Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

Was it good for YOU?

I was once at a late summer party in San Francisco in a group of people very much identified with sex-positivity. A man I didn’t know began talking to me and he looked around the room and said, “You know, I have slept with all but 3 of the women here.” Since I was included in that three, I can speculate where the conversation might have gone next. But since he didn’t know he was talking to a sex therapist, he seemed surprised by my response. I turned to look at him and I genuinely asked, “Wow. What did you learn about yourself from all that sex?” I didn’t mean to fluster or embarrass him; I was asking openly. But he became very uncomfortable, laughed it off with, “I learned I like sex” and immediately walked away. But I wish he had at least tried to engage with the question. Because I really did want to know.

The thing is I think a lot of us, no matter how sex positive or not, are not asking our self that question – what has sex taught me about ME? And so, are not allowing sex to work its real magic on us.

Sexuality is not simply a check-list of things we can do. It is not simply a way to prove ourselves viable as an object of desire. It is not to find what category you belong in or who you belong with. It is not just to prove that we can please someone else or that we can have multiple orgasms or that we can commit to one person or commit to four people or that we can be brave or express resistance to old cultural conditioning. It can be all these things at different times. But it can also be an incredible path to self-awareness.

Does that sound too heavy to you? It really doesn’t have to be.

What I am suggesting is that we bring our own sexuality into its rightful place on our list of “things that give us information about our Self”. It should also be on the lists : “things that will change through the course of my life with or without my permission, “things that are different in real life than in entertainment” and “things that might, when I least expect it, confuse the crap out of me”. You have those lists, right?

But really, it is ok - good even - to take a moment after sex to ask yourself, “How was that for me? What did I feel, discover, want more of? What did I find in myself that I may not have found before?” It is not so much that our partners are our teachers, although they may be, but that HOW WE RESPOND to different people, different moods, different environments, that can teach us.

Expanding our awareness through sex is an inside job. External variables are catalysts, but the combustion happens within you, in the way you open yourself up to something, or don’t. And this exploration creates the power within you to bring your own passion and pleasure to the party. It can even give you insight in to spiritual questions, inter-connectedness, personal needs and archetypes, nature, flow states, and so much more. Let sex feed you, inform you, inspire you. And then maybe, some summer, we can have some stimulating party talk.

Up The Intensity - Using Breath & Sound

  Written for SHE Magazine April 17

Think of your voice and your breath as fun sex toys that you always have with you, cost nothing, and don’t require a trip, virtual or otherwise, to the sex store. Simple ways of making sound and directing your breath can quickly get you and your partner into another level of intensity. You just need to be brave enough to bring it out.

Ready to try?

Start with slow, deep breaths – Breathing is a cue to the body about how to channel energy. Slow deep breaths tell our bodies to relax, to open up to sensation, and for most of us a good deep breath is long overdue and just feels good. Bring in breath so that your lower belly fills up, then as you let it out imagine that your tension is melting. Deep breaths are great when your partner is focused on pleasing you and you get to lay back and receive (and can help relieve any shyness you may feel about being pleasured). 

Move with your breath– Now that you are breathing deeply, you can rock your pelvis along with your breath. You may tilt your pelvis back on the in breath and tuck it forward on your out breath. These can be small gentle movements; think rocking, not thrusting at this point. There is no right or wrong with this, see what feels right for you. Just use your breath as an invitation to move your body. Let your breath deepen so that you can hear it. Don’t be surprised if your breathing starts to get faster…

Faster and deeper – As you get more turned on, your breath will change. You can help with that by consciously speeding up your breathing. Try taking in mini-gulps of air, like gasps. As you do that imagine your sensation building.

Let sound come out – If you are breathing deeply, you may naturally be making some luscious noise. Just let your mouth open, relax your jaw, and let your breath come out fully as a sigh. If that feels good, turn it into a moan. Making sound engages your whole body and keeps energy flowing, which is good for intensity. Making sound cues your partner to your pleasure and that is a huge turn on. But it is not just for your partner - I really recommend that you make sound when you masturbate too, so that you can ride your own excitement and get used to hearing yourself.

Sound = Vibration -  Sound involves little vibrations. If you have ever chanted OM in yoga class, you may have experienced the resonation of sound into your belly. Using your mouth and sound creates a nice little vibration for sensitive spots. If you have your mouth on your partner for some oral play, make a little ‘MMM’ sound. Gently holding a nipple in your mouth and humming – oh yeah.

Feeling the breath -  You can use your breath to create coolness or warmth on your partner’s skin. Lick a place and then blow gently on it from an inch away and watch the goosebumps rise. Lick a place and bring your open mouth close to the skin and breath out, wet, warmth. Blow like a light tickle, whisper secrets into their skin. Sensation play, no props needed.

Say it – Say “yes”, say “please’, say “oh god, don’t stop!”. Tell your partner what you are about to do. Tell your partner what you would like them to do. Using your voice can be a huge part of the fun – even the whole part if you are engaging in phone sex or just opting for a safe sex choice. This can be part of the sex play hours before you get naked together. And it can be especially fun in building anticipation with a partner who is happily restrained or blindfolded. Talking dirty is its own sexplay toolkit, and I will write more specifically about that next time…

For now, try these simple intensity boosts. If making sound feels embarrassing to you, I highly recommend you start with using breath as a gentle introduction. Play music so that you feel surrounded by sound. You can also try muffling your sounds by moaning into a pillow or an open palm over your mouth. Restricting your sound, is its own kind of play. But in any case, breath is powerful. When in doubt, take a deep breath,… let it out slowly. Enjoy.

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.


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.


Making It New

It is rumored that Picasso, arguably one of the most innovative artists of his time, said after seeing ancient cave paintings in France, “We have invented nothing new.” Now, he was musing on his field, artistic expression. But I wonder if the same thing cannot be said for my field, human sexuality.

Clearly we love the headlines that blare, “THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED LIKE THIS BEFORE.” We behave as though we have just discovered BDSM because a popular book features it, that sex toys are a new obsession, that gender-bending is modern. We get worked up and fear-based around the availability of porn and the “new” trend of open relationships. Um, sorry but this is not new. None of this is really as new and innovative as we seem to like to think.

People have been gay, bi, transgender, into being dominated, into looking at images of other people having sex, and by a majority, into multiple sex partners in a lifetime, since humans have been around. Does this disappoint you? I know we get turned on by the new, by a sense that we are transgressing. I don’t want to take the naughty away from you. But…Ah well. Your ancestors shared your interests and desires.

Don’t worry, you can still keep your sex cutting edge. How do you make it feel new? By doing whatever you are doing completely in the present moment. Sure you may have been tied to the bedposts 20 times before, but this time is different. It is different because you are different in this moment. But you have to pay attention, real mindful attention. Don’t picture your Victorian great, great grandpa getting pegged (or maybe do, if that is part of the thrill), it doesn’t matter who has done this before, this time is yours. Each shiver, each throb, each time you catch you partner’s eye, is new to you. It only feels old if you generalize and lose track of the here and now. Don’t just go through the motions getting it done. This is not a check list kind of scenario. Slow down and indulge the details, the unique little aspects that will never happen quite like that ever again.

So enjoy getting nasty out there, if you like. Remember to enjoy it for YOU not for the shock you think it would cause great aunt Matilda. You never know what she got up to. It may not be new, but it can be new to you, and that is enough – in fact, that can be fabulous.


Seduction Techniques Not Working For You?


This one is inspired by the classic horror film, The Bride of Frankenstein, and that epic scream face Elsa Lancaster made famous. The story is a sad one. Poor Frankenstein monster was lonely and the doctor created a bride for him. But once she was made and brought to life, seeing Frankie stumble and mumble at her apparently didn’t appeal. Cue, Scream. And classic horror movie destruction.

 

For us human folk, happily not in a horror movie, this dynamic can play out in more subtle ways. Sometimes our seduction skills are lacking or just in hiding. Like Frankie we attempt an awkward hand pat or grunt, “want to do it?”. And like the Bride, we can respond in less than kind ways. Rejection hurts, whether you are the only 2 monsters on the planet or not, and like Frankie rejection can make us feel, “she hates me”. So what can we learn from their sad tale?

 

It can be important to let our partner know that they may be appealing but the lackluster seduction routine is not. Talk about how you like sex to be initiated. I am not suggesting you expect flowers covering the bed or a striptease each time you have sex, but there may be some things that help to get your mind on sex and some things that hinder it. Be specific. Share with your partner what words turn you on and which ones don’t. What types of touch feel arousing? And, equally important, what types of touch turn you off? Do you need a bit of conversation before you engage sexually or maybe you prefer your partner to not be wearing the sweatshirt with baby spit up on it. Speak up, focus on what you like, while being upfront and non-blaming about what you don’t like so much.

 

And if you are just not in the mood, that is ok. But don’t’ scream or hiss in your partner’s general direction. Try saying something that lets them know you do want to connect with them sometime soon, just not right now. Really ask yourself, what would help me get in the mood? Could it be as simple as, “I think I need an hour to soak in the tub and relax and then we can connect”. Or maybe you know a night later this week will be better. Think of trying to include an addendum to each No. Try for a “Not now, but maybe…?”

 

If we can learn from the bride and avoid being unfriendly about it all and learn from Frankie and try just a little harder to be seductive, it will help keep everyone happy and connected.


Passion Wanted, Apply Within

If you are like a lot of people, you want to know “What is the one thing people most want in a lover?”  So I will answer, based on the many hours I have spent as a sex therapist talking to people about their wishes and desires, and it may surprise you.

The most common thing I hear people wanting from a sex partner, of any gender variation, age, commitment history…, is for their partner to be enthusiastic and to want to be having sex with them. That’s right, enthusiasm, happy willingness, passion. Seems simple enough. We want to feel wanted. We want to share something with someone who is enjoying themselves. I hear many sexual details and accoutrements that people want as well, more anal, less anal, a spanking now and then, to keep the heels on …lots of variations of things that would be nice to try. But the foundational piece for most people is to feel that their partner is into it, into them, and happy to spend time being sexual together.

Sadly, there are lots of ways our individual enthusiasm for sex can wane. Dissatisfactions, arguments, frustrations, new body pains, exhaustion, shame, self doubt, and on and on. And lack of enthusiasm will kill passion in a relationship fast than anything else (unless you are with a bully and that is no good). These externals can decrease enthusiasm, sure. But truly, passion is an internal job.

You can find your passionate person inside at any point in life. It involves listening to yourself, feeling your body sensations, giving yourself time and space to relax and enjoy many aspects of life without rushing on to the next thing. It involves being curious and communicating your curiosity, ideas, fantasies, and discoveries, just to see where they might take you. It involves tending to what is inside of you, which is where you will find lots of important information, not least of which being - what excites you. Oh, and also important…clear out any old stuff telling you that you have to play it cool, that passion is disgraceful, that you should be ashamed to want. Clear it out! Make room to be passionate.

Then show it. This is key. Don t assume your partner knows you like that. Appreciate them by giving them some solid clues. You don’t have to perform porn style, just be genuinely enthusiastic. What might happen, is you turn yourself on even more. Enthusiasm feeds itself. Imagine with each touch and kiss and thrust, saying with your body (or your words, that’s fun too), “Yes”. That’s how your blow your lover’s mind. And your own.


Talking Dirty

 

Have you tried talking dirty to a partner? Think of your imagination and your voice as fun sex toys that you always have with you, cost nothing, and don’t require a trip, virtual or otherwise, to the sex store. You just need to be brave enough to bring it out. If you are a little nervous to try, here are some tips:

 

Take a breath – You know that squeaky, croaky voice thing that happens when you seem to run out of air while talking – not sexy. Start by taking a slow breath, there is no rush. You will feel calmer and, as a bonus, no pubescent voice cracking. Oh, and laughter is a great way to get yourself breathing.

 

Picture it in your mind – Your words will come more easily and be more juicy if you let yourself form images in your mind. As they used to say in writing class, “no turn on for the writer, no turn on for the reader”, Wait, that wasn’t quite what they said…Well, anyway, use your imagination to turn yourself on and it will be more fun all around.

 

Try different perspectives – Some of you will love telling a sexy tale from a first person perspective, what you want to do to a partner, what you imagine being done to you. But some of you will have more fun talking about imaginary other people, which can go anywhere from what the naughty neighbors are doing next door to what Marie Antoinette got up to. I suggest you try shifting it up and see what stokes your fantasy creation best.

 

Do it in the dark – Phone sex works for people for a lot of reasons, but a major one is removing the pressure of being seen. Just letting yourself be a voice in the dark, lets you both close your eyes and indulge in imagining. No one can see you blush and you can still touch, get in close and whisper so your breath brushes your partner’s ears or neck.

 

Have a safe word – Yes, even for talking sexy it is good to have safe boundaries. Each of our fantasy realms are different with borders that are in scary territory for some people. If you really want to get into talk as turn-on, it can help to establish some turn-offs first. Get a sense of what is off limits (possibilities might be talking about people you actually know, adult/child scenes, violence or humiliation, describing your partner’s body as different than it actually is or…). People’s limits are different when it comes to fantasy, but we still have our limits. 

 

No pressure to do – Remember that just because you get hot thinking about it, that doesn’t mean you want to do it. Talk about this with your partner ahead of time so there is no misunderstanding. Fantasy is fantasy; part of the fun is to go out to the edges. Just promise to let them know what you DO want to actually do when that time comes. Maybe promise to tell them in exquisite detail…

 

Devouring Passion

 

This story makes me smile: Children’s book author Maurice Sendak received a card from one of his young fans. It was special to him and so Sendak took time creating a little drawing to send back to the boy with a note that said how much he loved the boy’s card. Soon after, Sendak got a note from the boy’s mom, saying “Jim loved your card so much he ate it”. It should be no surprise that as an author who celebrates the wildness in children, and all of us, Sendak has said this was the best compliment he ever received.

 

It’s not a coincidence that many of our descriptions of passion include allusions or metaphors of eating. The instinct to take something inside of us, to make it a part of us, to feed ourselves from it, all reflect feelings of deep excitement and passion. To take an experience in and leave nothing behind, to fully ingest it – how many of us forget how to do this as we get older? Especially now that we are constantly encouraged to document and share each experience, however mundane, and more and more people believe “if I didn’t post it, it didn’t really happen”. How might Jim’s experience of devouring joy been changed if his mother had required time to pose for a picture followed by a post where she could monitor likes? Even the very adult instinct to respectfully save the picture (because it could possibly have paid for Jim’s first car) would change the flow of pure expression of irrational joy. How does our instinct to hold on to something, to keep it safe and sound, change moments of passion?

 

What do you love so much you want to gobble it up? What bring you such joy that you don’t feel any need to share it with others? When do you break open moments of such excitement that the future doesn’t even occur to you and there is no need to hold anything back for later? What kind of love has come your way which made you feel like you took it into yourself and it became a part of you? What holds you back from devouring passion?

 

Experiment : With a partner play with touching them in a way that allows you to feel like you are taking them in through your hands and skin. Imagine that you can feed on them and they will never be depleted. Breathe them in. Taste them; no biting, unless they ask! Imagine for right now it is ok to be a wild thing devouring what it wants.

 

Advice Overload Won't Help

Here's a reprint from an article I did for YourTango.com :

 

More and more women are talking to each other about their sex lives. If not in open Sex and the City style confessionals over brunch, then in hushed tones over a glass of wine or huddled on the sidelines at a soccer match. Increased comfort talking about sex and desire is a good thing. But it can create advice overload, advice that just may not apply to us. Difficulty orgasming is one of those concerns for which one size solutions do not fit all. So if you have been comparing yourself to your friends and confidants and wondering why what works for them hasn’t worked for you, don’t worry. There is a solution for you; it just may be different than hers.

There are a lot of reasons why you may be having trouble with orgasm. Figuring out what is going on for you uniquely is key to getting your orgasms back, or finding them if you have not yet experienced them. A sex therapist or sex coach may be the best support in helping you assess what is impacting you, but here are a few common causes to consider. Which do you think might apply to you?

Ineffective Sex : Lack of sexual variety, skills, and experience, combined with rushed sex, are a common reason for difficulty with orgasms. Maybe you need more time for your body to get warmed up or sex that is frankly more fun for you. Since the sexual revolution of the 70s and the new focus on women’s sexual arousal , this is often the assumed problem. But I also see many couples who are having playful, arousing, exciting sexual interaction and orgasm is still missing. Go and explore new ways to be sexual but also trust yourself. Maybe there is another reason.

Your Mind is Busy Working : It may be difficult for you to turn your mind down or switch focus from the daily to-do lists to feel physical pleasure. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, it will be hard to orgasm. You could be thinking about the laundry that needs to get done for tomorrow or the deadline at work or the cellulite on your thighs. In any case, you are not thinking about how good it feels to be touched. It is important to find ways to reduce your stress, transition from the daily grind to make time for pleasure, and to learn how to train your mind to let go of things temporarily and be in the moment. Most of us can use some help with this!

Hormones Are Not There for You : We hear a fair amount about how hormones impact sexual desire and libido, but hormones also play key roles in our ability to orgasm.  Low estrogen in particular reducing blood flow to genitals which may make orgasm more difficult. If you used to have no trouble reaching orgasm and that has changed dramatically or if you feel like you have desire for sex and that the sex you are having is arousing but you never quite reach the peak of orgasm, maybe hormones are to blame. The frustration for a lot of women with this issue is that they have talked to their doctor and been dismissed. Keep in mind that most gynecologists are trained to care for your reproductive health, which is different than your sexual health or satisfaction. Seek out a doctor who specializes in sexual health or a naturopath who works with hormones.

 Low Tone or Awareness in Pelvic Floor Muscles : If you feel like you have low sensation with penetration or that you are just not feeling much, maybe you have weakness in your pelvic floor muscles which help with intensity of pleasure and orgasm. Childbirth, lack of use, and menopause can all affect the health of these muscles, but you can always train them to be stronger. You can even get to the point that you have control over contracting them which is a great way to increase sexual pleasure. You can learn about pelvic exercises called Kegels on your own and practice them. You can also find a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health and get an assessment and support from them.

You Believe Orgasms are Bad, Dirty or Dangerous : There are lots of deeply held beliefs, sometimes so deep that we are only mildly aware of them, that impact our sexual pleasure. You may be able to identify the beliefs that are getting in the way; you may even want to stop having those beliefs. But changing our minds can be harder than we imagine. You can get support by reading books or seeing movies that support they way you want to see sex, talking to friends, and of course talking with a sex therapist or coach.

Sexual Pain: Sex doesn’t have to be painful and if you have been living with this, I strongly encourage you to seek help from a doctor specializing in sexual pain. Even if the pain comes and goes, the eventual anxiety about having pain will get in the way of experiencing pleasure. You are not alone in having sexual pain and you are not doomed to live with it. But you may have to do some searching to find an experienced doctor or clinician who can help.

Your trouble reaching orgasm may be related to one of these causes or several of them. You may have another reason all together. If orgasm feels important to you seek out your own solutions and support. Don’t get overwhelmed by advice overload; let your friends do what works for them. Listen to your body and you will find what works for you.