Note from Timaree: this is a classic column, reprinted because it’s still mad relevant, even if the pop culture references are now awkwardly outdated.
Question to the Sexpert:
“One of your recent polls asked: ‘Which causes you the most anxiety around sex?’ and I was surprised by my own answer: ‘the psychology.’ I have always really enjoyed sex, and sex with my current boyfriend has been the best I’ve had to this point. However, we’ve been together for about a year and a half and I it is gradually getting harder to focus on the act and keep my mind from wandering. I start thinking about what I’m thinking about… I’ll be approaching orgasm thinking ‘Is it sick for me to picture having sex with someone else right now? What does that mean about our relationship?’ What do you recommend for the overly analytic fornicator?”
I’m gonna compare your question to farting in the middle of pilates class.
Because as an instructor, I can tell you this about farting in pilates classes: a) it happens…. a lot, and b)it’s bizarre how no one ever remarks upon it. Also: it is hilarious, but that’s not really as pertinent to the simile I was trying to establish. My point is that even though something happens commonly to a wide number of people, if we don’t hear others talking about it we often fear we’re the only ones. And we assume there must be something wrong with us. And as a result of this self-inflicted shame, rather than discussing the event, we pretend it never happened… and hope the smell of enchiladas goes away.
And like farting, fantasy during sex is pretty natural. There are people who say they don’t do it ever, but those people, lacking buttholes, must be pretty full of…. well, whatever buttholes are good for getting rid of.
Damn near everyone fantasizes during sex with a partner, but those who feel guilty about it are the only ones who suffer any repercussions. Men and women differ in their fantasies: where they focus their attention, the specificity and emotionality of the content and the variety. And while some researchers have sought to pathologize the behavior (is thinking a behavior? well, that is the question…), fantasy is associated with higher libido and generally seems to indicate that one has a satisfying sexual life.
DON’T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT
So let’s look at your situation and think about reasons your mind may wander during enjoyable acts of pleasure with your beloved.
- Shiny New Things! You and your boo have been together exactly long enough for the dopamine and norepinephrine part of manic love to start waning. Fortunately, coming down from the high of new love is being replaced by the more steady state effects of bonding oxytocin and actual, real live intimacy. While you love each other super duper muchos, the zing of newness can’t be sustained forever. It’s ok, don’t fret: this is what is feels like when lust turns into real love.
- Multitasking Queen. You live in an age where no one can focus on anything for an extended period. Most people who started this article won’t finish it. You’ve got shit to do and you’re used to managing multiple things simultaneously. If you want to practice focusing and being in the now here are some excellent ideas.
- Are we there yet? So you and your honey have had some time to search each other’s keyboards. You know pretty efficient routes to run his programs. You have, by now, mastered that thing you do with your tongue. Awesome, right? Kinda. Sex that is goal-oriented (started with the intention of reaching a specific outcome), can get really routine. You want to be consistently high performing, so you and your partner may take established routes, which ultimately forms a nice, deep rut. Since you know things are going to be going in a semi-predictable pattern, you can be expected to space out a little bit.
- What do you really want? Look at the content of your fantasies. Is it the same other person over and over again that you’re thinking about? Is it a certain behavior, power dynamic, position, location, feeling or sensation that gets you hot? Think about what you get from the fantasy that could be incorporated in real life. Maybe a role play is in order, or perhaps you should finally bring that harness out from under your bed. Whatevs.
Again, fantasy is normal. But if you find yourself seriously bothered about it, you have options. But you gotta know why and how your fantasies are serving you.
Is your mind wandering or is it running? Are you just distracted or are you going to the only place you can get turned on? What is the content of the fantasy? Can it be made real through dirty talk, real life behavior or a role play?
- FOCUS. If you’ve decided the problem is just that you can’t stay in the moment, look to the links above for ideas on maintaining attention span. Stay engaged in the action by talking dirty, maintaining eye contact and switching positions.
- Act Out. Make your fantasy real by role playing or talking dirty. You never know what a little genuine “who’s your daddy?” convo might do. And read this jawn on role playing!!!
- Mix it Up. Maybe he won’t like having candle wax dripped on him, perhaps you won’t really enjoy having your butt licked, but you don’t know until you try. Worst case scenario: you stop and try something else. It’s a lot harder to zone out when you’re trying something for the first time. Go a different speed than usual, get it on a new location or at a random time of day, try new techniques while doing old things. The path less traveled may be the way home.
- Accessorize. Bring in some new toys! Whether it’s a vibrator, dildo, handcuffs, dice that tell you to “kiss” or “blow” on things, edible undies, body paint, blindfold, lingerie or the backseat of your car: change up the game and give yourself more to think about than getting across home plate.
- Get off the fast track. Stop worrying about if you’re taking too long or if you cum at all. Just be there, with your lover, feeling what you feel and being together. That is a perfect goal in and of itself.
- I’m fine, really. Ok, so you can’t stop fantasizing or your partner is unwilling to budge on any of this? It’s cool. There’s no such thing as a thoughtcrime and this doesn’t have to spell the end of your relationship. Find other ways to connect: shared experiences, talking intimately about vulnerable topics, sensual non-sexual touching, projects that you take on together.
Again, if there’s a take-home message: it’s that you’re normal. You’re probably fine. Your relationship is probably fine. Chill.