We Judge Normal on our own Experiences

Jacqueline Hellyer, Australian relationship coach, smiling at the camera alongside her website logo

Article originally posted on The Love Life Blog

I find people's views on sex fascinating. There's so much diversity around what we think of as 'normal' or 'abnormal' - far more diversity than you'd think if you based it on the media or general opinion.

I could go on and on about the range of opinions people have. In my experience it has no basis other than what people have experienced themselves. And interestingly, whether they think that is normal or abnormal seems to be based more on their level of self-esteem than anything else. People with high self-esteem tend to feel that what they do and think is normal. People with low self -esteem tend to feel that what they think and do is abnormal.

I’ve had aclient who ended a significant relationship because he felt he couldn’t last long enough to satisfy his partner, even though she disagreed. This was because his experience of women was that they wanted lots of intense sex. I’ve had another client who was ashamed of his sexuality, because his experience of women was that they didn’t like sex and found his desire abhorrent. These are examples of completely opposite experiences in life, leading to completely different views of what is normal, and their own normality or otherwise.

I’ve had plenty of middle-aged female clients who declare that it’s ‘normal’ for them to no longer be interested in sex, and just as many who see their 40s, 50s or 60s as time to discover themselves and come into the fullness of their sexuality. This seems to depend far more on the conversations they have with their female friends than anything else.

I’ll have one couple come in with, say, the man declaring it’s ‘normal’ for him to want sex all the time because that’s what men are like; then the next couple come in and the man’s declaring he’s ‘normal’ because he works so hard he’s tired and of course he’s not up for it as much as her.

I’ll have one couple come in saying that of course they don’t have sex much, they’ve been married for thirty years so naturally they’ve lost interest; then the next couple come in saying they have sex four times a week because they have been married for thirty years, and now they’ve got the time and space to have sex that often.

I’ll have a slim woman come in saying she no longer enjoys sex because she’s self-conscious about her post-pregnancy tummy; then a size 24 woman will come in to discuss how to manage the complexity of her multiple partners.

One poor person will come in alone because their partner thinks it’s abnormal to want to improve their non-existent sex life, let alone talk to anyone about it; and the next couple will come in beaming about their wonderful sex life and feeling it’s quite normal to keep exploring and find out how to make it even better.

I have young men coming in wondering what’s wrong with them because they like sensual love-making more than hard shagging; women thinking there’s something wrong with them because they don’t orgasm during intercourse; men feeling inadequate because they can’t last as long as porn stars supposedly do; people feeling bad because they ‘only’ have sex four times a week; people feeling pleased with themselves because they have heaps of sex - at least once a week; couples where the man is holding back so as not to ‘impose’ and his partner wishing he would ravish her; couples where the man thinks there’s something wrong with his partner because she doesn't like his intense ‘passionate’ approach; people who think sex is only fucking like porn stars; people who think sex is only under the covers with the lights out; people who think sex is only tender and spiritual; people who think X is normal and Y is perverted; People who think Y is normal and X is perverted; people who think sex isn’t important; people who this it is…..

I kid you not, the diversity is huge, and the contradictions constant. In one day I’ll see a complete spectrum of experience - and a huge range of interpretations of what that means, depending on the individual and their partner (if there’s one involved). And it’s all based on what we think is normal or abnormal.

So what is normal? It’s all ‘normal’. The questions should be “What matters?” And the answer to that is simply: what is right for you.

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