Sexually frustrated? You are SO not alone. Sexual frustration can be a deeply painful experience, especially when you feel like there is no end in sight! If you feel like you are pent up, shut down, or itching with unmet sexual needs and desires, this episode is for you.
Where does sexual frustration come from? What do we do with sexual frustration so it doesn’t cause so much suffering?
In this episode, we explore the roots of sexual frustration, what we can learn about frustration to help us out of it, and strategies to take the edge off when sexual frustration is tormenting you.
Check out the complete podcast mini series on libido and desire: Pleasure Mechanics Rethinking Libido Series.
Big thanks to Emily Nagoski for her brilliant books that help us understand the science of sexuality. Come As You Are and Burnout are must-reads to understand your human erotic experience!
Transcript for Podcast Episode: Sexual Frustration
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Chris Rose: 00:00 Welcome to Speaking of Sex with the Pleasure Mechanics. I’m Chris.
Charlotte Rose: 00:04 I’m Charlotte.
Chris Rose: 00:05 We are the Pleasure Mechanics. And on this podcast we have honest, soulful, explicit conversations about every facet of human sexuality. Come on over to pleasuremechanics.com, our forever online home. Where you will find our complete podcast archive. All of our resources waiting for you. And when you are ready, our online courses so you can take a deeper dive with us and master new erotic skills in the privacy of your own home. Come on over to pleasuremechanics.com to get started and go to pleasuremechanics.com/free to sign up for our free online course and dive right in. That’s pleasuremechanics.com/free.
Chris Rose: 00:48 On today’s episode, we continue with our rethinking libido mini series. We are taking a deep dive into the question of libido and trying to create some pathways out of the suffering that this question of libido creates for so many of us. You can find the complete podcast series at pleasuremechanics.com/libido where all of our episodes and resources are gathered conveniently for you.
Chris Rose: 01:16 On today’s episode, I wanted to talk about sexual urgency and the frustration that can come when you know exactly what you want. You know what you want and you’re just not getting it. A lot of our libido talks, we’ve been focusing on the folks who have lost their libido or feel very low desire, or don’t know what they want. And I want to acknowledge those of us who know what we want and aren’t getting it. And that’s where the suffering is. What do we do with sexual frustration? Where does it come from? What do we do with it? And how do we live well, whether or not our sexual needs and desires are being met?
Charlotte Rose: 02:00 Yeah. We want to talk to those of you who are feeling like you are sexually frustrated and in either the frustration stage, or the anger stage, or the despair stage of your experience of your own sex life. And try and give you some understanding and some context for your experience and a few ideas. Though I don’t know if we’re going to solve that whole issue in this podcast.
Chris Rose: 02:25 We try you guys. But we want you to hear that this experience of sexual frustration is really common. It’s really common and there’s a range of it. You can experience sexual frustration in moments when you’re turned on, and horny, and aroused, and can’t seem to go anywhere with it. Or you don’t have access to relieving that feeling. Or you can experience sexual frustration over decades when you are in a relationship where sex is no longer an option, or you’re not in a relationship and don’t feel like you have access to sexual partners. This is true for so many people for so many different reasons. And the feelings that arise when our sexuality is not meeting our expectations can be deeply painful.
Chris Rose: 03:16 So, we want to talk about this. Sexual frustration. Where does it come from? So the old model would suggest that sex drive is something that lives in us, builds up this pressure. Needs to be released or else it wreaks havoc in our system. And as we talked about on previous episodes, this is an old model that relies upon this idea of sex drive like hunger is a physical need that if it’s not met, causes physical damage. So we’ve debunked that myth, and we have turned our understanding of sexual desire as a motivational system. We’re motivated by the good stuff sex brings us, and that is the system that drives our interest in sex. So we’re motivated by physical pleasure. We’re motivated by touch, by orgasms, by physical intimacy, by emotional intimacy, by the social status and belonging that sex brings us. By so many different rewards. It’s a reward system.
Chris Rose: 04:22 So what happens when you don’t get the reward? What happens when your body is activated? You feel desire, you feel horny, you feel sexual wanting and longing. And it doesn’t get met.
Charlotte Rose: 04:38 There can be such deep frustration, anger, and despair. And it’s a really uncomfortable feeling. As well as feeling distracted by sex or the desire for some kind of sexual activity. A lot of the time. This is what we hear from a lot of men specifically, but I think a lot of people can experience this as well.
Chris Rose: 05:00 So we got a flood of emails from you all, and I wanted to pull just a few experts so we could hear the experience of sexual frustration from your words. So thank you to everyone who wrote in. These are just a few excerpts from some of the emails. Charlotte will get us started by reading one testimony of sexual frustration.
Charlotte Rose: 05:22 I was sexually frustrated when I believed that the only good sex was penis and vagina sex with my wife. I would wait patiently day after day for her to take care of her wifely duties, and try my best to be a loving and affectionate husband in the interim. I was in pain and internalizing the sexual frustration. Then she went through menopause and any hope for sex went out the window. She just didn’t want it anymore, and she hoped I would outgrow my longstanding sexual desire. That didn’t happen. I couldn’t see myself going to my grave without the joy of sex again.
Charlotte Rose: 06:00 I went to counseling, and the counselor suggested masturbation as a reasonable alternative. This was a frustrating solution for me because I was taught at a young age that masturbation was a sin. It was an act of desperation by a guy who couldn’t find a willing sexual partner, a pussy to fuck. It was a sign of social failure. And to make matters worse, my wife refused to have anything to do with it. She didn’t want to participate in my act of masturbation. She just wanted me to go off somewhere and take care of my sexual needs, and leave her the hell alone. To her, it was a shameful act. Her repulsion coupled with early learning caused me to find that with masturbation came guilt and shame. Time for more counseling.
Charlotte Rose: 06:47 After a lot of soul searching and reaching out to others to share my dead bedroom story and after doing tons of research on the benefits of masturbation, I came to realize that I was bamboozled and brainwashed at a very young age. Not only was it unrealistic for me to think that my wife could take care of all my sexual needs. It was simply wrong to think that masturbation was some form of adultery, a serious sin. I needed a way out, and I found it.
Chris Rose: 07:16 Thank you. So that was just one excerpt from a story of a longterm marriage and one man’s quest to navigate his sexual frustration within it. Here is another story from a totally different guy. Notice what comes up here.
Charlotte Rose: 07:31 For a long time after I stopped having sex with my wife, I thought I could just do this. Just have this be my life. But I had a heart attack three years ago, and I realized this half life I have been living just makes me feel too sad, too lost, too empty. I can’t accept a life like this anymore. A life devoid of intimate, sexual, animalistic pleasures. My life without this kind of sexual giving and taking seems so arid to me. So empty, so painfully absent of that mutual animal gratification and exploration. And becoming more than you are by engaging in something bigger than yourself.
Chris Rose: 08:13 Okay. And one more.
Charlotte Rose: 08:15 Your connection between having a high libido and feeling undesirable or undeserving rang painfully true. Perhaps also a feeling of being immoral, insatiable, corrupt, and ultimately empty and alone. But for the torment of this high libido. Yet start untangling it from this ill understood notion of just more sex, as if a culinary craving could be satisfied with just more food. And specifics start to emerge. Something spicy, something salty, something specific that can be had and can be satisfying if we can manage to name it and ask for it.
Chris Rose: 08:55 I love you all.
Charlotte Rose: 08:56 I know. Such high caliber, beautiful people, you all listening to this.
Chris Rose: 09:02 Thank you for flooding our inbox with your testimonies, your stories, your struggles, your success stories. So notice as you listen to those stories, what parts resonated for you? What words, what parts of their story do you feel yourself in?
Chris Rose: 09:22 So one of the things we notice here, and it brings us into this question of where does sexual frustration come from. Is that there is a mismatch between the sex life we want and perhaps expect, and the sex life we’re having. A mismatch between what we expect and what we’re experiencing. And the truth is our sexual expectations for most of us are way out of whack. We live in a world of sexual myth and fable, that is not grounded in the lived reality of how our sexualities function. And we’re in a sexually broken culture where so many of us have experienced such deep levels of trauma and shame and guilt, that many of us are not available for one another.
Chris Rose: 10:09 So in a lot of your stories, and I’ve come to call it the hotel room in the sky. We have this sense of what is possible, what is the ideal sex life. If we could meet a willing partner that wanted us just as much as we wanted them and there were no limitations. And our cultural context was a sex positive, rejoicing, celebratory culture where all bodies were safe and we all had sexual development that was wonderful. What would be possible in the hotel room in the sky? In that hotel room in heaven where your sexual fantasies could come true.
Chris Rose: 10:52 For most of, us that is not our sexual reality. So the gap it turns out in psychology, in the human animal. Frustration, the experience of frustration comes in the gap between expectations and experience and our inability to feel like we can control this situation.
Chris Rose: 11:14 So Emily Nagoski does a great job talking about this part of the brain where frustration is born, called the monitor. And the monitor is our part of the brain that is very useful. It kind of monitors, it keeps track of external circumstances. Maps our expectations onto those circumstances and tells us how much effort and resources we should have to invest to fulfill our goal. And it kind of keeps track of those time and resources, and investments in our goals. And then either rewards us when we fulfill goals more easily than expected. That feeling of woo Yahtzee. And then it creates frustration and pain in the brain when our goals feel out of reach or it’s taking more time or resources than expected. And I’m going to bring you right into the beautiful example Emily Nagoski gives us that we can all relate to. Road rage.
Charlotte Rose: 12:19 So you do the same drive every day. It takes you about 15 minutes. This one day you get in the car, you hit every green light, you get there in 12 minutes, and you park and you feel good. You’re like, “Yes, it’s going to be a good day. Everything is flowing, it’s all working. Awesome. Here I go.”
Charlotte Rose: 12:40 The next day you get in the car and you hit every red light, and then you hit a construction zone, and maybe even a car accident. And this drive takes you 30 minutes. And along the way you are going from frustrated and annoyed to anger. You just keep getting enraged that this is taking so long, and it’s not supposed to take this long, and why is it taking so long, and I should have taken this other road. I’m such an idiot. I clearly should have taken that other path. And on and on, right? I think we all feel-
Chris Rose: 13:13 And if it goes on long enough, you hit despair. I will never get there. I should just get out of this car and start walking. I’ve said that before. So just notice that range from frustration, to anger, to despair. And notice, you’re sitting in the car. There’s nothing you can do about it. But our brain starts playing this trick on us and it starts activating a very physical state. Road rage is not an idea. It’s not an emotion. It’s a full body experience that can have lasting effects on your day, on other people’s days. It can even turn violent. Right? So what is the experience of sexual frustration compared to road rage?
Chris Rose: 14:01 So what I find fascinating about frustration is that we don’t have this universal sense of sexual expectations. It’s not like an inborn human thing where we expect sex to be a certain way. It’s very culturally trained. And it very much depends on your cultural position and how you were raised, and how you were raised to think about sex. What expectations were you told to have?
Chris Rose: 14:29 This emerges so clearly in some of these stories we share that talk about marriage. Because for so many of us, marriage is a social goal that part of the package deal is a sexual partner for life. Part of the marriage package deal we have been told is sexual access to our partners. And not only sexual access, but that they will want you. They will want to have sex with you. They will continue to choose you and make you feel like the one. Over, and over, and over.
Chris Rose: 15:02 So that expectation when it is not met becomes incredibly frustrating. Incredibly frustrating. Because within the dead marriage bed that this guy spoke of, it’s not just the lack of sex that’s frustrating him. It’s the lack of emotional connection. It’s the lack of feeling like we’re in this together. It’s not feeling wanted, it’s not feeling desired. We take all of these different unpleasant experiences, all of these unmet expectations, both physical and social needs that we’ve bundled up into this relationship. We notice our frustration about them and we wrap it up all in a package called sexual frustration.
Chris Rose: 15:44 So some of this is relational. The expectations we bring into our relationships, and then the reality of those relationships. And we’ve talked about this on previous episodes, how sex is so contextual. So we cannot expect to people’s interest in sex to always line up. And sometimes this mismatch goes on for a few months or a few years. Sometimes it then goes on for decades. So in that mismatch of sexual interests and expectations, is the suffering within that relationship.
Chris Rose: 16:17 But I also want to acknowledge the sexual frustration that I almost think is a baseline for so many of us. Because we have sexual desires, sexualities that want to be expressed. Physical needs and emotional needs that are just unmet in general. Whether or not you’re in a relationship, whether or not you feel like you have access to dating. You have that confidence to find sexual partners. I kind of think so many of us have a baseline of sexual frustration that makes it easier to go into anger and despair because so few of our sexual social needs are met as a culture.
Chris Rose: 17:01 Let’s break some of these down. Touch. Touch is one of the biggest needs bundled up into sexuality. Our need to be touched, and held, and feel our sensations in our bodies. So many of us relegate that to sex. So when sex disappears, our opportunity to be touched disappears, and we’re left touchless. I am shocked sometimes when I ask people, how many people in your life can you receive affectionate touch from? Very few people can name more than five. Two of those people might be your parents that live in another state that you get a hug from a couple times a year. And the truth is even when you’re getting touched from another affectionate source, a friend or a child. The touch that comes in sex is different. It’s different. It’s full body. It is not just affectionate, it is passionate touch. And it is touch on all parts of your body. Your genitals get touched, your naked body gets touched, and your naked body gets to press up against another naked body, right?
Chris Rose: 18:12 So when we talk about the touch of a hug, or a handshake, or even a really affectionate friend who’s going to cuddle with you on the couch and throw their arm around you, it’s not the same as being in naked, pressed up against another body, sweaty perhaps, moving, breathing, feeling all of those feelings together. Feeling like you’re being touched in the ways you want to be touched. All of that is so good. That is a huge reward for the human brain. So if you’re not getting that, the frustration just of not getting touch and then not getting that level, that intensity, that potency of touch can be deeply frustrating. So what is another human need, human desire that we roll up into this package?
Charlotte Rose: 19:00 Intensity, like a need for cathartic intensity release. Yeah, I think we want high peak moments in life, and sex can be that. Where there’s breathless interest and excitement. And when we think about that, we think we’re craving orgasms. But perhaps we’re also craving just intense release.
Chris Rose: 19:22 Right. So physiologically, an orgasm is the build up of muscular tension and arousal. And then it cascades into involuntary contractions of the pelvic muscles. When we talk about wanting to come, when we talk about wanting … I get all of these emails from guys about I want to blow a huge load, and there’s always something about the visual of a lot of it. And I think in that is they want intensity, they want a really good orgasm. And some men talk about this rising up from within them and then something coming out. Think a lot of it feels like this open expansion after having an orgasm. However you feel that post orgasmic bliss, the best of that, part of that is like a hormonal cascade that happens after orgasmic release. That can chill us the fuck out. Sometimes we just need to build up intensity and then relax into contentment.
Chris Rose: 20:27 So sex gives us access to these two parts of our nervous system. Excitation and relaxation. Building up of arousal and cascading into enjoyment, joy. Both of those states are states our body craves, and we do not get enough of in our modern life. Frustration sets in.
Chris Rose: 20:50 What’s another need that we bundle up into this package deal? Social fucking belonging. Social belonging and acceptance. So much I have come to believe of the magic of sex is feeling accepted, feeling a sense of belonging with another human being, feeling safe in that connection.
Chris Rose: 21:12 Turns out it’s a vital human need. We are a social species reliant on one another for survival. This is the emotional experience of attachment. It first happens with our caretakers. Infant children cannot survive on their own. A baby, a human baby left untended to will perish. All of us know this deeply in our bones.
Chris Rose: 21:39 As children this comes up, I am hungry. And if an adult doesn’t come and feed me, I will die. I am alone and if an adult doesn’t come and hold me and protect me, I will die.
Chris Rose: 21:51 As adults, this emerges as this feeling of wanting another human to see you, accept you, and maybe even attune to how you are feeling. That alchemy of someone else showing up for you and being present and being like, “How you’re feeling, I’m feeling it too.”
Chris Rose: 22:14 And this comes up in these dialogues about sexual frustration when it’s like I just want someone to want me as much as I want them. I just want someone to want me so badly, that I can smell it on their body. Right? We have this sense of when someone wants you, that feels so good. And that’s not just about feeling pretty. We tend to think of this idea of feeling desirable as this very a skin deep thing of I just want to feel pretty and feel desirable. That’s capitalism speaking. That’s the commodification of beauty. What we all want is to feel loved, accepted, and belonging. And this isn’t about longterm relationships. You can feel that sense of belonging when you’re fucking a stranger, and you both look at each other in the eye, and you’re just in that moment together. You are feeling something mutual, and you’re feeling it together. So feeling our feelings together and having someone give a shit about how you feel, really important human need. And that gets bundled up into sex.
Chris Rose: 23:24 I remember, and it has been so long, but it was 10 years ago we did a survey about blow jobs. And I was expecting guys to say, “I just want to deep throat. I want her to make eye contact.” All of the tropes about blowjobs that we thought would come up in this survey. And I remember being stunned that so many guys reported, “What I love most about getting a blow job is feeling accepted, feeling like my penis is going in her mouth and that she wants it there.” That feeling of being home in someone else’s body is about acceptance and belonging.
Chris Rose: 24:03 So you can see. So we’ve named touch, intensity, excitement and enjoyment, feeling our feelings together, feeling accepted and belonging.
Charlotte Rose: 24:16 I think intimacy is one other huge one.
Chris Rose: 24:19 Intimacy different than belonging?
Charlotte Rose: 24:21 Is it more that I though partnered you and me are one. We are important to each other. It is related to belonging, I guess, but I think a lot of people get emotional intimacy and connection in sex if they’re not having deep emotional intimacy anywhere else in their life with anyone else. It does become a concentrated moment during sex.
Chris Rose: 24:46 Yeah, and I would like to interrogate what that means. What is that emotional intimacy you’re feeling? Are you being allowed to feel your feelings? Are you feeling safe to feel your feelings? Or is it that you feel seen and accepted? Therefore, you’re alleviating your shame. Because another core piece of sexual frustration we all walk around with is feeling shame. Feeling like part of our sexuality is not good. It is a sin, and therefore we carry this sin within us. We carry this poison within us. And in those moments where a lover sees you and accepts you for all of who you are, something within you is healed. I can be seen for all of who I am and still be loved, still be held, still be safe, still be accepted, still have a home, still have kin. These are deep emotional experiences, and we have lost our language for all of this, right? Part of why we’re breaking this down and really talking about all of the different components of the sexual experience is so we can get more specific. And we all just don’t walk around feeling frustrated, and angry, and in despair around our sexuality without being specific about where that suffering is coming from.
Chris Rose: 26:08 Okay, so all of your expectations about sex. All of the needs you are bundling into sex, that lives in you as a certain expectation. When that is met by a sexual experience that is really different, that is really a far gap from that expectation. That’s when frustration kicks in. The monitor in the brain starts going crazy and flagging you, and creating mental discomfort that can then become very physical discomfort. Remember that road rage feeling. That pain and discomfort is a signal to you.
Chris Rose: 26:45 So when we feel this frustration rise, when we are in anger or despair about an unmet goal, that frustration. We have a few choices. One, we can change the goal. Two, we can change the kind of effort or resources we’re investing in that goal. Or three, we can investigate that ratio between the goal and the effort. Right? At one of these points, you can intervene and change your experience.
Chris Rose: 27:13 So back to road rage. Charlotte and I did a lot of traveling in our car at the beginning of our relationship, and I was very susceptible to road rage. It was a learned response in my body. And if we would be stuck in traffic, I would just fly into anger. And Charlotte would say something like, “Well, we’d just be hanging out anyway and now we’re just hanging out in the car. What’s the big deal?”
Chris Rose: 27:37 So she changed the goal. Instead of the goal being get to our destination, the goal was to enjoy one another. So she changed the goal and that changed my mental frame. And now we can get stuck in traffic, and I kind of just turn her and I’m like, “So we’re going to hang out for a while. What do you want to talk about?” Or sometimes when we were stuck in traffic, we would play a little bit. I have some very fond memories of being stuck in traffic and having an orgasm in the road.
Chris Rose: 28:08 So changing the goal. Changing the goal is one major place that we have a lot of control and that can look a lot of different ways. And we’ll talk about that. Two, changing the resources or investment you’re putting in towards the goal. I can’t really think of a road rage example. If you’re stuck in traffic, you can’t really change the resources. Maybe you can get off at a next exit, and that would be changing the goal though.
Charlotte Rose: 28:35 No, I think that would, because your goal is still to get there. It would be changing the routes. You’re changing the effort. Instead of just sitting there, you’re taking a different I think.
Chris Rose: 28:43 Right. So maybe it takes longer mileage-wise, but you’re recalibrating your effort and your resources, and then have a different experience. So even if it takes you longer to get there, you won’t be stuck in traffic. And then the third thing is to intervene with what we call the criterion velocity. A big word for your brain sense of that effort to outcome ratio.
Charlotte Rose: 29:07 So changing the idea that it should take 15 minutes to get from A to B and it’s not, so you’re frustrated. Instead, it’s taking as long as it’s taking because I’m in traffic. And that’s annoying, but that’s okay. I am safe. I am okay.
Chris Rose: 29:20 Right. You’re acknowledging the different reality to your brain, and then saying recalibrate your expectations. We are not getting there any time soon. Chill out. So how does this all relate to sexual frustrations?
Chris Rose: 29:34 So a lot of us need to change our goals. A lot of us need to change our expectations when it comes to sex. We do not live in a culture where you will have a buffet of pussy in front of you all the time. We don’t live in that culture. We don’t live in a world where you can have a harem. Right? A lot of guys write to me and they’re like, “I just wish I could have” … and it’s like, great. Wish for it, fantasize about it. Your goal in this lifetime, in this body, in this sexuality right now is what? Is what? What are our expectations that are realistic and grounded in our current context? Because your expectations can change over the years, and they’ll change with different contexts.
Chris Rose: 30:23 But if you’re experiencing frustration, you need to ask yourself what is your expectation in this moment? And I think this is the strategy that got us through our really long stretch of being without sexual intimacy when I was sick. Because our expectation was not that I was going to be in my sexual prime. We totally recalibrated expectations and we stated new goals. And I looked at Charlotte in the eye and I was like, “I need you to believe that I can get better.” And I think we even had some really tearful, I’m tearing up just talking about it. But I said to you what I want is that when we get through this, that we still love each other, that we don’t have resentment, that you’re not angry at me for this period. I want to get through this, that you still want to be my lover on the other side.
Charlotte Rose: 31:14 Totally. That you still want to have sex with me when we get through the other side, I think was one of the quotes. And it was about, the goal was to stay connected. The goal was to be kind to each other. The goal was to do the long haul and make it as joyful and pleasurable as we could, knowing that sex was not a priority. We were in survival. And that was okay. That is part of what you sometimes get in a life package. Somebody gets sick and-
Chris Rose: 31:43 Sometimes I said to you, “Baby, how are you doing? You’re not getting”-
Charlotte Rose: 31:47 What I’m used to.
Chris Rose: 31:48 Yeah, Charlotte, I mean talk about it. She had a high sexual needs, and she was being tended to for years beautifully by my masterful hands. I disappeared. I was gone, and I would be very fearful in these moments of aren’t you frustrated? Aren’t you freaking out? And she’d be like, “Honey, we’re in this. I know what I’m expecting.”
Charlotte Rose: 32:09 You’re alive. Yeah.
Chris Rose: 32:11 So we recalibrated our sexual expectations. And then what’s really important is we’ve recalibrated them again.
Charlotte Rose: 32:19 That is really important.
Chris Rose: 32:20 We noticed the context was changing and we recalibrated again. And now we have to live into our new expectations.
Charlotte Rose: 32:27 Yeah. A new stage, a new era. Because it is easy to get stuck in what you have been doing because that becomes your normal of course, even when context then change slowly over time. Yeah, this is such an important piece. I think also especially for people after they get through those first early years of having kids, because that is also a time where I think expectations should change around how much sex and how much loud noise you’re going to be making. But then at some point, that does shift and getting used to a new reality, and really putting effort in to shift that.
Chris Rose: 33:03 And reminding each other of the new reality and coming, if you’re in a relationship. Talking about your expectations actively. That in of itself will relieve frustration.
Charlotte Rose: 33:15 Then you can just be honest and tell the truth to each other. It makes you feel so close. You get that feeling of love and belonging when you’re like this is the truth that we’re both in.
Chris Rose: 33:24 And in those expectations, naming the why’s. We’ve just laid out all of these motivations, all of these rewards. And it is really different as a partner to hear we never have sex anymore. I just want to have sex. I need sex, sex, sex. Versus I feel like we’re not connecting anymore. I just really want to have fun with you. I want to be playful.
Charlotte Rose: 33:47 I miss you in this way.
Chris Rose: 33:49 I miss the way your body smells after you come. Making it specific will help that conversation. And we’re going to talk in a moment about what taking the edge off your neediness does. And one of the main things it does is it makes you less desperate. And there’s nothing desirable about desperate.
Chris Rose: 34:13 Okay. So changing expectations, changing the amount of investment and resources you’re putting into those expectations. So this is when you’re chasing a feudal goal, and you’re just getting more and more frustrated. Doing the same thing and expecting different results. So if you’re stuck in this with your partner, and you think you’re doing all the right things, and you’re still not getting sex, and if you’re in this loop, you got to shift up your resources and your investment towards the goal.
Charlotte Rose: 34:42 You may want to think about changing the amount of effort you put into your sex life, and think about if spontaneous sex is not as realistic right now, what kind of effort can we put into creating a different context, creating a different structure for our relationship? Can we get a babysitter? Can we plan time where we’re going to touch, but there isn’t necessarily the goal of sex. We focus on massage. You have different conversations. You create a different context.
Chris Rose: 35:12 And this is especially important if you have a shared goal. If you and your partner are both in the same expectations and you’re not seeming to get there and you’re both frustrated. Yes, we both want an active sex life. We both want each other. Why do we keep missing the boat? It might be that you’re putting in the wrong kind of effort, and you’re trying to bike somewhere, you need a boat to go. Or something like that. So recalibrating the resources you’re investing towards your goal, and that can look a lot of different ways.
Chris Rose: 35:42 And then the third is admitting to your brain out loud that it might take a little more work to get to your goal or that your goal is a little further off, or we need a longer path to get there. This really emerges for me when sexual frustration is coming because one partner is blocked for some reason. One partner is dealing with trauma. One partner is dealing with an illness. If there’s kind of a mismatch of desire. Sometimes, and I hear this all the time. “I love my wife so much, I would never leave her, but I am going crazy.” So then in those situations, we need to think about yes, maybe setting different goals. Maybe putting in different kinds of resources. But also thinking about the long haul that if your goal is ultimately to reconnect with your wife, you might need couples therapy, you might need 10 dates where you don’t have sex, but you do a lot of full body massage. You might need a lot of different steps to get there. But you will be frustrated if you think after that first massage date, she’s going to be ready to have sex, right? We need to have a realistic calibration of what things will take to reach our goals.
Chris Rose: 37:05 So, we have unpacked sexual frustration. I kind of feel like most of us live in some baseline of sexual frustration in a culture that is not reverent and celebratory of our sexuality. That doesn’t allow full range expression of eroticism. That cordons off intimacy and affection into romantic relationships. So what do we do with the sexual frustration? I feel like the first thing is really acknowledging it, and getting specific about the contours of your frustration. Why are you frustrated? Is it the goal? Is it the effort to goal ratio? What parts of sex are you so hungry for that it’s turning into frustration and anger? What are your unmet needs? And then on top of that, what are your unmet desires?
Chris Rose: 37:59 Where else in your life can you start getting those needs fed? And in this, and we’ve talked about this. If you’re really hungry for touch, try to get a professional massage. If you want intensity, you can take up an intense sport or that martial art could be a two for one. You get touch and intensity, and social belonging. It’s a three for one.
Chris Rose: 38:21 It’s these moments in our life we can make choices to feed parts of ourselves that are not being nourished. And I am not saying this is a substitute for sex. I really want to make that clear. When I suggest these things, it is to take the edge off. It’s to fill your bucket a little bit so you don’t feel so empty.
Chris Rose: 38:43 And what that does, when we take actions that then meet our needs that bring us pleasurable rewards, that feels good as an organism. You are taking some agency. You’re taking active steps towards your goals, and your brain will feel better. Your monitor will chill out a little bit.
Chris Rose: 39:06 What it also does socially is it takes the edge off and you become less desperate. And I really want folks to hear this. Whether or not you’re in a relationship or you’re trying to date in order to have a sex partner, however you’re seeking out your sex partner, there is nothing desirable about desperation. Because sexual desperation tells us that anyone will do. There’s nothing special about you. I just want to get my rocks off so much, and you’re the one that’s available right now. Think about the contrast between feeling desperate and feeling calm and confident. When we’re calm and confident, we can make good choices. We have something to offer in return for our ask. And it’s not coming from a totally empty bucket of fill me up.
Charlotte Rose: 39:56 So the other thing you can do to handle your sexual frustration is to turn your attention to yourself, and to create a really enlivening, beautiful masturbation practice. Yes, it is not sex with another being. We get that it is not the same. But you can bring some level of interest, curiosity, novelty, and excitement to yourself. You can make it more than just a release. A quick jerk off, the same way you’ve been doing it for ages. Bring some energy that you would want to bring to another partner, and make it good. See what more you can explore. Use your body as a laboratory and play. And also, don’t hold it as a sexual failure that you are spending your time masturbating. Think of it as a pleasure that you’re offering yourself. You’re filling the bucket, as Chris was saying, in some way. You’re serving yourself. You’re allowing your eroticism to live within the context that you’re in right now. It may change over time. But just let it be a good thing in your life and something that is nourishing. And this piece about not holding it as a sexual failure I think is really important because sometimes that become so pronounced that masturbation just doesn’t feel like it is what you want to be doing.
Chris Rose: 41:18 Well that’s the discharge model that is saying I have to masturbate because I don’t have access to the real thing, and I have to get this thing out of my body. Most of us still masturbate in the discharge model. We are not giving ourselves the opportunity to experience masturbation as sexually fulfilling. Our attitude blocks that possibility from even being there. If in your attitudes you think masturbation is second rate, it’s just a quick release. That’s what it will be. If in your attitude you can think about it as a pleasure lab, as a training ground, as a way you honor your own body, and take care of yourself, and run the excitement, or intensity, or tenderness that you want. Maybe it will be incrementally more satisfying. And again, take the edge off your sexual frustration. Yeah.
Chris Rose: 42:14 We’re talking about taking the edge off. I am not promising that any of these strategies will ameliorate your sexual frustration altogether. What we can learn to do is not suffer from that sexual frustration. We can acknowledge it and be like right, there is something I am wanting and not getting. I can either look at the effort I’m putting into that goal, I can recalibrate that goal, or I can just come into a better relationship with the effort. Right? A better sense of okay, there’s something I want. There are rewards I’m seeking. A lot of us treat sex like something that should just be magically appearing from the sky of pussy. Right? It’s just like rain down upon us. And it’s interesting that some of those perspectives come from straight men. And then I get a lot from straight women of their expectations are so low, that they don’t even know what to hope for. Right?
Chris Rose: 43:15 So where are our expectations set socially has a lot to do with our sexual culture. And the people that report this sense of frustration, and I will dare say even entitlement. There is a sense of being entitled to something that you’re not getting and therefore your worth and value is being questioned. We need to recalibrate socially, our expectations of one another as sexual beings, and come into a better sense of those expectations together and what it takes to get there, right? If we all want to get to the hotel room in the sky, it’s going to take massive social cultural changes in our sex culture. If you want to experience that kind of sexual freedom in your life, what will it take? It’s not just going to appear. Like any other goal, like any other thing you’re working towards, these things don’t just happen. And a lot of the frustration comes from either not having the right goal or not having the right effort towards that goal that will get you there.
Chris Rose: 44:26 So examine that for yourself, and I hope this conversation has been useful to people. I know it won’t take the edge off for you. Maybe it will. I think maybe in unpacking this, some of the suffering could be relieved. But it’s going to take action in your life and body to shift how you’re feeling. So think about what action steps you’ll take, and how to reel ourselves in from this pit of despair, right? If we think about frustration, anger, despair. So many of us are kind of at that pit of despair. How do we walk it back? How do we walk it back, get back into the anger zone, then to the frustration zone, and then on the right side of that where we’re feeling like our goals are being met, our expectations are reasonable. We’re kind of in that flow that we want to be in.
Charlotte Rose: 45:14 We found ways of having a sexually fulfilling life, perhaps just with ourself, which is totally possible. And that not having the sex that you think you should be having makes you a failure. That piece is so important that we can’t connect those too. That not having the sex you want makes you a failure as a man. That is such a thought out there in culture.
Chris Rose: 45:37 Or a woman.
Charlotte Rose: 45:38 Or a woman. Right. But we have to dismantle that, and know that that is not the truth.
Chris Rose: 45:42 Yeah. And a lot of this episode we have been talking about the high libido, the high desire, the sexually frustrated as masculine. That is just a convenience here. We all experience this. So many women I talk to are sexually frustrated too. So many women are sexually frustrated. We’re all sexually frustrated, I think. To one degree or another at one point of our lives or another. So this is not a gendered experience. And that idea of the urgency, and the blue balls, and the nut that needs to be released. That is all old model discharge talk. We all have sexual goals. We all have sexual over awards we’re seeking. We all want to feel touched, we all want to feel loved, we all want to feel belonging. And sex is a vehicle to feel all of those things, but it’s not the only vehicle. It just happens to be a potent one, a power train, a turbo charger. I’m out of metaphors.
Chris Rose: 46:46 We hope this has been useful to you. And remember, the whole libido mini series is at pleasuremechanics.com/libido. So you can listen to the full arc of our conversation about rethinking libido.
Charlotte Rose: 47:01 And when you’re ready to master new erotic skills, come over to pleasuremechanics.com and discover our suite of online courses that can teach you beautiful erotic skills that you can share in the bedroom this evening.
Chris Rose: 47:16 All right, so come on over to pleasuremechanics.com. Check out our online courses. Use the code speaking of sex for 20% off. I’m Chris.
Charlotte Rose: 47:25 I’m Charlotte.
Chris Rose: 47:26 We are the Pleasure Mechanics.
Charlotte Rose: 47:27 Wishing you a lifetime of pleasure.
Chris Rose: 47:30 And an alleviation of your sexual frustration.
Charlotte Rose: 47:33 Yes.
Chris Rose: 47:34 Right cheers.