Does It Matter If You're 'Sexually Normal?'


The desire to be "normal" is understandable. But it can really undermine your sexual experience.

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In my 31 years as a sex therapist, people continue to ask me one question more than any other. The most common sexual question is "Am I normal?"

Americans are virtually obsessed with the normality of their sexual fantasies, preferences, responses, frequency, secrets, turn-offs, problems, and bodies. The fear of being sexually abnormal interferes with, and even prevents, pleasure and intimacy.

You’ll probably recognize some of the many versions of "Am I normal?", such as:

• "I'm afraid I take too long to climax."
• "How long should a man be able to keep an erection?"
• "How often do most other people our age make love?"
• "Am I weird if I enjoy oral sex more than intercourse?"

People forget that "normal" can mean many different things: what is statistically common; what everyone agrees is typical; what authority requires; what is considered moral; and so on. Concepts of sexual normality have changed even within our own lifetimes---for example, society's ideas about homosexuality, the clitoris, and sex as a 'wifely duty.' Since "normal" can mean so many different things, it’s clearly an arbitrary social construct.

Our concern about sexual normality starts in childhood. All children are sexual beings: kids have sexual feelings and curiosity, get sexually aroused, and seek and enjoy erotic satisfaction. A variety of subtle and explicit lessons teach children that sex is bad, however. Those messages include "Don't touch your sexual parts;" "Wanting sexual contact with anyone else is wrong;" and "Having sexual thoughts or feelings is sick.”

Next: How our childhoods influence our sexual life as adults...

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