Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sensual Touching

Have you ever been doing something mundane, like washing dishes, and had your partner walk up behind you and lightly touch your waist or run their hands over the backs of your arms? Do you remember the little shiver of pleasure you felt? The immediate arousal? Did it completely change your mood? Were you suddenly thinking about having some time alone with your partner, and craving more touch? Sensual touching is one of the most powerful things we can do - for connection within our relationships, and for our sex lives!

One great thing about sensual touching is that there's really no “wrong” way to do it. You simply do what feels good to you and your partner. Many people enjoy long, light strokes of the fingertips over their exposed skin. Drawing light circles with fingertips is also a great option. Gentle scratching can provide a completely different, and very arousing, sensation. Some people enjoy brief moments of harder scratching, which gives a sense of urgency and passion. Massage, with varying pressure depending upon location and personal preference, can also be a great form of sensual touch. There are so many ways to touch, and there's something that works for everyone!

Another great thing about sensual touch is that it can happen anywhere, at any time, and still be both exciting and appropriate. It could be sliding your palm lightly up and down your partner's open hand as you sit together at yet another dull PTA meeting. Perhaps a brush of your fingers over the sensitive skin at the back and sides of your partner's neck as they sit working at the computer. Or maybe you'll spend hours exploring each other in the bedroom, discovering all of your most sensitive places, through touch. This type of touch, in even the most mundane of circumstances, helps couples maintain a feeling of connection and desire. This connection is vital to a healthy, enthusiastic sex life!

If you've never taken the opportunity to really explore your partner, it's time! Take turns looking at, touching, and even tasting every inch of each other. Experiment with different types of touch in each area; you'll know when you've found something really great when you feel the shiver, hear the little intake of breath, or a little moan. Don't be afraid to talk to each other, either! Ask questions, like “How does this feel?” Tell each other what you like or don't like - “I love the way that feels!” “You can be a little rougher there...” “The curve of your hip is so sexy!” - We all need feedback to know what works, and to have some confidence!

If you're not sure where to begin, try this:

Have your partner lay on their stomach. You are going to touch each area of their body, from head to toe, and back to front. Take your time! This should be a very slow, sensual process, that leaves you knowing your partner more intimately than ever. You can start by massaging the scalp in slow circles. Move down to their neck, then over the shoulders. You'll then work your way down each arm, one at a time, all the way to the tips of the fingers. Don't forget sensitive places like the inside of the wrist and the palm of the hand! After you have made your way down each arm to the fingertips, move back to the shoulders and make your way down the back. The back is a great place to experiment with different types of touch, because most people enjoy a wide variety of sensations in this area. Continue your exploration past the lower back and over the buttocks. Massage for the muscles is wonderful; a light run of a finger straight down the center, and a gentle tracing of the area where the curve of the buttocks meets the upper thigh are both very arousing forms of touch in this area. From there, you will move on down the backs of the legs (don't forget the back of the knees!) and the feet, all the way to the tips of their toes.

At this point, it is time for your partner to roll over. Once again, you start at the top. A gentle scalp massage, followed by the light touch of your fingers over your partners face – trace the shape of their lips, or the line of their jaw. You'll move down over the throat, to the collarbones, and out over the shoulders. Just like before, you'll move down the arms to the fingertips (don't forget the sensitive inner elbow and underarm areas!). When you are done with this, make your way back to the collarbone area, and then down the torso. When moving over the chest, remember that the nipples aren't the only sensitive area! The sides of the ribcage, the curve underneath the breasts or pectoral muscles, and the center of the chest (between breasts or muscles) are all very sensitive areas and need attention, too! Continue to make your way down the torso, tracing the rib cage, curve of the waist, and hip bone areas, until you get to the genital area.

You may think, “Okay, this is it! I'm there! This is where we stop! It's time for sex!” You're wrong. I want you to continue touching and exploring, just as you've done with the rest of the body. Your goal here is exploration, and knowing each other's bodies more completely, not orgasm. Experiment with different types of touch here, as with other areas. Open your partner's legs and touch every part of them, including the very sensitive perineum (area between the scrotum and anus, or vaginal opening and anus). Once you have touched and explored, don't forget to move on! Let the tension build - you still need to make your way down both legs and feet, to the tips of the toes. Once you have explored and touched everywhere, feel free to revisit anything you both particularly enjoyed!

Taking the time to do this with your partner is invaluable! You will know each other more intimately, have a better understanding of likes and dislikes, and connect on a different level than before. There is a thrilling vulnerability that comes with being so exposed to another person, and a power that comes from knowing another person's body so well. It becomes easier, after an activity like this, to incorporate sensual touch into your daily lives in smaller ways. You'll find yourself wanting to touch more. Remember: there's no “wrong” way, so just enjoy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby...

One of the issues that I hear about the most with couples is a lack of communication.  Many people simply do not have any idea how to discuss their sexual desires and preferences with a partner.  It can seem easier to just continue with a sexual relationship that is less that ideal than to open up and share your thoughts with a partner, thus making yourself vulnerable.  With open communication, however, comes a more comfortable, adventurous, and fulfilling sex life.  Sharing fantasies and desires with a partner and allowing yourself to be vulnerable to them in that way can also strengthen your bond as a couple, providing a connection on a more primal level.

Possible Barriers to Sexual Communication

  • Fear of being considered "strange" -  For many people, there is concern that a partner will think their desires are "strange" and thus think that there is something wrong with them.

  • Fear of being mocked - Almost worse than the fear of being seen as "strange" is the fear of being mocked.  I have often heard people say, "But what if he/she makes it a joke and teases me about it?"
  • Fear of rejection - When sharing desires with another person, there is always the possibility that they will not be interested in the same things.  They may reject something that you would like to try, and that's okay.  This doesn't mean they think there is something wrong with your desires, only that they don't share them.
  • Fear of being a "slut" - For women especially, there is often a fear of being seen as a "slut" or being viewed as nothing beyond a sexual object.  Sometimes women will not allow themselves to seem to eager sexually or express desire for more taboo experiences out of fear of judgement.
  • Fear of hurting your partner - Often, people will hesitate to communicate about their likes and dislikes out of concern for their partner's feelings.  Simply tolerating the "magic finger trick" or "lollipop lick" that does nothing for you - or, worse, makes you cringe every time - seems like a small price to pay in order to spare the feelings of someone you care for.
  • Fear of not being good enough - Sometimes, talking about sex is scary because there's the chance that your partner might not like something you've been doing.  Learning that can be hard, but the end result - a more satisfying sexual relationship - is worth it!

Communication Guidelines

  • No judgements - Make a commitment to your partner that you will not judge each other, even if you don't understand or desire the same things.  This is essential to each of you feeling comfortable sharing these intimate pieces of yourselves.
  • Keep an open mind - You may hear things you are not expecting or that initially shock you.  Take some time to think about these things and consider whether you could be interested.
  • Be adventurous - Be open to trying new things.  If your partner is curious about something that you may not really be interested in, but you are not truly uncomfortable with, try it.  You may be surprised by the result.
  • Be respectful - No matter how strong your desire to try some new thing may be, if your partner tells you they are really uncomfortable with or opposed to it, you need to let it go.  Safe, healthy, sexual communication cannot exist when either partner is being pushed to do things they don't want to do.
  • Commit to honesty - No faking!  Faking pleasure or orgasm undermines sexual communication.  Every time your partner believes he/she has pleased you, it reinforces what they were doing.  If he thinks his "magic finger trick" gets you there every time, or she thinks her "lollipop lick" makes you so crazy that you have to have her immediately, that's what you're going to keep getting.
  • Your partner's desires aren't about you - If your partner doesn't like something you're doing, that is not a slight against you.  Everyone likes to be touched and talked to in different ways.  This is what makes communication so important!  The same goes for fantasies and desires.  Just because your partner enjoys toys or gets turned on by the thought of a threesome doesn't mean you're not enough; these are just other pieces of your partner's sexuality.  Fantasies (such as about a threesome) and actions (actually setting up a threesome) are different.  Don't confuse the two. 
Communication Ideas

  • Mention the good stuff - When cuddle time feels nice, tell your partner that.  If a kiss feels particularly good, tell him, "I like it when you kiss me like that."  If she looks great today, tell her so!  Everyone loves a compliment, and nothing is more effective at reinforcing behavior than positive feedback!
  • Take turns - Spend an evening with your partner, taking turns telling the other person how and where you'd like to be touched.  The more specific you are, the more helpful it is.  Saying something like, "Run your hands down my sides" is not nearly as effective as, "Lightly run your fingers down my rib cage to my hipbone."
  • Give commands - During sexual activities, don't be afraid to give a few commands here and there.  You don't want to be a drill sergeant who is barking orders, but a soft and sexy command to touch you in a certain place or way can be very arousing.
  • Play show and tell - Run your hands over your body in the same way you want your partner to touch you, and tell him you love it when he touches you like that.  Grab your partner's hips and move them against you with your hands, and tell her how good it feels when she moves like that.  Place your hand over your partner's and show him how to touch you.  The possibilities here are endless.
  • Share your dreams - Literally!  An easy, non-threatening way to open up conversation about trying new things is to share dreams or fantasies you have had.  You can start with, "I had this really hot dream..." or, "This kind of crazy thought popped in my head, but I think I liked it..."  Follow with a description of your fantasy and end with, "What do you think?"
  • Watch and learn - Watch pornography together.  This can really help start a conversation about what appeals to each of you, and what doesn't.  You can explore things you are curious about, and talk about your reactions.  You may even get a few ideas for new positions or experiences you would like to try together.
  • Stop talking- Sometimes, communication is more about what you do than what you say.  Make an effort to be more aware of each others' body language and nonverbal cues, and use those to determine what they enjoy.  A quick intake of breath, trembling thigh, bitten lip, arched back, tensing muscles...all of these are signals your partner is sending you without a word.  

 Communicating your sexual desires to another person can be scary, but the benefits to your relationship and your sexuality are immeasurable.  Remember: These ideas are not all going to work for every person, so take what you like and leave the rest.  Does anyone have any other tips to share? 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Overcoming Inhibitions

"I'm just not comfortable with this stuff.  I want to be, but I don't know how."

This is an incredibly common statement.  Many people are simply not comfortable with sexuality; they don't know how to discuss it, or even how to think about it, much less how to see themselves as sexual beings.  Our society still views sex and desire as something to keep quiet about, as though our sexuality is a reason for shame or embarrassment.  This view of sex is beginning to shift thanks to the work of The Kinsey Institute, Pure Romance, AASECT, and other organizations that promote sexuality research and education, but we still have a long way to go.

One thing that is important to remember is that inhibition is simply another part of the Spectrum.  Like all other aspects, there are varying degrees of inhibition and all of them are "normal".  In fact,  inhibition is such an important aspect of sexuality that The Kinsey Institute has conducted considerable amounts of research.  This research led to the development of the dual control model of sexual response as a way to evaluate levels of inhibition and excitement and how they affect a person's sexual decisions.  Women in particular were found to experience inhibition beginning earlier in the sexual process than men.

The most important words from the quote above are "I want to be...".  Some people are sexually inhibited, but comfortable with that.  They don't feel that their inhibitions are causing them to miss out on anything.  Many people, however, would love to be less inhibited, they simply have no idea how to begin.  If you are one of those people, you're in luck, because I know exactly where to start.

It All Begins With You

The most important thing you can do to lower your inhibitions and raise your comfort level with sexuality is to become comfortable with yourself.  It is impossible to fully connect with a partner sexually until you are able to view yourself as a sexual being.  Excitement increases and inhibitions decrease as you become more sexually aware.  Here are a few tips for becoming more comfortable with yourself and aware of your inherent sexuality: 

  • Look in the mirror. Naked.  This can be a scary thing to do, because so often we view ourselves so critically.  This time, be aware of your self-talk.  Instead of your typical negativity, pay yourself 5 compliments.  Out loud.  That's right; I want you to say out loud (even if you have to whisper it) 5 things that are good about your appearance.  It can be anything at all that you like - your eye color, your skin tone, or even that cute little freckle on your hip.  If you're struggling, try to recall compliments you have been given in the past.
  • Look a little lower...Yes, that means what you think it means.  Grab a handheld mirror (or straddle a larger one) and take a good look everywhere.  Every person should know what every single one of their body parts looks like.  These are the areas of your body that are capable of bringing you the greatest pleasure.  Get to know them well. 

    *From a practical standpoint, you need to know your body well in order to notice any potentially dangerous changes.  Look closely, and look often. 

  • Spend time naked.  One of the easiest ways to get comfortable with your naked body is to make it familiar.  When you are alone, just go about your day at home as you normally would - without clothes.  It feels a bit silly and uncomfortable at first, but as you become more comfortable you may find that doing mundane tasks like paying bills and washing dishes naked makes them much more enjoyable.
  • Do small things that make you feel sexy and confident.  Everyone has some minor thing that always makes them feel good.  Maybe putting on a sexy pair of boxers or panties (or none at all?) makes you feel more confident.  Perhaps listening to certain music or getting in a great workout gives you a boost for the day.  It could even be something as small as putting on a bit of lip gloss or painting your nails.  What you do is not as important as how it makes you feel.
  • Be aware of sensation.  We all encounter small, sensual moments dozens of times each day, but we're often to distracted to notice.  Make it a point to be aware of sensual stimuli in your daily life.  The feel of the warm water in the shower as it hits your skin, the slippery sensation of your soap as you wash yourself, or the soft brush of your t-shirt as you get dressed can all be very arousing.  Something as simple as a cool breeze against the back of your neck or your hair lightly brushing your cheek can heighten your senses and boost sexual response if you just allow yourself to be aware.
  • Fantasize.  Your fantasies are yours and only yours, unless you decide to share them.  The absolute safest place to explore your sexual desires is within your own mind.  There are no limits here, and there is no right and wrong.  Give yourself permission to think about anything - all of the wild and crazy things you could never consider doing in real life are fair game in your fantasies.  Public sex, group sex, toys or other objects, being dominant or submissive...the possibilities are endless within your own mind.  Enjoy the exploration!
  • Touch yourself.  You cannot know what you like without exploring different sensations, and you certainly cannot tell a partner what you like when you don't know yourself.  Relax and explore your own body.  There is no right or wrong way to do it, you just need to learn what feels good.  Experiment with different types of touch and varying pressure.  Touch areas that you may have always considered off-limits, just to become familiar with how it feels.  The sensations may surprise you.  Feel free to experiment with different textures and temperatures as well: ice cubes, a feather, or even a rough wool against your skin will each provide a different and potentially pleasurable sensation.  As you explore, give yourself permission to move and make noises in any way that comes naturally to you.  These movements and sounds will not only enhance the sexual experience for you now, but they will also be a great turn-on for your partner when you become comfortable enough to share them.
As you become more familiar and comfortable with yourself sexually, you will find that your level of inhibition goes down.  This helps to create an environment in which you can know yourself more completely and be more confident in your desires.  If there is a partner in your life, you will find that you have more desire to communicate and connect sexually with them as well.  This communication and connection is an essential part of bonding within a relationship.

How have you learned to connect with yourself and your own desires?  If there is a partner in your life, how has your awakening of your own sexuality impacted your relationship?  Feel free to share in the comments, or via email at

Sunday, July 28, 2013

So, are you gay or straight?

In any discussion of sexuality, orientation seems to be the logical starting point.  Are you gay, or are you straight?  Countless people struggle with these questions every day.

In our society, there is a strong need to label each other so that everyone fits into clearly defined groups.  This keeps everything clean and tidy and predictable.  Pick a group and stick to it so we all know what you are!  Oh, and for Pete's sake, please don't say you're one of those "bi" people.  It's too confusing.  That's the thing about sexuality, though; it is confusing.  There are not clean and tidy and predictable categories.  Keeping that in mind, let's answer our opening questions.

Are you gay, or are you straight? 

This seems like a simple question, but it's not.  Part of the problem is that the question itself is oversimplified.  It places heterosexuality and homosexuality on a binary scale as if they are the only options, and assumes that they are opposites.  This is simply not true; I believe that they are actually on the same end of the orientation spectrum.  Those who identify as heterosexual are only attracted to members of the opposite sex.  For homosexuals, the attraction is to members of the same sex.  The common thread with each of them, and why I would place them on the same end of the spectrum, is that both homosexuals and heterosexuals are only attracted to one sex.  Neither would actually be at the far end, however.  That space would be taken by those who identify as asexual.  These people experience little to no sexual attraction or desire.

On the opposite end of the spectrum would be pansexuals; these people are capable of experiencing sexual attraction or desire that is not limited to those of a particular sex or gender identity.  There are two more categories that we might find closer to the middle of the spectrum: bisexual and polysexual. A person who is bisexual can be attracted to others of at least two genders - typically males and females.  Polysexual people are attracted to more than two genders, but not necessarily all types of people.  For example, a polysexual woman might be attracted to men, women, and transgendered men, but have no attraction to transgendered women.  Or maybe a polysexual man is attracted to women, transgendered women, and those who are intersex, but has no attraction to males.  The possible combinations of attraction are really endless.  If we were to create a visual representation on this basic orientation spectrum, it might look something like this:

Notice that there is a considerable amount of open space between the categories we have defined, and that the spectrum itself continues beyond the scope of what is included in this post.  This is because there are too many variations of sexual orientation to neatly fit them all within a few categories, and plenty that we still don't know.

How do you know?

 You may not.  Some people say that from the time they were very young they "just knew".  They always found themselves naturally drawn to the same gender, so they have always been certain of their orientation.  Others thought they knew, and then someone came along that challenged that certainty.  There are also those who search for years before finding the answer.  Still others struggle their whole lives to define themselves and never do.

Most commonly, people initially attempt to classify themselves as heterosexual, simply because that is the societal norm.  The reality is that same-sex experiences are quite common.  According to the CDC's National Health Statistics Reports, 13% of women and 5.2% of men report having engaged in sexual activity with someone of the same sex at some point in their lives.  These are all self-reported behaviors, so it is very likely that the true numbers are much higher.

When a person seeks to define their orientation, they typically base that upon who they have found themselves drawn to or in relationships with thus far.  This can be helpful when the answers are clear-cut and consistent.  The problem is the fluidity of sexuality itself.  Desires can and do change dramatically over the years, so your sexual reality at 18 may not be your reality at 38.   As a young adult you may find yourself attracted to males and females, experiment with both, and label yourself as bisexual.  Twenty years later, though, you may be in a heterosexual marriage and no longer have any desire for or attraction to members of the same sex.  Your reality at that point has become heterosexuality.  Does this mean your orientation has changed?  Only you can answer that.  Or perhaps you have always identified as heterosexual, but you meet someone of the same gender and connect immediately.  You find yourself fantasizing about this person in ways that are new, confusing, and maybe a little bit scary.  Does this mean you are now "gay"?  Not necessarily.  It could mean, though, that you are not as "straight" as you thought.  These kinds of thoughts and feelings are normal; they simply reflect the idea that sexual orientation is not necessarily fixed, but fluid.   

What if you don't know?

Society has a need to categorize and label people as a means to sort everyone into tidy groups and identify who "belongs".  This is not necessarily a negative; this can help people to identify those with  common backgrounds and interests.  It can help individuals find a place where they feel like they belong.  The problem is that not everyone "fits".  Sexuality is not that easy.  People in general are just not that easy.  There are too many variations, and there will always be someone who doesn't belong in a category.  There will always be those who feel restricted by labels, and want the freedom to simply live without having to define every aspect of themselves.  Ultimately, the only person who can define your sexuality is you.  If you do not feel the need to define your orientation, the world will not suffer because of it.   

Does that mean that something is wrong?

Absolutely not!  An inability or unwillingness to define orientation does not mean that something is wrong with you.  In fact, it aligns well with the fluidity of sexuality.  If your orientation remains undefined, it is easier to be authentic and trust your instincts and desires as opposed to trying to live within the constraints of your label.   

However you ultimately decide to define - or not define - your orientation is a very personal choice.  There are possibilities beyond the widely accepted gay/straight continuum that most people are entirely unaware of.  Whatever your choice may be, keep in mind that this is just your current reality.  Be aware of and honest with yourself, and accept the innate fluidity of sexuality.  The label you choose for yourself now may stay consistent for a lifetime, or you may find that at some point it no longer fits.  Rest assured that, either way, you are normal.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What is the Sexuality Spectrum?

The Sexuality Spectrum is the idea that all aspects of sexuality exist, not independent of one another, but within one infinite spectrum. Each set of preferences has varying degrees of intensity, and interacts with other preferences in a unique way within each individual. Imagine a color spectrum: each color has varying shades and intensity, and each can be combined with any other color to create a completely different hue. For example, a bold red could be combined with a deep blue to create a very intense shade of purple. A light blue could also be combined with a pastel pink to create more of a lavender hue. Another possibility is the combination of a deep blue with a milder shade of red, creating a more moderate indigo. All of these are legitimate colors that can exist in nature. All of them begin with the same basic building blocks but have drastically different outcomes. So it is with sexuality. Sexual preferences can be blended in countless combinations to give each person their own sexual hue. Every aspect of sexuality – orientation, gender identity, inhibition (or lack thereof), adventurousness, moral foundation, etc. - is combined within each of us in a way that is wholly unique, and each of these combinations is a legitimate expression of our own sexuality. The most exciting aspect of the Spectrum is that it is completely fluid; just as a color can change with the addition or removal of one shade, so position on the Spectrum changes with a shift in interests or desires. This combination of variety and fluidity is what makes sexuality so complex, interesting, sometimes confusing, and continually exciting!