Checking in at the Paris Hilton
In the dark about your sexuality? You’re not alone.Here we are in the 21st Century - where sex tapes make you famous (and rich), Dick in a Box wins an Emmy, 3rd graders know all the words to Jiz in my Pants and getting jizzed on will get you a book deal – yet, we’re still groping around for clues.
Lights OutEven though ‘sex’ seems to be everywhere in the media, much of the information throughout our culture and history is antiquated, oppressive, superficial, sensationalized, or questionable in its accuracy. We’re bombarded left and right with information and events that we take at face value and simply don’t question.
Sex and sexuality influences - and is influenced by - nearly everything, all the way through to the biochemicals surging inside our skins. Ignorance, fear and emotional suppression – what psychologists call ‘shadows’ – fuel stress symptoms, and significantly affect our perceptions, our health, our sexual response, and how we relate to one another. “Our sexual and emotional health is essential to our physical vitality, and our mental health and well being,” says Dr. David Kipper, M.D., an eminent physician in Los Angeles for over 30 years.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million American adults have anxiety disorders, over 19 million people are treated for recurrent stress and depression annually, and a vast majority of Americans from around the country that participated in a recent Kinsey Institute Sex Information Test FAILED. What gives?
“Our culture is sexually naïve,” says Dr. David Kipper. “In part because it’s a delicate subject to discuss. Many people will not really know if they’re having a healthy sexual expression, or how their emotional life is connected to their health. They just don’t know.”
Stress and sexuality - it’s a feedback loop where half of all marriages end in divorce and sexual difficulties preside as a leading complaint of both genders. Dr. David Schnarch, creator of the Crucible Approach to marital therapy, states, “Sex is inherently based on intimacy. The problem is that most people have a very misguided idea of what intimacy means.”
It’s good for you. Real intimacy requires us to push past boundaries and evolve – to become more fully developed human beings. When we open up, explore and align our emotional life and our sexuality, it brings a healthy, empowering, cathartic release that allows and encourages us to move forward. So ask yourself questions, be curious, and really listen for what feels good, or what doesn’t.
We are not passengers in our lives; we are the authors of our experience. Begin to recognize how your influences affect you and realize who’s in charge.
Reach OutSex is a natural form of communication. We want to open up and talk about our sexuality, but it often feels complicated and stressful, so we avoid it. “The lies we’re told about sex present a huge barrier to good sexual communication. Many sex myths encourage us to believe that to be great lovers we need to be mind readers, not communicators,” offers Cory Silverberg, co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability.
He adds, “Communication isn’t always about talking, but I can promise you that one of the keys to great sex is an ability to talk about it. I can also promise that it’s easier to learn to talk about sex than it is to learn to read minds.”
Not The Amazing Kreskin? Well here’s some helpful hints to get the ball rolling if you’re feeling ready to explore and speak up.
Get down off your high horse. Going in with guns blaring and a know-it-all attitude – such as thinking that you already know what he or she feels - raises a mighty thick barrier for honest, healthy communication and resolution. As Felix Unger of The Odd Couple wisely stated in that courtroom scene, “When you assume, you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. Get comfortable with the fact that you don’t know how they feel when you share a question, need or concern.
Open the airwaves to really hear their response, without your predisposed assumptions creating a party line, and you’ll experience what you’re there for in the first place – a real connection.
Avoid the stare down. Evolution explains that men are often side-by-side communicators and can interpret eye-to-eye contact in discussion as confrontational. Although women often prefer to ‘see’ another’s expression through visual contact, spark a healthy medium.
Approach with dignity. Criticism is a wrecking ball for building healthy communication bridges, especially regarding sensitive, sexual issues. ‘You don’t know how to please me,’ or ‘Your tongue feels like a dying slug when we kiss’ are not good choices. Frame what you desire as a mutual turn on; learn some new tricks yourself and use erotic wordplay to arouse you both.
Are you afraid of conflict, rejection or embarrassment? That’s natural, we all are to some degree, but that’s not an excuse to avoid creating a healthy dialogue. When you feel that knot swell in your belly, in your chest, or your throat, breathe deeply, because that’s a good sign for you to move forward and be heard. And let your partner know you’re nervous – doing so dissolves anxiety, and offers them the respect and awareness of their own possible emotions about intimacy.
Spell it out. “Vagueness, particularly around a topic like sex, can lead directly to confusion. And we have to remember that if we don't clearly ask for what we want, we reduce the chances that we'll ever get it,” says Cory Silverberg, an AASECT certified sexuality educator. To add levels of clarity and build confidence, try writing down your desires or needs first. Then speak what you wrote aloud, in private, to shape and emotionally align your thoughts.
Learn the art of instant replay. Have your partner repeat what they’ve heard you say until you are both on the same page. It’s interesting how all of us sometimes turn a phrase or twist another’s words, so this is a particularly helpful tool. If someone balks, reference how useful it is when sports commentators replay a game incident to clarify what happened. We become better listeners and communicators this way because our perspective is subjective, and it takes practice to clear out our own inner dialogue and become present.
Don’t step on each other’s dialogue. Agree to give each other the opportunity to speak freely and complete a thought without interruption. This takes practice and is well worth the effort. My husband’s going to love this one; thankfully I’m getting better at this myself.
Indulge in your daydreams, explore and visualize what arouses you. Your mind is your own private theatre. Plus, it’s a feel-good pharmacy for both of you, as their arousal is spurred on when you’re turned on. “When it comes to desire and attraction, a little unpredictability goes a long way: It spikes the brain’s natural amphetamines, dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a big role in sexual arousal. It doesn’t take much to get the dopamine going, so think about new things you can do together as a couple. A little novelty goes a long way,” offers sex therapist, Ian Kerner, Ph.D.
Leave room for your partner’s imagination by saying something like, ‘I fantasized about you earlier,’ to capture their attention when you’re just about to leave for work or appointments. Then seductively frame what happened in your ‘dream sequence or fantasy’ in an email or handwritten note, and leave some blanks for him to fill in. Remember Mad Libs? Now be patient. Let your juices simmer. They’ll need to wrap their mind and arousal around your suggestions and approach you at their own pace.
Give them plenty of positive feedback when they arrive, and enjoy!