Sexual Script Discrepancies

Many people have read or heard about desire discrepancies in relationships. This happens when one partner in a relationship has either more or less of an interest in having sex than their partner. Such a discrepancy can cause conflict, hurt feelings, thoughts of rejection and inadequacy, communication shutdowns, and resentment. While most people see a desire discrepancy itself as the main problem, there are times when it may actually be a symptom of another kind of discrepancy: a sexual script discrepancy.

What is a sexual script discrepancy? Well, if you think about it, we all have preferred sexual scripts. Sexual scripts are the stories we hold about what specific sexual activities or behaviors we and our partner engage in, and in what order they are done. Sexual scripts can include details such as setting (bedroom, in the car, on the counter) and time of day (when you wake up, when your partner gets home from work, on your birthday, or in the evening when the kids are asleep).

One person’s script might go something like this: Their partner cooks them a nice dinner. They share a bottle of wine and enjoy pleasant conversation. Then, their partner leads them to the bedroom, where kisses follow. They undress each other, continue kissing and teasing, until one person gently pushes the other back onto the bed and starts giving oral sex (notice I did not say “performing oral sex,” as we know that performance anxieties are a distraction from sex). The receiver of oral sex has an orgasm. They switch positions. They then fuck in multiple positions, both cum, and things may or may not end there. That is a condensed version of a sexual script.

You can easily see how sexual scripts create similar expectations as performance anxieties. If someone goes off script, which will inevitably happen at some point, it can be distracting, disappointing, frustrating, or even experienced as a rejection. Even more problematic is when there is little to no overlap in partners’ sexual scripts. Unless both partners work to understand what they like, openly share that information with their partner, and be willing to try things they might not ordinarily choose on their own in order to meet their partner’s script preferences, sex will continue to be unsatisfying. And when sex continues to be unsatisfying, we stop wanting to have sex with our partner as often, if at all. Thus, what looks like a desire discrepancy is created. However, in this example, addressing the difference in desire can be as simple as clarifying scripts and being open to trying things your partner likes.

Suppose one person wants to spend much of his sex having his cock worshipped by his partner’s mouth, tongue, lips, and hands. However, his partner would rather enjoy intercourse and ride him the way they find most satisfying. In order for them to have a mutually satisfying sexual connection and experience, effective communication, negotiation, and compromise will all be necessary. The good news is that this can easily be done by just talking about it, and we actually do this all the time in relationships. One person wants Mexican food and the other wants sushi. How they go about deciding what they eat is up to them, but they eventually figure it out and hopefully work over time toward meeting both partners’ preferences in a way that works for them individually and as partners.