Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

popular video - who is responsible for your orgasm?

Here is a link to a video I did for YourTango's Experts. In it, I talk about who is responsible for getting a partner to orgasm and how sharing the responsibility will make for a happier sexual relationship.

I hope you enjoy the video and share it with online friends !  

http://www.yourtango.com/2013174722/who-is-responsible-for-your-orgasm?utm_source=YourTango+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=4c8affab15-YTNewsletter_A_B_02201302_202013&utm_medium=email

The Eroticism of Smells

 

 

“I will be arriving in Paris tomorrow evening. Don’t wash” – reportedly written by Napoleon to his lover, Josephine.

Scientists are beginning to believe that humans have sensory receptors in our noses, long recognized in other mammals, that allow us to get information about other people from odors we can’t consciously smell. This ability may affect our sexual choices through the detection of pheromones and other smells associated with health, virility, and more. Fascinating stuff!

We know that scent plays a strong role in influencing our brain. We are born with a strong survival mechanism that causes us to automatically be repelled by unpleasant odors. But our olfactory system sends all kinds of messages to our brain, connecting in large part to the limbic system – primitive structures in our brain that regulate arousal, pleasure and reward, and also long-term memory. If you have ever wondered how you can recognize the smell of your first crush’s laundry detergent on someone years later; this is why  - the part of our brain that processes smells is combined with our long term memory storage.

Here’s another interesting aspect of scent’s influence on us, neuroscientists tell us that the sensory experiences of smell skip the thinking and reasoning part of the brain and go straight to the amygdala, which governs our physical responses to excitement and fear. So being exposed to a smell (or for some, just the recalled memory of a smell) can cause a physical response. So it’s true, you can become aroused just by smelling a smell related to a past sexual experience.

 Studies focusing on pheromones in human and our sense of smell have found that women near ovulation are drawn to men’s scents who are genetically more compatible with them. Studies by researcher Karl Grammer have found that women find different men’s smells more or less appealing depending on the phase of their menstrual cycle and that men’s testosterone levels increased just by smelling women’s odors during ovulation. Again, remember these are odors that our conscious mind finds nearly undetectable!  

For many people, the smell of their partner during sex and on their skin later is a wonderful part of sexual excitement. Maybe for you this is a turn on, maybe not, but it seems clear that your nose is influencing your sexual arousal in ways we are only beginning to understand. Let yourself be interested in what smells appeal to you and which do not. Take notice of smell during your next sexual experience and see if there are any ways  you would like smell to be added to your sexual ambiance.

 

References from Rodgers, Joanne Ellison (2001) Sex : A natural history. Henry Holt and Co, LLC : New York, New York.

 

Journaling Prompt - Love Lessons

This year for Valentine’s Day – whether you are currently coupled or not – take time to think about what you have learned about love and how you learned it.  Use your journaling time to remember your exes. Yes, love lost is a part of the bigger picture of romance and has a lot to do with the love you have to offer now.

Your Valentine’s challenge (should you choose to accept it) is to write a letter to each of your significant exes – not to send, just to write for yourself. How you define a significant relationship is up to you. It could be the person you were married to for 8 years or the unrequited crush you had all through 8th grade. Who do you think has shaped your story of love? – the first people who come to mind are the ones you should write to.

Structure the letter around these 3 prompts:

Thanks you so much for the role you played in my life. Because of you I learned …

I wish that at the time I had been better at….and I am sorry that…

The things I loved about who I was when I was around you were…

Write as sincerely as you can. Remember you are not going to share this with the person, so no power struggles. This is for you, so that you can be the person you want to be in relationship, so that you can recapture some of your early romantic inspiration, so that you can be open to love that is available for you now. Love takes more than cards, jewelry and flowers; It takes awareness and personal growth. It is worth the effort. Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

 

Are we forgetting how to really know another person - on virtual relationships

 

I am sure there is a lot unknown and unclear about the Manti Te’o virtual girlfriend situation. If you haven’t read about this already, a synopsis is; football player Manti Te’o was hoaxed by a friend, who had unrequited romantic feeling for Manti Te’o, into having an online and phone relationship with a fictional woman. This relationship apparently went on for 3 years. After this time, the friend had the fake girlfriend die of leukemia. Manti Te’o went public with his grief and the hoax was revealed.

Now I feel sad for the suffering of everyone in this story and am unwilling to speculate about how this all unfolded. As a couple’s therapist however, it does bring up some fascinating questions about our current cultural models of relationship and intimacy and how social media and technology are re-shaping what it means to be connected. I have seen priorities change and more of more of the meat of communication happening through text or online sites. And while I recognize the convenience of being virtually connected, I worry about some of the deeper impacts on our relationships. I think it is important to ask ourselves some questions as we navigate these cultural changes.

Do we now think it is reasonable to have a significant relationship with someone that we cannot make time to see in person in over 3 years? Have we developed a cultural model in which we are all so busy that actually being physically together is negotiable? A 3 year romantic relationship is an extreme example, no doubt, but I encourage you to think about your friendships and how often you now prioritize updating posts so that people are “caught up with your life” versus making plans to see someone live and in person. How much time do you spend with romantic partners that doesn’t involve looking into screens? How many relationships are you willing to spend energy on when the thought of actually doing something with that person is unappealing?

Do we believe that people’s words are the core of who they are and the primary way to get to know them? As a therapist, I see every day the difference between what people say and what they feel, in fact this is much of what couples therapy is meant to reveal – the truth functioning underneath all the words. Now that most everyone has an online profile (or two), are we relying on that manufactured information to get to know someone? I recently read that people no longer know what to talk about on first dates because they have already read a basic bio of the person, which leads me to wonder – have we forgotten how to talk about our lives, the things we like, the dreams we have? Are we losing the gift of reading subtle cues from people, body language, eye contact, even the way we respond to the world around us? I remember when I was dating we learned a lot from observing how a person treated the waitstaff. Is this kind of social interaction irrelevant now? Is how someone literally moves through the world - how they drive, how much patience they show in doing tasks, if they move out of the way for other people in a crowded space- no longer considered part of who they are? Do we know the difference between persona and personality? Do we care?

And, of course, I do not know what kind of sexuality was or was not being expressed in Manti Te’o’s virtual relationship, but I worry for us all about the beautiful, awkward, sweaty, intimate, vulnerable, bonding experience of human sexuality being squeezed out by a reliance on the ease of words and pictures, fictional stories and our own minds. Virtual sex can be a fun addition but I hope we never lose sight of our desire for the astounding, risky experience of being physical with another person, and what it asks of us.

I have my own “connections” to celebrities, writers, artists, even politicians, that I will never meet in person. And I will grieve for them when they are gone and no longer playing an active part in my world. I believe it is good for us to learn from strangers, to allow ourselves to feel love for people far apart from us, to even develop stories about what they are like in person. But I hope I never lose sight of the fact that I do not know these people – that, in fact, they are a mystery to me, no matter how much written material I read about them. I hope I never forget to value the subtlety and fragility in the ongoing process of really getting to know someone.