A sex script is the sequence of interactions (physical, emotional, psychological) that underlie the last time a couple had sex. Most couples I work with have a kind of default sex script, and if they’re coming to see me, then most likely their sex script is reinforcing the problem rather than helping.
My job is to help couples understand and rewrite their sex scripts. To a fly on the wall, the sex script is the progression of actions: clothes coming off, mouths finding each other, hands exploring, body parts joining and unjoining, muscles tensing and releasing. But beneath the surface of the sex script is an emotional underground: the mental space between bodies. Sometimes sex is a bridge; other times it reveals a chasm. When the sex script works, we lose ourselves in arousal. Sex becomes like a familiar dance, and we don’t think twice about the choreography. But when the sex script fails, it’s all we can do not to ruminate over the details.
I know that, to some, thinking about sex as a scripted event, with various elements that unfold in a sequence, may sound rigid, overly clinical, and off-putting, the opposite of spontaneity—which is what sex is “supposed” to be, right: spontaneous. But I liken my overall approach to playing jazz. Sure, you want to improvise and cut loose, but in order to do that, you and your partner need to know what song you’re playing, the genre, the key and chord progressions, the tempo, and so on. The legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter said of playing in the iconic Miles Davis Quintet from 1963 to 1968: “We were looking at every night going to a laboratory, Miles was the head chemist. Our job was to mix these components, these changes, this tempo, into something that explodes safely every night with a bit of danger.” That sounds like good sex to me—exploding safely with a bit of danger—and to do that, you have to know all the components you’re mixing.