So when and where do we learn to have good sex?
So when and where do we learn to have good sex? A sexual relationship that lasts beyond the initial passionate lust of the early days.
Perhaps all our relationships throughout our lives play their part in the development of our ability to be a loving and generous sexual partner. It is however in the very early stages of our lives that this learning begins. Our capacity to engage in an intimate, trusting and loving relationship with another begins long before we can talk.
The continuing experience of being held in a loving reassuring embrace during infancy lays the foundation for our capacity to be loving, to be empathetic, to believe that we are loveable and that we can give love. The experience of being dependent and cared for by others during infancy, childhood and adolescence has a powerful influence on who we become and on how we relate to ourselves and to others in adult life.
For the possibility of developing an intimate committed sexually healthy relationship with another it helps to have experienced a loving, consistently caring relationship with those who brought us up.
If we had the experience of having had our infantile anxieties relieved and replaced with pleasure by a loving carer our chances of developing an easy friendly intimacy with a lover are good.
Through the carer’s consistent unconditional caring and her responsive mirroring the infant learns that their terrors and pain are understood and will be relieved. He learns that his frustrations, rages and hatreds can be tolerated and that he will still be loved. Through the compassion and forgiveness of a loving other, it becomes possible to develop compassion and forgiveness for self and for others. These qualities are fundamental to our adult relationships.
It is important to stress that those who have not had the great good fortune of unconditional love in the early years of life are not condemned to a life without intimate love in their adult relationship. It may take longer and be more difficult to learn to trust but with the help of a loving partner we can learn to take a chance.
Our attitudes to sex are influenced by the attitudes to sex in the home we grew up in. We learn from and identify with the attitudes that our carers had to expressing affection openly. When there is an abundance of hugs and kisses as a normal way of expressing human affection we learn that this is the way to relate, to respond to our fellow travellers. On the other hand, there are many who are brought up in households where physical contact is severely rationed and there is an implicit understanding “that we do not indulge in that sort of thing”. For the former, affection is likely to play a relaxed, taken for granted role in their sexual exchange. For the latter group, affection may not sit so easily. Indeed the expectation of affection in the whole experience of the sexual relationship may be considered a little strange.
The impact of the first experience
Our first experience of sex may or may not have long term effects. American studies suggest that 75% of teenagers emerge from their first experience of sex unscathed yet a similar percentage of teens stated that they regretted the experience. These results point to the complexity of the initial experience of sexual intercourse.
The experience may be traumatic or an interesting enjoyable exploratory venture into the adult world. The impact does depend on a number of important factors. Amongst these are previous but non-consummated sexual relationships; the emotional maturity of the individual; the cultural and religious mores of the family; the hopes and expectations of the individual; the relationship between the partners and the actual experience of the consummation.
We carry away from significant relational experiences a memory, a message about our relationship to self and to others, an expectation of what to expect in the future. When we re-engage with a similar experience in the future our physical and emotional memories are likely to be triggered. The flashback can lead to a sense of “being there” again. If the original experience was fun and satisfying this is more likely to lead us to believe that this time it will again be good. On the other hand, if the memory is negative the reverse may happen. If the experience happens before emotional readiness, or in a state of fearful apprehension the individual may end up feeling guilty, shame a sense of being used, exploited. These feelings may be short lived or extend into adult sexual life. It helps if we can find a way to be open. Accepting and loving towards ourselves.
"Honesty and kindness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.” - Kent M.
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