One of my sexologist idols, Marty Klein Ph.D, says “Sex isn’t just an activity—it’s an idea”. This concept is really mind blowing if you think about it. Sex is an IDEA. So what does that mean, exactly? It means, whether you realize it or not, you have a belief about the way sex should be. A tidy mental box for all the sexy activities to fit into, everything outside of which cannot be labeled appropriate sex. Now to be clear before we go any further, I am not speaking to any activities that involve minors or non-consensual acts. We proceed assuming you are committed as we are, to the SSC code; Safer, Sane and Consensual.
I have found there is a common belief amongst many of us when it comes to sexuality; that sex is a fixed state as opposed to a fluid one. Somewhere along the way we picked up messages from our families, friends, communities of faith or even media, that told us what our sexual relationships should look like. We began cultivating an IDEA about how sex is supposed to be. The problem with this, is that there is not just one way to have sex, to be sexual or to experience your sexuality. Despite what you were brought up to believe, I am here to tell you what every other clinical sexologist I know would tell you…that as long as whatever is taking place is happening between two (or more) consenting adults, there is no right or wrong way to have sex. Just like there is no right or wrong way to be male or female, to be a parent/caregiver, accordingly there is no right or wrong way to discover who you are sexually. There may be choices that propel you forward or keep you stunted, it is possible you have more opportunity to achieve fulfillment and satisfaction based on your family’s influence, your willingness to learn, and your ability to identify what you desire in life. The same can be said for your growth in the bedroom. The same key elements that make for a successful life can be applied to your sexuality.
Too many of us have accepted mediocre results with our orgasm, our partner, our sexual appetites. If you are satisfied with having the same kind of sex with the same person in the same way at the same time, by all means, keep doing what works for you. But if you are someone who is not feeling satisfied, someone who has a sexual appetite that has yet to be satiated despite having multiple partners, or encounters, then read on my sexy friend.
Sex is meant to be engaging, authentic, varied and real. Sex can be many things at one time; at times thrilling and exciting, other times sacred and other times just pure sexy giggly fun. Assuming you are already with partners who respect and arouse you, there are three components to amping up the erotic in your life we will focus on here:
1) Curiosity 2) Exploration 3) Willingness to Learn.
Curiosity is first because without it the other two elements fall flat on their heads. Without curiosity, we lose the impulse to take action. We lose the desire to explore. We lose the motivation to follow through. Curiosity can be applied to more than just our attitudes towards sex though, curiosity is also best applied when managing reactions to something our partner may be suggesting. If during a sexual negotiation your partner suggests something that makes you uncomfortable, try being curious about both the act being proposed and about your feelings around it. Why are you opposed to the idea of trying this new thing? Why are you feeling triggered that it was suggested? Could you be feeling threatened because there’s a deeper emotional issue going on? Try approaching these scenarios with curiosity instead of judgment and see what exciting new paths you discover.
When we are curious we notice our feelings without judging our feelings. Adopting a curious attitude leaves room for growth that otherwise cannot blossom. Leave your judgment at the door.
Exercise: Play the “what if” game with your partner, or yourself. Try a few “would you rather” questions and see where it takes you. Check out lists of good questions to ask on Pintrest likes these ones:
Exploration is curiosity’s cousin. One rarely goes without the other! However, curiosity is innate, exploration takes courage. It’s one thing to wonder about what it’s like over there, it’s another thing to take a walk “over there” and check it out for yourself! Curiosity is about attitude, exploration is about action. Adopting a curious attitude to explore new things makes life (and sex!) more fun. After all, how can you get really clear about what you like without knowing what you really don’t like? Think about how you try to coax a child to try a new food they are convinced they do not like (but they have never tried). What kinds of things do you say? How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it? Right? What I have found in my own experience, is that the IDEA of something may have been undesirable, even off-putting to talk about, but the ACT itself was very cathartic. Do not mistake thinking about something with doing it. You do not know how something is going to feel for you until you actually do it. When you are exploring new activities by yourself or with your partner(s) remember to keep a curious attitude about what you are experiencing. How is this feeling for you? Why do you like it? Why do you not like it? What about this sensation or feeling is making you feel a certain way? Where are you experiencing sensation in your body? Where does your mind go? Are you able to stay present in your body or does your mind wander? Why is that? What brings you into your body and what makes you want to leave your body? Looking for understanding while you explore is part of learning about your sexual self. Remember, that how you feel about something may change over time. Just as your tastes change as you mature, with food and music and clothing so can your tastes for different sexual activities. Just because you tried something once a few years ago doesn’t mean it will feel the same way for you now. Be open to exploring new ways of playing with yourself and others, it might surprise and delight you.
Exercise: Try taking an anonymous survey to see what results come up for your sexual preferences. Try playing truth or dare with your partner. Follow through on the activities, set up a date night or experiment night. Set time aside to explore.
Willingness to learn is the final step in taking the leap into the unknown territory that harbors your desires. You can be curious, explore new sides of yourself, but if you aren’t willing to learn from what you discover there what is the point? Be open to the information your body has for you (adopt a curious attitude!) be open to the information your partner may now be sharing with you (judgment free zone!) and be open to learning new ways of thinking, feeling, and connecting. We’ve listed a few resource suggestions here, which barely scratches the surface of what is available out there. Take a kink class. Go to a sex party. Look up your local events. Read a book on the erotic subject that interests you. See what experts have to say. Find people who have experienced what you’re looking into and ask them questions. Most sex positive people I know are more than willing to give their opinion to discuss navigating erotic adventures. Learning new things about yourself and your partner keeps desire alive within your relationship. It’s part of what makes healthy long lasting relationships work so well. Allow space for new things to enter into the equation and you’ll never feel bored with your sex life again. There’s a saying in the kink community, “Don’t yuck on somebody else’s yum”. Allowing the space for others’ sexual preferences, even if it’s not something you particularly fancy, in turn allows the space for you to be free to explore who you want to be and how you want to feel, in which way you want to feel it. Sexual freedom is a basic human right we all deserve. Too often we don’t even allow for this with our own partners or ourselves, let alone within our communities. Be willing to learn about new ways of experiencing your body, about new ways of looking at ideas, concepts and activities that seem foreign to you. Be willing to learn about why it might work for others even if it doesn’t work for you. Through this curious exploration and willingness to learn we allow our sexual selves complete and full expression. Nothing is more satisfying than that.
Exercise: Go through the Human Sexual Map and pin your interests then swap maps with your partner.
Here’s the bottom line folks; there are a million and one different ways to explore sexual frontiers. What you want to dive into might be different from your neighbour, your partner, and potentially even different from what YOU wanted yesterday, last month or last year. Keep in mind, your sexuality can be a fluid state, it changes and grows with you, if you let it. By adopting a curious attitude, exploring new ideas and activities and being willing to learn about these new discoveries, inside and out, you can create the space for truly engaging, authentic and deeply passionate sexual expression. And trust me when I tell you, the release that comes along with that is worth ten times the effort.