Dr. Denise Renye is a licensed clinical psychologist and sex therapist, MEd, MA, PsyD, in San Francisco, CA
When it comes to sex, most of us haven’t had anything close to an adequate education. We were taught, either directly or indirectly, to focus on a goal – orgasm and more specifically, male orgasm or sexual ejaculation. This “sex education” is not really an education because it’s an old, patriarchal paradigm that was created in a traditional, fear-based fashion. It focuses on sexually transmitted infections – what they are, how to avoid them, and so forth — and less on the pleasure of the sexual act itself.
Understanding Goal-Oriented Sex by the Numbers
There are many ways to conceptually understand sex, why we have it, why we want it, and what it’s all about. Goal-oriented sex is one way to understand sex. Goal-oriented sexuality focuses on male ejaculation, which is the main focus. Either avoiding or inducing procreation is secondary. This is supported scientifically. For instance, a 2017 study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior looked at more than 52,500 adults in the U.S. — including those who are lesbian, gay, and bisexual — and found 95% of heterosexual men reported they usually or always orgasmed during sex, compared with just 65% of heterosexual women. Many of these men don’t know if their female partner has orgasmed.
It’s clear goal-oriented sex prioritizes the man’sOrgasm, not the woman’sBecause otherwise, the numbers would be more even in a hetero-focused, or designed, relationship. Shan Boodram, certified intimacy educator, stated in The Zoe Report, “Because the male orgasm is crucial to procreate, our society has built this idea that the male orgasm is crucial for sex; that sex begins with a hard penis and ends with a flaccid penis. Because women don’t have to orgasm to create life, it took a different level of societal importance.” Again, the numbers back that up — fewer heterosexual women are having orgasms during sex than heterosexual men.
Communication about sexual desires, goals, and experiences
There hasn’t been a lot of space in this so-called “sex ed” to include teaching how to communicate around sex. This includes having the skills to be able to voice that you haven’t had an orgasm and that you want one, or that you genuinely don’t. The skills of being curious and asking about a partner’s pleasure are also not taught. Although traditionally, female pleasure has been second to that of men, this may be changing with the sexpositive movement.
A Pleasure-Oriented Approach
Although some types of sex can result in procreation, most sex is about pleasure and desire. The hetero world can learn a lot from the gays.
Boodram goes on to say, “In fact, the orgasm numbers for women skyrocket in same-sex partnerships compared to heterosexual relationships. When you are with a same-sex partner, there is nothing to prove — it’s just about what feels good, and that is when naturally more orgasms and more pleasure occurs.” Without having rigid, “finish-line-driven” sex goals that govern your sexual experiences, you’re able to be more exploratory.
Boodram refers to pleasure-oriented sexual sex. It’s sex-positive in nature and takes the focus off of sex being mostly about procreation. It takes the focus off of the end result and instead draws attention towards the present moment, which is about cultivating pleasure with or not an orgasm. Orgasms are great, but how do you create more pleasure? All in allNot at the very end.
Sex is not a performance
For those who have experienced anxiety, hypoarousal and decreased desire, erectile disorder, delayed ejaculation, erectile function, erectile dysfunction, or delayed ejaculation symptoms, switching to pleasure-oriented sexual activity can provide some relief. Typically, a traditional way of considering sexual anxiety is to frame it as “performance anxiety.” However, sex need not ever be a performance. Transforming sex into a performance takes someone out of the moment, and their body. It makes sex an intellectual experience instead of an embodied one. The analyzer self is in control, and the pleasurable experience is dissociated.
Many therapists, such as Dr. Renye, offer expert support to individuals and couples who have sexual concerns. Use our advanced search tool to find a therapist that specializes in Sex and Sexuality.
Embodiment Helps You Stay Present
As I’ve written about before, embodiment allows you to be in touch with the body signals that you get on a regular basis. You can use these signals to your advantage if you can sense them. You know what you like and don’t like more and more as you progress in your journey of embodiment. When you are navigating a sexual or sensual situation with someone, you are in a better position to know and communicate things such as “Let’s try this out” or “I’d like it if you touched me slower/faster/lighter/harder,” or “Stop what you are doing; I’m not into it. I’d like this or that instead.”
Many times, less-experienced lovers mistakenly believe that simply voicing their desires will end the moment. The opposite can be true. If you follow your intuition, you can feel confident in your ability to be with yourself during sex. This gives you more confidence and allows for more pleasure for everyone. In short, you’ll enjoy sex more.
Change Your Approach — and Your Sex Goals
It will bring more pleasure to sex if you switch from goal-oriented to enjoyment-oriented sex. You can also practice empathy by focusing your attention on the pleasure of your partner(s). If your sex goals are about connection, You’re checking in with them verbally to receive consent and affirmation that they are indeed having a pleasurable experience. You’re attuning to someone else, which can make you a better lover overall. And who doesn’t want to be a better lover?
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Frederick, David; et al. “Differences in Orgasm Frequency Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men and Women in a U.S. National Sample.” Archives of Sexual Behavior. Feb. 17, 2017. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-017-0939-z
Powell, Vanessa. “This Common Mistake Could Be Ruining Your Sex Life.” The Zoe Report. February 29, 2020. https://www.thezoereport.com/p/goal-oriented-sex-could-be-ruining-your-intimate-life-22579581
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