Do you hold beliefs around sexuality that your lover is not fulfilling? Is sex a sensitive area that you have trouble talking about with your lover, friends, or family members? Do you ever wonder why it is hard for you? Do you think about sex as an act shared with another person or in ugly situations, something done to another person? Would you like to learn more about your sexual self and the multiple layers to your sexuality?
Regardless of your personal beliefs, sexuality is something that every one has inside of them and is a huge part of who you are and part of your core essence. If you set an expectation that just because you have a mutual attraction and desire to be sexual with someone one else, they view their sexuality or sexual interactions in the same way that you do, you are setting up rules for the experience that can interfere with your level of overall sexual satisfaction.
It is common for people to not question their sexuality and their expectations around it. While, others' sexual scripts are more fluid and ever-changing. You may view your beliefs about sex to be the only way. You may be confused how you developed feelings for a lover who views sex much differently than you and have trouble talking with them about it.
Believing that there is one normality for sex can hold yourself to expectations that are based off of messages you have received puts a lot of pressure on something that can be playful and pleasurable just by noticing what feels good for you and your partner. Part of the reason why sex is so difficult to talk about is because it is a sensitive issue that is so personal to people based off of their individual differences, relationships, and cultural perspectives. These are the three levels of sexual scripts that can be broken down to give you more self awareness and the language to understand more detail about your sexual self.
Try this activity inspired by a narrative therapy approach to tease out your sexual script to better understand where your sexpectations are coming from. The questions listed after each of the three levels will help you explore the ways that people tell the story of their sexual self.
On an individual, psychological level your script is the most personal.
- Gender identity (What does it mean to you to be male or female?)
- Orientation (What gender or types of relationships are you attracted to?)
- Sexual turn-ons (Try: what puts you in the mood based off of your five senses?)
- Touch preferences (Do you like soft or hard touch? All over each other or minimal?)
- Level of sexual desire (Is your sex drive high, low, or balanced?)
- Frequency needs (Do you want it everyday or once a month?)
- Body image (How do you feel about seeing yourself naked? Others seeing you naked?)
- How comfortable are you with particular sexual acts such as masturbation, oral sex, anal intercourse, vaginal intercourse?
- Do you enjoy sex toys or utilizing other objects in sexual play?
- What sexual positions do you prefer?
- Are you attracted to inflicting or receiving pain? Bondage and discipline or any other forms of kink?
Relationship dynamics fit into the interpersonal level of your sexual script:
- Communication styles (Do you confront sex more assertively, aggressively, or passive aggressively?)
- Body language (What signs do you notice when you know your lover is initiating sex?)
- Intimacy (How emotionally connected do you feel to your partner after sex?)
- Time spent together (How often are you with your partner? How much time do you have to be sexual?)
- Power of influence (Who usually initiates sex or determines if it will happen?)
- Trust (How safe do you feel when being sexual?)
- Level of commitment (Are you in a monogamous, casual, or polyamorous relationship?)
Your personal thoughts about sex and relationships are also majorly influenced by how you were taught about it. One of the most difficult scripts to deconstruct may be the cultural level. This is a more broad way of thinking about what types of sex is encouraged or discouraged, messages delivered about what is okay for people in general to do based on the following sociocultural factors:
- Gender (What messages have you received from society about sex based on your gender identity?)
- Race (What do people assume about your sexuality based off your racial appearance?)
- Socioeconomic class (What access do you have to sexual healthcare and reproductive resources?)
- Education (What were you taught about sexuality in school?)
- Media (What sexual messages do you see on television, online, and in advertising?)
- Religion (What sexual behaviors, orientations, and types of relationships does your religion encourage, view as a sin, or teach you about sex?)
- Multigenerational family history (What overt and covert messages did you receive about sex from your family of origin? What was okay to talk about? What did they teach you about sex?)
Separating out the levels of scripts can be helpful to identify all the many different factors within sexuality. This level of awareness about yourself may help you understand your sexuality on a deeper level merely than holding yourself or others to expectations blindly. However, when scripts contradict each other, it may be difficult for someone to lead a life of authenticity and sexual satisfaction.
Imagine a situation where a Caucasian female was raised Catholic with parents who were very stoic and rarely talked about things outside of the weather, school, and religion. She struggled with an eating disorder as a means to control situations and feelings that she was not allowed to talk about in her family (Intrapsychic). When it came to sex, she learned everything from her abstinence only education (Sociocultural). She described her sexual appetite as normal and frequently masturbated, while never telling anyone about the behavior. Her peers were not sexually active and she was not in a sexual or significant relationship throughout high school (Interpersonal). She goes off to college in a city a few hours away from home where she is introduced to a broader cultural script of the millennial generation of sexual liberation, choosing to pursue casual sexual relationships that are openly talked about and supported. While her new life remains a secret on her trips home. She enters into her first monogamous relationship where she was continually unfaithful in party contexts which ended the relationship. A few months later she meets her first boyfriend that she has been faithful to for over a year.
He was raised without religion with a huge focus on education and fostering his intellectual side. His family background included addictions to substances and infidelity. He felt lonely throughout high school and was often rejected by girls he wanted, creating an insecure voice in his head during each argument they have. He has tried to have casual sex in the past and always developed stronger feelings for them and ended up hurt as well as a history of girls being unfaithful to him within relationships. As a Caucasian, male he has internalized the idea of sexual desire and faithfulness as a measure of his masculinity and self worth that magnifies the tendency for insecurity that he already possessed.
They were interested in sex therapy because she realized her level of sexual desire dramatically decreased with the level of commitment and monogamy which played into his insecurities. The conflict was displayed on an interpersonal level, however had more to do with their contradicting intrapsychic and sociocultural expectations. Therapy helped this couple to appreciate their similarities that brought them together and first attracted them to each other while learning to navigate the differences in the ways they approach sex. They did not realize how much of their family of origin and cultural messages around gender roles and sex shaped their expectations and assumptions about how to be in a relationship. Learning more about each of their scripts around sex pointed towards the contradictions that were keeping them stuck in their past attitudes on agreeing to disagree rather than updating them to align with their present relationship and take the risk to trust each other to work together against the problem.
If you notice expectations are getting in the way of other areas of your life, want to explore how your relationship dynamic plays out, try the couple's sculpt, would like to learn more about narrative therapy or need help sorting through the different scripts and identifying solutions for realigning your expectations call Center for Growth for a consultation with an expert in sexuality today.