The actual joy of sex: advice I’m giving myself

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

For the last couple of months, when we kissed, the first thought to flash through my mind was: “this is supposed to be fun.” I told myself over and over, like a mantra, willing it to come true. Sometimes it did, more often it didn’t. The actual joy of sex was lost to me, and I worried I’d lost it forever.

This happens a lot with anxiety, the feeling of being overwhelmed and lost and… bombarded. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing at one end of a tennis court with fifty people hitting tennis balls in my direction. Out of breath and exhausted, I can’t work out which ones I can return. It’s even harder to work out which I should. So I end up swinging for all of them. And failing to hit any.

So as I work through my to-do list, and prioritise the things that seem most urgent, I often forget what’s most important. And I lose things I used to find joy in, letting them whizz past me and disappear.

At times like this, my body doesn’t always respond in the way I’d like it to – the way that I know makes me happiest. When he kisses me – firmly, like he’s pressing my face into the pillow to keep me still – I want to melt into it the way I used to, but instead I get stiff and tense up. What if my body doesn’t work again this time? What if he can tell, and is hurt? What if he can’t tell, and I have to explain to him?

Whenever we kiss like lovers – those long, aching kisses that aren’t so much a prelude to sex as sex in and of itself – I always remember the first time he kissed me like that. On the tiny sofa at his old flat, with my neck pressed against the arm and my face turned up towards him. All my muscles were tense with impatience to move to the bedroom, and my head said not ‘this should be fun’ but ‘this will be fun’ – I was enjoying not the moment itself but what it would lead to.

But then one, two seconds in, he took my wrists in his hands and held me down. Squashed his mouth more firmly onto mine. Pressing me, again. Holding me down with his lips. Making it about this kiss, this moment, rather than what came next. I relaxed, lay back, and enjoyed it – actual joy rather than just ambition about what should come next.

I’ve missed that.

Lately, when I wank, I don’t have fantasies. I don’t watch porn, or read erotica, or even do my usual – telling stories in my head about groups of dominant, hungry men and the filthy things they could do to me. Instead, I just wank. I close my eyes, grab my most efficient sex toy, and hold it against myself until I come. In my head, where the fantasies used to be, there’s now a whirring machine ticking off tasks on my to-do list.

The other day I came while thinking about unsent emails. I’ve gritted my teeth and orgasmed while mentally writing a content plan. I’ve come while on the edge of a panic attack, with my limbs trembling and nausea swirling through my stomach, and my mind a tennis court with a limitless supply of whizzing tennis balls and swift opponents.

Yeah. I know.

If that’s how I wank, you can imagine how I’ve been fucking. I’ve been fucking like my body’s a broken machine and I need him to help me kick it back to life. I’ve been fucking with a sense of resignation – knowing that this time I won’t feel it, but perhaps halfway through there’ll be a spark. I’ve been fucking wistfully – nostalgically – because I knew that once this thing was my whole life, and if I never get it back at least I can go some way to remembering. I’ve been fucking like the actual joy of sex was lost to me forever.

But there are moments – glimpses and memories of what made sex fun. When I can forget the things that are whirling around in my head, and focus on the sensations and the closeness.

The other day, we spent the evening with friends. Giggling. Over and over, at everything and nothing. Clearly I’d put my body in a giggly mood, because when we fell into bed later that night, I felt so flushed with relaxed happiness that I couldn’t stop grinning.

He put his face right up next to mine and we whispered about silly things. Made jokes, called each other names, and kissed. He pecked little kisses all over my face and neck while I wriggled with delight. He looked at me not with concern, but with total pleasure. When he pressed his lips onto mine for one of those firm, melting, calming kisses, I could only respond by bursting into another fit of the giggles.

The kiss wasn’t funny. The sex we had afterwards wasn’t funny (though I think I still giggled most of the way through it, likely giving him some nice-feeling squeeze-spasms that come when you laugh halfway through). But the whole thing was so full of joy that I couldn’t hold in my laughter.

For months I’d been treating sex like it was a task on a to-do list, or like a challenge I had to will my body to push through. That night, with his arms wrapped tightly around me and his grinning face buried in my neck, as I shook with uncontrollable giggles I realised: this isn’t just supposed to be fun.

It is fun.

The literal joy of sex. The closeness and vulnerability. The warmth. Being present and happy in the moment rather than always looking forward to the next potential thing. The power he has to help me feel like this doesn’t go away when I’m stressed, I just don’t let myself succumb to it when I’m busy knocking back those tennis balls.

It’s not just meant to be fun: it is fun.

If I can just let myself enjoy it.


  • Jamiebear says:

    I think that’s what’s seen my husband and I through 18 years together: the sheer joy (and joy at the absurdity) of sex. We frequently – usually, even – laugh and giggle during it.

    Even during the last five years where I’ve battled depression (and, I think, touch wood, please please, won) and the erectile disfunction that comes with the various pills and potions they put me on, we’ve still laughed our way through sex.

    I find it odd when I’m on a Grindr/Growlr/whatever hookup to find the other bloke taking it all so seriously: the determined look on his face, the sheer hunger for sex overwhelming the joy of it, the disappointment turning it into a chore, whatever… but never any laughter or giggling. Never any joy.

    That’s not a reason to stop either of us hooking up with other blokes when we can, but it *is* enough for us to know that we’ll always come home to each other.

  • Rebecca says:

    It should be fun and it sounds as if your enthusiam returned when you least expected it. I sense a feeling of being totally overwhelmed, perhaps the victim of success you deserve. I love the fact you are refocussing. Your description of the kiss, those long aching kiss struck a chord with me and made me define a particular aspect of my relationship, I spent most of my adult life refusing kisses hating bodily fluids such as saliva, but the discovery of somebody I wished to kiss makes life so much better. Thank you for opening up x

  • The quiet one says:

    Unfortunately I’m currently at the stage of a head full of lists and anxiety, and with no significant (or even vaguely meaningful) other I fear I’ve lost the joy of sex completely!
    What I’d give for one of those kisses..

  • New to this says:

    Great post! x

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