Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

From Start to Finish

When people think of “having sex” they tend to focus on the hot and heavy, rubbing bodies against one another part of it. But really, there are many aspects of a sexual encounter, most of them overlooked and underappreciated. Sex does not being when we are naked with someone we like. In real life we don’t fast forward to the climax, nor should we. We miss out on a lot if we think this way. We need to rethink the sexual encounter, giving it a new starting point and a new finish that can really encompass the greater possibility and the role we play in it.

Phase One – Creating Space to be sexual. Yes, in real life we have to actually make choice to include sex in our daily life. So this phase includes the necessity of actually carving out time in a schedule. Certainly easier to do in that 6 hour break between classes when you were in college, but don’t be discouraged. I have said it before and I will say it again, scheduling sex can be very hot, if you engage your mind in anticipation and enthusiasm. Because creating space to be sexual is about more than timing. It also means making space in your mind for sexuality and sensuality, thinking about what you desire and listening to the voice of your sensate body as it finds things to pleasure in. It includes day dreaming about a partner or partners, grooming yourself with the intention to seduce, and possibly preparing for a sexy experience by purchasing a toy or even putting clean sheets on the bed. There are lots of ways to create space. What is important is to honor that you have a part to play in this, sex doesn’t just happen.

Phase Two – Becoming an Embodied Self Again. Maybe some of you enlightened folks go around all day long, aware of your body and mindful of each fluctuating sensation. But most of us, have to consciously bring our attention to our body. We have to let the rest of the day go, so that we can be present to pleasure. Finding ways to refocus and stop thinking about the rude thing your boss did or the thing you forgot when you went to the store today and have to remember tomorrow, is key. If you skip this step, you are may feel a nagging disappointment, like you are missing something, because you are – the actual experience of sex. Getting into your body, into a body-mind that is awake to the senses and the intuitive movement that is yours, is an important part of a sexual encounter.

Phase Three – Engaging with Another. Sex with a partner requires that we enter into a dance, both leading and following. We must listen to the cues of another body as well as our own. We may choose to open ourselves up in ways that are vulnerable or risky. This is a distinctly different way of being than the way we spend most of our day. Some people find they need some time to verbally connect and some need to use silence to shift gears from the conversations of shared responsibilities and chores. Engaging with the other person starts with initation of sex, which could have started days before with some smoking texts or a whisper close to ones ear. It is an act of seduction, a drawing the other person in as you allow yourself to be drawn in, a willingness to enter a trance of one another, your attention right here with them, now.

Phase Four – Riding the Waves. Ok, this is the part that most people think of when they think of having sex. This is the part when the mind can go still while the body gets very, very busy. And this is the part of efforting too, of pushing and clutching and reaching new heights of sensation. Here is where we may feel out of control or overwhelmed or exhilarated. We may feel deep emotions or a welcome emptiness, cleared out, simply sensation. This may include orgasm or orgasms or not. But mostly this phase includes being able to feel and respond, not planning ahead but being willing to ride the waves as they come, and allowing yourself to be moved.

Phase Five – Returning. And then things settle down, we return to our minds, our rooms, our awareness of the rest of the world. But for a period of time there is a need to transition. For some this involves a heavy sleepiness, a rest after intensity. For some, a desire to keep the body contact and to allow emotional ripples to play out gently. For some it may be processing what just happened, building connection through sharing with words and questions and possibly insights. For some a withdrawal into self, to reaffirm the boundaries of our being. But we all take some time to return, to close that particular sexual encounter in some way. This phase is just as important as the others and can be just as rich and satisfying.

I invite you to honor all of these phases and to take responsibility for them. Your sexual encounters are vaster than you have been led to believe from the way we talk about “sex”. Redefine your start to finish and you will find there is so much more to explore.


Falling Out of Love

There is a word in Russian for “the melancholy feeling of falling out of love” – razluibit. I have no idea how to say it, but I am touched that it exists. Its existence in another culture and language allows me to notice that in my language there is no such word. We do not have a simple reference point for this particular human state. It is as though by not naming it, we can pretend it doesn’t happen.

What do we know about falling out of love? How does it happen? What is the starting point? How does one know if love is gone for good? Do we ever really stop loving someone we once loved? I would have answered each of these questions differently at different points in my life. But today, even as a couples therapist, I will say, “I don’t know.”

Some days I sit with people who are facing these questions. I see the struggle to reexamine all that came before in the presence of new feelings, or fading feelings, they are faced with now. I have seen love end with a sudden realization about the other person, maybe a moment in which respect was lost or when there was a clarity about what one could truly expect from the other. The fact that so much can change in one moment is humbling to me and reminds me to take care in my relations to others. I have also seen love that has starved over years, a series of closing doors and quiet mouths until one person is an absence to the other. There are times when someone looks for a misplaced love and finds it is no longer there. I have seen love that is newly recognized as something different altogether, as a now resolved need or a pleasant habit or a settling for what could be. I have seen love compared to something new and found lacking.

But I have also seen love that was fading, revived. People who were falling away from a partner reach out a hand and grab hold with a new passion. I have seen people find new love with the old partner. I have seen love develop that maybe had never been there before.

Still in all that, I haven’t found one truth about how or why we fall out of love. Or how or why some people manage to stay firmly, happily in love. I can say that I believe that sometimes love cannot and should not be revived. I believe we must transform and change and therefore we must have love that transforms and changes with us. I believe love requires tending and attention to stay alive. I believe love flourishes when we can stay engaged in new ways to be in love with our partner and new ways to uncover ourselves to them.

What can I can say most confidently about real human possibility of falling out of love? Like so many realities of human life, we can navigate it better if we can name it and therefore share it.


Why Do We Dis the Orgasm?


You may have heard it before from a sex therapist like myself – “Don’t be so orgasm focused.” Easy to say, not so easy to do. And why, you ask, are we so down on the orgasm?

Trust me, we are not anti-orgasm. Orgasms are great! And a big motivating factor in being sexual. And they are good for us, although I won’t go into that research here. I like them; you like them. Good for us.

The problem with focusing on the orgasm is it really limits our sexual expression. Humans are very good at learning patterns. We quickly develop short cuts and automatic responses to simplify reaching our goals. In many areas of life this serves us well. So many of us, by the time we reach thirty or so, have learned very effective ways to reach orgasm, using a specific speed, rhythm, position, etc. If we are in long term relationships, our partner or partners may have learned the steps to our easiest orgasm. In fact, we can run through these patterns again and again, effectively teaching our body to find orgasm this way with this specific type of stimulation. Efficient, sure…

But do you want to be having efficient sex? Maybe sometimes, when you are in labor and trying to quickly have an orgasm to stimulate your uterus or you are giving a sperm sample or something. The option of mutual orgasm quickies is nice. But having sex strictly to get to orgasm efficiently can start to feel a lot like masturbating with a partner. I hear many couples complain of the ever increasing limitations to what they do during sex, because it doesn’t led to quick orgasm, until they are performing the same 10 minute routine each time, orgasming and being done. But they don’t feel passionate, inspired, or connected which is also a pretty great part of sex.

That is the thing we sex therapists are trying to get across.  Finding your way to orgasm is one small part of sex. But there is a lot more to experience. Risk and creativity are key to our ongoing arousal and excitement; we thrive on it. Passionate connection with a partner requires much more than knowing their orgasm routine. Your body has many channels for pleasure, and many new sensations to explore. Did you know that after losing sensation in their genitals people have been found to orgasm from earlobe stimulation? Routes to intense pleasure and release are only as limited as we decide they will be.

So get creative. Focus on pleasures of many kinds, regardless of whether you think you will orgasm in the next 20 minutes or not. Focus on your partner and relaxing into sensual research and reconnaissance. You may actually find that by ignoring the easy path to orgasm, you forge new trails to intense gratification. And hey, you can still always take the short cut. Just don’t make it the only path you seek.