Diana Urman, PhD, LCSW
A long time ago, before I began my education, I used to think: Why is sex so difficult? Isn’t this something that comes naturally to people just like it does to animals?
One of the most damaging myths of our society is since sex is natural, we should know how to do it. Most of us assume we should be born with the knowledge of how to perfectly satisfy our partners and excel at it. Who needs a class when sex comes naturally to animals? Why should we need to learn how to please our partner if we are supposedly born with the knowledge of what to do and how to engage with our partner for mutual satisfaction?
Many of these beliefs and cultural messages are introduced early on in our lives, and most of them are implied and never questioned by us as they are part of our upbringings. We shame ourselves by being convinced that sex should come to us naturally as it comes naturally in the animal kingdom, and we feel inadequate when we fail to satisfy our partner.
There are numerous factors that aren’t being accounted for while comparing ourselves to our animal counterparts.
First, many cultures view sex from the standpoint of shame and oppression. Our sex education is based on fearing pregnancy and teaching STI prevention. We are not being taught about the pleasure of sex as many religions view sex as sinful, dirty, and dangerous.
Based on how sexuality is widely viewed, it is not surprising that a large number of people are insecure towards sex and lack knowledge about how to express themselves sexually and communicate their sexual desires to their partners, and even within themselves.
Imagine that we are given a map to explore the woods. When we get lost, we don’t seem to question the accuracy of the map. Our natural tendency is to question our validity, and blame ourselves. The truth is that the map we were given isn’t necessarily accurate. And in this case, it is instead a set of confusing messages and restrictions.
Many women are taught to accept the mind-blowing version of sex, the ideal. They are raised with the notion that men are responsible for arousing them. Most women and men don’t understand that it takes on average 20 minutes of stimulation for a women to get fully aroused.
Many men also learn that their sexual desire is overpowering and wrong, and needs to be controlled, as it will not be reciprocated and welcomed by women. In addition, there is lot of false information about having control over erections and that men hold the responsibility for providing sexual pleasure to their partners.
Unsurprisingly, humans are very private when it comes to sex. Sexual expression is typically only shown when not in private.
Animals, on the other hand, are very open with expressing themselves sexually.
They learn mating behaviors by watching others, along with from their own biological instincts. With that being said, if you take a baby monkey and raise it without companionship of biologically similar animals, it wouldn’t know how to engage sexually. The animal kingdom learns about sex by watching their counterparts have sex. In the wild, sex is a natural and playful part of day-to-day activity.
In addition, a human’s prefrontal cortex is much more complex than the one in the higher primates. When it comes to sexual desire and arousal, we require much more visual stimulation than our animal counterparts. Since humans are socially conditioned and are the products of their environment, their sexual desire requires a lot of communication to express their unique sexual needs to each other. According to Dr. Marlene Zuk, professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can’t Learn About Sex from Animals, “Animals don’t have to work for simultaneous orgasms, but if you have weird circumstances, biology might not get the last word.” Animals have less biases that change how they think of sex, and as a result, their sex lives are much simpler.
In conclusion, we are exposed to a lot of confusing and harmful myths and societal messages which shape the way we view and judge how we engage sexually. If we don’t question these beliefs, we aren’t capable of freeing ourselves of them, and we continue perpetuating damaging myths. We are not letting ourselves learn about how to understand and communicate our sexual needs and desires, although we can be taught how to approach sex with more realistic expectations, and develop tools to be more expressive and connected to ourselves and our partners.
As a sex therapist and educator I am here to help you navigate through confusing and self-defeating patterns based off inaccurate beliefs, unrecognized awkwardness, and shame around sex, and engage in the learning process about yours and partner’s desires, how to communicate them, and how to fulfill them.
Zuk, Marlene. Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can’t Learn About Sex from Animals. Berkeley: University of California P, 2003. Print.