Great sex begins with practicing sexual self-awareness – expert says

It is the wish of many couples to have a great sexual life be it in vitality, intimacy or quality time. However, every great sex begins with the individuals being sexually self-aware. I’ve chosen 3 questions for you to explore. You also could use these questions to spark conversation with a trusted friend or intimate partner.

Question #1: Why am I having sex?

The topic of sexual desire is huge and there’s a lot to say. For our purposes here, I encourage you to think about your why. What is motivating you to enter into a sexual space with a partner? Sexual desire can be broadly categorized into two types: spontaneous desire and responsive desire. Spontaneous desire comes in the form of sexual thoughts and urges or physiological cues.

Spontaneous desire sounds like this: Damn, sex would feel good right now!

Responsive desire is about being motivated less by an internal sensation of “horniness” and more by relational experiences, environmental cues, and/or the knowledge that your horniness tends to catch up with you if and when you lean into it.

By recognizing that desire can be spontaneous or responsive, we are acknowledging that people have varied motivations for wanting to have sex. Spontaneous desire may be more likely in the context of a new relationship but may wane with time. Early research found that responsive desire was common for women, especially those who are in well-established intimate relationships (Basson, 2002), but new research indicates that sexual desire in men is similarly responsive to relational and contextual cues (Murray et al, 2017).

Arousal may precede desire, meaning that you may enter a sexual space with your partner feeling sexually neutral but emotionally willing. Then, as you seek and/or receive sexual stimuli, you move from neutrality to sexual arousal. Think about responsive desire as a feedback loop: the better it feels (physically and emotionally) for you to be in this sexual space with your partner, the more desire you have to continue the experience, and the more you continue, the more aroused you feel. While we should never endure sexual experiences that we don’t want to have, learning what sparks your desire (or shuts it down) is helpful.

Research has found that sexual desire is fueled by a dual-control model: an accelerator and a brake. Learn what sets the stage for the activation of your accelerator. What are the things that happen around you, and within you, that help you feel excited about being sexual? Learn what triggers your brake. What are the things that happen around you, and within you, that inhibit your ability to feel excited about being sexual? Think about your 5 senses. Think about the vibe between you and your partner. Think about your emotions and your stress level. When you understand how your unique dual control model works, you can be proactive about cultivating the conditions for erotic connection.

Question #2: What turns me on?

The second self-awareness-expanding question is designed to help you understand how you experience sexual desire and arousal. The first step toward knowing what turns you on is knowing when you’re turned on.

What does “turned on” feel like in your body?

How OK do you feel about being turned on?

Keep in mind that turned on isn’t just an erection if you have a penis or feeling wet if you have a vulva. That’s part of it certainly. Being turned on is also about what’s happening for you emotionally and psychologically.

When your body is aroused, your mind is aroused, and you want to be sexual, you are experiencing desire concordance. Inversely, when your body is aroused, but it isn’t safe or wise to act on your arousal, you are experiencing desire non-concordance. Desire non-concordance can also happen when you feel emotionally and psychologically turned on, but your body isn’t meeting you in that space– because you’re stressed, because you’re anxious, or because you need a bit more time to warm up.

Question #3: How did I learn about sex?

Every generation has to figure out how to talk to the next generation about sex. When you were young, grown-ups made choices on your behalf about when, how, and what you should be taught about sex. If those grown-ups were sexually self-aware, your sex education set you up to feel positive about sex, relating to it as a natural part of being human. How wonderful! But based on research findings, it’s a safe bet that you were not given the information and support you needed and deserved.

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that less than 50 percent of the high schools and fewer than 20 percent of the middle schools in America covered all sixteen topics that they have determined constitute an adequate sex education (CDC, 2015).

Use the following questions to get clear on the messages you’ve internalized about sex– your sexual inheritance. Think about both your formal sex education (from school or your religious institution) as well as your informal sex education (from family, friends, media, and pornography).

What memories do you have of learning about sex? How were you told? What were you told?

What do you remember thinking and feeling?

What questions did you have? Were you able to ask them? What was left unsaid? Notice how you feel as you reflect on these memories. What I have found from talking with people about their early memories is that reflecting on this can stir up feelings of anger, sadness, and shame. If that happens to you, I have two suggestions:

Give yourself now what you didn’t get then. Write a letter to your younger self, saying all of the things you wish someone had said. Alternatively, close your eyes and imagine yourself as a kid or a teen and talk with that young you in a way that nobody did then.

Ensure that your legacy is different from your inheritance. Be willing to talk about love and sex with young people in your life. Offering someone else what you were never given is a powerful path for healing.

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