Let’s talk about sex. And not just any kind of sex, either. Today, friends I want to have a chat about special occasion sex.
When events like Valentine’s Day roll around, it can feel like sex between partners is a promised thing. Maybe in your case, it kind of is, and both partners are into that arrangement. That’s not a universal experience, however.
In some situations, the lead up to date like Valentine’s Day (or birthdays, or anniversaries) and anticipation of expected sexual interactions can create a sense of pressure, rather than excitement, in people. And if you’re walking into an intimate setting with a head full of anxious thoughts, there’s almost zero chance you’re going to have a good time.
So what should you do if you, or your partner, is feeling this way when it comes to Valentine’s Day sex? I chatted with two experts to get a better idea. Kassandra Mourikis, a Sexologist with Pleasure Centred Sexology and Janielle Bryan, a public health practitioner and sex educator, shared their thoughts.
Here’s what they had to say.
Why does special occasion sex become so stressful for some?
Mourikis explained over email that when people experience pressure from “partners, themselves, social/cultural norms and scripts” it can cause them to withdraw or bring on feelings of anxiety.
She went on to share that this is a recipe for disaster when it comes to Valentine’s Day sex, or similar.
“We can think of pressure as the antithesis of desire and connection. It’s one of the quickest way of getting turned off because people feel trapped; like they’ve lost a sense of control and are more likely to feel angry, resentful or other strong feelings that shut down arousal,” she said.
Bryan added that a lot of the time, our own standards are what tends to drive these “expectations”. This can create a sense of stress around the event, which makes it “harder to find enjoyment in the holiday,” she said.
How can you treat your nerves?
In a nutshell, communication and respect are going to be your best friends, here. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or nervous about Valentine’s Day sex but still want to get it on with your S.O, just proceed slowly.
“Create an agreement together or set boundaries with sexual partners to let go of the expectations that you must have sex or that you must do it in a certain way. Releasing this expectation can begin to curtail the pressure and all the anxiety that comes with it,” Mourikis said.
Instead, she shared, focus on intimacy and the kind of connection you’d like to feel with your partner. Maybe that looks like cuddles and Netflix, or maybe it’s talking about “what you value about each other,” she suggested.
Intimacy never needs to look one specific way. Take your time and spend your night (or whenever) doing what brings you closer together. This may even lead to some more sexual exploration down the track – who knows!
What are some effective ways to check in with one another?
If you’re not feeling into anything sex-related on Valentine’s Day, don’t feel embarrassed to let your partner know. It’s okay if you don’t want to engage in sexual activities.
On the flip side, Mourikis said that it’s equally as vital that you ask “what your partner wants to do” in any kind of environment. Listen to their answer carefully and give them the space to express themselves. And remember, “if someone isn’t comfortable with sexual intimacy, it doesn’t mean they aren’t open to other forms of connection”.
So talk to one another; have an open dialogue about what feels right and hopefully, you’ll land on something that suits both of you.
As Bryan put it: “…you dictate what a ‘perfect’ Valentine’s Day looks like. That may look completely different than the commercialised images we’ve been shown. [But] Once you and your partner are happy with how the day unfolds – nothing else matters.”
For some more guidance on finding sexual compatibility with your partner, and communicating boundaries, check out our write up on yes/no/maybe lists and their benefits.
This article on Valentine’s Day and special occasion sex has been updated since its original publish date.