Most of us have approached our dating lives with an image of sexual chemistry and desire that works like spontaneous combustion. It just suddenly hits without warning or intention and burns hard and fast, without our even trying – and can go out just as quickly. Our adult relationships may be better served by seeing sexual chemistry as a bit more complex and alchemical than that. We may not be able to create sexual chemistry anywhere with anyone, but we can actively engage with elements that build a chemical reaction we are hoping for.
Think of it like building a fire. You can sit and wait for lightening to strike and get the fire going. But this is not a great plan. It makes more sense to bring components together that will create fire. The fire will be just as hot, but you do have to put some effort and care into it.
You need fuel for the fire to burn strong and steady – Think of this as your body and your health. Are you giving your body what it needs to feel desire? Are you getting sleep, good food, exercise that is energizing not depleting, are you handling your stress? Basically, is your body ready and available to act on sexual chemistry?
The fire needs oxygen to stay alive – This relates to giving actual time and space for sexuality. You will not feel desire and chemistry while you are running from one chore to the next. Expecting to feel a lot of sexual chemistry on demand while overbooked and overworked, when you haven’t spoken to your partner in person for 3 days, when your mind is somewhere else, is like expecting lightening to strike – within a 30 minute window that is convenient for you. You need to actively create space, breathing room so to speak, for sex in your life.
Tinder will help the fire catch quicker – These are things in your life that you know make you feel more sexual, more connected or drawn to your partner, and sexier in general. Craft reminders of sensual pleasure into your day. Touch your partner as you pass by them, whisper about what you might do later in their ear. Make a point to build these things into your life so that, when the time is right, the spark can quickly catch and turn into a flame.
The Spark – Yes, the mysterious element that causes the flame to burst forth. There are many things we do that smother our natural sexual sparks and there are things we can do to encourage them, but who we desire and why remains, in large part, a mystery. There are different kinds of chemistry and there are different kinds of sex and what we want and are drawn to can change over time. One person may cause trembling in your thighs, another may cause you to feel playful and teasing, another warm and giving. Why him? Why her? Enjoy finding out…
These muscles could use a workout
I am writing in praise of Kegels, the pelvic floor “exercises” that can improve just about anyone’s sex life. When we think of our sexual body parts, mostly people think of the penis, vagina, vulva. But in actuality our genitals are surrounded and supported by the very important pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles contract as a part of orgasm in both men and women. Strong contractions of these muscles can be felt by partners if you are engaging in penetrative sex and a taut vaginal canal can improve sensation for both people involved. Men who want to have multiple orgasms train themselves to contract their pelvic floor muscles on command. And people say that their orgasms become more intense as they strengthen these muscles.
Like in other areas of the body, muscles that are too tense limit us and limit sensation, muscles that are too weak limit our control and movement and, in the case of pelvic floor muscles, limit our orgasmic ability. If a muscle stays weak for too long it can atrophy. But, again as with other muscles in our body, we can always train the muscles to make them healthier. What we want is a balanced healthy set of muscles that we feel we have some control of and connection to. Note that balance includes being able to relax these muscles as well. Sometimes chronic tension in the pelvic floor muscles can contribute to sexual pain and learning to release the muscles brings relief.
So how do we do Kegels? The great thing is you can do them anytime, anywhere. No one will notice. One way people can get familiar with these muscles is to try and stop your stream of urine. You will instinctually use your pelvic floor muscles to clamp down on the flow. That isn’t am especially fun way to practice, but try it if you feel unsure about how to access these muscles. To practice Kegels, you think about the floor of your pelvis – the area between the vaginal open and the anus or between the scrotum and the anus – and imagine pulling that area upward into your body. It is a small movement. Try doing several small pulses and then hold the contraction for a longer time. As you get more control you can play with contracting more to the front of your body, then more to the back or contracting in time to music. Always remember the release portion too though. And ideally you want to not use your buttocks or thigh muscles to do this, so work on keeping those areas of your body relaxed.
Still wondering if you are doing it right? You can see the muscles contract. Those of you with a vulva will need a handmirror or you can insert a finger and feel the muscles contract if they are strong enough. Those of you with a penis can make the penis twitch, easier to see with an erection, or you can insert a finger into your rectum to feel a contraction. Keep trying, you will get it.
Each time you do a Kegel, contract and release, a rush of blood flows into the tissue. This will keep the tissue healthy and in women it will also increase lubrication, so Kegels are also a great way to warm your body up for sex. Fair warning, doing Kegels will increase your sex drive. They can be a great way to use commuting time but you may arrive at your destination with sex on your mind. Enjoy.
Have a relationship with yourself in which you explore sensation.
Summer time and the living is easy. The perfect time for this challenge. Go and get yourself a juicy piece of fruit, whatever you like. Mangos, nectarines, plums, watermelon – all good choices. Set aside a bit of private time, preferably outside in the sunshine. Get naked – this is key. Then eat that fruit in the messiest, stickiest, juice running everywhere way. Bite into it slowly, really taste the fruit. Lick the juice off of your arms and hands and….wherever. Enjoy yourself, no one is watching. Be succulent. Be a part of the summer harvest. Appreciate that you can enjoy this, today, at this moment.
Fifteen minutes later, what is the worst that can happen? You will be sticky and take a shower feeling kind of silly. But on the other hand, you could feel alive, sexy, and a part of a yummy ripe world. Take the chance.
So often we approach our relationship to our body from a place of judgment and striving. We look at our body from the perspective of an external critic – how does my body look, what size does it fit into, how is it performing? But our body has so much more to offer us, if we approach it with different eyes, a different mind. So today I invite you to approach your body more like a poet or like an adventurer of the senses. Explore your body in a new creative way. Believe that it really is worthy of odes, sonnets, time and attention. Think of this as an imaginative scavenger hunt…
What part of your body has the texture of a rose petal just unfurled? What place on your body crackles like lightening? Where are you cool and smooth like a pebble polished by river water? Where does your body flicker like beating wings? Where do you feel like a dandelion waiting for a breath to be blown apart? What part of your body could be best described as sweet like candy? What part of your body would be described as salty like the inside of a shell?
What kind of touch would polish your body to a shine like it was preparing a sacred altar? How would you touch yourself like a shadow of a cloud on a sunny day? How can you touch yourself like ice cream dripping down the side of a cone? What kind of touch feels like bubbling water in a fountain? If your touch left trails of colored paint on your body, what designs would you make?
What else do you find when you truly explore? Who do you want to share these discoveries with?
Take a moment to sit down and let your day and the to-do list fall away. Let yourself be aware of your body, all parts of it, from your head down to your hard working feet. As you allow you attention to settle briefly on each part of your body, notice how you feel when you notice each part. Now take a moment to place your attention on your genitals. Without censoring too much or trying too hard, let 3 words come to mind to describe your genitals. Write these words down and look at them for a moment How do you feel about the words you chose? What do they say about your relationship to your genitals? to your sexual body in general? Are there judgments in the words you chose? Do you want to change them?
Take a few more minutes with the words you chose themselves. Do they have other meanings or associations for you? What else would you describe using those words? What do they remind you of? You may even want to take some time to draw images to go with those words.
Now shift you attention to your genitals again. Let that part of you body receive your full attention for a moment. I know this will seem wacky, but go with me here...Write a letter from your genitals to yourself. What would this incredible part of your body want to say to you? What would your genitals say about how you have taken care of them? What would they ask from you in taking care of them in the future? What do they want you to know about your self and your sexuality?
This can be a surprising and enlightening exercise, and it can bring up painful feelings and thoughts about our natural bodies. Remember that we can change, we can unfold new elements of our selves. Seek support if this feels overwhelming or daunting. It is never to late to have a different relationship with your body.
I got to go and see Natalie Goldberg speak recently. She is a teacher and artist who has linked creative writing into a Zen practice. Her guidance has been a gift to writers around the world who need to be reminded to just sit down and write, to release editing and judgment, and to actually observe the world around you and write what is present and real to you.
She said something about the concept of having a “practice” that really struck a bell inside of me. She said the Zen concept of having a practice is not about improving. You actually don’t sit down to practice to get better. It is not about striving to be at the next level. You practice because you committed to practice. She said – and this really shook me – you practice to just feel and be where you are NOW because you believe what you are doing is valuable in itself. I started thinking about all the things I had been encouraged to practice throughout my life and how it always seemed that the reason I was doing it was so that I would get better. And I thought about the pressure of that kind of practice and how it so often stopped me from really appreciating and settling in to what I was doing at the moment.
It is the American way to strive. We are a self-improvement minded (some could say obsessed) nation. We are rarely encouraged to do something just for fun anymore; things almost always have to include a reason why something is good for us. We are a country of people who deeply believe we can and should do better.
What does this have to do with sex? Well, I was thinking about this constant focus on doing better, doing more, reaching the next level and I realized this is something people do to their sexuality as well. If the expectation is that our sex lives – with one partner, multiple partners or ourselves - will get progressively hotter, more intense, with better performances each time, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration. Even worse though, if we are focusing on taking it to some new level, we are often missing what is actually happening in the moment. “Practicing” so we can perform better can take us away from pleasure. Sometimes it could be helpful to just have the sex we are actually having in an awake and accepting frame of mind.
We are not taught to think in terms of “good enough” in America. And some of you are probably feeling a bit betrayed for me to even suggest that we not strive for better sex all of the time. To be clear, I think people’s sex lives can get more and more satisfying as we grow and I think we can try new things, learn new skills, and have more fun and more orgasms. I wouldn’t be in the field unless I believed in those things. However, I also believe that a lot of people are dismissing good sexual experiences because they think they should be having some other kind of sexual experience. And a lot of couples feel like they are failing because they haven’t tried something new lately. So how about this as an experiment – What if you approached sex and/or masturbation like a zen-practice just one time? Make a commitment to be present for it, to let go of trying to increase the velocity or intensity, to really try and be aware of where you are at that time. What if you engaged in sex this one time because you believe it is important and valuable, even if it never reaches some new level? What if you believed that the sexual experience, just as you are having it, had something valuable to show you?
Set aside some time by yourself to reacquaint yourself with your body. This should take at least a half hour, maybe an hour. Take time to transition from your day, light a candle or take a shower, put on some slow music, take off your clothes and meet your self in bed. Lay back and relax in to the bed – you are going to take some time. Take some deep breaths and allow yourself to shift your focus to physical sensations. Feel the air in the room on your skin, your breath moving your chest and stomach, feel your body pressing into the bed underneath you. Now use your hands to touch yourself. Rather than going straight for your genitals or trying to feel something specific, start at the top of your forehead – yes, your forehead. Use your hands to explore the skin and terrain of your face. Focus on what you feel in your hands for awhile. Then focus on what you feel in your face. Go slowly. Move down to your neck and shoulders. Just slowly open to the sensations in your hands as they touch your body. Take your time. Then move down to your chest…side of your body…stomach. Keep returning your focus to what your skin and the dips and hills of your body feel under your hands. Let yourself experience your body from a new perspective, the perspective of your hands. This is not about how you look, keep your eyes closed so you can stay focused on sensation. Keep moving down your body, explore your hips….pelvis…. notice how your skin feels over your bones. Be curious about what parts of you are warm and what parts are cool. Keep exploring with your hands. Touch your genitals. Again keep the focus on what your hands feel, textures, heat, movement. Don’t stop exploring there, keep moving down your body…your thighs…knees… shins…. feet. Pay attention to each part of your body.
What was it like to approach your body in this way? How might it change your image of yourself if you focused more what your body is like to touch, rather than to look at? What words came to mind about your body when you explored it this way? Can you imagine bringing this kind of focused attention to masturbation or sex with a partner? Do you want to do this again? Great, your body is yours to explore again and again. Enjoy.
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 !
If it interests you, visit my new article for YourTango.com on Open Relationships : Broaching the Forbidden Topic
What are you going as this Halloween? This time of year many of us experience a new sense of energy and excitement from planning a costume and then the performance of wearing it. Why can this feel like such a confidence booster? And why do we still look forward to it so much?
Costumes can give us a chance to literally try on a new personality. We walk differently, see the world though different eyes (or masks), we approach people differently – Because of this we feel things more intensely. The novelty of playing a new role opens us up to feeling our body in a new way. Maybe being limited by an awkward coat of armor doesn’t seem sexy on the surface but if it allows us to be more aware of how we move and to think more creatively about interacting with the world, that can feel sexy. Even within a giant pumpkin costume, you might be able to move with more freedom or stop worrying about looking stylish, which might open up a new way of being. Getting dressed or applying makeup causes us to look at ourselves with different criteria than we usually judge by and we may find something unexpected to like about ourselves. And most importantly, we interact with other people in new ways, shaking up old patterns that we have fallen into with each other.
Breaking out of our normal role brings an aliveness that feels good and it can awaken our sexuality. Depending on the character you are trying on, you may be more playful, assertive, silly, confidant, secretive or anything else. So how can you bring that energy to your sex life without waiting for a holiday? First I invite you to remember that anything you can do in costume, you can do in the bedroom –so long as your partner is on board. Maybe you already use role play and/or costumes as a part of your sexual play. But even if that doesn’t interest you, you can bring elements of a costume to your sexual self. Use your costumed persona this year as a way to strengthen a part of yourself – play at being more powerful, practice being silly, move like a goddess, act as though you have the power to cast a spell on someone. As you allow these parts to come out one night, you can allow them to come out other nights as well. This isn’t being fake or playing a part, it is expanding who you can be.
Sexuality can thrive on novelty and risk. Don’t reserve your risk taking for one night of the year. Commit to trying out new sides of yourself and to showing up in new ways with your partner often. You may be surprised at how well the risk pays off.