Mixed Emotions: What Happens When Consensual Sex Still Feels Wrong
We know what it entails, we all talk about it and most of us participate in it.
It is this wonderful act we lust after to fulfill desire and bring us closer to our partner.
Sex, when between two consenting adults, is positive, healthy and enjoyable.
Well, technically speaking, yes. But that's not to say there aren't times consensual sex can leave us feeling a bit empty, anxious or even distressed.
But that doesn't make sense, right?
Both parties have expressed their consent, they are engaged and willing to connect as partners in this intimate way.
Why, when it's all said and done with messy sheets and messy hair, would anyone feel negatively about it?
If anything, you should be basking in the warm afterglow of climax, no?
Here's the thing: Sex thrives on a few critical factors, including our hormones, confidence and our emotional and physical connection with our partner.
When we lay in bed with another, all of these factors are at play to create the collective whole.
When something is off, our bodies and our minds take notice.
Of course, most of us don't talk about it.
I think in our culture, once we've given our consent we often believe we have forfeited our right to complain about our feelings post-sex. After all, wanted to do it.
Sure, we can complain to friends when it wasn't "up to par" or as impressive as you might have imagined, but do we often talk about how we feel after? Or do we just sweep it under the rug, even if it wasn't positive?
Recently, a study surveying over 200 female college students discovered that 46 percent of respondents had experienced symptoms of post-coital dysphoria (post-sex blues) at least once in their lifetime.
In addition, 5.1 percent said they had experienced these symptoms a few times within the past four weeks.
Post-coital dysphoria symptoms include anxiety, agitation, aggression, tearfulness or a sense of melancholy or depression immediately following sexual intercourse.
While previous studies indicate these feelings result from a hormone change in women, many professionals believe that more studies need to be done to truly understand this often neglected issue.
More importantly, women need to know they aren't alone.
Of course, if you ask me, this scenario stretches past the official medical condition.
Given the nature of our romantic and sexual culture, there is no shortage of opportunity to be faced with negative feelings after sex, despite it being consensual.
I, myself, have always identified as someone who was very comfortable with her sexuality, and I openly discuss my stance on such topics and issues on a regular basis.
I love the conversation of sex because I think many people are often afraid to have it.
Yet, regardless of this, I have found myself occasionally facing negative feelings following sex with romantic partners.
I'm not talking about one-night-stands, which would be the obvious assumption, I'm talking about people I was in a committed long-term relationship with.
Despite my desire to have sex and please my partner, I could find myself feeling angry after.
I felt sad. I felt like something was wrong, but I couldn't place it.
I started to avoid the conversation and then I started to avoid sex altogether.
At the time, my partner took this as an insult and an unfair stab at him and our connection.
For the life of me, I couldn't get him to understand that sex was creating negative feelings within me, toward myself and our relationship.
It wasn't something I felt safe and comfortable with, at the time. The more he pushed, the worse I felt.
Eventually, I realized these feelings had everything to do with the state of our relationship.
My body, forever intuitive to my mind, was trying to tell me the relationship I was in wasn't a healthy one.
It was sad and a hard conclusion to come to, but these things happen.
Unfortunately, it is hard to have that conversation.
Women especially are often portrayed as shrude or cold if we start pushing back on sex within our relationships.
Isn't that the reason relationships and marriages fail? Why people go searching elsewhere?
We have a certain pressure we are subconsciously adhering to, trying to keep the spark and connection alive, and trying to keep our partners happy.
Yet, I don't think people realize how frustrating and complicated it can be.
Do you think women just flip a switch within a relationship and decide to withhold sex?
Of course not. When there is something else at play, that we can't identify, we can feel like we don't have control.
This can apply to men too, of course.
There is nothing worse than a partner feeling like we don't want them, or that we aren't interested.
But there is equally nothing worse than feeling like your body and your emotions are not within your control, and that consensual sex isn't making you happy.
The fact is, sometimes these things aren't within our control.
Sometimes our bodies or our minds are going through something we need to be patient with, or need to work to understand. It does not make us shrude, cold or overly emotional; it makes us human.
This logic applies to any sex we consent to. Whether within a committed relationship or a casual encounter.
Sometimes, consent is a slippery slope.
Sometimes we let ourselves agree to something in the moment that we may regret later.
Sometimes, we get caught up, and then feelings come rushing back after the fact, to leave us feeling frustrated and remorseful.
Just because you gave your consent, doesn't mean you have given up the right to be honest with yourself and even your partner that perhaps, it wasn't something you should have agreed to.
If you make a decision you aren't comfortable with, don't attack yourself over it, but allow it to help you grow and shape further decisions.
Be honest and be real; you and your partner both deserve that.
More importantly, it should be a conversation we are never afraid to have.
The consent we give to have sex shouldn't end as soon as the act is done.
There is no shame to be felt here.
Own your body and your mind and don't be afraid to acknowledge negative feelings if they come, and discuss ways to overcome them with your partner.
This is part of being an adult.
If we are having sex, we should feel comfortable enough with our partner to be honest and open about how it makes us feel.
We should never feel obligated to do something we don't want to do, or remain silent when thoughts are tugging at our minds in bed afterwards.
We are all human, after all.