Chapter 32 Learning Objectives

Upon reading this chapter, the student should be able to:

  • Recognize that sex can change a relationship for better or for worse, depending in part how the sex goes for each, but also depending on how each feels afterward about having it, which can be considerably different from how one feels before having it.

Watch this video or scan the QR code to see why do men change after sex.

It is a correct principle of ethics to take into account the particular circumstances in a situation in order to decide the right course of action. One should apply his brakes in his car if a child runs out into the street in front of him, though one should not drive about arbitrarily jamming on the brakes between intersections. Similarly, one might properly drive faster down a broad boulevard than one should drive down a narrow street with parked cars on both sides beyond which little children are playing. If one is playing poker, one would be foolish to bet the same on every hand regardless of the value of that hand. Circumstances determine what the right or prudent act is whether in ethics, business, poker, or whatever.

Further, it is fair and rational to act similarly under similar circumstances, unless there is some overriding reason not to — for example, in poker, one might sometimes want to bluff with a hand worth even less than one had folded previously, or a baseball pitcher may want to throw a different pitch from the one that had worked earlier in the “same” situation to the same batter, since the batter may now be looking for it. (Hence, it is not exactly the same psychological situation, though it may be the same playing or scoring situation.) But without some overriding reason to the contrary, circumstances in a situation determine what is right to do, and similar circumstances demand similar actions. Hence, to say that situations determine right behavior is not to say there are no standards or principles for situations nor that all situations are different in relevant ways.

Now one of the things that should go into consideration of what act is right are the desires of people who would be affected by your choice, including, of course, your own desires. For example, in deciding what present to buy a child for its birthday, one should at least consider what the child wants or might like. This does not mean, of course, that that is the only consideration — a twelve year old may want a big motorcycle that might be unsafe; or someone may want a car that the family could not prudently afford. But certainly it seems to me that if the choice is, say, between one kind of book and another, or between one kind of toy and another, of equal cost, and there is not some particular reason the child should not be given the one he wants, then the right choice is to give the child the one he actually wants or would like.

Similarly in deciding what vegetable to cook for yourself for dinner, between two equal costing ones that are equally appropriate, nutritious, and available, the one you want is the right one to choose. Sometimes desires may even override other considerations. If a desire for something extravagant is very strong, one may sometimes rightly splurge and indulge oneself. Other times, such as in going off a strict medical diet, if that would cause serious physical consequences, the strong desire should be overridden. Desires should always be taken into account, but they are not the final or sole considerations in deciding proper actions.

In sex, as in many cases involving desires, sometimes desires are stronger or more important than they are at other times, and might have more weight as factors or reasons to consider. It is very easy to think sex is right when you are in the mood, and then later to feel disgusted, guilty, repentant, or remorseful, after one has indulged one’s desires and spent one’s passion. Inexperienced people, particularly younger people, often feel terrible after a sexual experience, whether it was intercourse or even something potentially less disastrous, such as petting or even kissing. You may feel you have led the other on or perhaps made a non-verbal commitment you did not really intend. You may feel you have taken advantage of another person’s mood at the time, or that the other person took advantage of yours. Or, released from the influence of strong desire, you may now simply feel guilty that you gave into those desires rather than being able to overcome them as now you feel you could have.

There is a distinction to be made in cases like this, since there is feeling guilty that is justified and feeling guilty that is not justified. And it is not just with regard to relationships and to sex.

If the act you did was wrong and you only did it because your desires overpowered your reason, then feeling guilty is justified; but if the act was right and you only feel guilty afterward because afterward you would not choose or do the same thing if you had to choose then while not being in the mood, then you are feeling unjustifiably guilty because you are confusing making a choice under one set of circumstances with making a choice under another set.

For example, first outside of sex. If while working at some task, someone becomes so hungry that they cannot concentrate properly on their work, even though they may want to get the work done, it might be better for them to go ahead and break for lunch or dinner and return to work, than to try to work straight through. If so, then they should not feel guilty or weak- willed afterward just because they now have the strength and seeming resolve they lacked before. However, if they eat so much they do not feel like working, if they take so long they miss a deadline, if they eat food that disagrees with them and makes them unable to work, or if they break an important diet, their guilt feelings would be justified.

Similarly with regard to sleeping or taking a nap when you are too exhausted to function efficiently or sufficiently. After the nap, if you then perform properly, it would be silly to berate yourself for having taken it, just because you forgot how tired and inefficient you were before you did. Of course if you oversleep, or if you were really not as tired as you thought but were impersistent, just bored, or just procrastinating, then you should feel guilty because you were guilty of doing the wrong thing.

Part of maturing is learning to know beforehand the likely consequences of various actions, including how you will feel afterward; and part of maturing is developing the resolve to withstand, or the ability to harmlessly assuage, the desire to do things you know are wrong or that will unavoidably make you feel so bad afterward that you are better off not doing them. But you should not feel bad about things that were right under particular circumstances just because those circumstances changed into new ones which, had they been the ones occurring at the time, would have made the act wrong. Sleeping when you are exhausted is not like sleeping when you are lazy; eating when you are famished is not like eating when you are frustrated or unhappy; having sex when circumstances are otherwise right and you are in the mood is not like having sex when circumstances are wrong but your passion clouds your reason or overpowers your will. Feeling rested later does not indicate you were lazy before; being indifferent to food after eating does not mean you were wrong to eat before; and being undesirous of sex after having it does not by itself mean you did the wrong thing when you had sex before.

Particularly young and inexperienced people can feel tremendously guilty after initial intimate encounters of whatever stage. Sometimes they can even feel so guilty they can ruin an experience or a relationship by doing or saying something to the partner under the distress of overwhelming guilt feelings that they would not have said had they been able to wait for the tide of guilt and distress to naturally subside. Often the guilt feelings are mixed with, or really are just, fear — fear of being discovered, fear of pregnancy, fear of entering into a relationship or a stage of a relationship one is not ready for or really does not want, fear of not being in control, fear of having been intimate with the wrong person, fear of having been used, or of having embarrassed yourself, etc., etc., etc. Most fears subside with time and that is one really good reason not to say anything nasty or upsetting to one’s partner while in the grip of fear one confuses with guilt. One can be honest about one’s feelings of fear or guilt; but if one is abusive and insensitive to the other person instead of sensitively and honestly tactful, one could very much regret that later, or it could at least be unnecessarily damaging to the relationship and the experience.

I would like to make another distinction now that relates to making rational decisions, particularly ones whose results turn out badly or worse than you expected. First, however, I do not mean to imply by all this that sex, even first encounters, always turns out badly or regrettably. When sex is right, when it adds to a relationship, and when no fear or guilt is felt, but only wonder, joy, appreciation, and closeness, it can be thrilling and beautiful indeed. However, those cases speak for themselves and are not problematic. Further, they are what everyone hopes for and many people expect. It is when these hopes and expectations are not met that problems arise which need addressing.

The distinction to be made is what is right versus what is reasonable. Baseball broadcasters make this distinction all the time when they talk about a manager’s “playing the percentages so he cannot be second-guessed [criticized]” about a decision. Since we cannot always know the consequences of an act ahead of time, the reasonable thing to do may in fact turn out to be the wrong thing — if the circumstances aren’t as you reasonably thought they were or if the results of your action do not turn out the way you reasonably expected them to. (Sometimes we may never know all, or even the most important, consequences of our actions, so we may never know whether our choice was the right one or the most beneficial one or not.) The best people can do is the rational or reasonable thing and hope it turns out right. Most times it will; but when it does not one simply accepts the mistake, knowing he or she at least did their best and made the best and most rational choice available. In poker this is easy to see. Suppose in a poker game one bets a large, but affordable, amount on a hand with four kings in it. However this turns out, it is certainly a very reasonable bet because of the high probability (low risk) and affordable amount involved. If the hand wins, the player did the reasonable thing and the right thing; if it loses to a hand with four aces, the player still has done the reasonable thing, just simply the wrong thing. The bet is right or wrong when the player makes it, but the knowledge of which it is only becomes known when it and the opposing hands are compared. The reasonableness of the bet can be determined at any time that the circumstances are described. The reasonableness never changes, nor does proper awareness of it. If a man bets his mortgage on a king high hand in a straight poker game of knowledgeable players, that is a very unreasonable, and downright stupid bet — even if it wins. If the hand wins, the player is simply lucky. The bet was the right one to make at the time, but it was an irrational and stupid one.

One would not be wise to underwrite a player who makes those kinds of bets. (Now one could say of a wise bet that loses that it was the right bet when it was made, but the wrong bet once the hand was played. And one could say of the stupid bet that wins it was the wrong bet to make, but it became right once the hand was played. I think it would be much clearer and more accurate, however, to say that the first bet was rational but wrong, and the second was irrational but turned out to be right. The first person was really unlucky; the second, really lucky. That way you do not have to say things like each bet was both right and wrong. In the case of cards, what makes a bet right or not is generally simply whether it wins or not. The only times a losing bet might be right are (1) when a large loss on a good hand makes possible a successful bluff later with a bad hand, or (2) when the thrill of making the bet (watching others squirm, being able to brag about the loss later, or whatever) or some other such intangible quality is worth more than the loss of the money involved. In the baseball case, the reason the manager cannot be justifiably criticized for “going with the percentages” assuming he is using the right percentages — that is, figuring in the relevant factors and those alone — for the situation, is that fans and the club cannot justifiably criticize a manager for unpredictable bad luck, just for mismanagement — inefficient, irrational, or stupid preparation and decisions.)

Using these cases only to explain the difference between rational choices and right choices, I would now like to return to cases concerning sexual behavior. It is slightly more complicated in that the consequences are not always so discernible, and are certainly not always as immediately known when indeed they are known at all.

There are occasions in which having sex might be rational and still turn out to be wrong. The most obvious is perhaps where every rational precaution is taken to prevent an undesirable pregnancy and that pregnancy miraculously occurs anyway. Other cases are those in which there is reason to believe that sex will enhance the relationship, but afterward the relationship seems to decline and deteriorate instead. Sometimes the sex itself is not good, and with people who cannot properly handle that, it can be devastating to a relationship. But sometimes, though the sex may be (somewhat) physically and emotionally good, it may precipitate some unexpected decline in feelings. This can happen in or out of marriage, so marriage is not a solution to the problem unless one somehow wants added pressure for a partner to stay in a relationship after sex, even though the relationship is hurt by its sexual aspect. And I do not believe that a decline in attraction after sex is always an example of someone not respecting anyone who has sex with them (outside of marriage). (I think the usual case in regard to respect is more like what one cartoon once expressed, showing a picture of a fellow getting dressed afterward and obviously filled with joy, saying to the girl still lying in the bed and looking somewhat vulnerable: “Still respect you?! Wow! I really respect you now!”)

There can be either physical or emotional sexual incompatibility, the latter probably being more common than the former, though in some cases, or with some people, emotional incompatibility can also make the physical aspect of sex unpleasant. (In many cases, though, women and perhaps particularly men can have physically pleasurable sensations and even orgasm, though the emotional aspect of the sexual time together is not pleasurable at all, or is empty.) Examples of emotional sexual incompatibility are cases where, say, one person wants tender caresses and the other person is not capable of tenderness in touch; or one likes to kiss hard, and the other gently; one likes to hug and cuddle and the other doesn’t; one might like to have an important conversation along with touching and making love and is intellectually stimulated by the physical closeness, whereas the other does not like to talk during and just wants to roll over and quietly go to sleep afterward; or where afterward one is very accepting of however it was and the other wants to do a running commentary, or give a verbal critique or grade.

It can simply happen that two perfectly loving people might find, upon experiencing anything from a kiss or cuddle, to whatever, that they do not like that aspect of the relationship with the other person very much at all. This does not mean necessarily that either was trying to use the other or to take advantage of the other sexually and simply does not care about them now that they have succeeded. (In fact, I myself do not understand why anyone would want to just have sex with someone with the preconceived intention of “dumping” the partner afterward. If the sex is good, it seems one would want to have more of it. And if you know ahead of time you do not like the person enough to want to continue to see them, why would you want to have sex with them at all; why would anyone want to have sex with someone they do not like well enough to want to be with? I can understand that someone may not want to have just a sexual relationship, and so may end a relationship that seems to be or to have become just sexual in nature; and I can understand about feeling guilty after a sexual experience one is not ready for or wanting to end a relationship that was either physically or emotionally sexually unpleasant but I cannot understand dating someone with the prior intention of both having sex with them and then dumping them.)

My concern here is less about people taking advantage of each other than about relationships that wither or die because people cannot understand or cope with their feelings after sex, particularly a bad or somewhat unpleasant sexual experience. The first point is that such a sexual experience, though it may have been the wrong thing to do, may not have been the irrational thing to do. The two of you can have made a totally unpredictable mistake without thereby being blind, stupid, ignorant, uncaring, bad intentioned, or evil. The second point is that you should try to overcome the damage by discussing your feelings with each other and by trying to return to those areas of the relationship that you do enjoy. You may later be able to enjoy sex with each other, but if not, or until then, you should still be able to enjoy the same things you did earlier. Of course, if you are looking for a spouse or “fully” loving or compatible partner, you may not want to spend as much time with someone you discover may not fit that description for you. But that should not mean spending no time with them in areas you enjoy sharing. You may even be able to work out the problems in sex that at first occurred between you. Whether the relationship is later able to add good sexual experiences or whether it remains friendship or love without sexual aspects or attractions, it seems to me better to have discussed a bad sexual experience and prevailed over it and saved a developed relationship than to silently end, or let deteriorate, an otherwise good relationship. Discussing your feelings also has the merit of letting your partner know you did not simply plan to bed them and then abandon them, and it lets them know that an incompatibility between the two of you does not necessarily mean an inadequacy on their part. It helps let them know that you both together made a mistake but that it was not necessarily a mistaken character judgment or a totally irrational or stupid mistake.

Sex is a learned behavior (though sometimes it can be learned fairly quickly) and like all learned behavior does not always proceed the way you would like it to, particularly at first. Inexperienced people may have just some simple technical problems that make their sexual experiences with each other rather traumatic and unenjoyable. This should be expected ahead of time, and, if it occurs, should be looked at as an obstacle to be overcome, not an irreparable impediment to continuing the relationship.

There are all kinds of books and films, etc. on sexual technique, some better than others, so I do not want to get into that matter, but I would like to discuss in the rest of this section some things somewhat related to technique that I have not seen discussed in such books.

First of all, difficulties and incompatibilities begin far removed from intercourse and orgasm. Young kids sometimes worry so much about where to put their noses when they kiss they actually do have a problem getting their noses out of the way. Getting the right lip angles and pressure too can sometimes be difficult for two people without much experience kissing and who do not know to approach slowly enough in a (first) kiss to make the proper, and eventually natural, “adjustments” with each other for a great kiss, or even to avoid accidentally bumping teeth or braces together. Even so seemingly simple a task as holding hands can have its pitfalls. When folding one’s own hands together, some people naturally and comfortably put the fingers of their right hand above the corresponding fingers of their left. Others put their left fingers above the corresponding right ones. We have all seen couples who have trouble holding hands for very long even though they seem to want to; I suspect it is because each partner is uncomfortable with which fingers (or thumb) is on top. Incompatible hand holding is hardly a major problem, but it may cause some discomfort and even irritability between people who want to hold hands with each other and are unable to happily do so and who have no idea why that is.

Even in conversation with someone seated next to them, some people are more comfortable turning their head to their left; others, to their right. I have always been more comfortable looking to my left than to my right for conversation, and the idea of “parking” in a car (sitting on the left side) whether for conversation or kissing, has partially for that reason never appealed to me. I suspect things in a similar vein to this are which side of one’s body one likes to lie on and on which side of the bed one likes to sleep or cuddle. Incompatibilities in these areas are only minor irritations, but they are irritations nonetheless.

Progressing to petting or caressing, there are plenty of people who still write magazine articles giving sexual advice about the best way to stimulate another person while caressing, without the slightest realization that it is different for different people — literally different strokes for different folks — and that one mainly needs to be open to some experimentation and possible initial lack of success. Also some sort of communication or sign by the one being caressed that something is more pleasant than something else, can help the one doing the caressing do it more pleasingly. A “good toucher” can often just feel in their fingers a response to their touch, but in cases where that sensitivity or response is missing, some more audible, visible, or physical sign by the one being caressed might help guide the caresser, making their caressing more pleasant for the one being caressed. You should not expect another to be able to find all your comfortable places with the right kind of touch you like right away, or even at all, without some kind of help or guiding response from you. This does not necessarily mean giving total directions and not allowing the caresser any chance to please you on his/her own and to experiment or play. Some people like to be able to discover some things you might like for themselves. At least give them some clue that they have, if and when they do.

When I was young I was not even sure why you were supposed to (try to) touch a girl’s breasts, if you could. Sex was such a conquest fantasy idea among boys my age when I was growing up that I thought guys were only supposed to try to touch a girl or woman to see if they could. If she let you, that was great, because she was not supposed to let you (for some equally obscure reason). It never occurred to me at that time that the girl might actually enjoy being caressed on her breasts by someone she liked and that it could give her some sort of (sexual) pleasure. (After all, being caressed on my chest was not particularly stimulating nor pleasurable. Having my back or head caressed was great; chest, nothing.) The first time, when I was older (I was a late bloomer) that a girl let me touch her breasts (through her sweater, slip, and bra), I was really surprised when she seemed actually to enjoy it and get some pleasure out of it. It still did not occur to me though that she really did enjoy it, at least no more or no differently than she would have enjoyed me caressing her arm or hand. I thought perhaps she just liked it because she let me do it although she was not supposed to and because she did not get hit by lighting for letting me. Part of my gratification was that I did not get hit by lightning either.

Many people probably still do not always realize that one of the primary, if not the primary, point of caressing another person is to give that person pleasure, not to exact one’s own pleasure. (Of course one might receive some psychological pleasure in giving someone else physical pleasure by stroking them, one might receive some sort of “conquest” ego pleasure sometimes, and one might caress someone into the mood to caress or make love to them in return and thereby receive pleasure, but the main purpose of the actual stroking at the time is to give the person who is being stroked pleasure from that stroking, whether it is pleasure as an end in itself or as a means to some more reciprocal or climactic state.) This seems obvious to me now; but many people seem to think that the point of touching is in its providing pleasure, or some sort of thrill, to the one touching, not the one being touched or caressed.

Some men will touch their present mates in the same way they got responses from their previous partners, and if the present partner does not find that particularly enjoyable, the man will not change but will say or think something like “nobody else ever complained” or think their new partner frigid. Some women will not particularly enjoy being caressed at a certain time but allow it believing they are giving the guy they are with some kind of thrill just by letting him touch them. In some cases this may be true, but not in cases where the guy is trying to please or to stimulate them and not just “feel” them. Certainly during a first petting or love making time, or during such a session that is somehow illicit (adultery, sex in a public place while trying to keep from being discovered, etc.) there is an element of excitement based on adventure, danger, or illicitness. There is a thrill of being allowed to touch the other person, of participating in breaking a taboo, of success in getting to do what you want, of “getting to first base” with possibly the added anticipation of then being able to “score”. But even in cases with this additional kind of psychological excitement, it seems to me one ought to keep in mind the main point of caressing is to give pleasure to the person one is touching.

Of course, some people take this overboard and take it as personal rejection, an insult, or a sign of their own inadequacy if their partner is not pleased or stimulated by their touch at some particular time, when in fact the other person may have other things on their mind or may simply not be in the mood. Oppositely such people take it, just as incorrectly, as a sign of personally great sexual prowess if the other person does respond and enjoy their touch.

There is to at least some extent a pleasure in being able to give pleasure to someone you want to arouse or to please; and there is a some feeling of pride in one’s ability and sensitivity to be able to do that; and that is why overt responses like sighs, murmurs, closer hugs, writhing, etc. are very stimulating to some caressers. Again though, that feeling of pride in ability or accomplishment is not more important than being able to give the one you are caressing the pleasure in the first place.

I know of one woman who will stop scratching someone else’s back the minute she does not feel like scratching it anymore, regardless of how much the other person is enjoying it or to what point of ecstasy the one being scratched is just about to reach with only a little more scratching. She also stops scratching the second the scratchee directs her scratching to a particular spot they like or that itches. Her comment after stopping is “Who’s doing this? You or me?” And the reply, “But who are you doing it for!” is met only by icy silence and an upturned head. She seems to take direction or requests as chastisement or complaint that she is incompetent, insensitive, or that you do not like her touch or technique.

The idea that the toucher is somehow the main recipient of pleasure is reminiscent of the Freudian spoof I mentioned in the free-will and responsibility section on ethics, the satirical contention being that since we obviously delighted in using our hands for so many things — applause, hand shaking, typing, thumb sucking, caressing ourselves as well as caressing others, Peter plugging the dike with his finger, etc. — that obviously we must do this for the pleasure our hands experience.

Of course, some people do not care about their partner’s physical pleasure or emotional contentment, only their own. In the movie Joe, when Joe, an insensitive, macho, egotist, is about to have sex with an indiscriminately willing girl he has just met, he is ready for immediate intercourse. When she says “Wait a minute. What about foreplay?”, his reply, without stopping, is “I don’t need any foreplay.” From what I have heard, though that is exaggerated, it is not totally untypical of the way some people behave in sex. If they do engage in some sort of foreplay, it is only the minimum necessary to induce their partner to intercourse, which is what they want.

Some women are just as guilty of this kind of idea, though, in reverse, as are some men. They have no idea that some men too like to be caressed before (and after) intercourse and that just “allowing” a man to caress them and have intercourse with them is not necessarily even just the physically complete (let alone emotionally complete) kind of experience the man is seeking. Just as there are the selfish, brutish Joe’s of the world, there are the passionless, passive, lifeless, seemingly unresponsive, or only selfishly responsive, women. Unfortunately they do not always end up with each other but instead sometimes end up with sensitive, caring people who deserve better.

Now some people are no help to the one caressing them or making love with them. They give someone interested in pleasing them no sign or guidance as to what they might like or even to what pleases them that the other person finds without guidance. Although here I have primarily been stressing giving the other person pleasure, there are also times in which it is not selfish to have them give you pleasure. One is when they are caressing you; it is not selfish to maneuver or help guide them so it is pleasurable to you. Since they are already seeking to give you pleasure, you would be doing them a favor by helping them succeed. This is whether you are both caressing each other at the time or whether you are simply having “your turn” being caressed. A second time is during intercourse itself (which, in part, is like simultaneous mutual caressing where caressing and being caressed are ideally the same thing); each person is “responsible” not only for the other person’s pleasure but for his or her own pleasure as well, since if you do nothing to make it good for yourself, your partner will not very likely satisfy you on his or her own.

For those who need them, there are plenty of books about techniques for orgasm and mutually satisfying, even if not simultaneously climactic, sex. My point is not that of technique, but of purpose and perspective. Technique alone does not give pleasure, and lack of technical knowledge alone does not prevent giving it. In all caressing there is an element of exploration. The point to keep in mind is that in sex you are trying basically to physically and emotionally please your partner and to help them please you. Some of that may involve verbal communication, some may simply involve body language, body movement, and purrs of pleasure. Some may involve experimentation or trial and error, since one difficult situation is when one person wants the other to tell her or him what to do, but the other person wants the first to be creative on his or her own, so that telling would defeat the purpose. But whatever it involves, the pleasure and satisfaction is the goal, not the technique. Technique is at best only a means to the satisfaction.

Further, in sexual matters as in all of ethics, simultaneous satisfaction may not always be possible. Sometimes turns will have to be taken to please each other, or some other continuing fair and equitable solution will need to be found. And, as in all of ethics, both partners’ needs and wishes must be taken into account concerning sexual pleasure; and to be properly taken into account they need to be discovered or expressed.

Now there are a number of physical problems during or after intercourse that can make even it an unpleasant experience, assuming everything leading up to it has gone well enough. Insufficient lubrication, whether natural or artificial, can make penetration difficult, impossible, embarrassing, or painful. It can cause premature ejaculation, as can nervousness, excitement or who knows what. Premature ejaculation is one of those embarrassing and often unpleasant sexual experiences, particularly among the inexperienced. It can even happen without intercourse and while your clothes are still on. This can be particularly embarrassing to a guy. Some women also can have a kind of premature orgasm, a climax that happens much sooner than they want it to and that kills any further interest in sex at the time, though they did not have as long a pleasurable time as they had wanted before the orgasm. Such an orgasm may also not be as strong as one would have liked.

Orgasm, even at the “proper” time can be more a fizzle than an explosion or a climax. It can end interest in sex at the time without giving that final feeling of elation and satisfaction or completion. Or sometimes orgasm does not occur at all before one simply tires of trying to make it happen.

Bladder infections in women arise commonly enough in newly married couples that such cystitis is often referred to as “honeymoon” cystitis, but most couples are not aware of the disease until the woman has it diagnosed. One gynecologist says he keeps the names and phone numbers of gynecologists in Nassau and Hawaii on his night table for panic-stricken long- distance late night calls from his honeymooning patients. Symptoms generally include a very frequent desire to urinate (even after having just done so) and a burning sensation from urinating, “two conditions”, as he puts it, “which are hardly conducive to a happy honeymoon or harmonious sex.” I know of one very sheltered and virginal bride who came down with it early in her honeymoon and was absolutely sure she was being punished for having sex even though she was now married.

This gynecologist also thought that in many cases a honeymoon put an unnecessary artificial extra strain on many couples’ sex life — particularly after an emotionally and physically exhausting wedding and trip to the honeymoon spot. Even without such travel though he felt the wedding night was often a difficult time for many couples. He thought it was better to postpone a trip till a later time.

Almost everyone I have ever talked to about it has had some sexual experience, no matter how minor, that was frightening, frustrating, or embarrassing to them at the time, though they may often now look back on it with humor. The point is that the physical aspect of loving is simply not always that easy or smooth or pleasantly satisfying, and many a relationship might easily flounder with a bad experience that neither partner might really understand. Knowing this might help prevent bad sex from ruining the relationship completely or at least might make one not feel somehow used or wronged if the relationship does go sour after sex. A relationship might end after sex because one of the partners was selfish and dishonest, simply dishonestly using and discarding the other. But it can also end after the sex if one or both experienced the sex as unpleasant or embarrassing, frustrating, or demeaning, particularly if they do not know why and are too ashamed, afraid, or naive to talk about it with each other.

Key Takeaways

  • Sex can have, and generally does have, extremely strong influence on emotions – not only the desire for it prior to having it, but the feelings that can flood in afterward, not all of which are always good. Moreover many of the feelings before or after sex are not permanent and it can be a mistake to act on them in ways that cannot be ‘taken back’ or remedied once you have so acted. It is important to understand many of the different possibilities.

Key Terms

  • Emotional sexual incompatibility are cases where, say, one person wants tender caresses and the other person is not capable of tenderness in touch; or one likes to kiss hard, and the other gently; one likes to hug and cuddle and the other doesn’t; one might like to have an important conversation along with touching and making love and is intellectually stimulated by the physical closeness, whereas the other does not like to talk during and just wants to roll over and quietly go to sleep afterward; or where afterward one is very accepting of however it was and the other wants to do a running commentary, or give a verbal critique or grade.

Chapter Review Questions

  • Question: Can sex change a relationship? Drastically? If it can change it or change it drastically, how so or why?
  • Question: What makes sex be right or wrong?


Chapter 32 Relationships After Sex Copyright © 2017 by jhill5 and Richard Garlikov. All Rights Reserved.

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