Performance Anxiety

Whats great sex when everybodys having great sex?

Though Keesling, a sex therapist and former sex surrogate, and Beattie both say they try to get their clients to relax—Keesling, in Sexual Healing, advised touching purely for their own pleasure, thereby "taking the pressure off"—Keesling does add that men's worries about heightened female expectations are not unfounded.

"Frankly, women are especially more demanding for orgasms—their standards for a lover are much higher," she says. "When my mom married in 1953, the expectations for marital sex were nothing. Today, many women will simply not consider a man who is a bad lover as a long-term partner."

So what the hell do you do? Perform or don't? Worry or don't? Hell, I don't know, but one thing is pretty clear. You shouldn't watch porn. I mean, watch all the porn you want, I'm watching some right now, just resist the temptation to apply what you see on the screen in the bedroom.

Sex, as the saying goes—the saying Steve Lowery devised at a bar one day a few weeks back—has become an Olympic competition. It’s got trainers, psychologists, standards of performance, professionals, amateurs, instant replays, awards and even doping. Lots of doping. Which is why photographer John Gilhooley—a Catholic boy if ever there was one—shot Olivia Tafoya (religious affiliation: unknown) waving the Stars & Stripes over a high school track. John and Olivia did their jobs; we were supposed to do ours—were supposed to write about the athleticism (or maybe athleticization) of sex. But we didn’t. We wrote about whatever the hell we wanted, but managed to work sex and drugs into nearly every story, even if the drug is the one that occurs most naturally in the brain, the one that tells us we’re engaged in something more than a merely animal act: expressing the most profound of human feelings, the desire for reunion with the Other. Or maybe it’s just sex. Olivia’s wristbands: Target. Body: Made in America.

"That's where porn can be a bad thing," Beattie says. "It's very formul no foreplay, an oral scene, regular intercourse, then some kind of exotic intercourse like anal, then the guy comes on his girlfriend. Very few women want that. But guys who watch that are trained to believe that this is good sex."

"The dirty little secret of pornography," Keesling says, "is most women don't want to have sex that way."

So what to do? I dunno, chill out, I guess.

Beattie is fond of quoting the Hustler motto: "Relax, it's just sex."

Hey, you know what's good for relaxing? Yoga.

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