Sarah Lorrimar
17.03.22
Conversation

Under Pressure: Navigating Society’s Sexpectations with Sarah Lorrimar

What happens when people have the sex they think they should have, rather than the sex they genuinely want?

Did you learn about sex through porn? Was it from conversations with friends or from learning as you go with sexual partners? We all have different expectations around sex depending on our lived experience, what we’ve learnt about sex and the attitudes around us. It’s important to reflect on how you’ve come to understand sex and your expectations around it. Be critical about the standards you set for yourself and other people as the ‘norm’ – question where they came from. Historically we’ve been around a lot of sex negative, ableist, cis-normative and hetero-normative conversations and it takes effort and time to unlearn these messages. You might be judging yourself or others without even realising.


What comes to mind when I ask you what sex looks and feels like? What do you envision when I say kink, partner, orgasm, wet, penetrate? I bet every single person reading this has imagined something different for each of these words. Sex is unique and we need to embrace that. There’s no normative standard to live up to. We all have different desires, emotions and identities that define our sexuality.

Sex is messy, it’s awkward, it’s unpredictable and it’s experienced differently by every single one of us. Each of our bodies are capable of different things and we all have different needs.



It’s also important for me to remind you that sex isn’t effortless like we see in mainstream media. Sex is messy, it’s awkward, it’s unpredictable and it’s experienced differently by every single one of us. Each of our bodies are capable of different things and we all have different needs. Sex is going to be different every time we experience it, depending on people’s moods, who we’re with, how our bodies are feeling and what’s happening in our lives at the time. Defining good sex by numbers – of partners, orgasms, sex toys, or times is not going to contribute to a positive relationship with sex. Instead, define sex as good, whatever that may look like – if it’s satisfying, pleasurable and what you want it to be.


As a more sex positive culture has emerged, it’s wonderful to see so many more conversations and shared experiences about sex and sexuality being shared in mainstream spaces. But for many people, this conflicts with the sex negative context we grew up with. It’s going to take time to reconcile with that, to adjust, accept, and express your sexuality as you’re presented with more choice. This is why it’s so important to be aware of what impacts your expectations and thoughts around sexuality, so you can express yourself authentically.

As a more sex positive culture has emerged, it’s wonderful to see so many more conversations and shared experiences about sex and sexuality being shared in mainstream spaces. But for many people, this conflicts with the sex negative context we grew up with.

As a more sex positive culture has emerged, it’s wonderful to see so many more conversations and shared experiences about sex and sexuality being shared in mainstream spaces. But for many people, this conflicts with the sex negative context we grew up with. It’s going to take time to reconcile with that, to adjust, accept, and express your sexuality as you’re presented with more choice. This is why it’s so important to be aware of what impacts your expectations and thoughts around sexuality, so you can express yourself authentically.


As a sexologist, I have clients share the pressure they feel to have lots of sexual partners, to want lots of sex and to want a certain type of sex. Whether it’s to appease partners, or to feel like they’re keeping up with their friends – people are influenced by what they see on social media, in porn and their everyday lives. There’s nothing wrong with being influenced by what’s happening around you and wanting to explore new things, but it’s also important to reflect on this and consider how it’s making you feel. Is this something that you genuinely want or is it something you feel you should be doing?

There’s nothing wrong with being influenced by what’s happening around you and wanting to explore new things, but it’s also important to reflect on this and consider how it’s making you feel. Is this something that you genuinely want or is it something you feel you should be doing?



The impact of these pressures and expectations can create issues, not just for sex itself but in relationships and people’s self-esteem. Feeling like you’re not keeping up or not fitting in often leaves people feeling insecure and guilty. As if there’s something wrong with them if they aren’t spontaneously wanting sex, or if they want vanilla sex, or if they want an orgy or a non-monogamous relationship. There’s judgement for every choice that people make, and this is why we need to provide ourselves with assurance that we’re doing the right thing. Which we are if we’re making informed choices that reflect our own needs, safety and desires and those of our sexual partners’.


Without that, people are often disconnected during sex. . . Caught up in thoughts about their performance, how their bodies look, how long it’s taking to orgasm, what they smell like – all of which detract the pleasurable sensations of sex. We often place the highest expectations on ourselves, and sex is no different. Being hyper vigilant and self-conscious is going to put the brakes on sexual pleasure, so we need to learn ways to relax, acknowledge but allow intrusive thoughts to pass, and be vulnerable to experiencing pleasure.

Being hyper vigilant and self-conscious is going to put the brakes on sexual pleasure, so we need to learn ways to relax, acknowledge but allow intrusive thoughts to pass, and be vulnerable to experiencing pleasure.

Here are some tips to help you reduce the pressure of sexual expectations:


▪Be mindful of the content you’re consuming. Is it genuinely sex positive, does it reflect diversity, who’s creating it and why? How does it make you feel?


▪Discover and become more confident in your own sexuality. Understand and connect with your body, your needs, your boundaries and how to create safety to be curious.


▪Remember that all of us are different. What feels amazing for one person isn’t necessarily going to feel good for another. The key is understanding your body so that you can communicate what you need and want and be receptive to exploring what your partner wants in a way that has you both having fun.


▪Try grounding techniques and returning to your breath if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, or if your thoughts are everywhere else but present during sex.


▪Approach sex as a new experience each time – let go of expectations altogether.


▪Put energy into self-care and compassion instead of looking outward for validation.


▪Think about what being erotic means to you. What makes you feel most connected to your body and to others? How do you have fun with your body?


▪Be curious. Question what you know, what you think you should like, what you expect, what you feel you need to do – pleasure is unique and so are our bodies and experiences. Find out what you want sex to be, be open to not knowing and explore without judgment.


▪Trust your body. Be compassionate towards yourself.

Sexuality is fluid and we need to be flexible and open minded as we discover new things about ourselves. It’s natural for your sexual needs or desires change, so let go of any feelings of inadequacy or pressure to fit into someone else’s expectations.



Understanding our sexuality is an ongoing process. Sexuality is fluid and we need to be flexible and open minded as we discover new things about ourselves. It’s natural for your sexual needs or desires change, so let go of any feelings of inadequacy or pressure to fit into someone else’s expectations. It’s all about choice, without any external pressures, and most importantly the pressure you place on yourself. There’s a lot that needs to be unlearned – expectations about gender roles, our bodies, who we’re attracted to, how we express ourselves. Now is the time to define that for yourself, be curious and have fun doing it!


You can follow Sarah on Instagram here.