A Look at Bodily Relating - Eroticism & Sexuality, pt. 1
The erotic urge is perhaps one of the most unappreciated in Western society. I suspect this comes from our rather schizophrenic attitude toward sex and being sexual / erotic beings. On the one hand, sex is used to sell everything, and is an ever-present force on TV, in books, magazines and videos. For example, no one my age can forget what a "big thing" it was seeing a pre-pubescent Brooke Shields unbuttoning her top and reading the caption, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvin's."
On the other hand, many seem caught in a state of acute embarrassment regarding their bodies, physical contact (including the ability to, as we've been suggesting the past few weeks, making the distinction between types of contact) and the sexual and erotic nature each of us possesses.
Human development is such that sexual awakening comes before emotional maturity, so sexual turn-ons, arousal, and the fascination with the opposite sex all happen before one has the ability to take a step back and have a good look at what's happening. We then couple this with the "normal" sexual experimentation of typical boys and girls -- and back seats, dark porches and "quickies" come to mind. For the vast majority of us, the beginning of our erotic life is at first a "solo job," then a hurried, frenzied moment of making out -- groping, shyness and the "need for speed."
By the time we're "adults" and have found some measure of privacy for our forays into the erotic-sexual arena, we've also patterned ourselves, both with the customs of our society, (which often has a 'sex is bad' theme) and with our experiences as teens. I find it fascinating talking with clients about sex. Almost universally, I've discovered, precious few people, male or female, are comfortable with their sexuality. There's an overall bodily discomfort as well as a resistance to owning one's erotic and sexual reality.
And everyone is in a hurry. Sex becomes something that is "done" to another, as opposed to a method of sharing intimacy and self-revelation. One woman recently told me, "My husband describes it as 'the contract.' I'm fighting it now, but I guess I accepted it originally. I gave up my career, had the kids. He expects dinner on the table at 5:30, a clean house, well-scrubbed kids, and me, in bed, whenever he's horny. He figures he brings home the money, I'm there to provide the services." Needless to say, this is not overly fulfilling for her, or, ultimately (and especially since she's cut him off) for him.
Sex therapists and counsellors suggest that what people need to do is to learn to slow down and enjoy the erotic charge. Ever goal oriented, Western "lovers" often seem hell bent on setting the land speed record getting to orgasm. Or, we're tied up in knots about 'how many' or 'why none.' Intercourse, for many people, is the only flavour of expression. What seems to be missing is the willingness to slow down and take pleasure in having a body.
Lest you think that I'm exaggerating the level of disappointment people feel over their sexual expression, here's a little chart I borrowed from the web, which summarizes a recent sex satisfaction survey.
I find all of that really interesting. Notice how many of the categories have to do with the emotional state of the partners regarding the way the whole thing plays out. It's not so much, you see, about technique, as it is about intangibles like attraction, timing, tenderness and relaxation.
In a sense, we're not bad lovers - we're bad partners.
Communication flaws and boundary issues are responsible for 95% of all marital problems, and this seems to hold true in our sexual lives as well.
You'll notice much emphasis in this series of articles on making time and taking the opportunity for physical contact - slow physical contact. One of the key retraining exercises therapists suggest (devised, if I remember correctly, by Masters & Johnson) is what might be called the sitting spooning position.
One partner sits on the bed, back against the headboard, legs spread. Their partner backs into the space between the legs, and places "her" back against "his" chest. The "rules" are: this exercise is not to lead to intercourse, and the person in the front directs all of the action. This is a perfect way to help one's partner to know how the person in front wants to be touched, and where, and how. The exercise should take 45 minutes or so.
The other thing I would mention, and glowingly, is erotic massage. Again, this is about using massage and hand to body contact for total arousal. A couple of years ago, I got into a discussion with a couple of my friends at Haven. They mentioned Body Electric, a San Francisco organization that taught erotic massage for men, for women and for men & women. The men & women's event is called " Two Spirits," and is a four-day erotic massage workshop. The workshop culminates in the last two days, when you receive and give an erotic, full body and genital massage from/to 3 others. We took the course in 2000, and had an incredible time. I highly recommend it.
What you learn is that eroticism is separate from sexuality. And you learn an amazing amount of comfort with your nude body. And the bodies of others. And you learn that there are a ton of ways to touch genitals. Rather than get into a long writing assignment here, and describe all of this, let me suggest you have a look at this link:
This site gives a full overview, with directions, for a simplified erotic massage. In addition, it has links to wonderful tapes.
A video illustrating the Body Electric approach to sex, along with demonstrations of over 25 male genital massage strokes, is called Fire on the Mountain: An Intimate Guide to Male Genital Massage; in Spring, 1999, the Body Electric School also released Fire in the Valley: An Intimate Guide to Female Genital Massage.
Next week, we'll wrap this topic up!