We like to measure ourselves against the norm to find our place in the sexual pecking order. Intellectually, we all know it shouldn't matter what Dick and Jane do in bed. But unfortunately it does. If you're sitting in the coffee shop listening to your girlfriends rattle on about this guy and that guy and what Brad does and how wonderful it is when he does it, you're bound to feel peeved if the closest you get to an orgasm is eating a block of Hershey's. The trouble is, how do you know your friends are telling the truth? Who hasn't gone home after a tell-all confessional with the girls secretly feeling guilty for exaggerating because everyone else's sex lives sounded so interesting? According to the experts, we overplay and exaggerate our sexual prowess when we first meet people, out of a desire not to seem inferior. Quite the opposite happens once we become fast friends; then we exaggerate how bad things are.
As impressionable adolescents, friends teach each other the "how to" part of sex education: how to kiss, how to flirt, how to do naughty things behind the bleachers. The only problem is, our peers tend to suffer from "one-up-personship." All too often they'll say it was wonderful, when in fact it was awful. Then when we try it and, through embarrassment or lack of knowledge, also find it awful, we think we're getting it wrong. We've been told so many conflicting things about sex that it's not surprising it's a continuous source of unease.
Breaking the Pattern
Are you destined for misery if the people around you weren't exactly sexually inspiring? Not if you recognize the problem and actively set out to correct it, say psychologists. Here's how:
- Be aware of any stereotypes you've formed and actively challenge them. Write down the three main messages you got about sex from each of the people/categories listed in this article. Then write down healthier alternative messages you'd like to use to replace the distorted views. From this, take the five messages you most want to adopt about sex, pin them to your bedroom mirror and look at them daily. This will help your brain adjust your sexual blueprint.
- Educate yourself sexually. Arm yourself with some good sex manuals and start studying. Read the sections that talk about emotional feelings about sex as well as the technical how-to chapters on improving your love life. Education is power. The more evidence you have to dispute unhealthy sex messages, the more chance you have of changing them.
- Work on your self-esteem. If your experiences have left you seriously doubting your sexual appeal and attractiveness, surround yourself with people who give you confidence or take a few self-esteem-boosting courses to help get you back on track.
- Don't be afraid to seek help. If you feel seriously troubled or out of control, visit a counselor. Sometimes one or two sessions with an expert can save you years of soul searching!