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Sex and Happiness: Where do you fit in?

Sex and Happiness: Where do you fit in?
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Much is made about happiness in pop culture and media. We’ve become a society affixed on the idea that it is our prerogative, a formidable right, and anything less than outstanding and endless satisfaction of whatever expectations we’ve collected along the way is a real and serious crisis.

  Happi-less

Based on data collected over the past 40 years, women are reporting decreasing levels of happiness, not just versus their female counterparts from the past, but also in general as they age. In fact, where teenage girls once were as happy as teenage boys, they now start their adult lives less so. Why?

One reason is our society’s increased obsession with youth and standards of beauty that are out of reach for most. This creates a sense of alienation and of feeling invisible. It also turns out women are harder on themselves than men. We focus on our flaws more than our strengths.

Marcus Buckingham, a happiness guru who studied this trend found that “since women, as a group, believe that success flows from drilling down into their weaknesses, and since, as has happened to women over the last 40 years, they’ve gradually acquired more and more domains in which they are supposed to succeed, a researcher would expect to see women characterizing themselves more and more by who they aren’t, becoming more and more self-critical, and more aware of their flaws and failings, all of which might well accelerate these dissatisfaction trend-lines.”

As our expectations skyrocket, our sense of personal satisfaction declines. We just can’t keep up with the images of perfection surrounding us, overlook our strengths and magnify every last damn hair out of place, metaphorically speaking, in our lives.

  Milf? Try Barf

It takes a tremendous amount of work, being the architect of a child’s character; all while harboring worries that previous generations did not have to face (environmental, political, social, sexual and technological pressures. All in a day’s work. Arg!).

It turns out we may be glamorizing parenting, you know, like swallowing that bitter pill with a spoonful of sugar. I know some women who seem perfectly content to cater to their babes. Certainly, children give lives meaning and purpose, but can I honestly say that motherhood guarantees happiness?

Ask me that question after I have just one day free of complaints, spilt milk, requests made in high whiny voices, big brother pushing little sister who has already figured out how to push his triggers.

“I ‘noyying him,” she admits with her eyes grinning bright. Yeah, it sounds as cute as when she explains that, “I tempered,” after a full-blown, body-slammed on the ground explosion.

  Crazy-making Feminism

Maureen Dowd questioned whether feminism benefited men more than women. She writes, “When women stepped into male- dominated realms, they put more demands — and stress — on themselves. If they once judged themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens and dinner parties, now they judge themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens, dinner parties — and grad school, work, office deadlines and meshing a two-career marriage.”

Has feminism opened up so many opportunities that women are now faced with too much? If this is so, then why aren’t men also reporting more distress? Their choices have increased as much over the past two generations, and yet they report increased happiness.

Perhaps it is our reactions to these choices, particularly when something goes wrong. According to Ms. Dowd, women, “tend to attach to other people more strongly, beat themselves up more when they lose attachments, take things more personally at work and pop far more antidepressants.”

Can it be that we are sad because we have too much to do, too much to chose from, and too many responsibilities? Or is the answer something else?

  Men are shallower?

Then there is something a guy with some years on him wrote to me in a private correspondence. “Women are sadder,” he said, “because deep down, men are shallower.’

Here’s the thing though: Man-bashing isn’t my forte. I think the whole battle of the sexes is a maladaptive consequence of a social-political-religious paradigm that has restricted our full expressions and experiences of love and self-actualization.

I’m not convinced that men feel less than women, nor are they less sensitive or less emotional. Look around and you see the emotional expression of mankind, from a father’s tenderness with his children to the overwrought defeat of unemployment. Dudes feel. They rage, they love, they fear, they hope, and they desire.

Happiness may be less elusive for men, in as much as they report having more of it. Likewise, I’ve observed sadness to linger longer in my male friends and lovers who’ve experienced something painful. From divorce, breakups, career derailments and other losses, the stereotype that men take longer to recover emotionally bears out in many articles and studies. Instead, this ‘shallowness’ may really be armor, a male defense mechanism against the hurt, shame, blame, abandonment and broken dreams that persist in our relationships and sex lives.

  Monkey Sex and Happiness

Finally, there is sex. When females rule fornication, happiness abounds. That’s the current story we get from watching Bonobos at play. Those randy creatures seem to solve most of their primate disputes with sex, masturbation, kissing and frolicking; when fucking doesn’t work, food offerings may. Makes me want to grow a tail and big teeth.

I am curious to know what comes first, the happiness or the sex, and what can we learn about our own happiness from watching monkeys get it on? Women who are sexually satisfied are also happier, no matter their age, suggests research. When I read articles on this subject, I feel like one myself. A mirror to my own life, the results make intuitive sense. At those times in my life where I was tuned in to my joy, good – great! – sex was part of my everyday equation. Well, maybe not every day, but frequently.

Is it that sense that life is great that makes us want to couple more, or is it that coupling is the world’s greatest mood booster? When I’m happy, a bad jean day doesn’t derail my willingness to want to make love with my partner. Dishes in the sink? Errands to run? Just had a baby 4 weeks ago? Bring it on lover boy, because I’m happy and horny!

On the other hand, everything on the outside could seem peachy keen, but if circumstances are trying and happiness is elusive, having sex rates up there with teeth extraction. Women’s moods, it turns out, benefit from a good ol’ dose of sperm…but we have to be in the mood to want to make love first. Which comes first, the sex or the happiness? Like that proverbial joke about chickens and eggs, we just don’t know.

As for bonobos, I think they’ve got it going on.

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Comments

I once read a quote from a psychologist (and I wish I could remember who it was) who stated that "Depression comes about when there is a wide gulf between expectations and reality." You might be a peasant farmer living hand-to-mouth in a third world country, but if your expectations of yourself are that you should care for your stock as best you can, and provide a subsistence of food for your family, then you're probably going to be fairly happy with your lot in life. On the other hand, if your expectations include curing cancer and becoming an astronaut, then you're probably going to be depressed.

I don't think men are shallower than women, but I do suspect that men have more achievable expectations of their lives (and I'm generalizing wildly here), and thus feel a greater sting when they can't achieve what they see as a fairly basic minimum standard. Happiness is easier when your goals are attainable, but failure also hurts more when you're not accustomed to it.

Feminism has brought us many more opportunities (hallelujah!) but it has also brought us many more fields upon which we feel we must compete. We've all met the woman who has to be the best at her job, whilst still trying to be the best mother, and the best lover, and have the best house, with the best garden and the best husband. And we've all hated her if she gets close to achieving that. We've all looked at something obscenely romantic that our friend's boyfriend/husband did and wondered a little painfully why we never got that from our own relationship.

As much as I've heard people claim that women are "cooperative" while men are "competitive", the fact is that all human beings are competitive. We just hold ourselves to different standards. And if your standards are closer to your reality, then you're setting yourself up to be happier in life.

06/23/2012
Tantric Massage London  

I think the most important thing that contributes to happiness in relationships is honesty, being and accepting, loving of ourselves, being open and honest in communicating with others, is vital for health and happiness in all facets of life, not purely sexual aspect. Tantra is acceptance / self-acceptance, accepting ourselves as we are, in a non-judgemental way, can we really truly love ourselves? If we’re unable to really love ourselves, are we unable to really truly love another?
Tantra is more about opening and allowing us to say yes to more things. The basic concept is logical, simple and charming. If you initially say "No", you essentially block yourself from the possibility of saying "Yes" to something which may be beneficial for you.
Daily stresses can wreak havoc on our passion, enthusiasm, our energy levels and how much patience we have we our nearest and dearest. Sometimes as a result of this stress, it can lead us to become very stuck in our over thinking/anxiety and in our heads, unable to listen or connect. When stress attacks us it can make us edgy as a result our nervous system constantly being overworked and wired, our sympathetic nervous system governs the flight and flight response ( to either flee from perceived danger or to fight) basically we cannot tell the difference between an imagined threat and a real one, so although it’s unlikely we’ll be physically attacked compared with that of prehistoric man, in our daily stresses can our nervous system is overloaded. Tantra allows us to break free of this stress - by focusing our attention on our breathing, you don'¬t have to think about breathing because your body's autonomic nervous system controls it, as it does many other functions in your body.
Breath is considered the only voluntary function in the body that can influence the involuntary nervous system. Breath forms the bridging connection between mind and body.
Within a tantric massage, unlike a typical massage that is concerned with purely the physical tissue and touch, tantric massage incorporates a higher emphasis on breath work, connecting exercises that celebrate the divine in us and our partner, on slowing things down, allowing pleasurable sensations and joy to spring forth in all aspects of our lives. Tantric massage is a holistic therapy working on not just the physical body, but the energetic and in turn spiritual. Tantra principles state that there is a sparkle of the divine that exists in the soul of every living creature. Tantra strips it back to basics, so it is trying to allow us to be less in our minds, and more in our bodies, feeling the sensations there, our breath, the gentle movement of our belly, ribs as we breathe in an out. “When I look into a person's eyes, I look at part of the divine itself.” A very simple exercise, one that is often incorporated at the start of a tantric massage, is eye gazing, no words spoken, synching breath and acknowledging that divine in our partner and within us. [http://www.tantricmassagelondon.net/tantra.html]

06/25/2012

40's...unhappiest? great . i'm about to be 39, single, no kids. yah, I can see where that statistic comes from. happy/sex ...chicken/egg...vicious circle
Good sex makes me feel good, it's a scientific fact, all those chemicals. but those chemicals are short lived. So unless you are getting regular doses, it's only a short reprieve. I've had times where clinical depression has made it difficult for me to be sexual. However, for me, if I push myself, my libido comes around and i'm glad for having tried.

09/01/2012

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