Sex Only, Please!

Besides sleeping, when was the last time you did only one thing?

We check email while we check voicemail.
We watch TV and look at our Blackberry.
We text while we drive.
We twitter while listening to a lecture or watching a film.

Multi-tasking: everybody knows that everybody does it. And everybody “knows” that it’s pretty harmless, right?

It isn’t harmless when it comes to sex. Sex is the one place – OK, besides performing cardiac surgery – where you really can’t do two things at once. Get erect while thinking about your house remodel? Difficult. Lubricate and brainstorm about that lawsuit at work? Difficult. Have an orgasm while feeling self-conscious about your belly? Difficult. Stay interested in sex while you worry if you’re taking a pregnancy or disease risk? Difficult.

In fact, a lot of the sexual problems I see in my practice stem from people’s desire – intentional or unintentional – to do other things while they’re having sex. Sometimes we focus on external things, like solving work problems or imagining excuses for that overdue library book. But it’s just as bad when we distract ourselves by focusing on internal questions. Fearing you make too much noise when you climax, wondering if you’ll stay erect, calculating if you’re as good as someone’s last sexual partner was – each of these is a sure recipe for problems.

Mental multitasking – bad for sex. Yes, it feels “normal” to those who have never made love without it. Nevertheless, it’s bad for sex. On the other hand, some people are anxious about sex specifically because they can’t multitask during it. That is, they have to face sex without the distraction of a Blackberry, computer, TV, kitchen, child, pet, checkbook, or any other tangible means to escape from the emotional demands of healthy sex.

Perhaps you’re one of the many people for whom sex – just sex – feels lonesome. Not because there isn’t another person there, but because you’re without all your familiar devices. Because you’re not plugged in. Because you’re not responding to messages – messages that you’re not even receiving, and perhaps that’s making you anxious as well.

In response, some people want to get sex over quickly. Others would rather not do it. Many people have sex, than excuse themselves once it’s over, disengaging from their partner so they can resume doing what they value most – being plugged in. Indeed, a recent survey by Retrovo (“the ultimate electronics marketplace”) showed that some 36% of respondents under 35 admit to texting, tweeting, or checking Facebook right after sex. When the story came out in mid-October, I don’t recall anyone raising an eyebrow or even telling a funny story in response. There was almost a collective “of course” – either from people who did it, or from other people who assumed that other people did it. No one I know said, “Are people really like that?”

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