Q&A: Have I Been Desensitized To Sex?

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QUESTION: When I was a kid, I masturbated with objects and I watched my brother’s porn. I lost my virginity at 14 and I’ve had a number of partners since. Now, masturbation is difficult for me and sex is mainly only a stress reliever. Have I become too desensitized to sex because of my early experiences?

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Photo: MikeWebkist (flickr)

It is not uncommon for children to discover an older sibling or parent’s sexual materials, such as porn found on a computer, in magazines or among videos.

Kids Will Be Kids

It is common for young children, both boys and girls, to touch or stimulate their genitals. Some surveys of parents, teachers and caregivers suggest that the majority of young children touch their own genitals and many also play age-appropriate games with other children, such as playing doctor, I’ll show you mine or “mommy and daddy” (or “mommy and mommy” or “daddy and daddy” as the case may be).

It is also not uncommon for children to discover an older sibling or parent’s sexual materials, such as porn found on a computer, in magazines or among videos. In this sense, what you describe is not that unusual compared to other women and men your age.

Feeling Guilty

I would encourage you to consider why you feel or worry that you may have become desensitized to sex because of your early experiences with masturbation and watching porn. Do you worry that these were “bad” things that you shouldn’t have done? Or that they were uncommon or harmful in some way?

You may be surprised at the number of women and men who remember doing sexual things, alone or with friends around their same age, when they were younger.

Sex in Different Forms

Many people, as they grow up, find that they would like to learn how to create pleasurable sexual experiences. If you have mostly had casual partners, or if you have mostly been exposed to porn that tends to show aggressive sex or sex between people who don’t know each other well or care for each other, you may have had few experiences to consider how to have sex that centers around mutual liking, love or pleasure.

More Information

You might consider watching some sexual videos or DVDs about sex that highlight real couples having sex. The Sinclair Institute offers such videos at Better Sex.

You might also find it helpful to read a book such as For Each Other: Sharing Sexual Intimacy, as it provides a number of exercises that couples can try together than can help people to learn about each other’s bodies, wants, needs, experiences of pleasure and fantasies.

It may be helpful, too, to talk with your boyfriend about your sex life and to let him know that creating a mutually pleasurable sex life is important to you and that you’d like to explore ways of doing this together.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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