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Multi-tasking and desire

Dr Lori Brotto in her book “Better Sex Through Mindfulness” puts “non-arousal” (AKA not being able to get fully in the mood) down to three things because of how these states of being make it hard to focus on the present.

Two are covered on the site already- stress and anxiety .

But the third was (drum roll)…….. multi-tasking.


We all know it doesn’t make for great sex when your body’s in the bed but your mind is at your desk. But is this really impacting on our desire?

Multi-tasking (the ability to do a number of things at once, like brush the cat whilst painting your toenails watching Opera and on the phone to a friend) is said to be something that women can do much better than men- and seen as a desirable skill.

We’re also always so bloody busy raising kids and doing washing and smashing patriarchy and all that shit that we need this ability. But is women’s secret power our kryptonite?

Multi-tasking, however, might mean that you only give part-focus to each task you’re completing.

And this, friends, can totally f*ck your sex life.

Brotto explains us how….

The impact of multi-tasking

Apparently, when we get super good at multi-tasking, we women also do this with sex.

We believe that whilst our bodies are hard at work getting jiggy, we can just check out/disengage our minds.

We think about what we need for dinner for tomorrow night, or why Mandy in HR was being such a bitch yesterday, or why spaghetti hoops aren’t more widely eaten as a serious adult dinner.

We’re convinced that whilst our minds can crack on with tomorrows to-do list, our bodies can do the rest. Sex is like a reflex, and it comes so naturally to us that we don’t even need to concentrate.

….. Do we?

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Brotto argues that whilst our minds have wandered and we’ve left our bodies to it, we’re putting in less effort- and effectively disengaging from sex.

The problem is that whilst our body is just going through the motions, our mind is elsewhere, and because of it, the actual feeling of sex is lessened.

We’re just not paying attention, so our pleasure strolls by like the gorilla in that basketball clip, and we’ve barely noticed yet alone grabbed hold of it and enjoyed it.

This process then reinforces itself.

Our body responds less to sexual triggers, our arousal lessens, the sex becomes worse. And finally, our motivation for sex slides because it just literally isn’t that good anymore.

And we’re left with 0 desire for sex and wondering what the fuck happened.


Why we multi-task

Multi-tasking isn’t just about being productive. It’s about being able to think about a few things at one time. And there are plenty of reasons why we might disengage and our minds begin to wander during sex that don’t all involve running through to-do lists….

For some of us, it’s because we’re passionate. We just get carried away in the passion of what we’re doing. If you’re a creative type that becomes consumed in how to complete the next chapter of your novel, or which bass rift will go with that amazing melody, it can be really difficult to “leave work at work” when your project is something you care about and there isn’t a set 9-5 around it. Stepping away from something you care about or feel pressured to complete is tough when you’re trying to focus on sex (which often doesn’t feel “essential” but your work deadline is!). There is a fine line between commitment and overwork however (read: stress) and it’s worth watching out for the warning signs when sex seems like the opposite of what you need.

For others, it’s anxiety. This might be performance anxiety- we’re on high alert for any sign of judgement, laughter, unusual sounds or jiggling flesh, being slutty, being frigid.

We might also worry about how we look and our body image. We’re bombarded with images of how we “should” look, or sound like, or feel/smell/taste like when we have sex, it’s no wonder we find it difficult to get lost in the moment when it’s time to get jiggy. Anxiety might also strike in terms of future worries- work, relationships, responsibilities- where we get lost in the fog of uncertainty and stress. And learning to relax and focus on sex is tough.

But, are women really better at multi-tasking?

The ability of women to multi-task is hyped up by society that we’re apparently better at multi-tasking than men.

But, are we REALLY naturally better at juggling kids, work, socialising, chores? Or is it because women are having to shoulder what’s known as the “emotional load”- taking on domestic duties that men just “don’t think about”. There is an expectation for many women that, “if they don’t do it, it doesn’t get done”. So in effect we’re being forcing to manage a bajillion things at once because it’s expected of us, not because we’re more effective at doing so.

So, what is the solution to all of this passionate perfectionist anxiety-wrought multi-tasking that’s causing us (me for sure) to check out of bonking?

Brotto suggests it’s mindfulness, and learning how to stay in the present (and focus on one thing at one time) that is the cure for the busy, occupied mind.

She writes that savouring the touch, taste, feel, smell etc of sex is the best way of anchoring yourself into the present moment to get back in touch with the real joy and essence of sex.

Sounds great- who doesn’t want to have better sex?!

Do you think multi-tasking is a blessing or a curse for your sex life?