Being a perfectionist might make you less assertive during sex


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In an alternate universe where all sexual fantasies come true, “perfect” sex (you know, the kind you see in movies where both partners orgasm simultaneously?) would be an everyday thing. Here in the real world, personality traits associated with perfectionism may hold you back in bed, a recent study suggests.

Published in the journal Sex Roles, the study analyzed sexual perfectionism and assertiveness among 202 women using a pair of self-assessments. The first, the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ), asked participants to measure perfectionism in their relationships by responding to prompts—like, “My partner expects me to be a perfect sexual partner”—with number on a scale of 0 (disagree) to 4 (agree). The second, the Sexual Assertiveness Scale (SAS), asked how the women view their autonomy in sexual situations. For instance, do they communicate their desires before engaging in sex? Considering the results in tandem, the authors determined that women who felt more obligated to perform “perfectly” in the bedroom (as measured with the MSPQ) were less likely “to say ‘no’ and set limits when sexual activity is undesired.”

“It really stems from the belief that in communicating what you want it will result in your partner getting less of what they want, which isn’t an absolute truth, just a perceived truth.” —Lila Darville, sex and intimacy expert

Sex and intimacy expert Lila Darville says people often fear that declaring their preferences between the sheets will destroy the moment or make things awkward. “The perceived expectation is a huge barrier in women speaking up, in my experience,” explains Darville, a Well+Good Council member. “It really stems from the belief that in communicating what you want it will result in your partner getting less of what they want, which isn’t an absolute truth, just a perceived truth.” Harboring this false belief can lead women to emotionally distance themselves from sex.

In reality, asking for what you want might bring you closer to that perfect moment with your partner—whether that means finding intimacy together or guiding them toward the G-, A-, or P.S.-spot (or, you know, each of them!). “This says to me that when there is communication, women are more likely to be receptive, open to sex, and initiate it,” says Darville. “Communication creates safety, connection, and understanding.” Ain’t that the truth.

Find the answers to every sex question you’ve ever been too afraid to ask. Plus, here’s why you don’t need to go all the way to achieve true intimacy.

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