As a woman of a certain age, I learned to follow the rules. That included marrying a man I liked immensely, and burying my sexual attraction to women. My husband died three years ago, after which I decided it was time to act on this attraction.
Recently, I told one of my girlfriends my “secret,” and she shared that she’d had some girl on girl action in college. A bottle of wine later, I got to act on my desires for the first time.
Sadly, this is not a letter of rejoicing. I was ready for anything, but the experience was a complete letdown. I didn’t even have an orgasm.
I’m so depressed. I always thought sex with my husband was dull because I wasn’t really into his body. Now I finally have sex with my body of choice, and the sex is still boring! Is there something wrong with me?
I am so…
Sex, romance, desire, compatibility—all such complex experiences. We so want them to be straightforward and understandable. Media representations of ‘falling in love’ look so easy. Real life, however, requires some basic skills.
Not only do we need to know what it is that we like personally, we need to know how to communicate those wishes and how to hear the longings of our partners at times when blood is literally and figuratively rushing in our ears…and other bits.
First time sex is a cache of material for comics. We can all recount stories of sex gone wrong on first encounters. Add that bottle of wine, so useful to drown inhibitions but also so conducive to sloppiness, and you have the makings of a regretful evening. Please don’t use your one, sodden lesbian tryst as a yardstick for what your future sex life may be! I’ll bet if you recall your initial heterosexual encounter, you’ll nod with humorous recognition as well!
Another factor at play here is that, to date, you have been sexual with two friends. I suspect that if you play with someone to whom you are erotically attracted—I mean really sexually besotted—you’ll feel the earth move. Desire and arousal fuel one another.
So far you’ve been a good girl. You’ve followed the rules, played it safe, coloured inside the lines. You have, quite correctly, identified this period in your life as time for you to meet your own needs. Your task now is to identify what those needs are.
In order to find lovers in synch with you, you’ll need to learn your own body’s appetites, so long buried. Become your own best lover so you can teach others what your body likes.
Experiment with masturbation toys. Learn whether you respond to penetration by using dildos and smooth, insertable vibrators. Think you are a clitoral gal? Your choices are many and varied. Do your swelling labia beg for attention? Or perhaps you respond wildly to anal or nipple stimulation. You don’t have to choose just one. Each of us expresses a unique symphony of preferences.
The point is there is no right—or wrong—answer to the ways arousal works for you, and with time you will learn how to respond to the full range of your sexuality. There are toys for every woman’s choices.
Do not be discouraged. You are new to a grand journey of discovery. Give yourself permission to explore your possibilities. You’ll then be ready to share your knowledge with partners who can appreciate and augment your power and joy.
Show Your Partner You Love Them (Through Spanking)
(Originally published on Huffington Post:
Wishing your lover would take a bit more control in the bedroom? Frustrated by his hesitation to be the boss while you happily submit? Don’t know how to bring this up without embarrassment and possible disappointment?
You are not alone!
Though there are a number of respectful and knowledgeable books on the market that inform new practitioners about the hands-on aspects of BDSM, what seems to be missing, or at least downplayed, are the psychological complexities many new fans are encountering.
An answer to your disappointment about your partner not taking the lead may come from an example from a client of mine.
Tom, a 53-year-old heterosexual man arrived in my office concerned about the sexual requests he was getting from his girlfriend of two years. She had told him she wanted more experimentation in their sex lives, and suggested some props. He enjoyed her sexy new outfits and picking her up in a bar while pretending they were strangers, but when she then asked him to spank her, he found himself in a quandary.
Raised by ardent feminists, he knew well the rules about “hitting” women. When he attempted to please his lover with a light spanking, she begged for more — and harder. Tom soon began to avoid sex rather than confront his anxiety. He felt torn between being a “good man” and a “good lover.” He came to me worried about his role and the future of the relationship.
Like you, Tom is in good company. Many people, regardless of gender, confront how BDSM intersects with abuse. The surface answer is simple: consent. If everyone playing clearly agrees with what is happening, it is not abuse.
The more complex answer is that, even with unambiguous and enthusiastic consent, it can be difficult to lay hands on another person. It goes against our ethics and our lifelong messages about not hitting another person. It can feel beyond naughty and sometimes downright evil.
What to do?
First of all, talk to your lover about your feelings. Ask for their views on what’s hot and what’s not and share yours.
Make lists comprised of What I Like, What I Would Like to Try, and What’s Off the Table, and then discuss those lists. Talk about your fantasies and fears. Negotiate your differences while you celebrate your similarities.
Establish safe words to be used if any of your limits are threatened, even unintentionally.
Proceed slowly…not with caution but with a sense of exploration. Add to your inventory of desired behaviours as you each and both become comfortable.
Tom found that following these tips led to increased vulnerability and intimacy with his girlfriend. In fact, ‘kinksters’ credit this open communication with strengthening their bond as well as keeping their sex lives hot and fresh.
If you long for more intense stimulation, or if someone you love is asking for more, consider how confronting your old messages and trusting in honest communication can enhance an already rewarding experience.
Trying new things is often scary. What is sad is allowing your fear to cost you growth and adventure!
When a group of women friends get together over a meal, the conversation often turns to matters of sex. When those friends represent various numbers on the Kinsey scale (zero being entirely heterosexual and six referring to completely homosexual), those conversations take on a depth and complexity—and sometimes hilarity—not found in textbooks on female sexuality.
I was fortunate to be privy to one such exchange not long ago. We weren’t far into our discussion before I realized I was immersed in valuable information for my readers. I began to take mental notes.
When the topic of vaginal fisting arose, the lesbians at the table nodded knowingly while most of the straight women scratched their heads. We women, all with the same physiological anatomy, realized some fundamental differences in how we experience lovemaking. I found it all fascinating, as did they.
The heterosexual women wondered why the lesbian women were interested in fisting. They spent their energy trying to get their partners to focus on their clitoris and to pay perhaps less attention to their vagina. It seemed to them that sex was forever concentrated on something being put inside them and, though they enjoyed that aspect of their sexuality, more penetration felt, well, redundant.
They threw the question back to the lesbians.
The lesbians’ experience of lovemaking was quite different. The clitoris is queen between women, who understand and appreciate that the sole purpose of that glorious organ is to produce pleasure. Much time is spent tending to the clitoris. By the time penetration comes onstage, arousal is high and lubrication copious. Endorphins, the bonding chemicals, are surging. Both women are seeking and experiencing intimacy.
When the bottom, the receptive woman, opens her body to her lover’s fingers, she does so devoid of the stereotypical power imbalance inherent in male/female dynamics. No one needs to jostle for power as they are equal everywhere except in this delicious act of penetrator and receiver. The opening up is simultaneously erotic and boundary-breaking. The act of penetrating personal and powerful. What could be more intimate than holding your hand inside your lover’s body? Or containing your lover’s hand inside your own?
Fisting takes practice. It requires relaxation, muscle control and great trust in your partner. It is very intense, which is another part of its attraction. Sex that includes fisting is memorable sex, notable sex. It is the kind of sex that forms a bond between women, tells a story between them that they never forget.
One woman said she “finally felt close enough”. Another described fisting as “the epitome of intimacy”. Yet another defined it as “the quintessence of lovemaking”.
At this point some of the straight women shared that they, too, enjoyed fisting, and also enjoyed quite egalitarian relationships with their male lovers. Some of the women-identified women added that they weren’t into fisting at all.
We simply don’t fit into neat little boxes when it comes to sex. We are as individual as fingerprints. Still, we can learn from the stories we hear when we put our feet under our friends’ kitchen tables and share our experiences about what turns us on.
I’ve always dated men, and happily so. I like sex with men. But recently I watched some lesbian porn that really turned me on. I would like to find out what sex with another woman would be like, but I’m not interested in adopting a lesbian lifestyle.
You are what we describe as “bi-curious.” Though you are not actually questioning your heterosexual orientation, you would like to experiment with what sex with a woman feels like. This is common, especially as our culture is becoming more tolerant of sexual experimentation. Recent research, notably by Meston and Diamond, validates the fluidity of women’s erotic arousal targets throughout their lifespans.
With access to internet dating, realizing our fantasies can be a reality fairly easily. Remember that the majority of lesbian porn is still made by men, for men. The sex you are likely watching would not approximate your real life experience. To see how lesbian sex is in real life, seek out erotica made by and for lesbians.
How will sex with another woman be different?
First of all, there will be a lot more talking, and sex will take hours. Women tend to put emphasis on different aspects of sex. You will likely discover a more languid pace. Penetration is not a given. Dominant and submissive roles are not based on sex-role stereotyping, so initiation and flirtation must be shared or at least negotiated on some level.
Your emotions, too, will need to be managed. Sex with someone new is captivating, and the cascade of endorphins you’ll enjoy will feel a whole lot like falling in love. To avoid appropriately hurt feelings, you’ll need to stay aware.
Choose your partners carefully. Be clear with your intentions. Nobody wants to be a science experiment.
Once you’ve contemplated these factors and are ready to try dating, consider seeking bi-sexual women rather than those who identify as lesbian. The advantages are:
Bisexual women will better understand your primary identification as a straight woman. Many of them will share your diversity of attraction.
Bisexual women have a comfort with the bodies of both men and women, and what sex with same and divergent sex parts is like.
Identify yourself clearly as bisexual seeking an experience. This alerts lesbian women looking for another woman who DOES live the lifestyle.
You tell me you are curious about sex with a woman, but don’t want to adopt a lesbian lifestyle. There’s not one model, you know.
In other words, be willing to change your plans. Sex is mightily powerful, and so is friendship, and sex between women involves both. If you find yourself happy and content with a woman you intended to be solely an experiment, be prepared to change course. It is always your choice.
Don’t let these considerations to deter you from indulging your curiosity. Indeed, it is repressing our eroticisms that torments us and our lovers far more greatly than those we realize. Still, these are not mathematical equations you are trying to solve. Expecting this to go smoothly is unrealistic.
Be brave, be adventuresome, and be prepared. Immerse yourself in the heady intoxication of discovering something about yourself that you didn’t know beforehand. It will leave you smiling.
After making it through the hot flashes and mood swings of menopause a couple of years ago, I started to feel like my (old) self again. Sex actually improved and I felt more alive than I had in years.
Then about six months ago, my libido vanished. And not just the desire part, but the physical sensations in my body flattened, too. Even when I talk myself into masturbating, nothing happens. I can’t even unearth any hot images, never a problem in the past.
Needless to say, this has been perplexing for me and frustrating for my partner.
Is this normal? Will my libido ever come back? What can I do?
Dear Sexually Dead,
First of all, you’re not dead; you’re just hibernating.
Yes, it’s normal in some women, though rarely discussed. Your libido will likely return. This is a naturally-occurring and benign phase in our sexual development.
The fact that you are about six months into this period, and perplexed, is a sign that you are already reawakening sexually. I suspect you’d not have penned this letter a few months ago when you were feeling even more deeply “dead” because you would have been comfortable in your sexless cocoon then.
In other words, your depressed sexuality may resolve itself. Some research (Weinstock) suggests that “between one-half and three quarters of women age 45 to 58 report a significant drop in sex drive.” So you are in good company.
There is considerable anecdotal information that many women experience this slump about two to five years after the start of menopause (when you have your last menstrual period). Further, these women report that it quite often passes in less than a year.
Most research concentrates on hormone “deficiency.” Loss of estrogen may play a part in your sexual suppression, as may a deficiency in testosterone, though this latter is rare. Low estrogen levels can cause your vaginal tissues to become thin and dry, which necessitates adaptations for penetrative sex. You would be wise to check with your doctor, though a hormone deficiency would likely result in low libido from the very beginning of menopause, not several years later.
The emotional changes that often accompany menopause, including anxiety and depression, can also add to your loss of interest in sex or your inability to appreciate arousal. Monitor your psychological health as you move through this stage.
You are now playing with a different body, and the old game plans may no longer work for you. Try masturbating in different ways, and expand your partner repertoire as well, including ongoing communication. Encourage your girlfriend to stay sexy herself and resist becoming complacent.
You see, to some extent, your libido depends upon your personal expectation of what it should be. Many of us don’t really understand our own bodies and how they work sexually. If you relied on clitoral orgasms in the past, deeper cervical stimulation may be what you need now—or vice versa.
Be patient if it takes longer to get in the mood, and to be open to new means of eroticism like vibrators or dildos, the visual stimulation of porn, or trying new positions or techniques in the bedroom. And always use a lubricant for those drier, estrogen-depleted bits!
Our erogenous zones are limited only by our imagination and exploration. Experiment till you find what works now. Remember though, you don’t need to rush this process. Pace yourself and listen to your body’s cues.
Once you have eliminated any physiological or psychological causes for your decreased libido, relax. Give yourself time to leave this transitional stage behind and move into the confident, unhurried joy that generally accompanies our older sexual years.
Originally published in Xtra newspaper, October 2013.
After reading your column about PE (premature ejaculation), I thought you might be able to help me with the opposite problem. I can’t come with a partner!
This used to mean that I just came last, but over the years it is becoming more difficult to reach orgasm at all when I’m having sex with a boyfriend. It’s easier with hookups, and with masturbating I’m okay, but after a while with the same guy, nothing pops my cork. Once he notices, I become a ‘cause,’ with him trying to make me cum, and me trying, too. Eventually, I avoid sex and leave feeling inadequate and guilty.
Is there something I can do to turn this around? I want to be normal!
Dear Never Premature,
You are describing what we called RE (retarded ejaculation) or DE (delayed ejaculation). It affects about 3 per cent of men and is defined as “repeated delay in achieving, or the complete failure to achieve, ejaculation, despite receiving the level of sexual stimulation which would normally trigger it, and where the man cannot control the timing of his ejaculation”.
Men with DE usually complain of little or no difficulty attaining or maintaining erections, in spite of which they don’t feel particularly aroused. And, although PE and DE are on opposite sides of the cum spectrum, the problem with both is your focus on the timing of ejaculation rather than on the pleasure you could be experiencing.
What causes it?
It can be caused by, or a side effect of, SSRIs (antidepressants) and other drugs such as blood pressure meds, antipsychotics, diuretics and even some painkillers.
There seems to be an undeniable connection between strict religious orthodoxy (and attendant cultural sexual shame) and DE.
Some factors associated with masturbatory habits encourage DE, such as a death grip or idiosyncratic style or position, differing from what would be associated with the sensations of partnered sex.
Health concerns can also contribute, including Type 1 diabetes, neurological illnesses, multiple sclerosis, bladder or prostate surgeries, low Testosterone, and plain old aging.
Underlying relationship issues (wrong sex/wrong partner) sometimes prevent men from being willing or able to ‘let go.’
Concentration on performance rather than pleasure.
Retarded ejaculation, then, is best understood as a response to the interaction of biological, psychological, relationship and cultural factors. Check with your health care provider to eliminate physiological or drug-related causes before assuming the problem is in your head or your hand.
Once you become aware of your “problem,” anxiety may draw your attention away from the erotic cues that would normally enhance your arousal. Men with RE often fail to experience sufficient erotic stimulation to reach the point of ejaculation. Remember, getting hard isn’t the problem; getting off is.
Men with DE are usually sensitive and attentive lovers who concentrate on their partner’s responses and ignore their own. Focusing on your own fantasies and desires helps you respond to your own arousal.
What to do?
Remember the impact of erotic cues—look at your lover and/or watch arousing porn during sex.
If partnered sex doesn’t feel as good as solo sex, try switching up how you wank. Change hands, lessen your pressure, or alter your pace to approximate sex with your lover.
Assess your relationship. Familiarity decreases arousal, so keep your intimate relationships fresh and innovative.
Just as I suggested for the guy who came too fast, you need to lose the stop watch and concentrate on pleasure. Embrace intense desire. Stop trying to cum and simply enjoy your sensations. Be a little selfish.
The ‘cure’ comes when you learn your particular erotic turn-ons and indulge them sufficiently to increase your physiological arousal with your partner.
Men and boys have long enjoyed ejaculation as their exclusive domain. Popularly considered a bastion of male sexual expression (indeed, a benchmark of masculine sexual fulfillment, the visual exclamation point for ”successful” coupling, and an expression of fraternal competitiveness a la the circle jerk), ejaculation has been the symbolic differentiation between those of us who are done to, and those of us who do.
But now women are telling stories of their own ejaculatory experiences. In fact, they’re positively crowing about it, and rightly so. For years we have been complicit in denying our ability to experience the many forms of orgasm available to us. We have a long history of being told we needn’t worry our pretty little heads about things like sex. We’d be told what we needed to know.
And ‘told’ we were! The Victorians pronounced that women were innately uninterested in sex, an unfortunate legacy that still influences our attitudes and behaviours. Freud upended that theory, but proclaimed the clitoral orgasm ‘immature’. The sexual revolution of the Sixties won us permission to have more sex, but not necessarily better sex. In the last decade or so, there has been much learned about female orgasm, including ejaculation. Is this a sexual entitlement about which women are just now talking, or is it another hurdle in the sexual Olympics? Now must we grade our sexual performance with wet answers to the weighty question, “Was it good for you?” Can’t we just relax and have a good time? Must we be always striving to do it right? And who’s right, anyway?
Have those few women who fiercely claimed their full sexuality, regardless of whether or not they were messy and wet, discovered a sexual secret that could benefit scores of us? Many women, research suggests, sometimes feel the urge to urinate just as they are reaching orgasm, and instantly react by clamping down the PC muscles and forcing the liquid back into the bladder (the female counterpart of men’s retrograde ejaculation). This accomplished, they continue the experience of orgasm, with little loss of sensation. Sex completed, they rush to the bathroom to empty their very full bladders.
But those of us who do not hold back, who lean into the feeling and push against the delicious pressure, know the ecstasy of forcing that sexy fluid out into the world, of holding back nothing, of being big, and expansive, hot and wet, demanding to be noticed, insisting on being heard. These orgasms shriek independence and pleasure and carnal knowledge. Our husbands and boyfriends have long understood the focal significance of ejaculation. Now we learn that some of us have that power, too…heady stuff, this.
We’ve actually known about the G spot, named for Ernst Grafenberg, a German gynecologist and sex researcher, since the 1940s, but this information was largely ignored. In the early 1980s, another team of sexologists, Alice Kahn Lada, Beverly Whipple, and John D. Perry, published The G Spot, explaining the anatomy and physiology of the G Spot and how it produces fluid during orgasm in some women. We know that the size of the paraurethral glands (the G spot) varies greatly among individuals, as does the tone of the pubococcygeal (PC) muscle. It is when women with sufficiently large glands and well-toned PC muscles become highly aroused that the phenomenon of female ejaculation can be expected.
And it is for these women that this information is so welcome. As we have been reclaiming our sexual privileges, many of us have come to anticipate that rush of fluid that marks particularly powerful orgasms. Now that we understand that we are not ‘misbehaving’ (how quick we are to accept such censure), we are free to embrace the thrill of our bodies’ completion of this particular orgasmic script. Make no mistake about it: this orgasm is different from the others we experience. It is not like the fast hot vibrator-induced quickies that mark the beginning (or end) of our days, nor like the long, hard won climaxes when cunnilingus is done just right and long enough (“Ohmigod, whatever you do, don’t change anything now”), nor like the slow, delicious, sensuous climbing of a long evening with nothing to do but our lover. We each own an individual sexual script, and female ejaculation is just one more treat to add to the wondrous menu of sexual delights available.
This is all relatively new information. It is only in recent years that women have been talking about ejaculation, and indeed it is from within the lesbian community, where sensitive fingers have probed and encouraged unbridled sexual release, that the ‘secret’ has been shared among women. Dr. Perry still lectures about the phenomenon, as does Beverly Whipple, and Dr. Gary Schubach has produced research that proves we are not ‘peeing’ on our partners, but releasing a clear, odorless, and colourless liquid saturated with the chemicals of arousal and strikingly similar in makeup to males’ prostatic fluid. It has shared sources, in that some of it is released from the paraurethral glands, some from the bladder (in a chemically altered form of urine), and some from the Bartholin’s and Skeene’s glands that routinely produce vaginal lubrication. Doctors Schubach and Perry have each done independent research determining that the fluid is not urine, and there are still unsolved questions about just what it actually is. A hormone called aldosterone is produced when we are flushed with endorphins, as happens during sexual arousal. This hormone sets in motion a series of chemical changes in the body, one of which is a significant increase in fluid saturating the genital area, a sensation known as ‘vasocongestion’. Simply put, some of us fill up and spill over (a tip of the hat to singer/songwriter Chris Williamson). And it feels divine!
Others don’t experience this, and there need be no pressure to meet some other-imposed standard. The point is to enjoy our sexual diversity and abilities in whichever forms they appear. If we’re having fun having sex, we’re doing it right. Not all women have the anatomical structure necessary to produce a substantial amount of liquid, and they by no means suffer. But how does a girl know if she can ejaculate? How is this accomplished, anyway?
It’s actually fairly simple. The hopeful ejaculator lies on her back, her lover sitting between her legs (let’s make the lover male so we can differentiate the players). Proceed to do whatever turns you on. During your lovemaking, ask your partner to put one or two fingers into your vagina and stroke and rub the upper surface, which will be slick and wet and may swell with your arousal. It will feel good. Tell him how to touch you and direct him to just the right places. Experiment with different pressures and rhythms. When you discover something that feels delightful, ask him to continue the action. Can he feel that spot swelling even more? It might feel like a bunch of miniature grapes, or a bag of tiny marbles. Can you feel yourself wanting to push into his fingers? Do so. That familiar feeling of impending orgasm may well follow this phase. Go with it. Let yourself feel as good as you can. Hold nothing back. Push into it. Allow yourself to explode into the feeling. If it feels like you are beginning to pee, push past it, for this feeling precedes the release of the fluid. Continue to ride the sensations, and you may very well feel the warm and powerful gush of liquid pushing against your lover’s hand. Surrender to these urges, these sensations. Allow your body to behave in whatever way it wants. You may very well experience your first ejaculation. If not, you will still have had a memorable sexual experience.
Some report that female ejaculation happens easily during fisting. Perhaps the extra containment and the determined stroking aid in the process. In any case, if you enjoy being fisted, do not be surprised if this triggers an ejaculation. And don’t forget to be prepared. There can be a lot of liquid, from a teaspoon or two up to almost a litre, giving new meaning to ‘sleeping in the wet spot’. Flannel-backed sheeting sold in baby supply stores can save your mattress and keep everyone more comfortable. Of course, it means more laundry, but this is a small price to pay for such extravagant sexual excitement.
It really doesn’t matter if you ejaculate or if you don’t. Sex is supposed to be fun. It’s important that we enjoy our bodies and the delight they can bring us. If that includes ejaculation, celebrate it. We no longer must fear the embarrassment or shame that we will pee on our lovers (some body fluids are good and others not? How silly!) Ejaculators can now proudly come out of yet another sexual closet and rejoice in this unique and yet so universal experience.
A few years ago pole dancing became a new fitness craze. I’m not talking about what happens in strip clubs…that’s been popular for decades. I mean housewives and working women who plugged into gym classes that combined cardiac and aerobic fitness exercise with the sensual moves of pole dancers. Husbands and lovers cheered the fad. Women who developed the physical stamina to lift and hold their body weight while adopting and maintaining erotic moves reported not only firmly toned bodies but rejuvenated sex lives.
Predictably, pole-dancing-as-exercise quickly became a fad. Soon its advocates were doing the talk show circuit, happy hubbies in tow, showing off their slim, toned bodies and sexually-sated smiles. They knew how many calories a half hour of sex burned and how many chocolate covered strawberries added. They gushed about how desirable they had become to the men in their lives. Even Teri Hatcher of Desperate Housewives did a routine for America’s unconvinced women. The message was clear: if you pole dance, you will look great and your man will want you.
I was reminded of the issue recently while watching The King of Queens, one more sitcom about a working class couple, but rare in that Doug and Carrie actually enjoy sex. In this episode, Carrie installs a pole in the bedroom and, despite lessons, lacks the sense of the erotic in her body. Doug is a lusty fellow and is in a quandary—the ‘erotic’ dancing is wilting his lily. Carrie is going through the motions but not the emotions. Finally rotund yet sensual Doug asks Carrie to be the audience while he works the pole. Though he can’t do the contortions of his tiny wife, he shows her how to offer his body, how to tease and seduce, and how to glory in the sensations of anticipation and erotic power…and he’s hot!
I’m advocating pole dancing for everyone, whether literal or philosophical. What successful erotic dancers know (and what Carrie and the talk show groupies were missing) is that a tight body and physical prowess may be the vehicle, but what drives the engine is the theatrics of seduction. When we realize that an evening of bliss with our honey follows our dance of desire, we need only be at home in our body and with our sexuality to design an entertainment package of mutual pleasure.
But there’s the rub, isn’t it? The part about being at home in our body and with our sexuality. I don’t know anyone who is comfortable—really comfortable—with their body, so ingrained is it that we can’t possibly measure up to impossible standards. And of course if we believe we do we are chastised for our vanity. So let’s consider it a given that we have body issues. The pragmatic truth is that we can either wait to have fun with sex until we become tall, thin, young, and beautiful….or we can get over ourselves and have that fun now. Our lovers already know (and want) our imperfect bodies, and we theirs. Replacing the bashful hesitant routine with sensual abandon will reignite sparks of passion and reconstitute intimacy. It’s a good deal.
Feeling comfortable with sexuality is an ongoing process. We live in a culture uneasy with sex. We are simultaneously compelled and overwhelmed by its ever-present nature. We are curious and ignorant and don’t know where to go for answers. Pole dancing? That requires some chutzpah! You bet it does. Dancing for our lover means owning our body and offering it willingly, by choice and with intent. It reeks of animal desire. We risk rejection. Many women have little practice with this, but it’s good for us. And when we shoot our lover a sultry look, lock eyes, and purr…when we slither our body over our partner’s in a manner that leaves no doubt as to our libidinous intentions…when we dance and spin and abandon our body to the thrill of desire and anticipation, then we will have captured the essence of what makes strip clubs the multimillion dollar industry they are. And we can do that at home with someone we love who loves us in return.
We don’t have to have six pack abs or a size four body. We don’t need a gym membership to a place with windows overlooking a busy street. We don’t even need a pole. We need a saucy attitude, some costumes, and overflowing desire. Then we need to face our fears and dance our way to bliss. We’ll feel liberated, and our mate will feel wanted.
Women commonly complain that they feel estranged not from their husbands but from their desire for them. Love is not at issue—they are still deeply in love with these men, but somewhere during the years of cooking meals and cleaning house and earning livings, the journey from everyday life to erotic fantasy became so cluttered that they could no longer find their way from one to the other. Oh, they want to access that carefree girl who winked and giggled and abandoned herself to physical pleasure so easily. They miss her. But somehow the process of letting everything else go to focus on sex is difficult or impossible. It looks so easy for their men; they are always ready to go, it seems. How do they switch like that, so seamlessly? Sometimes it’s only when we’re off on vacation that we can truly relax enough to find the abandon necessary to really get off—and that’s hardly practical for the majority of us.
And there’s always the sense of pressure to be available, like there’s something wrong with us if we don’t want sex. Is there?
This is an almost universal lament for busy, modern women. We know how to keep many plates spinning simultaneously, to run our houses and our offices and our social circles and to keep them running fluidly. We remember play dates and birthdays and may even be tending to our aging parents while we juggle all the rest. We are good at doing this and take some pride in being able to do it, although at times we feel ragged and weary and perhaps under-appreciated for our efforts.
From the time we wake in the morning, we ‘set’ our day. We review what needs to happen and when it needs to be completed. We pick up the threads of yesterday’s leftovers and weave them into today’s plans. In the background run the reminders of the long-term commitments. Right. We’re ready.
We’re good at this compartmentalization. Some of it is biological. There is a region in the brain called the corpus callosum, a tightly knit bundle of nerves whose function is to communicate between the hemispheres. In women, the corpus callosum tends to be larger, more easily passing data back and forth between the right and left sides of our brains. Consequently, we can manage information about ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ data simultaneously and effortlessly. We can switch from one thought process to another fluidly, like remembering to pick up a card for Aunt Jane’s birthday while running a meeting.
This continual whirlwind that goes on in our minds is comfortable for us most of the time. We need to be able to do it if we are to get everything done in our busy days, but aside from that, it brings us a sense of accomplishment, of pride. Women understand multitasking on a core level. We would be lost without it.
Still, at the end of a long day, when the kids are asleep, the dishes done and the computer turned off, we often struggle to shut down all the engines that fire so efficiently all day. How many of us keep pads of paper nearby to jot down thoughts even as we’re watching TV or sitting quietly talking with our partners? It is hard to turn off this mechanism that we rely on to assure ourselves that all is safe, taken care of, under control.
At last we go to bed, generally exhausted, but still our minds are busy. We go through a process of shutting down the compartment doors until sleep overtakes us, usually a rapid process. We do not luxuriate in relaxation and the enjoyment of peacefulness.
It’s no surprise that at this point, when our lovers reach for us, hoping for closeness and erotic connection, we are not receptive. Our minds are either still racing or trying desperately to shut down. Where are we to store this new information coming in just as we are closing our circuits? Is this yet another task we must perform before sleep can quiet our busy minds? Is there still someone else wanting something else before we can be still?
It wasn’t always this way. We can remember when our blood ran hot with desire and nothing was more important than time spent in our lover’s embrace. No trouble concentrating then. No problem relaxing into our body, enjoying its climb into arousal and eventual orgasm. Remember when sex filled you up instead of emptying you? What happened?
Oh, if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that once the sex has actually begun, it feels good still. After years of practice, most of us have the orgasm thing down pretty well. If we’ve been with the same partner for a long time, we’ve learned how to have efficient sex: doing the things that always work to produce a quick orgasm. Shorthand sex. And orgasms always feel good.
But sexual capacity and sexual desire are different from one another. Even when we know we’ll have a good enough time once we get started, we mourn the loss of desire. Being cajoled into even a good thing is still being cajoled. Eventually we’d just rather be left alone.
We miss the wanting. We’ve forgotten how to get to that place that welcomes sensuality, expectation, vulnerability, abandon, selfishness, and joy. We’re so good at keeping so many balls in the air all the time, why can’t we do this, too?
Welcoming desire requires two things, focus and relaxation. Let’s take these one at a time.
Sex demands concentration, anathema to the multitasker. We really can’t just add “have sex” to the list of other tasks in our day and expect to be fully present for it. We need to honour sex for the powerful force it is and devote our full attention to it. How?
When we want to have sex, we need to go through an intentional set of steps to clear our minds of all the other distractions we tolerate all the time. The compartments need to be closed one by one until we are ‘clear’. Learn what that means for you. If you can’t possibly get passionate with dirty clothes strewn about the bedroom, clean ‘em up. If your lover starts nibbling your ear while you’re washing the dishes, suggest that he prepare the bedroom (heat the oil, choose the music) while you finish tidying the kitchen and making that necessary call to the office about tomorrow’s meeting. Tell him you’ll meet him there in thirty minutes. That will give you ten minutes to finish up in the kitchen, five minutes for the call, and fifteen minutes in the bathroom brushing your teeth and having a shower, mentally shutting down all the other compartments while warm water soothes you and you concentrate on how good you are going to be feeling soon as you relax into the mutual pleasure of anticipated lovemaking. Touch yourself now. Feel your skin. Remind yourself of your sexual vitality and your inherent appreciation of touch. By the time you get to the bedroom, you are focused on yourself, your lover, and the good time awaiting you.
This focus is necessary for us to appreciate and partake in desire. We need to concentrate on ourselves and our pleasure, the opposite direction of the give, give, give we so often do all day. This is the time to be selfish, to indulge ourselves, to let someone do wonderful things to and for us.
If this were a direction, it would be in, and it needs to happen first. Concentration. Focus.
Let your partner in on the need for this time to get ready. Explain to him about shutting the compartments and coming back to the focused, sensual woman you are under all the burdens of the day. Tell him what would help you in this process, whether it’s his slow hand in the early stages of lovemaking while your body remembers its ability to drink in pleasure or his help with making the kids’ lunches to remove that task from the list. Husbands are generally more than happy to help their wives become amorous, engaged lovers if they know how, but they cannot read our minds. Clear, direct communication helps everyone in this instance.
Whatever it is that you need to do to bring your focus in, do it. It stills your mind and readies you for the kind of lovemaking you’ve been longing to appreciate again.
After that, we need to go in another direction—down.
We are used to being ‘on’ and are comfortable with it. If we start to relax, we fall asleep. We are not very good at breathing deeply, welcoming sensation and enjoying just being in our bodies. Aside from all the messages we get as women to be desirable but not desire, we also labour under the notion that we must always be doing something, giving something to someone. We feel rather guilty about selfishness, idleness, indulgence.
And that is exactly what we need to be exalting in after we shut down all the compartments and get focused. Now we need to relax, to be selfish and slow and take our time to let feelings permeate our skin.
Recent research into women’s arousal patterns , both in Canada and in the United States, verify that women are often physically aroused without being consciously aware of it. Until we can focus (in) and relax (down) we miss the show.
What keeps us from relaxing? Oftentimes, it’s our own foolish expectations that the world will stop spinning if we aren’t vigilant for one minute. Sometimes we’re afraid that if we let someone see our underbelly, they will take advantage of us. If that’s the case, our relationship is in trouble and we need to address it squarely. If we’re afraid of our lover, lack of desire is a symptom of a hurting relationship, not a physiological or psychological lack of preparedness.
But if we are married to our best friend and still can’t slow down sufficiently to enjoy sex, we are likely caught up in the ‘down and in’ conundrum. Once we understand that sex demands and deserves preparation, and approach lovemaking prepared by being focused and relaxed, we find that we actually show up for the event!
Women’s bodies are subtle in registering desire. Unlike erections, our lubrication can go unnoticed until fingers go exploring. When we ask for and encourage the kissing, caressing and fondling we need to ripen our bodies, relaxation follows. We often require the liberal use of fantasy to invite psychic arousal. We must take responsibility for teaching our mates to be languorous, experimental, sensuous. Give them feedback. Make ample time to relax into the sensuousness of your body before gearing up to high velocity sex. You simply cannot rush relaxation.
Once we are there, focused and relaxed, our minds and our bodies respond to an ancient song with ever-changing words. We benefit personally from the quickening of our body systems and the sense of well-being that follows orgasm; our relationship benefits by the cascade of bonding endorphins released. Lying together in post-coital bliss, cooing endearing messages and gazing into the eyes of our mate, life seems simple, beautiful, meaningful. All is well.
Tomorrow, soon enough, we will rise again and open all our well-maintained and managed compartments, and we will produce enough energy to power us through whatever our day requires. But now, tonight, is for us. In and down. Desirable and desiring. Sensual and sensitive. Receptive and rewarded. Sated. Good.
I am frequently asked questions about kink, or BDSM. Folks wonder what makes it appealing–the extremes in sensation, the feeling of dominating or being submissive, the power and trust one gives to another? They are confused about whether BDSM and fetishes differ and, if so, what those differences are. They ask if orgasm is always a part of a ‘scene’. They say they now read more about kink than was true even five years ago—is it growing in popularity? Who does this stuff anyway?
It does appear that kink is gaining in popularity. Research suggests that 10% of the adult population are S/M practitioners. It may be that the actual numbers haven’t much changed, but our public recognition of BDSM has. Then again, as we speak more openly about alternative sexualities, more people may feel free to experiment and find they like them. Could be a combination. Whatever accounts for it, kink does now seem to occupy an accepted place at the sexual banquet table.
Why do people like it? Not all do, but fans list a variety of reasons. Some find the theatrical aspect arousing while others find security in the clarity of adopting a sexual role. Some find riding the wave between pleasure and pain transforms both into a highly erotic sensation attainable in no other fashion. Some relish the certainty of trust required in power exchange situations while others are simply sensation junkies. Some delight in the taboo of breaking rules of sexual decorum while others find heightened arousal in watching and listening to others test their physical and emotional limits in (semi) public settings.
Role playing is sometimes on the evening’s roster; other times not. Ditto sensation play, bondage, costuming, genital sex. What is always present is prior communication and negotiation, and this is elementally different from many sexual encounters that do not involve kink.
This discussion makes evident the players’ intention to engage in sex (whether genital or not). Everyone takes responsibility for what is about to happen, in effect saying, “I want to share this experience with you. What can we do to make it as wonderful as possible?”
This communication sets kink apart from the sort of dizzy, romantic sex modelled in the media where star-struck people fall into bed after little or no discussion about what they want or what their expectations are. In kinky play, each participant must acknowledge their own desire, so uncommon with our social attitude of sexual silence and our wish to be swept away rather to enter into sexual activity willingly and responsibly.
Put another way, I say I like to do this particular activity, and you respond that you like that very activity done to you. Perfect! We have a fine little interlude guaranteed, without the burden of hoping/pretending that we will walk into the sunset together. Our evening is intimate and powerful, whole unto itself. Sexuality is valid for its own sake, joyously and unapologetically. The preferred term for such sexual activity is “play,” indicative of the attitude of the “players.”
For those already in intimate, committed relationships, the intensity of BDSM can deepen those ties even further. It is no small gift to trust your Top with your pain, knowing they will transform it into pleasure. Likewise, the magicians who perform such alchemy do so with confidence and care for their bottoms.
What about orgasm? While kinky sex is definitely erotic, it is not always genitally focused. Sometimes ‘traditional’ sex will follow a scene, or a scene may morph into sexual comingling, but not always. They are apples and pears. Both delicious fruit, but different.
Let’s take care of some definitions. BDSM stands for: BD=Bondage and Discipline, DS=Domination and submission and SM=Sadism and Masochism. The whole lot comprises kink. We each get to choose whatever we like from any category, mixing and matching to suit our erotic composition and the opportunity at hand.
Fetish is a bit different. Fetish involves being turned on erotically by an inanimate object. Some common fetishes are high heels, leather, PVC, shiny metal. Then again, fetishes may be unique and completely individual. We use them to heighten our arousal in sexual situations or to signal our erotic intent. Unless our fascination with our fetish object(s) overshadows our interest in our sex partner(s), they are useful additions to our fantasy repertoire.
The more information we have about BDSM, the less stigma it carries. We conjugate the verb thus: I am erotic, you are kinky, they are perverted. And of course when we experience things for ourselves, we can evaluate them with less judgment.
Kink includes everything from holding down your lover’s hands during a spirited screw to suspending them ball-gagged from the rafters. It’s all okay as long as all the players are having a good time. It’s a long Canadian tradition that what we do in our bedrooms is our own business.
BDSM is about where we fit on a continuum of intensity, which depends on a number of factors. You can learn more by attending a munch, a workshop, or a public party. Talk to others. If you’re keen, add this new item to your sexual menu.
– adapted from a column originally published in XtraWest
Dr Pega Ren provides relationship and sexual therapy in her offices and online. She offers an environment in which sexuality is freely and openly discussed, and guarantees not only complete confidentiality but also nonjudgmental, sex-positive responses.