Great Intimacy is About Getting Out of your Head and into the Moment

Dr. Justin Lehmiller

Sex & Pscyhology July 30, 2019

What do you think about when you’re getting intimate with someone? 

Are you analyzing your performance? Are you thinking about how you look? Are you wondering whether they’re into you or how they feel about what’s going on?

These are common thoughts for gay men to have while they’re getting it on. Unfortunately, however, they can be incredibly distracting. These thoughts can make it harder to, well, stay hard and to come. They can also make bottoming uncomfortable or even painful because you aren’t able to fully relax. 

One of the keys to having amazing experiences is getting your mind and body in synch. When your mind starts to wander, that’s when problems begin to emerge.

We’ve long known that being “in the moment” is crucial for a healthy and satisfying life in the bedroom. William Masters and Virginia Johnson—the original ‘masters of intimacy responsible for the more open, modern intimacy therapy movement—observed that a lot of people seem to get “stuck” in their heads and that this can hurt their performance and enjoyment.

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They coined the term spectatoring in the 1970s to describe situations where you’re no longer focused on how the fun feels and, instead, you’re analyzing yourself, your partner, or the situation. The end result? The experience tends to be disappointing. 

Compared to straight men, gay men may be particularly prone to spectatoring. Why do I say this? In part, because gay men have more body image issues than straight men. Plus, it’s also not uncommon for these issues and other body concerns to pop up during bedroom activities because you can’t hide them when you have no clothes on and the lights are on: Do I look fat? Is my D big enough? Sometimes these thoughts are so distressing that they lead gay men to avoid hooking up altogether. 

Compounding the effect of these body image concerns is the fact that gay men are more likely to have anxiety disorders than straight guys, too. This may stem, in part, from the fact that the LGBT community encounter more discrimination in everyday life. 

Those of us who are prone to distraction during hook ups look for ways to cope, which often takes the form of mixing substances and intimacy...

Those of us who are prone to distraction during hook ups look for ways to cope, which often takes the form of mixing substances and intimacy—alcohol, drugs, you name it. While this can be an effective way of temporarily escaping distractions, this strategy poses another set of potential problems (like “whiskey D”) and it doesn’t address the underlying anxiety or other issues that may be interfering with the performance. 

Perhaps a more effective (and healthier) strategy would be to learn to be in the moment when you’re getting it on—to try being more mindful. Learn to stop letting your mind wander and focus instead on the sensations and the pleasure.

That’s easier said than done, of course, so here are some practical things you could potentially try to get out of your head and into what you’re up to. 

For example, you could try formal mindfulness practices, such as by sitting in a chair for a few minutes each day and asking yourself the questions “What do I feel?” and “Where do I feel it?” Focus on the physical sensations and when the mind begins to wander, keep directing it back. Once you have practice with this, you can incorporate this technique into the bedroom to help stay focused on the pleasure.

Another strategy is to mix it up when you hook up. Part of the reason the mind wanders is because people often fall into routines and get bored—they’re doing the same thing over and over, and things just aren’t very interesting. When we try new and different things and have more intense and immersive experiences, it becomes easier to focus on activity and get lost in the moment.

About the author

Dr. Justin Lehmiller has a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Purdue University and is a Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He’s an avid author, blogger and prolific researcher on topics such as the psychology of relationships and intimacy, having published more than 50 academic works to date in each of the leading journals on intimacy.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Future Method, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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