Why Sex Is Not a Sport
Many people approach sex as though it were a sport, that is, a competitive activity governed by certain rules that designate winners and losers. What differentiates sex from most sports, however, is that its conclusion usually entails two winners or two losers. For most people, the rules for sex are basic and simple: If males can maintain a firm erection, and females can adequately lubricate, then they are playing the game well, intercourse is achieved, and victory is almost certain, with the blue ribbon being orgasms for both. In other words, two winners. If all of those things don’t occur, however, then sex can feel like it has ended with two losers, each lying on their respective sides of the bed, disappointed, perhaps even angry and bitter, yet all the while hoping for better luck next time.
If we treat sex as though it were a sport, we set a trap for ourselves, one that ensures that no matter how many times we win, we will at some point certainly lose, for the day will come when our sexual performance does not meet the standards we feel it should. But this trap is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of sex. Sex is not a performance or a competitive activity, even if we are only competing with ourselves. It is not the place for score-keeping or for the stress of evaluating how we perform. It is not the place for judgment, for in judgment lies shame, and when shame enters into sexual relationships, it threatens to destroy any hope we have for genuine intimacy with our partner.
Those who judge the quality of their sex lives on solely on the basis of performance run the risk of falling into this trap. But that trap can become especially destructive for those who are also dealing with sexual dysfunction. The inability to achieve and maintain an erection, the inability to lubricate, premature ejaculation, vaginal pain on penetration, loss of sexual desire—people often regard such conditions as a form of failure and judge themselves accordingly. In their sexual score-keeping, they regard themselves as less than the man or woman they should be. In their loss of sexual desire, they often condemn themselves as damaged or even weird. But in actuality, they are frightened that their inability to meet certain sexual standards will cost them the love and esteem of their partner, even as they feel helpless to prevent that loss.
To regard sex as a kind of sport means that one must have the basic equipment—an erect penis and a lubricated vagina—and that this equipment must be used according to certain rules—penis goes into vagina, creating enough friction for orgasm—with the result that “real” sex (i.e., intercourse) has occurred. But with sexual dysfunction, that kind of sex might not be possible, at least for now. Sadly, for many people, sexual dysfunction means a serious curtailment of their sexual activity, if not a complete halt to it, and often because of embarrassment or shame. But this need not be so.
Sexual dysfunction is not a character flaw or a moral failure. In fact, it does not actually interfere with our sexual lives. How we respond to sexual dysfunction is what creates that interference. Sex is more than intercourse, and a full sexual life is possible, even if intercourse is currently difficult or impossible. Not realizing this simple truth leads so many people into the trap of sex as a sport, with its judgments about winners and losers, rather than seeing sex for what it should be—intimacy without stress, shame, or condemnation.
So if you are struggling with sexual dysfunction, don’t think you have to give up your sex life. Expand your thinking about sex beyond the activity of intercourse, and you will find not that you’re settling for less but gaining so much more.