Often, clients are referred into the office with an issue around sexual function (e.g., early ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, desire discrepancy, and low desire). When discussing client goals, individuals and partnerships will commonly identify a concrete outcome or level of performance they would like to be at or reach to be sexually healthy again.
Clinically, in many arenas of sexuality, normalcy or sexual function is defined by the individual, relationship, or partnership. Despite clients having the capacity to determine their own levels of sexual health and sexual success, social norms powerfully dictate what we “should be” or “should be doing.” Given the regularity of clients believing they should have one particular type of sexual success, I often encourage people in the office to consider what might be most preferable for them. Could there be alternative to what is socially normative that could be a better fit? If so, what could that look like? Why would an alternative be a more preferable form of sexuality or sexual function?
For example, in the case of desire discrepancy (the most common sex therapy presenting issue), could different types of desire or interest be a strength in the relationship? Do you need to have perfectly compatible sexual interests to have sexual success or health between partners? Can differences open furthered sexual dialog or exploration?
Ideally, choosing one’s own version and creating an alternative narrative around sexual success can be freeing and open the dialog to more preferable sexual interactions. Defining what sexual success looks like for yourself, and collaborating with your partner(s) to create meaningful and pleasurable outcomes can help reorient toward sexual health.