Expectations, especially in regards to sex, often go unspoken. And even more frequently, go unexplored.
Before we can truly have a discussion on better sex and unpacking sexual frustration, we first have to acknowledge that we have expectations when it comes to sex. After all:
frustration is a chronic state of dissatisfaction stemming from unfulfilled expectations.
You don't need experience to have expectations.
There are certain foods that we have never tasted because we expect not to like them, for whatever reason (eg. texture, spice content, etc).
People who have never been on a flight, can still articulate what they think flying in an airplane would be like.
We all have beliefs about what sex is, and how its supposed to make us feel, whether we've had sex or not.
Certainly, for those of us who are (or have been) "sexually active," our expectations of sex can be influenced by our experiences. However, experience is rarely the only contributing factor.
Consider experiences that fail to meet our pre-conceived expectations. Even when experiences fall short, people usually do not change their expectation, they simply write off the experience as bad and continue their search for fulfillment.
So where do our ideas about sex come from?
What flashes across the screen of your mind when you hear the word sex?
A lot of our assumptions about sex, and marriage too, comes from what we see in popular culture, and it's not by accident. Ad campaigns, movies, music, books, all have an agenda that is designed to get us to think a certain way about a certain thing. And it's no different when it comes to sex.
Most of us would agree that pornography establishes unrealistic expectations of sex. However, in our society you don't have to watch porn to see pornographic or sexually suggestive images.
It's there when we turn on our televisions and log on to social media:
Marketers use sex to sell us everything from clothes and body spray to travel and banking services. I've included three safe-to-share examples below:
A vivid imagination is as powerful as any image on a screen or magazine. Many books and songs lace content with sexually-charged words and scenes that immediately cause your mind to formulate a corresponding, visual narrative.
Most of us want to believe that we're in control. We want to believe that we won't internalize the sensual messages we are constantly being bombarded with. And we certainly don't want to believe we would use those messages as the foundation of our own sexual expectations.
But if we dig a little deeper into what why we expect what we expect when it comes to sex, we would likely find pop culture's fingerprints there. Research shows that what we watch and listen to affects us, whether we want to believe it or not.
For example, one 2006 study found that teenagers who listen to raunchy, sexual lyrics (regardless of genre be it hip-hop, pop, or rock) were almost twice as likely to engage in intercourse or other sexual activities. (A similar study was done in 2008 as well.)
Here's a quick sample of some of the songs that were Number 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 during the times of the studies mentioned above:
- Candy Shop by 50 Cent (Number 1 for 9 weeks in 2005)
- Promiscuous by Nelly Furtado (Number 1 for 6 weeks in 2006)
- Slow Motion by Juvenile (Number 2 for 1 week in 2004)
- Lollipop by Lil Wayne (Number 1 for 5 weeks in 2008)
The more we're exposed to sensual content the more we crave it. And over time we develop a higher tolerance for content that is explicit. However, a high tolerance does not make us immune from the effects; rather it dulls our senses. And often we don't see a problem until it's too late.
It's like alcohol. Most people in our society see nothing wrong with having the occasional drink. However, even alcoholics didn't start out drinking entire bottles of hard liquor.
It started with one drink. Maybe a shot. And later it's another couple drinks. Suddenly, even the person with a high alcohol tolerance level is blacking out because they drank too much. Or worse, a drunk person still thinks their faculties are in tact and decides to drive, leading to a terrible accident.
The more media gives us sexual content, the more we digest it and use it as the building blocks of our own sexual expectations.
"It takes more explicitness to grab our attention and arouse us than before," said Tom Reichert. "In the early 1900s, exposed arms and ankles of female models generated the same level of arousal as partially nude models do today. We can see during our lifetimes the changes in sexually explicit content on television, movies, books and other forms of media beyond just advertising."
Television has gone from one extreme (husband and wife, fully clothed, sleeping in separate beds) to another (nudity, and fiery sex between strangers).
The increase in sexual content has led to an erosion of our collective good conscience. Our desire for sensual things even overpowers our desire to protect children. We enjoy what we dub harmless "realistic depictions," meanwhile our children are learning about sex from any one of the many screens they have unsupervised access to (i.e. cell phone, laptop, tablet, etc).
But our children aren't the only ones who need protection. We need to guard against the overt sensuality in our society because it can render us unresponsive (desensitize us). What we listen to and see will eventually take root in our hearts.
Erosion happens over time.
We listen to music with sexual lyrics. Then we tune into our favorite shows, which are filled with steamy scenes. The books we read include sexual encounters that make us catch our breath. Some of us, turn to pornography for that next fix. And then we place all our society-derived expectation on a sexual experience with our partner (or stranger). And when that's not enough we seek stimulation elsewhere. Sometimes leading us to entertain multiple partners.
"The eyes are the windows to the soul," it's a common phrase. But our eyes aren't the only windows. Our ears are windows too! And whatever we let in through the windows, we let in to the house.
JESUS would agree. (Matthew 6:22-23.)
So what are you letting infiltrate your thoughts and shape your desire?
Society is selling you sexual expectations through messaging filled with explicit, sensual content, the question is are you buying it?