Valentine’s Day is coming – Let’s talk about sex
This is NOT an “8 tips to making your relationship HOT” kinda article.
My last article was about how having hired help is a huge saviour to my marriage, as it reduces conflict regarding household responsibilities (click here to read that article). What is one of the other areas of potential conflict in relationships (ie. my relationship)? SEX. Yes, folks, you heard it here first. JW and I research and communicate to improve our love life on the regular. SCANDELOUS!
If it’s embarrassing for you to even read this, imagine how I feel writing it.
Can I just say personally the subject of sex has felt a bit icky as of late? I’ve been legit traumatized since the news broke on Jian Ghomeshi (read more here). When I open my laptop, I’m bombarded with stories of sex used as a tool of power and control, versus stories of mutually enjoyable sexual experiences. Then I watch TV series and movies where the rape trope is used over and over. JW and I stopped watching the Outlander series due to this, though we both LOVED the books. Women, men, children being raped – It was all too much. We were super into a series recently, The Magicians, and BAM… terrible rape scene that was flashbacked to episode after episode. Not exactly the type of show to help with us being in the “mood” for intimacy at bedtime, let me tell ya.
We live in a super sexualized society, yet we’re incredibly prudish concerning talking about sex. Strange, right? Sexual education rarely includes conversations about pleasure or even name the clitoris! WHAT!! My own husband just learned this week that the clitoris is made of the same physiological material as the penis… information I only learned myself a couple of years ago. Dating (past or present), how comfortable were YOU asking your potential sexual partner about the last time they were tested for STIs and what form of birth control they preferred while sharing with them your relevant sexual history and preferred method of birth control? How about communicating sexual needs and wants? Did you ENJOY yourself? Did you also want to know and inquire about your sexual partner’s wants, needs and enjoyment? If you are in a relationship, how are open are you to exploring pleasure?
To review, sex is potentially kinda icky these days from a societal perspective, our education system does not inform us properly regarding sex & pleasure and we struggle in our sexual relationships to talk about sex. What’s to be done?
This Valentine’s Day, why not give the gift of increasing your “sexual intelligence”?
SEXUAL INTELLIGENCE by Marty Klein, PhD
JW and I have been reading the book ‘sexual intelligence’ by Marty Klein, PhD for the past two weeks. The beauty of this book is it is NOT about how to perform better in the bedroom or how to feel sexier. It’s much more personal than that. It helps one delve into what sex is truly about for you, what your narrative may be about sex (that you probably developed in your carefree youthful prime), what you are seeking from sex and how you can change the script to have a more fulfilling sex life.
So what IS sexual intelligence?
There are three components to sexual intelligence:
- Information and knowledge
- Emotional skills (which let you use that knowledge)
- Body Awareness and comfort (which let you express yourself and your knowledge)
Rather than cover every area of Dr Klein’s book, I want to share with you three key points that resonated with us.
1. What people REALLY want from sex – Pleasure and Closeness
So if what we want from sex are pleasure and closeness, why are we focused on how we look, our performance, and possibly suppressing emotions? Yikes. “Helping people identify what they’re actually thinking about during sex is powerful. Helping them realize that their thoughts are often obstacles to satisfaction is even more powerful” It’s tough to derive true pleasure and connection if one is trying to hide their belly or butt because they think it’s not sexy. Our society has us fooled into thinking that if we just FEEL sexy (lose weight or accept our bodies, wear something provocative, create the perfect atmosphere, learn the perfect techniques to please partners) then we will have satisfying sex.
“What’s sexy? Maturity, patience, perspective, a sense of humour. Now THAT’S sexy.”
We also put a lot of pressure on sex to meet our non-sexual needs – reassurance, validation, relief. We use (or try to use) sex to meet our emotional needs – our self-esteem or confidence in our relationship. As you can imagine, this can get tricky. If a relationship is not doing well, trying to get close using sex alone will most likely not be the fix.
2. What’s “NORMAL”
Focusing on “normal sex” undermines sex
I think this somewhat speaks for itself. We are all so wrapped up in how often a week is normal or questioning if our needs/wants are normal (or questioning if the needs/wants of our partner are normal!). Dr Klein shared that one of his first clients told him the first thing they learned about sex was shame. Heavy. And oh so sad.
Best quote in this whole dang book:
“If you want to know what’s sexually normal, remember these features:
- Normal is having sex when you’re tired.
- Normal is worrying about being sexually normal.
- Normal is not talking about being worried about these things.
- Normal is feeling emotionally isolated during sex.
Surely we can aspire to better than this.”
3. Outercourse and Intercourse
Dr Klein introduces the language of outercourse and intercourse as sex labels. One couple he tried to treat struggled with feeling that anything other than intercourse would result in their feeling “emotionally/sexually hungry”. At this point, they were not having sex at all. They were convinced that they should be having sex like they did before children when they were younger – spontaneous, pounding, sweaty intercourse. The couple could change their narrative around sex and what it “should” be and connect by using sex to feel pleasure in a different way than their youth. Unfortunately, Dr Klein wrote that the couple continued to emotionally/sexually starve themselves by falling into a pattern of not having sex at all. A true shame.
This dream of the “perfect” sexual experience versus what is possible, but still enjoyable, is crippling our sex lives. Dr Klein talks about the fact that as we age, or our families grow, sex changes – vaginal dryness, erection difficulties, body aches and pains, and just being tired from life can ‘change’ our sex lives. Do we give up on sex entirely because our narrative of the sexual “ideal” can’t be achieved? Heck no! What many traditionally think of as “foreplay” (outercourse) can make for a very enjoyable sex-life if sex is about connecting and pleasure. Kinda takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?
This Valentine’s Day, why not redefine what you want from YOUR sex life?
Go on out there and get CLOSE and enjoy PLEASURE!
And pick up this book – It truly could be a game changer!
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
Share this article with YOUR valentine – or facebook friends – whatever 😉