How does it feel to sextate

"Actually, it's about an emotional blockage"

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ZEITmagazin: And when everything is fine again, does the desire go away?

Ahlers: This is what the people who are affected, including more and more men, report. And they are desperate that during the relationship establishment phase they experienced authentic sexual desire that is completely gone by the time the family is started and the house is built.

ZEITmagazin: Isn't that a natural process? When the children are around, is there no longer any evolutionary biological motive for sex?

Ahlers: No. Because we are primates and not lower vertebrates, the topic for humans is not limited to reproduction. At our developmental level, sex is primarily a means of communication. And the need for it remains, even when there are children.

The bare numbers

The bare numbers

In a study on Sexual Behavior in the United States, over 5000 men and women were asked about the frequency of vaginal intercourse. In the age group 40 to 49 reported that they had not had sex in the past year:

48.9% of single men
71.1% of single women
29.9% of men living in partnerships
20.6% of women living in partnerships
9.1% of married men
8.1% of married women

Of those over 70 years old said they had had vaginal sex in the past year:

18.5% of single men
0% of single women
73.7% of men living in partnerships
69.3% of women living in partnerships
45.8% of married men
46.5% of married women

ZEITmagazin: Or maybe the desire was never really there, and you chose your partner primarily because he was reliable - which you could hardly admit.

Ahlers: Could also be. Or it is just an unconscious process in which the desire came about primarily through the love of attachment and the desire to reproduce and then naturally subsides when both are fulfilled. This is what people experience who say that sex and attachment have nothing to do with each other for me. One thing has to be fun. And the other is interpersonal, caring. And to resolve this either-or, that is sex therapy.

ZEITmagazin: How do you do that?

Ahlers: A stereotype: the woman never feels like having sex, the man always wants it. And the man says: I'm under pressure, I need it regularly, otherwise I'll go crazy. What does the partner like? You're my valve, if you shut up, I'll burst. Result: She has the feeling that she has to serve for her problem and does not feel that she is being meant.

ZEITmagazin: Which message would be better?

Ahlers: What most couples first have to understand: For some men, genital sexual interaction is the prominent or even the only channel through which they can come into authentic emotional contact with another person. Otherwise: chin up, I have, I can, I know, I am. I am only allowed to be soft and needy in bed. In other words, it's actually about an emotional stagnation and not a seminal stagnation. Your willingness to sleep with him means to him: I'm okay.

ZEITmagazin: Indeed, one does not come to this translation immediately.

Ahlers: No, just the opposite. The woman has the impression: He's using me. He doesn't ask how I am, he's not affectionate to me. Because even through tenderness women can feel: He really likes me. Of course, men have this channel too. But I can only be certain that she really wants me if she lets me inside. But he doesn't say that. Instead, he says bad words like pressure or big balls. And we translate that into sex therapy.

ZEITmagazin: Are you really talking about the men of today? Wouldn't most of them say: I am offended if you reject me?

Ahlers: If someone puts it this way, they already have the necessary software to solve their problems themselves. But the partner's no is usually not a no to sex, but a rejection of the whole person.

ZEITmagazin: But even if someone understands that the refusal is only for sex: What does it help if I understand that I am wanted as a person, but not wanted?

Ahlers: Then we come to the question of why the other doesn't do that.

ZEITmagazin: And why?

Ahlers: Because, for example, she constantly has the feeling that she has to be available: During the day I do the children, the job, and in the evening I should also make my body available to him. Of course she has a reflex to demarcate. And the moment when decoding becomes possible, it could arrive: I want to sleep with you because you mean everything to me and because I can only calm down through you and in you. And in a second, all of its pressure no longer appears as a strange need for hormones, but as a desire for physical acceptance.

ZEITmagazin: If sex can be such a fulfillment, what does it mean for people who live permanently without sex? You are one of the therapists who helped set up the pedophile project at the Charité, where you work with men who have to come to terms with never having sex with another person.

Ahlers: That is precisely the core of the therapeutic challenge for pedophiles. Not just abstinence through prohibition and control. Rather, they recognize that their sexual preference means that they cannot fulfill their basic psychosocial needs through sex. Accompanying this grief is part of the therapy that we developed in Berlin. How do I handle this? How can you let go of the idea that it could be different? This is something very difficult and bitter.

ZEITmagazin: What do you see in people who have made it?

Ahlers: Interestingly, they get an aura from real monks. I do not mean those who live in celibacy to hide or avoid a conflict, but those who can accept: That is my destiny. And the pedophiles who managed this process have that aura too. There is an inner calm that also enables a view of the world: What else is there in my life?

ZEITmagazin: Can they be happy without sex?

Ahlers: You at least have a chance to live a life free of depression. Because depression is often the result of a conflict of acceptance: I am fighting inside against something that I cannot change. In addition, pedophiles tend to feel despised by society, even if they have never committed an assault.

ZEITmagazin: There are also people who are into adults and do not experience sexual fulfillment.

Ahlers: Yes there is. Sometimes these are even the ones who are not lacking in sex and realize that one-night stands or prostitution cannot meet their real needs. I have had many people with one-night stand burnout in my practice, both men and women. You have made the experience that with casual sex you may generate short-term arousal climaxes, but not the longed-for emotional fulfillment.