The Sexual Performance Perfection Industry

The year was 1998 and reports of the medical breakthrough were being trumpeted throughout the media. On radio and television and in articles in all the major news magazines the message was the same:

Take one little blue pill and it’s as though you are eighteen years old again. Just one pill and all your sexual fears and inadequacies will disappear and be replaced with the joy and bliss of wonderful, exhilarating, spontaneous sex.

And because they wanted you to associate their pill with the strength and vigor you had during your honeymoon in Niagara Falls, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals named their new product Viagra.

Sound too good to be true? It is. That’s because in my thirty-five years as a clinical psychologist treating individuals and couples experiencing marital, relationship, or sexual distress, I have met surprisingly few men (or women) who remember their early sexual encounters as “blissful, wonderful, or exhilarating.” Instead they often remember them as filled with awkwardness and anxiety.

Those who place their hope for sexual bliss in Viagra will often agree that their early sexual experiences might not have always been great. But what they tell me is that although they don’t want to return to the ignorance and awkwardness of their youth, they do want to be able to function or perform as they did years earlier.

However, it is, in fact, the emphasis upon performance that is the basis for most sexual problems. It is the belief that “good sex requires expert performance and high standards of physical achievement” or that “men are always ready, willing, and eager for sex” that produces the very problems for which men and women will then come to my office for help.

The truth is that good sex has little or nothing to do with performance, and not much to do with erections, intercourse, or even orgasms.  The fact is that good sex depends, not upon what is between our legs, but rather upon what is between our ears. In short, it is my assertion that whatever it is we mean by “good sex” is more likely to occur if it takes place in the context of a safe, non-competitive, and non-performance-oriented setting.

On the other hand, the definition of “good sex” as put forth by the “medical-surgical-pharmaceutical industrial complex,” among whom are the people who develop and sell products such as Viagra, goes something like this:  “Good sex happens when a man inserts his rock-hard penis into a woman’s appropriately lubricated vagina and moves it around in there for a suitable amount of time. Under ideal circumstances this should continue until the man and the woman experience orgasm at exactly the same time.”

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