The Top 6 Lies Hollywood Tells Us About Sex

by | Dec 31, 2023 | Sexuality | 17 comments

Most people carry some shame or uncertainty about their sexuality. While we may have learned the basics about the birds and the bees in school, we weren’t given the roadmap that would help us embrace this potentially joyful aspect of being human. Instead, we receive powerful messages from the media about how people are supposed to feel regarding their sexuality and in their sex lives with partners. Let’s dissect some of these messages now:

1. Sex should be loud and effortlessly orgasmic

That’s Hollywood in a nutshell: two people who have scintillating chemistry and simply cannot resist ripping each other’s clothes off and within a few minutes ecstatically screaming out in simultaneous orgasm. Please. That’s not how sex goes for most people, and certainly not after the initial honeymoon period wears off (if there ever was one).

Here’s the truth: Sex can be awkward. Sex is one of the most vulnerable ways we can connect with another human and, as a such, there are many opportunities to stumble and fall. And the huge bottom-line truth that I wish-to-God Hollywood would get straight is that 82% of women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone but need clitoral stimulation, often for an extended period of time (Women take an average of 14 minutes to climax during partnered orgasm.) Come on, Hollywood! Stop presenting an “ideal” that the vast majority of women are anatomically unable to meet.

2. Great sex is about technique

The culture says that sex is about being a “good lover”, by which we take to mean someone who has experience and just knows what to do. Consistent with the tendency of our culture to focus on externals, we think that great sex is about technique, or some external set of actions that will create sparks and passion.

The truth is that great sex is about connection and safety. Sex is like a slow, vulnerable animal that will only unleash its passion when it feels safe. When you feel connected and safe within yourself and with your partner, the creativity of a sexual encounter can unfold. There are no rules to follow. Any techniques you learn will only feel good if they’re practiced in a pool of connection and safety.

 

3. It’s your partner’s job to turn you on. If you’re not turned on, you’re with the wrong partner.

Similar to the beliefs about love that say that it’s your partner’s job to make you feel happy and alive, we receive the message that it’s your partner’s job to light your fire.

The truth is that passion originates from inside of you. If you’re feeling bored, numb, or unfulfilled in yourself, those qualities will likely extend to your sex life. Your partner can light your fire but only if there’s a spark that already dances inside of you.

 

 4. Sex only counts if it culminates in intercourse and orgasms

In our achievement-oriented culture that values outcome over process, we don’t value kissing, touching, and all other forms of what we normally call foreplay. But even the word foreplay indicates that these forms of sexual interaction come before something else; the appetizer isn’t considered a stand-alone meal.

But what’s wrong with appetizers? Some people prefer to order two or three of them instead of one big main course. If that’s your preference and it works for the two of you, celebrate it.

In fact, one of the secrets about sex that wasn’t included in the manual that you never received is that non-goal oriented contact – affection, kissing, caressing, skin-to-skin contact – takes the pressure off to have to perform, which then frees both people up to open and experience each other sexually in a more organic way.

We put so much pressure on ourselves in this culture in many areas, and the bedroom is no exception. If you can focus on connection instead of outcome – slowing everything down and trusting the rhythm of the moment – the entire experience can be more satisfying.

 

5. Your sex life is inadequate unless you’re having sex at least twice a week.

Our culture says that you must be having sex 2-3 times a week to qualify for the healthy sex life category. Past the initial honeymoon stage, very few couples actually have sex 2-3 times a week, especially when children enter the picture. If the frequency of your sexual encounters works for you, then it’s healthy for your relationship.

As there’s usually a high-drive and a low-drive partner, it’s not likely that your needs will align perfectly. This is where communication comes in – where you both sensitively work to attend to the others’ needs. It may seem impossible when needs are radically different, but in the field of loving communication and intention nothing is impossible.

I’ve worked with clients who have sex once a month, or even less. And if there are young children in your life it’s not uncommon for two or three months to pass without having sex. When we can breathe some space around frequency instead of comparing ourselves to some fantasy ideal of how much we “should” be having sex, we actually loosen up inside and allow more sex to spontaneously occur.

 

6. You have to feel like having sex in order to have sex.

We’re a very feeling-based culture, meaning that we make decisions based on how we’re feeling moment by moment. While feelings certainly can give us important information, if we’re using them as a barometer for our actions we’re going to get into trouble pretty quickly as they’re not a reliable or consistent source. Just like we doubt if we’re in love once the butterflies fade, so we make judgments about sex based on feelings.

The truth is that sex, like love, can be cultivated through action. In other words, you might not always feel like having sex, but if you move toward your partner anyway and open yourself to trying, you might find that desire is awakened inside of you. And you might not. But when working with clients I more often hear, especially among women, that they have to throw themselves into it and give it a go even when they’re not feeling it initially, and that most times they’re glad that they did. Past a certain point in a relationship, if you’re waiting for desire to overcome you before you approach your partner sexually, you could be waiting a long time.

Of course this isn’t about denying your truth or overriding a real NO inside of you. If it’s a strong no – if sex is painful or it doesn’t feel loving or it’s just truly not the right moment for you to drop down into that space – listen to that.

But it’s important to understand that “no” can be closely connected to fear and anxiety, and when you indulge in the “no” too often you can create a negative loop where the answer is always no. It’s a tricky place to navigate, for sure, and requires a deep commitment to know your inner world so that you can parse apart the different strands that are contributing to your no or yes at any given moment.

There are many more myths that cause shame. There are also our own family and religious templates that cause the natural curiosity around sexuality to shut down. This is some of what we explore in Sacred Sexuality: A 40-day course to heal body shame and ignite desire. The next live round begins on Saturday, January 13th, 2024, and I look forward to connecting with you there.

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17 Comments

  1. Thank you for this. Your posts always bring in a breathe of fresh air. May I suggest the book Sex Talks by Vanessa Marin for anyone looking to dive deeper into this topic. I hope to have the opportunity to take your Sacred Sexuality course one day. Possibly this time around. On my healing path I know reconnecting with my Divine Feminine and cultivating a healthier relationship with my body are both important.

    Reply
    • Thank you for the book recommendation, Cara. I’ll add it to my list. Hope to see you on the course when you’re’ ready :).

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  2. Brilliant article Sheryl, so refreshing to read the truth rather than myths. I wish all young people had this information

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    • Once porn was gone from our relationship, sex became MUCH better!

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  3. Love this post and makes me feel much better! My current battle has been sexuality for the last few years, especially coming out of the honeymoon phase with my partner and also having pain, which I resonated with on the one of the podcasts which I listened to today from this post. Reading these posts take so much anxiety away, so thank you. I was wondering (and this is totally OCD related 🙈), if your desire and spark is ignited in your own body and is not based on other people, how does that work with HOCD? As HOCD, and is to do with externalising your desire and sexuality, and HOCD has been my current obsession for the last three years and I’m struggling to shift it. Because hearing that desire, and your own fire is lit by yourself and in your own body makes me feel so much better and normal, but then I think to moments when I have been sat with my friends and we are watching rugby with our partners and my friends have said how attractive they find the legs of rugby men, which triggered my HOCD because I don’t feel that way. I often find myself looking at other women (I am a female), and thinking they have beautiful bodies, but it also triggers my HOCD, but I also know I have had self esteem issues my whole life so I have compared my body to other women’s bodies all the time, so have spent more time looking at women then men (another HOCD trigger). But then I thought to myself, If I didn’t think women’s bodies were beautiful then I wouldn’t think my own body is beautiful, so that’s pretty unhealthy and I guess society’s views of people finding the same sex bodies as “attractive” means people are gay etc, takes away from the fact that humans should think that same sex bodies are “attractive”, otherwise that means there own bodies are not attractive. But it sort of shows how society does not teach us to love ourselves and our bodies. Hope that makes sense, it’s been something I’ve stewed on for a number of years, trying to find an answer to the Hocd to which I don’t think I ever will. Sorry for the super long post, but I think just hearing sexuality and desire is ignited in our own body rather then externalising our own sexuality makes me feel much much better! Thank you

    Reply
    • I’m glad the article was helpful! And I have a few posts on the gay spike when you might find helpful.

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    • Hi There – will try to provide some perspective on your OCD comment. I do not believe HOCD has anything to do with desire or spark. If desire or spark were present regarding your sexuality “spectrum”, you would be having an entirely different relationship with those thoughts and feelings. It would feel more natural, and would be more about exploration and wondering how to navigate TOWARDS those feelings, rather than trying to fearfully run away from them or shut them down.

      HOCD is really about the compulsive activity you do to continually prove your natural orientation to your brain which has identified any potential thoughts that may be perceived as thoughts that go against that natural orientation as a threat to your safety. Notice 2 key things in the sentence above: “prove” and “may be perceived”. To squash any fear, any doubt, OCD has convinced you that you have to prove something to yourself that you naturally already know – what you desire. It uses things that – based on primarily faulty information, as you stated – may be perceived as something a “gay person would do or not do”.

      It’s helpful to identify false beliefs here – such as what you’re trying to do by saying if you cannot find attraction in the same sex by looking at others, how could you ever find self-attraction, which we all know helps boost confidence and boost sexual desire to be with others. It also helps to look at what compulsions, or my new favorite way of defining compulsions – safety behaviors, you are engaging in. Especially mental compulsions that may come so easily they feel “automatic”.

      Lastly – while many in the OCD community will color this comment as “re-assurance” – let me re-frame it to give you Assurance – as a male, I too compare myself to other men regarding my appearance (i.e. I don’t think it’s coincidence that you describe yourself comparing to other women tying that into struggles with HOCD – or more commonly referred to as SO-OCD). It’s a large root of shame I carry around masculinity – I wish I was taller, more rugged looking, more “masculine”. In my journey, I’ve uncovered that one of the “roots” underneath my HOCD has been shame around my masculinity. And I’ve had to work very hard to change my beliefs on what I have been incorrectly taught and conditioned to think of what it means to be “a man”.

      On the core topic itself of this article, as a male in a loving, committed marriage of now 22 years to my wife, I can say both my wife and I have had to “overcome” some of these lies along our relationship. I think communication on the topic has been the biggest benefit for us as a couple. We needed to learn, re-learn, and continue to learn what helped ignite overall intimacy, which then could, but didn’t have to, follow into the bedroom. For me, as an individual, I learned that non-sexual touch was actually MORE important to her than what Hollywood would define as “fore-play”. So again, for couples out there – talk to each other. Not only will it help with the relationship overall, it helps peel back layers of shame around a topic that we are incorrectly taught to feel shame about

      Reply
      • This is brilliant as always, Steve. I hope Anonymous sees it. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

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      • Although this wasn’t in reply to anything I’d said, I just wanted to say how much I appreciated your intelligent, thoughtful and helpful response. Thank you for that.

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      • Hi Steve,

        Thank you so much for your insightful comment and apologies I am only just responding now! Only just saw the response.

        Your note around carrying shame with regards to your masculinity really resonated with me as I have a lot of shame around my femininity. I will focus on doing some work around this, and I think it’s a lot to do with being a tomboy when I was younger which my mum didn’t like and would constantly try and get me to dress more “girly”. If you don’t mind me asking, how have you reshaped your thoughts on masculinity?

        Your first comment around desire and spark not being related to HOCD also really clicked with me (and assured me) because all those kinds of feelings have been completely shut down in my body over the last few years.

        Again thank you so much for responding ☺️

        Reply
        • Yeah fear can override a lot in our minds and bodies. Such a powerful emotion it is. Ironically, when we fight against the thoughts and sensations that we identify with SO OCD, we end up (unintentionally) flagging anything related with sex as a trigger and “threat”. So natural desire and spark can quickly turn into a trigger to do compulsive checking and analyzing! Noticing that and choosing not to engage in the checking while still following the natural desire in your healthy relationship is a great example of a natural exposure
          with response prevention (IMO). Not easy though.

          Regarding masculinity – with my therapist we did some exercises where she challenged me to define things about myself that I did not feel were masculine. So if I defined physical strength as one area, she would then challenge me to find ways in which I thought of myself as “strong” in other areas. And when I came up with some, and she even probed to come up with some, she then challenged me to say, couldn’t that strength, although not in being able to move heavy objects, be a sign of positive masculinity? In addition, I started to unpack the fact that these “traits” and “labels”, are largely conditioned by our experience and exposures in life. And there are no facts or laws around them. It’s all just perspective – and perspective can shift. So I started to shift my perspective on what I believed about masculinity – and about myself. It’s less about how to do it or specific exercises, it’s more of a slow mindset shift

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          • That’s awesome, thanks so much for your response Steve! Appreciate your time ☺️ it’s nice to have other folks to talk to about this stuff!

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  4. Great article. I am always really grateful when you douse a bit of truth water on these subjects. I’m currently in a period of no-sex in my relationship — my body won’t allow it right now. My partner is so patient and understanding, but I often find myself judging myself for the dysfunction, feeling like I am somehow failing the relationship. Reading your wisdom on the subject really helps me to release those judgements and the anxiety around not getting it “right.” Whenever the anxiety creeps up, I can remember that it is all OKAY! Lots of love to you and happy holidays!

    Reply
    • Yes, it is ALL OKAY! And what a blessing that you have a patient partner. xo

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  5. Important topic thank you! Have been reading through a lot of your blog while struggling with a relapse… what is hard for me while getting better is that – yes I know my fear-brain reacts badly to big change and uncertainty which brought on this relapse because of my first pregnancy… and after I went through anxieties around this, which I could handle my brain started to attack my relationship again.

    Now I struggle with high anxiety and feeling something is wrong and while reading I wondered, I am so unsure at the moment and numb or overridden with anxiety – what if I am just afraid to make this scary step and that’s why I do not want to leave? (something (breaking up) I do not consider during the long times when I am at peace…. but if that is my fear – to end it – maybe my brain is now trying to convince me to stay… eventhough I do not want to also when my brain bombards me with all the reasons why it won’t work…

    Did I misunderstand something in your posts (thinking about the post: “Something is wrong” for example –

    “The problem is that, especially if you’re highly sensitive, this natural and healthy tendency ramps up into overdrive in the face of any risk, making us more risk averse than the average person. And without being willing to take risks, we will never step outside our comfort zone and live life to its fullest. We won’t try new things, we won’t change our routines and, mostly, we won’t love fully. Life becomes very narrow when we choose to listen to Fear’s endless warnings and live inside our safe bubble.”
    Maybe you could tell me if my fear is reading into something or if I misunderstood something. Thank you already for your great work!

    Reply

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