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