It’s no wonder so many people find sex intimidating or nerve-wracking: we don’t talk about it nearly enough! It’s odd that our society seems simultaneously obsessed with sex and terrified of it. We glorify the good, fun, glamorous parts, while often completely ignoring the parts that are embarrassing or difficult.
But talking about the realities of sex is important; it encourages greater sexual openness in the world. It also makes for better sex in the long run – after all, if everyone’s always telling you the opera is a life-changingly thrilling experience, you’ll be disappointed by most of the operas you attend. On the other hand, if someone explains to you frankly that some operas are good, some are terrible, and some are amazing, you’ll be more forgiving toward the mediocre ones and more excited by the terrific ones. Managing expectations is good for everyone involved!
With that in mind, here are some of the fabulously flawed realities of sex…
Sex is “dirty” in more ways than one, if you know what I’m sayin’! There is spit, sweat, and various other bodily fluids. There are natural, human smells and tastes. Your sheets may end up stained, your clothes may get thoroughly rumpled, and you may need to shower afterward (individually or together!). While basic hygiene is obviously important, some degree of messiness is to be expected in even the most fastidious of sexual encounters. And that is fine. If mess bums you out, you can keep a package of wet wipes near the bed for quick clean-up – but for the most part, you and your partner will be happier if you embrace the glorious messiness of sex!
The slap of flesh against flesh, the slick slide of skin on skin, and of course, the cries and moans and exclamations of ecstasy – sex can be a real cacophony! Some people are terrified to make “unpretty” noises during sex, for fear that they’ll appear undignified and turn off their partner – but the truth is, any partner worth their salt would be thrilled to hear you let loose. Those sounds, after all, just mean you’re enjoying yourself! If noise makes you nervous, you might find it helpful to play some music in the background, or turn on some white noise, like a fan or a whirring humidifier. Having a baseline noise level could help you let go and get loud!
You will find yourself in unflattering poses during sex at some point or another. Certain positions may emphasize parts of your body you hate. Certain angles may create rolls of fat or extra chins. And of course, certain sensations may twist your face into a peculiar grimace of pleasure. But guess what? We all look weird during sex. Even porn stars, who are paid to look pretty while getting ploughed, sometimes pull an unattractive face or get into an odd position. There is nothing wrong with these “unsightly” sights: what we’d judge as “ugly” is often based in outdated, unhelpful patriarchal beauty standards. Not to mention, it’s often during the best sex that we look the weirdest, because the pleasure renders us unaware of details as trivial as how we look. Embrace the beautiful ugliness of sex and you’ll be much happier for it!
Like any decent workout, there are times when sex feels deliciously easy, and other times when it’s such an exertion that you turn bright red and drip sweat everywhere. It’s easy to feel discouraged when sex isn’t magically effortless – “Shouldn’t it feel easy if it’s really good?” you might think – but even with the most conscientious and attractive partner, sex can still feel like exercise sometimes. That’s part of the fun! You get to push your body to its limits, develop creative workarounds for your limitations, and put your vigor to the test. And just like the endorphin rush you get from a quality workout, the happy afterglow of intense sex can be half the fun!
The media would have us believe that if you and your partner share an intense, mutual love and attraction, your bodies will fit together like puzzle pieces during sex. There’ll be no shuffling, shifting, or slip-ups – just pure, synchronized perfection. If only it was so easy! Sex can involve complex positioning, precise angles, and a whole lotta limbs. Juggling all of that can be a tricky task. You also can’t read your partner’s mind, nor can they read yours, as much as you might wish otherwise. So when sex isn’t instantly perfect, it’s important to remember that it will get better with practice – and that there may always be an element of awkwardness to it and that’s okay!
We’re told, over and over again, that sex will be an immersive, ecstatic experience. It’s no wonder, then, that sometimes we feel disappointed or broken when our real-life sex fails to reach those heights of joy. While sex can be life-changingly fantastic, it can also be just as mundane and pedestrian as any other activity. Your perception of sex can depend on a whole lot of factors, from your mood to your sexual history to where you are in your hormonal cycle – so if sex with a particular partner isn’t instantly wonderful, don’t assume it’s a lost cause. Sex is no more magical than any other act of which we’re capable; you can do your best to imbue it with magic, but sometimes the magic just isn’t there. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; it just means you’re human.