we do not feel desire until it is awakened in us through touch. Knowledge is power, and understanding how our bodies work and what we can do to influence our libido can empower us to make the choices that suit us and our lives. More often than not, two partners have different levels of desire. Neither is abnormal, just different. But pretty much any situation requires good communication and respect to navigate everyone’s needs and desires.
So many people wonder what the average or ideal or best frequency of sex is. It all depends on those who are involved. What might be good for a couple with young kids and a busy schedule may be different for a retired couple with lots of free time and little stress which may be different again for a young couple just beginning to date. Sometimes we want to have sex more frequently but have a hard time finding the time and/or desire.
Some people pleasure themselves a few times a day, for others it rarely crosses their minds. As long as the activity is not interfering with other aspects of someone’s life (e.g. taking away from connection with a partner or from spending time with friends or getting to work on time) then there is no such thing as “too much”. There is no such thing as too little either. For some, solo sexual pleasure is not particularly interesting or a priority.
Desire and Turn-Ons
We all have different desires. Some we can attribute to significant life events or experiences. Most just seem to be the way we are wired. There are many types of fantasies and ways to experience pleasure. The key is to know what you want and to find others who want to share that with you. As long as no one is being harmed and there is consent, the world is your playground to create whatever you want. There is too much shame around sex in the world to heap more on yourself. Enjoy what turns you on and what you desire and don’t worry about whether it is ok or not. Also, please respect others’ desires. Even though it may not work for you, don’t “yuck” someone else’s “yum”.
Orgasms and Erections
Time and again women in particular tell me that they don’t orgasm when in fact with further probing it turns out that they do, but to them it is not an orgasm in the “right” or “best” way. There are so many ways to climax and they are all valid. Some people need vibrators or toys in order to orgasm. Everyone has different erogenous zones. Most vaginas are not sensitive enough to generate an orgasm without some help from the clitoris. Some penises feel pleasure from standard stimulation and others need more intensity. Some can hold an erection for a long time and others not for so long. There are always tips and techniques that you can choose to pursue learning in order to expand your repertoire with different kinds or increased pleasure, but that is a choice that not everyone wants to invest in. To pursue different kinds of pleasure is important to some whereas financial success or creative endeavours or time with others is more important to other people. We all get to choose where we focus our efforts in self-development.
Bodies, Appearance and Desirability
Western media has a pretty narrow image as to who is desirable. While so few fit that definition, many of us are still attractive to others. But it is hard to project confidence and desirability to the world when it keeps telling us that our bodies should look different. Colours, shapes, abilities, ages, sizes, gender expressions all vary. People spend much time, money and energy in striving for our bodies in general or aspects such as labia more specifically to fit a certain mould. But again, we should celebrate our unique differences rather than try to be a cookie cutter image of one version, which is next to impossible anyhow.
Yes, there are ranges of average, but that is not necessarily the goal. Olympic athletes are not average. Ultimately, we should stop chasing what is normal since there is no such thing. If we can focus on our uniqueness and make the best of who we are with education, respect and dialogue, we can create the most satisfying sexual lives that our bodies and pleasures have to offer.
Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality shop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you have questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to goodforher.com