To begin this post, I will first discuss the topic of perfectionism. Like just about everything, it is a subjective description. What exactly is perfectionism? If something is “perfect” it can’t be any better. It is the best. The best according to whom? It is the best I’ve ever seen. The best I’ve ever heard of. The best I’ve ever had. What makes it, whatever it is, the best? Of all these things, whatever they are, this one is the best! It is perfect, according to my (or your) experience. Therefore, it is not really the best, is it? It is only the best so far. And only by your (or my) estimation. If one claims to be a perfectionist, are they bragging or complaining? What most people who consider themselves “perfectionists” are usually saying is: “I only want and expect the best.” That, I am sorry (not sorry) to say, is not real perfectionism. It is merely a case of high expectations. That does not mean that everything is all good or all bad. It is a matter of degree. For the true perfectionist, nothing ever seems to be really good enough. Because, I dare say, they only see things as good or bad. Perfect is the only good thing. Anything less is not good at all. Once you’ve tried the best, everything else falls short and is considerably worse, therefore, bad. Which means chronic disappointment. It is more accurately extremism, not perfectionism. Because nothing is truly perfect. Not objectively so. There is no way that we can all agree on what is the perfect song, book, work of art, food…or anything. The perfectionist is never truly satisfied and thus is almost always disappointed.
So how does that relate to sex? “The best sex I ever had” is a claim we’ve probably heard once or twice in our lives. In the life of a sexual professional, no matter what profession that is, it’s most likely been heard more than once or twice. Lucky you, but now what. As I’ve said before, what follows next is probably going to be comparison after comparison. And maybe, unfortunately, disappointment. But for the so-called perfectionist, it is just about guaranteed.
Furthermore, It is not only subjective by individual, but by comparison. We can only compare the best of any experience to other experiences we have had. Also, the individual who has high expectations, things are good or not so good, bad or very bad, or the worst….so far. It encompasses all experiences we have had so far and compared to all the others of the same or similar nature. Realistic expectations and realistic assessments. Not truly perfect, but maybe the best I’ve ever had. Seems like perfect to me, so that’s how I may describe it. But I know that there is no true perfect, so I’m not terribly disappointed when it falls short. Perfectionism is not realistic. It is an unrealistic expectation. There is not time or space here to delve further into the development of perfectionistic tendency but I can say with relative certainty that it is not an enviable trait. It can be a disabling condition to possess. But there is hope.
Sexual perfectionism creates unrealistic expectations of oneself and of others. Men who experience this may find difficulty achieving or maintaining arousal and erections. They may experience early or delayed ejaculation. They frequently complain of “performance anxiety.” Which, of course may lead to any or all of the above symptoms. Anxiety over ability to “perform” could be related to perfectionism. Sexual perfectionism is not uncommon. There are precipitating factors, which again we don’t have time or space available to explore, but can be addressed in therapy. Outcomes, in my experience, are good. Not perfect, of course, but that’s what this is all about, isn’t it!
Women typically (but not always), blame themselves for their male partners’ difficulties in this area. “Am I not attractive enough for you? Would you prefer someone else? Have I been doing something wrong?” Or, they may feel rejected and lash out by questioning the man’s masculinity, virility or sexuality? Either way, it is not helpful.
So next time someone tells you (with some degree of pride) that they are “perfectionists” you can smile and nod while you secretly feel sympathetic (or better yet, empathetic) because it is not something anyone really wants to be. Always strive for better and hope for the best…so far. Who knows? Next time it may be “perfect.”
But probably not.